A Message from the Vet - June 2011
Basic Puppy Training

Behavioral issues are one of the major reasons for owner surrender or re-homing of pets. It is important to begin a proper training program early in your relationship with your pet. Owners can begin by doing the proper research to determine which breed or species of animal is most appropriate for their lifestyle. Working dogs require a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation. Smaller breeds may require more individual attention. Your veterinarian can help advise which pet would be a good fit for your family.

A new puppy can require a lot of care just like a newborn child. With a little time and attention, even a young puppy can learn basic commands such as "sit", "stay", and "come". Basic training is the foundation for a well-adjusted pet and a happy owner.

The preferred method of training at Kailua Animal Clinic is positive reinforcement. This technique focuses on rewarding good behaviors with praise, a food treat, or a favorite toy, while ignoring unwanted behaviors. For example, if you find that your puppy likes to jump to greet you, you can ignore him or her until they are calm or sitting. Once they are calm, then greet them and give them a positive reward. Punishment is not a very effective form of training. It often leads to the pet hiding unwanted behaviors, fear of the owner or humans, and insecurity issues.

Another major concern I hear from pet owners is biting. Most puppies go through a stage where they chew everything! This can be behavioral or may be due to the teething process. Puppies learn a lot from their litter mates including what type of play is appropriate. If one of the puppies is playing too hard, the other will yelp and discontinue playing. One of the things an owner can do to address this is to remove their hands from the situation and discontinue play, or distract the puppy with an appropriate toy to chew.

Basic training can also help make a routine veterinary visit safer for your pet and the veterinary staff. It is important to reinforce calm behavior while handling the feet, ears, and mouth in a young pet. This can make the examination of these areas more comfortable in the future and helps to reduce fear during nail trims. There are also a few restraint positions that can be helpful. Ask your veterinarian for demonstrations and help with the proper training for restraint.

House training can sometimes seem impossible, but with consistency, even the most stubborn of puppies can be successful. Start with a routine. Puppies should eat about 3-4 times a day. We usually recommend placing the food out for approximately 20 minutes then removing it. Most puppies will need to potty just after eating or drinking and just after waking. If you begin to feed your puppy on a schedule, it will be easier to predict when they need to eliminate. A walk just before bedtime should be part of the daily routine as well. In between periods of close supervision, you should confine your puppy. You may do this by closing off areas with baby gates or closing doors. Another effective way to confine your puppy for a short period of time is crate training. This gives the puppy a safe comfortable place to sleep or play, and provides a controlled environment that helps to avoid unwanted messes. When the puppy is allowed to roam, it is important to watch carefully for signs of getting ready to eliminate. Sniffing, circling, or anxious behavior can be cues that it's time to take a potty break. Finally, proper cleansing with an enzymatic cleaner where the pet has eliminated in the past is essential after any accident.

For more information regarding basic training or behavioral concerns, don't be afraid to ask us during your next appointment. We're here to help your pets stay healthy and happy!

Candice Denham, DVM

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Last updated 2014 May 10.