Training Your New Puppy

Dogs are naturally sociable animals who thrive on interactions with their owners and other dogs.

If you are to enjoy a long and happy relationship with your dog it is important that you get off to the right start and that your puppy receives the correct early socialisation and training.

Think about getting a good book early in the care of your puppy.


Before about 12 weeks of age puppies are curious about new experiences and tend to take them in their stride. This period is called the primary socialisation period and it is extremely important to introduce puppies to as many of the things they are going to come across throughout their life during this period. After 12 weeks dogs are much more likely to be afraid of new things and if this includes children, cars or the washing machine it can lead to serious behavioural problems in later life. If you are acquiring a puppy from an environment where he has had little socialisation (for example a collie born on a farm may have no experience of traffic or even the inside of a house) this can be an important consideration, particularly if the dog is over 12 weeks old when you take him home.

During your puppies primary socialisation period he will not be covered by his vaccinations so you cannot take him every where but you can take him out in the car, let all your friends come round and meet him, and let him play with dogs you know are healthy and vaccinated. It is important that your puppy interacts with both men and women and that he meets children.

Also see our specific pages about puppy socialisation.

House training

This is obviously one of the first things you need to teach your puppy and it is important that you get it right from the start. Inappropriate punishment and confusing training methods are often the start of long-term behavioural problems that could have easily been avoided.

Urination and defaecation (elimination) quickly become associated in the puppy’s mind with a particular place and floor covering. The idea is to ensure that he makes the correct association i.e. with grass and not your kitchen floor.

Take your puppy outside as often as possible particularly just after he has eaten and when he first wakes up.

Praise him as soon as he urinates or defaecates in the correct place and reward him with a game of a treat.

Do not punish him if he eliminates inside. Unless you catch him at it he will not understand what he is being punished for and dogs soon learn that if you wee behind the settee or when everyone is in bed you don’t get into trouble.

Do not teach your puppy to eliminate on newspaper. This is not what you want him to do when he grows up.

Clean up any accidents using biological washing powder plus an odour eliminator to prevent your puppy being encouraged to go back to the same place. Do not use bleach as the ammonia in it can small like urine to a dog.

Basic obedience training can start at any age. Patient reward based training methods usually get the best results. A 10 week old puppy can quickly be taught to sit, lie down and walk at heel. The trick is to have the treat in your hand and hold it where you want the puppy’s nose to be. To teach sit hold the treat in front of his nose and slowly move it to over the top of his head, as the puppy follows the food with his nose his bottom will lower to the floor. The instant that he sits give the command ‘sit’ and give him the treat. Similarly, for heel hold the treat at puppy nose level next to your leg and walk giving the command ‘heel’. You should not physically push the puppy around, as this can be frightening and confusing.

Puppy Parties

At Holly House we run Puppy Parties every month. These are an excellent opportunity for vaccinated puppies to socialise and our staff will be happy to discuss any problems you may be having. Ask at reception to find out when your puppy can attend.

Lead training

Lead training can be helped by the use of “Haltis” or “Leaders”. Please ask our staff about these!

Sharing your life with a dog is a fascinating, exciting and privileged experience. To get the most from your relationship with your dog you need to understand how they see the world, after all we spend so much time trying to get our dogs to understand us, it's only fair we spend some time to understand them. They need guidance and gentle training for them to understand what we want from them, so we can live a full, happy and problem free life together. Training dogs requires patience, consistency and kind motivational techniques. What most owners want is a well mannered dog, that 'sits' when told to, doesn't jump up and walks nicely on the lead. So lets look at how we can achieve this!

Starting early

As with any type of learning or training it's better to start young. The social development of a young dog depends upon the input and experiences provided at an early age. Sights, sounds, smells and exciting new experiences provide valuable information that influence your dog's later life. Puppies that have restricted or reduced experiences during their formative few months may find they adjust a little slower to new challenges. Socialisation and learning do however continue throughout life and help develop your pet into a confident, sociable and friendly dog!

Teaching your dog to 'SIT'

It is probably the easiest position to begin to teach your dog and is the most widely used obedience response. Many dogs are of course motivated by food and treats, which can become a valuable training tool when teaching a new trick. Hold a treat between your fingers and hold in front of your dog's nose, by then moving the treat back over their head you will find that as your dog lifts its head, it will lower its hind quarters. The command 'sit' should be given clearly once the dog's bottom touches the ground, then give them the treat and lots of fuss! If your dog should leap up for the tit-bit, you're probably holding the reward a little too far away, or if the dog walks backwards then you may be moving the treat too quickly. Teaching your dog to sit should be repeated regularly during training sessions which should be kept short and sweet to be successful. This will keep your dog interested in training and prepare your dog to learn even more. Once your dog begins to demonstrate an understanding of the word 'sit' you can gradually reduce the amount of times you use the food, allowing your dog to follow your hand signal and command. Occasional rewards should still be used to maintain your dog's enthusiasm and motivation during training. Try training your dog when there's a little more going on around you, or when visitors arrive so you end up with a well-trained and well mannered young dog.

