Shayne on You: Puppies need positive reinforcement

Dear Maggie,

Weíre bringing home a new puppy in a week, and I know youíre into dog training. Iíve never been any good at housebreaking a pup, so Iím kind of dreading this. I just donít have the heart for discipline. Batting them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, wiping their nose in it, and so on Ė just seems mean to me. Maybe Iím just too soft. Arenít there any other ways to do this, without all the constant messes? If you have any tips I can use, I sure would appreciate them.


Puppy Mom-to-Be

Dear Puppy Mom,

Yay! My favorite topic. And the timing couldnít be better, because there are things you forget as your dogs grow up, but it all comes back to you when you bring a new one home, and as it happens, I just adopted a new family member too. (Note to selfóget more paper towels.)

OK, Iím totally against the rolled up newspaper and the rubbing of noses. How nasty! Iím against yelling, scolding and swatting in any form. Itís positive reinforcement that gets the job done, and youíll be surprised how fast it will work.

Arm yourself with some tasty puppy treats. Or cook a couple of chicken breasts and cut them into tiny pieces. They make the best rewards.

New puppies are easiest, because they sleep so much of the time. Every time the pup wakes from a nap, take him outside immediately. Grab a treat or two on the way. Set the pup down on the ground, and give it a vocal command, whatever you decide to use, just as long as you say the same thing every time. I say, ďGo pee!Ē

Let the pup sniff around, and donít give up until he does what he came out to do. Then, immediately lavish the puppy with praise in a happy, light tone, give him a treat and lots of petting, and tell him ďGood dog!Ē Be sure to let him wander a bit more, in case there is more need. And if he does anything else, repeat the rewards, the petting and praise.

During the night, most pups will whine when they wake up and find themselves alone and need to do business. If the pup is sleeping near enough so that you can hear him, youíll count your blessings. Every time the pup whines, get up and take him outside. Go out the same door every time, and take him to the same spot in the lawn.

Itís important to begin this way, and then stay consistent. Before you know it, the pup will go to the door when he needs to. Without any swatting or nose rubbing ever employed.

This same method applies to anything you want to teach your puppy. Treats and praise will teach him to come when called, to sit, to lie down, and so on. Two days after bringing Daisy home, I had her sitting and coming to me on command. In fact, those are easier than house-training. If I get distracted and donít pay attention, sheíll pee on the floor, but already, itís always near the door we use. So sheís already learning.

Or rather, I am. Itís really more about training ourselves than our pets. They just pick up on what we do. So if weíre consistent, they respond.

Never punish the pup for accidents, not at this stage. Later, when heís really learned things, a firm ďNoĒ is all thatís needed to let the pup know youíre not happy. Then take him outside. No batting or swatting or any of that. Just a word. And if itís not immediately at the time of the accident, thereís no point in even doing that much. The pup wonít know what heís done wrong if itís not immediate. But again, thatís for later. For now, just praise, rewards and consistency.

Congrats on the new addition to your family!


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