Your most-pressing questions on pet training answered.
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Puppy Potty Training
The most important rule in housebreaking any dog is limiting its space. Pups that are potty training must earn more room to roam. It's true that dogs will not soil their beds, which is why crate training is a great method for all dog sizes. Gating dogs in a small area is okay, too. Make sure the area is waterproof or water-resistant, so it is easier to clean. Don't punish the dog if an accident happens, but if you catch him in the house, gently take him outside to reinforce the correct location. Always offer praise when your puppy goes correctly. Puppies should be able to wait to go outside 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.
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Where Can I Take My Dog?
You can cross restaurants, supermarkets, and beauty salons off the list of places you may visit with your pooch. Health codes ban dogs from such establishments (unless you have a service dog). When it comes to other destinations, always check ahead, even if you're planning to visit a close friend. But before you ask, take an honest look at your pet's behavior. You may think her manners make her Westminster-worthy, but if she has accidents, barks, or nips, reconsider. When heading to a place that does welcome dogs, bring paper towels, plastic bags, and treats. For all-day excursions, pack a portable water bowl.
Photography: Mary Bloom/The American Kennel Club, Inc.3 of 9
Curb Your Dog
Picking up after your new puppy is essential and polite. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that can enter the water system via storm drains, creating environmental and health hazards. Be sure dispose of the waste in the trash using biodegradable bags instead of regular plastic bags whenever possible.
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As a general rule, giving animals too much people food sours their appetite for pet food, which is designed to contain all the nutrients they need to stay fit and healthy. If more than 10 percent of your dog's diet consists of table food, you may be inadvertently training him to beg and putting him at risk of weight gain, diabetes, and joint, cardiac, and digestive problems. The current obesity epidemic in pets can be partly attributed to people's tendency to feed their animals treats. That said, you can "spoil" your dog on special occasions with small portions of animal-friendly foods like turkey breast, hamburger, or hot dogs.
Photography: Michelle Sager/The American Kennel Club, Inc.5 of 9
Early Chewing Habits
From about 4 to 6 months of age, puppies grow their adult teeth and will go through an intense time of teething. To ease his pain, place a chew-proof toy 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. If your dog nips on your skin or anything on you, make a high-pitched squeal; it will signal to the animal that you are being hurt.
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Photography: Mary Bloom/The American Kennel Club, Inc.6 of 9
Teaching "Sit" and "Stay"
Gently push down on the dog's rear if he doesn't sit on command. Once he is in a sitting position use the word "stay." For a puppy with little or no training, hold his collar or keep him on a tight leash while giving the command. As the dog progresses, let the leash become loose and increase the length. When the dog no longer breaks his stay on the leash, you can progress to no leash at all in appropriate spaces.
Photography: Mary Bloom/The American Kennel Club, Inc.7 of 9
Start with a treat. Hold the leash tight, throw the treat, and say, "Get it!" If the dog won't go, you can take a step forward and point toward it so he knows it's okay to leave your side. If that doesn't help, you can walk with him to the treat. Once the dog realizes that "get it" means it's okay to get the treat, he won't need you to move with them. Once the dog has mastered this command with food, teach him to pick up something it can bring back and actually give to you, like a small toy.
Photography: Mary Bloom/The American Kennel Club, Inc.8 of 9
Summoning Your Puppy
The minute your dog picks up the food or toy you've thrown, give her the "come" command. Call your dog immediately because you don't want her hanging out away from you, getting distracted with something else. Remember, this is the command that will ultimately be a lifesaver if your dog is ever running toward something dangerous.
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Rewarding Your Dog
Give your dog a treat when he returns to reinforce that the "come" command is rewarding. Eventually, you'll faze the food out altogether and your praise will be the only reward. This is key, because there will be times when there's an emergency and you need your dog to come, but don't have a treat.