Training Your Puppy, by Hollyberry

There are many articles on how to train a dog for home protection but not much on training for a basic house pet. I have had many dogs through the years. I even once showed a bull terrier for several years but would not care to ever do that again due to the politics of the dog show world. I had hired a dog trainer to help me and she informed me that she was not training my dog but training me. It would do no good for the dog to listen to her and not me. The skills I learned are portable from dog to dog so it was a worthwhile investment. Some pet stores offer puppy training classes also if you need some help.

All dogs can be protective in nature. Some breeds make a much better guard dog but your average family wants a well-behaved house pet that will not maul visitors but will discourage break-ins and get between you and your kids and some thug. The dog doesn’t have to be huge or any particular breed to be a great house companion and protector. It’s instinctive behavior. Our Jack Russell terror (not Terrier) is proof of this. She is 13 lbs and fearless and even scares us sometimes!

It is much easier to train a dog in warmer weather, especially in Maine, but this may not always be an option for you. When getting a new dog, I let him pick me, I don’t pick him. I have seen people that have found a picture of a dog on a website and have their heart set on that one dog but overlook the one who may be a better fit for you and your family.

Training begins on day one. Have a crate ready for your new bundle of joy. This is a doggie-safe area in which he will sleep and be crated in, when you are not home. At night place the pup in the crate and shut the door. You may get some whining the first few nights. The dog is safe for the night and so are your belongings. No one wants to wake up and find the sofa in pieces. Most dogs will not go to the bathroom where they sleep so that brings some peace of mind also. The crate can also be used for vehicle travel. The crate should be big enough for your dog to be able to lay down, stand up and turn around. You may need several crates as the dog grows depending on the size of the breed. A nice soft bed is required for lining the crate and always leave the door open when home so he can go in and lie down or relax. Always entice your pup with a treat when crating him up. Crating should not be used as a punishment. The crate will keep the pup safe when you are away and prevent your home from being destroyed by chewing. Try not to leave him in the crate too long or he may start getting anxious or develop anxieties.

Once the pup is housebroken and out of the psycho puppy mode, it’s time to start leaving him out while you are gone. Make sure anything vital, like eyeglasses, hearing aids, toxic house plants, are moved up and out of the way. Start by being away for 15 minute. When you get back, praise and reward him. If something has been chewed or he has anointed the floor, scold and no treat. After he is good for 15 minutes gradually increase your time away. Don’t expect perfection from your dog. Once its beghavior is completely fine uncrated, then you may want to get rid of the crate. But if your dog really likes his crate, as opposed to the couch or bed, you can always leave it up for him to sleep in.


As soon as you open the crate, take the pup outside to do his business. This will be the start of housebreaking! If you have an older dog, most puppies will follow the older dog outside and imitate him going to the bathroom. In my experience, an older dog can housebreak a pup for you in a few days if the older dog is a good role model. If your older dog has bad habits, the younger one will learn them!

Your pup will give you clues when he needs to go out and it’s up to you to interpret those clues. Always take him out immediately upon waking and any other time you are letting him out of his crate, just after playtime and before bed. Praise and reward are key here. Our dogs are trained to ring a cowbell hanging from the doorknob since my husband is deaf and won’t hear the dog whining at the door. They learned how to ring the bell, Week One.

When (not if) an accident occurs, tell him “no” in a firm voice and bring him outside. Dogs instinctively want to please you and most catch on quickly. I don’t potty train on newspaper as it takes longer to train the dog and then when you remove the newspaper, you need to retrain him not to pee/poop in that spot and to just go outside. We are fortunate to have a small, fenced-in area for their bathroom needs and do not need to leash up and accompany them outside. I never want to have to walk a dog in the middle of the night in January because it has to pee!


I prefer a harness to a regular collar as it allows more control of your dog. Some dogs can “back up” and slip out of a regular collar. This is not good, especially on a busy street. Prong collars can be used for training but should not left on all the time. They also tend to pop if enough pressure is exerted. I don’t care for these collars but that is my opinion. We just purchased an electronic collar for the first time and it is a very quick and efficient way to speed up a learning curve on a particularly stubborn dog. This is not a collar that stays on constantly, only when a training session is taking place. We used it for the first time this year when our particularly stubborn hound, Iggy, was getting a car fixation. He was going crazy when an infrequent vehicle passed by. For his own safety, we needed to stop the behavior immediately and the electronic collar corrected the problem in a week. Make sure to keep the dog’s rabies tag and license on the collar in case the dog gets loose.


