I'm getting a puppy. HALP.

I’ve lived with dogs and puppies before, but they were bought by the parents and thus not really mine. And, I mean, I know basic things like y’know, don’t smack it around, use positive reinforcement whenever possible, things like that, but really? I have no experience training a dog. I’m terrified.

I want a lot of things out of this dog. I want him to know commands, like come, sit, down, stay, heel, and fetch. I want him to be very well-mannered-- I don’t want him to bark unless I command it, and if he does, I want him to stop it instantly as soon as I say to. I don’t want him jumping on people. I want him to be friendly to friendly strangers and animals. I want him to get along with my two adult cats. I don’t want him pulling me down the street when we walk. I want him to, eventually, be able to be unsupervised and uncrated indoors without destroying the house or himself.

I really have no idea how to go about getting these things out of a dog. Does anyone have any tips? Book/video recommendations? Good websites? Any help would be greatly appreciated… I’m stressing myself out thinking when I get him he’s going to be this barking little crazy thing I can’t control and then I’ll be stuck with him forever. :[

The local community college has dog training courses, including a puppy kindergarten course. You are showing great potential as a dog owner, as you have already decided who will be the leader in your pack. My nephew’s wife works with Jack Russell Terriers, which are great dogs but they are very energetic. One of the commands that she teaches the pups is “DROP!”, which means that the dog is to drop whatever it has in its mouth. I have no idea how she does this, but it’s a useful command.

Seconding the classes, but know that it can take a long time for a dog to hit 100% of those skills. Larger dogs are still in puppy mode until around two years old, and every dog has slip ups. Just a couple of days ago, my dog decided to ignore the “drop” command Lynn mentioned and almost choked to death as a result. Which is why you should also take a class in animal first aid. It saved my dog’s life.

You can get a lot of great behavior out of a dog with the following triumvirate of effort:

  1. Exercise (an exercised dog will learn better and behave better)
  2. Direct personal attention for substantial time each day (you cannot ignore a dog or warehouse one and expect good behavior)
  3. Positive training

BUT! (Please consider the following advice, and not a personal attack)

Your post contains things like “stop instantly” which hint at unrealistic expectations. Maybe you don’t have unrealistic expectations, but many people do, which is one reason so many dogs get thrown away by their families.

A dog is a dog, not a robot. When a dog barks, it’s for a reason, even if it’s not one we understand or would agree with – even the best dogs sometimes need a moment to understand you want them to settle down, and another moment to regain self-control. And dogs are individuals – each has strengths and weaknesses; some will be better at some behaviors than others. You can get a lot of good behavior using the three principles outlined above, but no dog will be perfect at the entire list you posted.

And a puppy will be very far from that list until he or she grows up. Puppies are a LOT of work – you may want to consider an adult dog from a reputable rescue that has tested his or her temperament and can identify a dog who can reliably (although not perfectly!) meet most of your requirements.

I Googled for positive dog training and picked a local trainer whose site said all the right things – I was very happy with her.

As far as shows go, a lot of people like the Cesar Milan “Dog Whisperer” show, but I haven’t really seen it, and I am slightly put off by some of his statements, although he’s probably better than most. I prefer It’s Me or the Dog; Victoria Stilwell looks like a martinet, but she definitely understands dogs and that the burdens of communicating effectively, and leading the pack, fall on us humans, not the pooches.

What sort of dogs do you find yourself attracted to? Your worries make me think of the small yappy breeds, although I don’t want to be a breed snob. :stuck_out_tongue:

What sort of home environment can you provide? Yard, stairs, space, a crate, hours the dog will be alone, do you have flexibility to come home at mid-day for a potty break? Other family members…kids? Reviewing these things will help you clarify your mind on what you want and what you should expect; you should go over them before getting a dog anyway.

I recommend Googling up some dog message boards (maybe breed-specific ones if you have a breed in mind) and start reading – there’s no substitute for knowledge, especially if you are feeling concerned or insecure!

I can’t tell you how awesome it is to get an adult dog that somebody else has already done all the hard work on. It’s none of my business as to whether you get a puppy or a grownup or not, but my god this is a whole lot easier. Captain arrived housebroken. He has never had an accident in the house. He doesn’t chew. He already knows a bunch of tricks. He lived with cats before so we knew he was safe with them. He’s polite to strangers. (He needs help with the leash walking thing, though.) Ready-made dog!

Do you already have the puppy picked out?

Thanks for the responses.

I know it sounds like I’m expecting a lot of this dog, and I am, but I do understand it will take time and work and patience. Like I said, I’ve had dogs before, so I know they’re not perfect little robots, but they do respond well to a confident leader-- I just need a little help being the right kind of leader, one that doesn’t send mixed messages or frighten the dog, so he’ll trust me and obey me out of respect and love, not fear. But even if the dog were exactly the opposite of what I want, I’d never abandon him-- to me, pets are tantamount to children, and you don’t get to just get leave them in the dust when they get on your nerves.

I do already have a breed picked out-- I am going to be getting a Blue Lacy, aka Texas Blue Lacy, aka Blue Lacy Game Dog, aka whatever. It’s not yet an AKC recognized breed; it was developed in Texas as a hunting and herding dog. They’re medium-sized (~35-50 lbs), very active, intelligent dogs. Being bred as working dogs, they need lots of exercise and preferably a “job” to do (I plan to run with him daily and do agility training as they are naturals at it). I guess my primary concern with this breed is the barking-- they’re often used as baying dogs in hunting, so I don’t know how much of that barking response is instinctive and how much is trained.

