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Puppy Training Tips

The Martha Stewart Show, March 2010

Raising a puppy is similar to caring for a baby in that training should start early. Try these techniques from trainer Victoria Stilwell of Animal Planet's "It's Me or the Dog" to ensure the furry addition to your family is well-behaved.

Potty Training
Toilet training should start right after a puppy joins your family. Don't give the pup free reign of your home until they are fully toilet trained, or you may end up with accidents in every room.

To properly train your puppy, you either need a puppy-proof room or a puppy pen containing the dog's crate, food bowl, water bowl, and chew toys.

Puppy-Proof Room
If using a puppy-proof room, make sure there is nothing in the room that your puppy can get into or damage; lie down on the floor to get an idea of the dog's point of view and flag any potential hazards that could harm you furry friend.

Paper Training
If you're paper training your new dog (because you don't have a backyard and can't take the animal outside until all shots have been given), place Wee-Wee Pads in the room or pen. Start by lining the entire pen or room with them. Remove one every couple of days until you are left with only one or two pads.

If your puppy has an accident, wipe it up immediately and clean the area with a product that contains pet deodorizer to remove the urine smell and prevent your dog from re-visiting the same area. Don't punish the dog if you do not see the accident happening. If you do see the accident, say a quiet "ah, ah" to interrupt the behavior, then gently lift and place your dog on the pads or in the yard. Always offer praise when your puppy toilets in the proper place.

Puppies should be able to hold their toilets for an hour for every month of age (keep in mind that this is a general guideline), so they should be taken out at least eight times a day. Puppies are most likely to toilet during the day after eating, vigorous play, excitement, or waking from sleep. If you are diligent, toilet-training should be accomplished in a couple of months; after six weeks without accidents, consider toilet training complete.

From about 4 to 6 months of age, puppies grow their adult teeth and will go through an intense time of chewing, which can be exasperating for owners. After the adult teeth come in, it takes many months for those to set into the jaw and so the chewing phase can last for up to a year.

Mouthing During Play
Puppies explore everything -- including your arms, clothing, and possessions -- with their mouths. If your dog mouths your skin or anything on you, make a high-pitched squeal; this is what their littermates did if play got too rough and will signal to the animal that you are being hurt. Keep in mind, however, that some puppies get more excited by squealing and will only mouth more. With these dogs, say "ah, ah" every time they mouth your skin or clothing, wait one minute, and then resume play. Repeat if the mouthing happens again.

Chew Toys
Put some of your dog's food into a KONG chew-proof toy and placing it in the freezer. Once it's frozen, take it out, thaw for an hour, and then give to the puppy to chew. The cool toy will feel good on your dog's gums and keep him occupied for a long time.

Crying at Night
Try letting the dog sleep by your bed in a crate. You may have to take your puppy out a couple of times during the night to toilet. However, if you know your dog is only crying for attention, a reassuring hand through the crate is often enough to help with sleep. As the puppy begins to sleep through the night, you can gradually move the crate farther away from your bed until it is in its desired place.

When your puppy jumps on you, turn your back immediately and ignore the animal until they place all four paws on the ground. Wait three seconds, and then give attention. Your puppy will quickly realize that jumping up results in nothing, while remaining on the ground leads to the positive attention they desire.

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