I got Dizzy for my nineteenth birthday after my freshman year of college. I thought I knew what I was doing. My family had a total of four dogs throughout my childhood up to that point, and I had spent time teaching two of my dogs agility (on my own in the front yard, so not professional training). And I have always loved to train and play with dogs.
I was way off the map. I made so so many mistakes with Dizzy and some I was unable to correct as she got older. The other major problem was that she was way too smart and learned things way faster than I realized. I did take her to an obedience class that started just one week after I got her, which was great. But she was a terror there. She barked throughout the whole class. During the puppy playtime, I had to wait until everyone else recalled their dogs to catch mine. It was so embarrassing, but I was just learning. It took me a while to grasp that everyone needs a ton of outside help and guidance and no one gets it right the first time.
My brother got his puppy almost two years later, and my sister got hers this May. I tried to impart on them everything I learned over the years with Dizzy, but every dog is extremely different and needs a different type of training. My sister is still working out the kinks with her puppy but she is only 7 months old.
Last week my parents were watching two 4 month-old puppies for a friend while I was home for vacation. They were so stinking cute, which allowed them to get away with almost anything. They were always at your heels, making it hard not to kick them, but this was great when I took outside in the back yard.
Here are some tricks I have learned over the years!
Always take them outside using the same door every time. It was crazy to watch these puppies learn while with us. I took them out the kitchen door every time. After a day or two, both puppies would run to that door to go outside, so as soon as I saw it, I rushed them outside.
Create a safe space, kennel or playpen. As much as we love our puppies, it is impossible to watch them at all times well. If you want to read your book, cook dinner, finish some work, take a nap, or relax without being on your guard, this is a must. It is great for both you and your pup because it is important to prevent them from causing themselves harm and an extremely large emergency bill.
Keeping treats ready and cut at all times. Every few days, I would cut up a large amount of treats and put it in plastic bags. This way I would always have treats ready to reinforce a positive habit. I have to cut the treats because all treats come way to big. They are not bad if you are only giving a treat occasionally throughout the day, but with puppies you are training constantly.
Training for short periods of time. I first tried to teach Dizzy for an hour every morning. But think about yourself, do you want to study hard for an hour early in the morning? Probably not. I started making my training sessions about 5 minutes in length or until she was checked out. And you can always break these up with play sessions in between to keep it fun!
Ask everyone for help! The best dogs are the ones that listen and respond to everyone. It makes it easy when you have guests over or a friend is watching your dog. When friends come over to visit you, ask them to feed some treats or ask your pet to sit or ask your pet to come! It makes a huge difference.
Always remember that is OK to make mistakes! That neighbor who walks down the street with their perfect dog walking casually next to them- they made mistakes too! It is a constant learning process for both you and your puppy.