Teaching your dog 'DOWN'

Once you've taught a good sit response you can begin to move on to teaching 'Down'. Again, a titbit held close to the dog's nose will help lure the dog into the lying down position. Imagine there's an invisible line between the nose and the middle of the dog's front feet. Slowly take the reward from the nose to a point on the floor between your dog's feet and then slowly along the floor towards you. As the dog follows the food and lies on the floor, give the command 'Down' and release the reward. If your dog keeps getting up, repeat your training but try it a little slower this time.

Once you're getting the response you need, gradually withdraw the treat from the hand and teach your dog to follow the hand signal and command. Again, occasional rewards will keep your dog wanting to please. Use short words and avoid speaking in sentences. Dogs understand how you say something rather than what you say, so keep commands short. Teach this in different rooms, times and when people visit because there's nothing better than a well behaved dog.

Teaching your dog to 'COME' when called

One of the many pleasures of dog ownership is being able to let your dog run free, enjoying their freedom to explore the parks and countryside. There are a number of ways to teach and improve your dogs recall and using a whistle with food at meal times can be a very effective training tool. At every feed time introduce the dog to the whistle by giving three short blasts as they begin feeding. This process is known as conditioning which teaches the dog to associate the whistle with mealtimes. After a few weeks of using the whistle the dog learns that this new sound means food and can be introduced when recalling your dog.

Have your dog in the garden and then blow the whistle while calling their name in an encouraging way and the using the command 'Come'. When your dog comes towards you, adopt a welcoming crouched position and always reward your dog with a treat, toy or praise when they come to you. Teach your dog to come when called outside in the safety of the garden or on a retractable extending lead in an enclosed park area. Never tell your dog off for a slow return as this could teach them that coming back to you may not always result in a reward. Whilst on a walk recall your dog regularly and attach the lead each time so your dog doesn't learn to predict going home with the appearance of the lead. Don't forget that as with all training exercises it's important to train in progressively more demanding areas with a few distractions. This helps teach your dog to come when called when there maybe other dogs or people around.

Teach your dog to 'HEEL'

Have your dog attached to a suitable strong lead, which is comfortable for you to hold. Decide whether you want your dog to walk on your left or right side and stick to it! Position your dog by your side attracting their attention with their favourite toy or treat, whilst keeping your lead as relaxed as possible. As you move forward continue to focus their attention upon you, the treat or toy using their name; and the command 'heel'. As the lead tightens and your dog gets too far ahead, suddenly stand still and use the word 'No' in a confident manner without shouting. Encourage your dog back to the original position and begin the training process again. Repetition and a consistent approach is key to success with this training method, which requires patience, but will pay dividends long term. Changing the speed at which you walk from slow to fast, keeps the exercise interesting and your dog's attention on the training. By introducing a change of direction and by turning towards the side which your dog is being walked will encourage them to stay by your side. For older or stronger dogs, a half check collar or head-collar such as a Haiti may help control dogs with a history of pulling.

Teach your dog to 'Stop Jumping Up'

This behaviour is usually learnt as a small puppy but the consequences aren't usually appreciated until the dog has grown into an adult dog, therefore beginning to teach at a young age is very sensible. Dogs jump up in excitement to greet us and seek attention from both physical contact and reassuring eye contact. Jumping up is generally experienced after having been left for a short while. Therefore, the training needs to begin when people enter the home. It is important not to reward the dog for jumping and therefore when the dog jumps immediately turn around and ignore their advances. Looking upwards and folding your arms gives him very clear signals you are not interested. Crouching to your dog's level to greet them reduces the likelihood of jumping and prevents them learning a bad habit.

With persistent jumpers arrange doorbell parties, when a few friends can be invited to help teach your dog how to greet people correctly. Have your dog on a lead before the visitors arrive, asking them to enter individually. Your visitor arrives with a small treat and whilst holding the dog on a relaxed lead, have the visitor command your dog to sit followed by the treat reward. Repeat this process with all the visitors until you can eventually remove the lead and the dog has learnt the new response without being told.

How to find a suitable training class

Puppies can begin training after they have received their full course of vaccinations by attending a puppy socialisation class, which should allow time for controlled interaction with other puppies of a similar age both on and off the lead. For older dogs, classes should be well supervised and have appropriate numbers of dogs and owners to instructor ratio, with dogs of a similar stage of training to your own. Before you begin training, make an appointment to attend a class without your dog to assess the suitability for your own dog's particular needs.

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers encourages the use of Kind, Fair and Effective training and have approved dog trainers holding classes in your area. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers can provide you with a list of approved training classes in your area, by contacting

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Holly House Veterinary Hospital, 468 Street Lane, Moortown, Leeds  LS17 6HA

Holly House Veterinary Clinic, Unit C, Moor Allerton Centre, King Lane, Leeds LS17 5NY

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