Twelve years ago my family adopted our first puppy, Stella. We brought her home, anticipating cuddling on the couch and playing games with her. Instead, she decided to dart all around the house like a hummingbird , pee on the carpet, and scratch and chew our nice living room furniture. Fact is we weren’t prepared for the reality of a puppy. When we adopted Hazel two months ago, we drew on our experience with Stella and knew it would be best to change our ways and read how to raise and train a puppy.
Puppy training, we learned, starts the second you bring your new family member back to your house and involves showing them the areas that are off limits, showing them where they will eat, sleep and relieve themselves, and giving them lots of attention to reduce the anxiety of leaving their previous home or the shelter. Puppy training will go on for months and covers things such as house training, leash training, and teaching simple commands.
To get off on the right foot, we enrolled Hazel in a puppy class that meets once a week. The teacher of the class gives specific directions to follow each week that involves giving treats when she does what she is supposed to. Since her enrollment in the class, Hazel has learned the commands “Leave it” when she is chewing on something she shouldn’t be, “Sit” and “Stay.”
Consistency is probably the most important quality a family must have in training a new puppy, and the whole family needs to use the same command for a specific action so the puppy doesn’t get confused. Unfortunately, my mother, sister and I are lackluster trainers. We just shout out words and expect Hazel to understand exactly what we want her to do or not do. She just stares at us with a blank look whenever we issue a command. My dad, however, is doing a good job. He’s the one who takes her to the classes and is also the only one of us who follows the teacher’s directions. He uses a clicker and a fanny pack full of puppy treats, walks her around the house, somewhat goofily, and gives her a treat when she does the right action.
Having a well-behaved dog is every owner’s dream, but it takes months of hard work, commitment and love. I have the love, that’s for sure, but I guess I’m not very good at the hard work even though I know the value of having a dog that people enjoy being around. I need to work on that.