Learning comes simply and naturally when you teach puppies to associate certain words and behaviors. That’s where talking to them and spending lots of time with them come in. Dogs are capable of learning an extensive vocabulary simply by watching and listening to you.
For instance, your puppy will quickly learn that when you put on a certain pair of shoes, it’s time for a walk. The pup is primed to respond to you, so teach a phrase to to go along with the action, such as “Let’s go for a walk,” or “Let’s go for a car ride.”
When you see your puppy performing an action that you want it to learn to do on command – sit, down, come or dance – give it a name. Every time you see your puppy sitting, even if you didn’t tell it to, say “good sit.” Do the same thing if you see it lying down, chewing on a toy, coming toward you or not barking. It won’t take long before you can say “sit” or “down” and have your pup respond correctly.
According to psychologists, this is called contiguity learning, meaning the word comes to be a symbol of the action in the dog’s mind. Basically, it’s a fancy phrase for learning-by-doing.
Contiguity learning, ratcheted up a notch, is perfect for housetraining. Say you have a dog that cannot seem to learn that pottying in the house isn’t permitted, no matter how much you praise it when it goes outside. Gain the dog’s attention by going a step beyond praise as it potties. Give one click with a clicker, snap your fingers or jingle your keys as the pup potties (choose a single sound to use). Then give praise and a treat. The sensory addition of sound and taste can sometimes be just enough motivation to get your point across and make it stick.
4 Common Mistakes To Avoid
It’s easy to inadvertently encourage puppy behavior problems or make them worse. Here are some ways new puppy owners can become their own worst enemies:
1) Giving a puppy too much freedom too soon.
2) Allowing misbehavior to become a habit.
3) Letting a puppy think it’s the one in charge.
4) Refusing to use a crate because it seems cruel.
Like children, puppies need structure and rules; praise when they do right; corrections when they make a mistake; and a place they can go to feel safe. By showing your puppy what you want, keeping it on a schedule, rewarding it for good behavior, and providing a crate or safe room where it can stay when you can’t supervise – thus preventing destructive behavior – you’ll give it the framework it needs to become a super companion.