One of the most delightful—and perplexing—of all family problems begins when you bring home a new puppy. What happens from that moment on is up to you—his arrival can mean chaos and confusion, disrupted schedules and distraught tempers, or it can mean pleasure and companionship for every member of the family. Here, in the first of an illustrated two-part series, Lois and Harland Meistrell of Great Neck, N.Y., who have worked with all breeds of dogs in their 25 years as both amateur and professional trainers, tell you how you can train your new puppy to be a rewarding and well-behaved addition to the family group.
FIRST MONTHS AT HOME
Adjusting the pup to people
A puppy, like a baby, is a bewildered creature in a strange world. Until he feels secure in his new environment he will either fear or fight it. First he needs a place of his own—and this should not be a lonely cellar or garage. Put him in a wire cage like the one shown above. Lined with a towel, it will double as a bed. In a cage like this he can see, be seen and be near you without getting underfoot. Speak to him whenever possible. He won't understand what you say but he will understand the tones you use. For the first week move his cage into your bedroom at night. Then he will know you are safely nearby and instead of whining he will sleep.
The easiest way to housebreak a puppy is to combine this training with exercise. Rig hardware-store wire into a playpen (right). Put newspaper in one corner and leave the pup here about 15 minutes every two hours. If he chooses the floor instead (he undoubtedly will the first few times), move the paper over the spot. Until he learns to associate paper with purpose, the only reprimand should be no. This is the first word he will have to learn; like all commands that follow, it should be short, simple and direct. Use the same pen in the transition from indoor to outdoor training. Before and after each meal put the pup outside in the pen. Since each change in routine means something new for him to learn, put a soiled newspaper in the pen with him. If you can't set the pen up outside, take along the paper anyway. It will help the puppy to understand what you expect of him—and don't expect too much. Few dogs are completely housebroken until about 6 months of age.
Adjusting people to the pup
New puppies are most likely to be hurt, physically and psychologically, by overeager children. Immature dogs are fragile—their bones break easily and internal injuries often result from good-natured roughhousing. If you have a young child and a new pup, each must learn to respect as well as enjoy the other. Begin by teaching your child to pick up pup with one hand supporting his chest and the other his hindquarters. In this way the pup cannot squirm out of the child's grip or twist into a harmful position. Remind the child to talk to the puppy, so he will be at ease. In play, discourage quick lunges at the dog. Any movement from behind—especially rapid movement—frightens a puppy, because he doesn't see or understand it. Let the child bring himself down to the dog's level by sitting on the floor and waiting—sooner or later natural curiosity will attract pup to child. In this way the dog will learn to expect comfort and approval rather than harm from his young owner.
Learning to walk on lead and sit
From the moment a new puppy enters the home, he should learn to wear a small leather collar. One with bells will help you keep track of his whereabouts. As soon as he becomes used to it (this will take two or three days), attach a light lead and let him drag it about. This helps reduce any wildness or fear many young pups show when first on a lead. After a few days pick up one end of the lead and hold it loosely while you walk around the yard or home. Don't try to pull or direct the dog; all you want to do now is to acquaint him with this limited check on his freedom. The secret here, as in all training, is to remember to talk to him. At first he may be confused about his role in this exercise. If he strains at the lead or chews on it, correct him by saying no. If he persists, accompany no with a quick jerk on the lead. As soon as he understands what you expect of him, he'll try to comply, because dogs, like children, basically want to please you. When he is good, let him know by scratching his ears and praising him.
Next your dog must learn to sit at your command. Again, this is a puppy exercise, so have patience with him. Stand stationary, holding the lead in one hand. As you say sit, press down on his hindquarters with the other. If the dog lies down instead, grasp the loose skin at his neck as shown above and pull up until he is sitting (this won't hurt him). Repeat the command sit. Since you have now added another word to his vocabulary, don't confuse the puppy by varying the command—and don't weaken it by also using his name. Praise him as soon as he sits. By the time your pup is 3 months old, he should have mastered this exercise. Now he will be ready to learn the more advanced lessons that follow.
FIRST FORMAL TRAINING