Verbal communication is key here. Heel/walk/sit/stay commands need to be verbalized with each action you would like the pup to perform. The leash should be short enough to keep your pup at your side. Do not allow him to get out in front of you. Remember he is a dog and dogs like to smell things. The walk is for his enjoyment and yours also. I take time to admire nature and he sniffs it. Try to have him walk on your same side every time. Walk 50 feet then stop. I do not train my dog to sit when I stop walking but you may choose to have him sit. If this is your choice, tell the pup to sit and gently push on his hindquarters until desired position. Stay in sitting position for at least 30 seconds. Praise him! Always praise for a job well done! You may also keep some special doggie treats in your pocket when he has performed well.

Young puppies tend to tire easily so don’t expect a two-mile trek on your first couple of outings. Also be mindful of the weather outside, not too hot or not too cold. As we live in Maine, our dogs own nicer coats than we do for the cold weather. They have a medium-weight coat for cooler days and a heavy coat for seriously cold days. The walking nicely on a leash part of the training program may take a while depending on how much external stimuli is out there during your walk.

Everyone wants to pet puppies so expect it and use this as part of your training. Make him sit and or stand still and learn how to interact with strangers.


It is important that when you enter or leave your pup that you don’t make a giant fuss over him as this can lead to separation anxiety. Due to the stupid COVID lockdowns and being forced to work at home, both our dogs developed separation anxiety when we finally left the house. Those draconian lock downs took a toll on our pets as well as us and our children.

Prior to a guest coming over, we put the electronic collar on our big, jumping hound. As soon as he sees that collar, he knows what it is about. Prior to owning the collar, he jumped all over everyone and created general chaos. He now sits and waits until the guests are seated and then he can receive the attention he thinks he deserves! It’s a much nicer visit for everyone. Also discourage your pup from sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong, like someone’s crotch or butt. Male dogs are much worse at this than females. Push his head away firmly with a sharp no. This may take a few times for them to get it. If your visitors have little children that are not used to or respectful to animals, you may want to crate your dog. I find it amazing when a dog nips a child who was attempting to pull his ears off and the parents immediately blame the dog. Don’t allow some child (or a stupid adult) to terrorize your dog with rough play. I have known people with very nice pitbulls but some adult, insecure idiot feels it’s necessary to prove he is tougher than the dog. Make sure everyone is treating your dog as they would treat you, with kindness, gentleness, and respect.

If you don’t want the dog on the sofa or bed, don’t allow him to jump up on it. A loud no usually works to discourage him. Baby gates are great at restricting access to certain rooms and eventually the dog will not go near that room even when the gate is removed.

Do not allow the dog to jump up and check out the tops of kitchen counters or tables. I once had a dog who would sneak food off a plate so quickly, it was like a magic disappearing act. I happened to have a plate that had hot sauce on it and he licked it while I went to the bathroom. After some yelping, he never went near the food table again. It was a hard lesson to learn. If you feed your dog food from the table, expect him to hang around the table during mealtime. Dogs aren’t stupid, they know where the good stuff is. My husband feeds the dog off the table constantly but thinks the dog should realize when guests are over that he is not allowed near the table. I think this is a bit much to expect from my dog!


The are many varieties of dog food to choose from. I will not be going into which brand I prefer but do your research as good dog food is not cheap. The brand I have been using for years is made in the good old US of A and has never had a recall. Make sure your pup has his own area to eat and drink undisturbed. Periodically walk by and touch your dog or pull his food bowl away. If he should growl when you do this, an immediate correction is called for. Do not let this type of behavior get out of hand.


Your new addition to the family will hopefully live a long and healthy life. With some time and effort he will adjust and fit in nicely into your family. You get out what you put in. The key to training is repetition and making sure everyone in the house is on board with training. You can take your training much further with agility training or guard dog training. I have no experience in either of these areas so do your research if this is something you wish to pursue. The loyalty a dog will show you is like nothing a human can offer. Dogs forgive quickly and don’t care if your hair isn’t combed or you haven’t brushed your teeth. He doesn’t care if you are an ax murderer either. All he knows is you just came home and he is so happy to see you. Treat him with the love and respect he deserves and appreciate him. It’s worth all the effort.