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What are the essential things I should train/teach my young puppy?
First off, congratulations on becoming a new puppy owner! Getting a puppy is just like having a baby except your baby will be stuck in the toddler stages all of its life so be prepared for a daily ongoing training sessions to teach your pooch how to fit into your family. But don't worry, your hard work will soon pay off when you see what a loving obedient dog your puppy becomes.
The real question... What will you teach them first?
Back to Basics: How To Toilet Train Your Puppy
If you've got your puppy from a reputable breeder, they might have already begun to toilet train your puppy either on newspaper or outside but it's up to you to keep up a regular routine. I would never consider a puppy fully toilet trained until at least six months old, so even if it feels like they haven't had an accident in ages, don't forget to let your puppy out to pee at regular intervals.
Toilet training works on three basic principles:
Never leave your puppy unsupervised.
An unsupervised puppy that needs to pee will just pee where they're standing and if you come back to find a mess, you'll likely be cross which will leave your puppy upset and confused as they won't be able to associate your crossness with the accident.
In short, for effective toilet training keep your puppy in sight at all times. You can either use the leash method where you attach your puppy's leash to your belt and walk around with them, or if you're crate training your puppy then whenever they can't be supervised, stick them in the crate.
Let your puppy out for regular toilet breaks.
While it might seem tedious taking your puppy out to pee every 15 minutes or so for the first few days, every time you miss a potty break and the puppy pees in the house is several steps back in your training. So take them out to pee every 15 minutes, after eating or drinking, and after waking up from a nap.
If they don't pee within 5 minutes, don't just hang around as in order for toilet training to work, the puppy has to associate going outside with immediately peeing. Bring them back in and keep a very close eye on them, and then take them back outside 5 minutes later. Rinse and repeat until your puppy pees outside and then praise them.
Once you've got the routine nailed, you can gradually increase the intervals between toilet breaks but remember, if your puppy has an accident then it means you've waited longer than their bladder can manage.
Any accident that occurs is 100% your fault, not the puppy's, and the puppy should never be punished.
This is, in my opinion, the most important principle in that if an accident occurs then you've either not been supervising your puppy closely enough or you've left it too long between pee breaks. In this scenario, take a deep breath, and clean up the mess. Do not shout and definitely do not hit or punish your puppy in any way. Timeouts also won't work as your puppy simply won't understand or associate this with the accident.
What will end up happening is instead of peeing in your garden, your puppy will think peeing in front of you is bad and will sneak off into corners of the house to pee. You'll find it hard to get the puppy to pee outside when you're standing there watching, so you won't be able to praise them for doing it correctly, and you'll find yourself getting even angrier, ending up in a vicious circle with a scared upset dog. So do both you and your puppy a favour and use rewards instead of punishments for successful toilet training.
And the last tip: Even an adult dog who is fully toilet trained shouldn't be expected to hold their bladder for more than an average of 4 hours.
Now that you're nailing toilet training, it's time to work on simple obedience commands with your puppy. Contrary to popular belief, there's one command that's far more important than Sit or Down or even *gasp* Paw, and that's the recall...
For Fun And Emergencies: How To Teach A Successful Recall
The key to any successful recall is to start training from an early age, and that means day one. Teach your puppy that the fun is where you are. If you're using the leash method for toilet training, this will actually help you quite a bit but if not, you can use treats to lure your puppy to you instead.
Play follow the leader.
Carry treats (or a toy) around with you in your pocket and whenever you move somewhere, give your puppy a treat for following you. You'll soon find yourself stuck with a shadow.
Practice every day.
Then start to increase the distance the puppy has to travel to join you. When they're lying down on the other side of the room, call them to you. If they come, give them a treat. If they don't, don't call again but move closer and try making yourself seem more exciting. Whether it's rattling a treat box or waving your arms in the air, remember you want your puppy to see you and want to be with you.
Before long you'll find your training progressing to calling your puppy throughout the house, recalling past distractions like other humans, dogs, or food, and once you've mastered an off lead recall at home, you can use a long lead to practice recall at the park.
Steps To An Obedient Dog: What To Teach Next?
You've now got a puppy that comes when you call and doesn't pee in your house - what more could you ask for? Whether you next want to work on no mouthing, four paws on the floor, obedience commands like Sit, or walking on the lead, at least you'll feel safe in the knowledge that if your puppy happens to escape out the front door, you have a chance of retrieving them.