Teaching puppy is about a lot more than ‘sit’ and toilet training.

Teaching puppy is about showing her what to do.

That sounds obvious really, but teaching puppy seems mostly about things we don‘t want her to do!

Teaching puppy with positive methodsA puppy novice can soon feel bogged down by a new puppy – most particularly by her teeth.

Little Millie is a ten-week-old Cocker Spaniel puppy.  Something had happened very early in her life and she had to have an eye removed.

She is the sweetest, softest little thing much of the time. At other times, like all puppies, she is like a small missile with sharp teeth at the front end.

New puppy owners often need introducing to some fairly, to them, revolutionary concepts.

Teaching puppy often involves ignoring unwanted behaviours. Can this be right? Shouldn’t teaching puppy be about correcting her?

Where possible unwanted behaviour should bring puppy nothing. Corrections and ‘no’ may get her confused and frustrated.

Over-aroused, the little sharp teeth come into action.

Teaching puppy means showing her that good things happen when she’s giving them the behaviour they want.

This is after all what they are already doing with the toilet training. A few days ago she was toileting everywhere. By ignoring accidents indoors and showing her where they do want her to go with frequent trips to the garden, she now mostly goes outside.

Some things can’t be ignored. What about when she flies at the lady or the young daughter, grabbing the bottom of a dress like it’s a tug toy? The more they try to disengage her, the more fun she’s having – growling as the fabric rips.

Millie, like most puppies, has a deep need to use her mouth and teeth.

Let’s go with the flow and make it easy for her!

The lady and daughter should constantly have with them something to put into Millie’s mouth. It could be a chew or it could be a tug toy.

This way they show her what she can chew and wreck.

Won’t tug-of-war make her aggressive?

This is such a common question. I would say the opposite. Tuggy played correctly teaches her control of her teeth and gives her something to play with in the absence of her siblings.

Teaching puppy is about finding positive ways to stop her doing things. Things like biting, nipping, grabbing clothes, chewing things, crying when left alone for a minute or running off with things (she’s not yet started that but will I’m sure).

It’s a challenge.

In my first puppy parenting visit we looked at ways of avoiding ‘No’ and replacing it with something positive.


To me this is the most valuable thing in our ‘Teaching Puppy Not To’ arsenal.

‘Come’ can interrupt.

I repeatedly backed away from her and called ‘Millie!’ I waited for her to look at me. Then I said ‘Come!’ in my brightest, highest and most encouraging voice.

She soon got the idea.

We all took it in turns. Soon she was running between us for food.

When the man went out with her to toilet, instead of taking ten minutes to get her back in, he called ‘Millie – Come’ in the garden. She went straight to him. He fed her, went to the door and called her again. She jumped into the kitchen.

Millie grabbed the lady’s sleeve and started tugging. I called ‘Millie – Come!’. Millie let go and came to me. Reward. Then I gave her an acceptable item to tug and played with her for a couple of minutes.

As I was about to leave, she spotted the cat in the hallway and gave chase. I immediately called ‘Millie – come’ loud and high.

Millie, bless her, stopped in her tracks and came! I gave her a well deserved reward.

Teaching puppy can’t be done without food. This can be taken from her daily quota if she’s fed on dry food or something more tasty. I prefer proper food, not commercial rubbish.

Some adjustments to their lifestyle will need to be made for a while.

Millie’s family soon realised that making some temporary changes would be a lot easier and less stressful for all. They have an open-plan sort of house so will get a puppy pen to put her when she has puppy whirlwind times. They can have in there toys or a carton of rubbish to go to town on instead of their clothes.

Too much space encourages charging about and wildness.

The lady and her daughter would be best wearing jeans for a while because her little claws hurt. The jumping up leads to grabbing loose clothes, so they won’t wear loose clothes. The girl came down with fluffy slippers with faces – two puppies! It’s unreasonable to expect Millie not to grab them.

The daughter has long hair which Millie may pull. It can be tied back for now.

These changes aren’t forever. Why give themselves unnecessary work at this early stage?

My initial basics include doing as much introducing her to ‘life’, traffic, people and other dogs as they possibly can before she gets much older. They know how to react when they receive her little needle teeth on their hands. They will start getting her accustomed to being alone for very short periods of time. Any future guarding behaviour can be prevented.

My next puppy parenting visit will be in about ten day’s time and we will pick up where we left off.

By then Millie will have a soft harness and a longish lead. We will start on lead walking. I shall show the young daughter how teaching puppy cues like Down and Touch using a clicker engages Millie’s brain.

I worked with Millie a couple of years ago now. Here is their update after 2 months: Millie is a real gem and your guidance has been so valuable to us!…….everything is going well, even with the cats..
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Millie. Finding instructions on the internet or TV can do more harm than good sometimes. One size does not fit all even with a young puppy – every one is different and every family or owner is different. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)