Thursday, April 16, 2009

Basic Training for Poppy

Poppy is turning into quite a handful and like all puppies I have to keep a constant eye on her; she is just busy all the time. The other day I sat down to work at my computer and realized I suddenly couldn’t send emails. Without my even noticing she had chewed the power cord for my modem. Thankfully she wasn’t hurt but this just illustrates how closely I need to watch her. One thing that can help keep her mind engaged is to start teaching her some basic commands which will help her become a well mannered adult dog.

It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I haven't yet signed Poppy up for a puppy class, even though I know that all the experts agree this is the single most important thing you can do for your new puppy. These classes have two benefits: to teach basic commands, and to socialize your puppy. I am going to sign her up soon; I just haven’t had the time lately.

For now, I'm taking care of the socializing by bringing Poppy to work with me each day. This allows her to meet all kinds of new people and gain exposure to different situations. A puppy that spends all its time with just a handful of people and only goes out in the back yard soon becomes fearful of new experiences.

Basic obedience training is also key: You want to start training before your puppy learns any bad behavior that will be more difficult to correct later on. So though we haven't yet made it to puppy class, I have started teaching her the five basic commands every dog should know: come, sit, lie-down, stay, heel."

The first two are by far the easiest and Poppy (being a puppy genius) mastered these in a few minutes. Training does require constant reinforcement as come and sit are the building blocks for more advanced commands. We use a piece of her puppy kibble as a training reward and every time she does something correctly she instantly gets a “good Poppy” along with the kibble. Over time I will reduce the frequency of food rewards and only give her a verbal praise.

In addition to a verbal command I always use a hand signal since a double signal is more effective. To teach her to come when I call her name I stand a few feet away from her with the treat, wave my hand and say “Poppy, come”. The minute she gets to me I praise her, give her the treat and a pat on the head. For the sit command I take the treat, put it in front of her nose and slowly move my hand over her head. This will cause her head to go up and rear end to plop down. The second her furry butt hits the ground I say “sit” and give her the treat.

I spend time working with Poppy every day and incorporate the training methods into daily activities. For example, before she gets her dinner she must sit, wait for me to place it down and then call her. Before I put her leash on she must sit calmly and allow me to attach the leash before we go anywhere. Performing activities such as these shows her how to behave appropriately and not act like a wild thing. This is something Poppy and I work hard on and while she is very bright we have setbacks and I have to constantly remember to take time to teach her correctly. Next week we will cover the remaining three basic commands for a well behaved puppy.


  1. Poppy is so cute in those pictures. She's obviously flurishing in your loving care. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. What a sweetie! Thanks for sharing.