Training a new puppy can make even the die-hard dog lovers lose their patience.
I love puppies just as much as the next person, and it was definitely my idea to get a dog. I was convinced that I had enough patience to deal with our new pup's insatiable curiosity. Then she showed me how loud she could cry at 3:00 am.
Puppy training isn't easy! I quickly learned that videos on YouTube with titles like "Potty Train Your Dog in a Week" or "How to Make Your Puppy Love Her Crate" are far from realistic. The real key to training a puppy is patience and consistency. Your dog probably won't understand the house rules right away, but with enough guidance and lots of love, she'll soon become your favorite little roommate.
We got our cockapoo, Sadie Belle, in August. I'm definitely not an expert at dog training, but since all of these training tips and puppy products are still fresh in my memory, I figured now is the best time to share what worked for us!
My sweet & sassy puppy!
The crate is your friend!
This is my number one tip for a reason. Your puppy's crate is the most important training tool you will use! My husband and I agreed to never let our dog sleep in our room (because boundaries!) so the only option was for her to sleep in her crate. I feel like it goes without saying, but you should not let your puppy roam the house unattended at night, unless you want to wake up to a half-eaten couch and *suprises* on the floor.
The first few nights of crate training are so hard, but you just have to stick it out. We kept Sadie's crate down in the basement with the lights dimmed and the radio on in the background. Meanwhile, we slept upstairs with a noise machine on blast and the door closed, and we still ended up waking up to her cries in the middle of the night!
I know it's hard, but the best thing to do is let your puppy cry until she settles down on her own. At the beginning, I'd hold her until she fell asleep, put her to bed in her crate, and sneak away quietly. I found that this made the separation a little easier for her. Over time, she was able to make it through the night without ever waking us up, which was when we finally moved her crate up to the living room. Since those very early days, we've never heard a peep out of her!
The crate is also a very helpful tool for potty training your puppy - more on that below. For now, repeat after me: the crate is my friend. It will take every ounce of patience you have to withstand those sad (and LOUD) puppy cries, but eventually she'll get used to it!
When it comes to potty training, be proactive.
Instead of reacting by punishing your puppy when she has an accident, be proactive by giving her a consistent potty schedule. For the first few weeks of owning our puppy, I made sure to take Sadie out to the same area every 2 or 3 hours. I mentally kept track of her #1's and #2's so that I knew what to look for throughout the day. If you take your puppy out consistently and watch for behaviors like sniffing around and wandering away, you might be able to catch her before she relieves herself on your floor!
At first, I even got up in the middle of the night to take her out to prevent accidents in the crate. Your puppy will try not to do her business where she sleeps, but again, puppies need to go about every 3 hours or so. For the first 2 or 3 weeks with Sadie, I'd drag myself out of bed at 3:00 am, then 3:30, then 4:00, then 4:30... until I no longer needed to take her out in the middle of the night. I know, I know... nobody wants to get up at 4:00 am for a dog. But being proactive will save you a messy clean-up process in the long run!
Another tip for potty training is to limit your puppy's living space and to use the crate. Again, I know it feels harsh, but I saw a huge difference in the number of accidents my puppy had when I crated her periodically during the day. Just be consistent in taking her outside right away when she gets out of the crate and make sure you give her lots of play time and attention while she's out. You can gradually decrease the amount of time she spends in her crate until she seems to get it, but until then, remember that the crate is your friend!
There are tons of products out there for dog training, and I'm sure they all have their proper use. But you don't need anything fancy to train your dog. Some people rely on treats for training, but I found that praise was a much easier and more effective tool. I didn't always have time to grab the treat bag before letting her out, but I made sure to use an encouraging tone and give her lots of pets and praise when she followed the house rules. The most helpful products I found were these door bells for Sadie to ring when she needs to go outside, and a good pet stain & odor remover for those inevitable accidents.
Tidbits of Wisdom
I sometimes had a hard time with training and disciplining our puppy because she's so darn cute! But the fact is, puppies don't know they're cute! If you let unwanted behaviors slide, especially in the first few weeks, she will assume that those behaviors are acceptable in your house. Don't be afraid to utilize the crate as a training tool just because you can't stand looking at those big, sad eyes. Eventually, she'll be able to coexist with you, but for now, she needs a limited amount of freedom in order to learn.
One last thing. Your puppy has a lot of energy, and it needs to be used in a constructive way - unless you like chewed-up shoes! Before your puppy comes home with you, make sure you have toys for her to chew with a variety of textures and sounds. Introduce her to the things she's allowed to chew and try to keep anything else out of her reach! I also try to take my puppy on a short walk every day to release some of her pent-up energy. It's good to train your puppy to be leashed early-on, and it's good exercise for both of you!
Puppy training is a lot of work, but if you stay firm, patient, and consistent, you'll break through to a lovable, sweet, furry friend.