As for home environment, it’s not ideal in the space department right now as I’m in apartment, but it’s a fairly spacious apartment, and we plan to be moved into a house by August. I want to get the puppy now rather than wait until we move because the apartment is so close to my job that I can come back at lunch and let the dog out for a little while. I plan on using a crate as a housetraining aid only (meaning only when we’re not home).

Sailboat, just curious, what about Cesar Millan did you find off-putting? I was thinking about buying one of his books or DVDs, so I’m just wondering if there’s anything I should consider before doing so.

Caesar gives out a lot of good information about how dogs are pack animals and need to treated as such. But he thinks any dog can be trained no matter how badly they were treated. I doubt that. But you have to be leader of the pack so he will gladly follow.

Primarily the leash-jerk correction and his use of the alpha roll.

I don’t like the sound of that “alpha roll”, and I don’t think I would find it necessary to use that, but what do you not like about leash-jerk correction? What would you recommend as an alternative?

I’ve found the guide available here: www.sitstayfetch.net to be very good. It covers the basics as well as the different schools of thought in training.

As to the leash jerk correction, I’ve found it to be a godsend if used correctly. It doesn’t harm the dog in any way, INCLUDING psychologically. Most people I’ve talked to who have issues with it tend toward over-anthropomorphizing dogs in general and project how they would dislike it if done to them. Mileage may, of course, vary.

Good luck with the new pup. You’re in for lots of frustration and hard work, with an incredible set of rewards at the other side.

We got our dogs (an Australian Shepherd and a Shetland Sheepdog) when we were in an apartment, but because my husband was telecommuting, he spent a lot of time working with them. A few things that helped us:

  1. A LOT of exercise. When they were little, we spent an hour a day on fetch, at least. It really helped calm them down for training exercises.

  2. If you want the kind of discipline that it sounds like you do, it helped us to incorporate discipline commands into games, to make them more fun. For example, we’d play a red-light/green-light variant to solidify the “stop” command, calling the dogs to us, then turning around and telling them to stop, then calling them again. They loved it once they got the hang of it, and it made them more responsive to recalls and stops. We also used fetch to help with “stay,” putting them in a sit/stay, throwing the frisbee, and teaching them to wait for it. This really helped them to get the idea to stay even when they didn’t want to. Just don’t do it if your dog seems frustrated by the games. Ours liked them, so they worked well. Stuff they think is fun always seems to work better than stuff they think is work.

  3. Practice, practice, practice. It takes a really long time to get a dog to the level of discipline you want, and they lose it if you go long enough without brushing them up. Short, frequent sessions are what everyone favors, and they worked well for us, too.
    I’m not a trainer, but those things worked well with our high-energy herding dogs. We never really did much about barking, because we like the warning and our dogs settle down quickly, so I have no idea what one does about that.

I have to add there is no guarantee the dog and cats will get along (they might…or might not). Mostly though this has to do with the cats. The dog, especially as a puppy, will want to play with them but they may have different ideas. I have no idea how to get around that. I had two cats when I got my puppy and the cats never warmed to the dog. One downright hated the dog, the other was at best indifferent.

That said a sort of detente eventually evolved and there was no mayhem. Mostly they just stayed out of each other’s way (with occasional surprises rounding corners and such that were kind of humorous). The dog would get upset if I was holding/petting the cats but she would not do anything except indicate that I really ought to be petting the dog.

This picture pretty much sums it up (and this one). (work safe)

Also as noted practice is important but remember consistency! Don’t teach your dog one thing while training and then ignore it later. This is particularly important if there are multiple caregivers for the dog. Make sure everyone is on the same page doing the same thing. Dogs are smart and will get it but they’ll get confused with conflicting rules/commands.

Ignore advice against physical punishment, it’s based on biased research by… well… let’s call them vegetarians wearing organic cotton, if you see what I mean :wink: Very little basis in reality, lots of basis in ideology :slight_smile:

One of the main reasons it’s given by more respectable organisations is because some people are vicious bastards or just don’t realise what they’re doing, what you need to do is a little tap on the nose, or a slight smack on the back (i.e. not somewhere overly sensitive) - the same way you would discipline a toddler. A blanket prohibition is probably best for folks that can’t cope with that.

Oh god, I don’t mean hit the dog on the nose

See, it’s easy to misspeak (and even easier to misunderstand) and then you can cause all kinds of inadvertent suffering. Do not touch the dog’s nose for discipline

Be realistic.

You can get what you want, to a large extent, but know this in your bones: it’s about YOU. YOU need to devote SERIOUS time and effort to your dog. You cannot be casual or half-assed and hope to get what you are seeking. TIME TIME TIME TIME. If you work full time right now and will need to start by leaving your dog alone more than 3-4 hours daily, you are facing a challenge. if that is the case, you need to start with a dog that’s at least 6 months old and crate trained already.

Also, GET THE RIGHT DOG TO START WITH!! Know yourself, know your lifestyle, know what your lifestyle is likely to be in the future and then research, research, research.

My own opinion is that big dogs are easier to train, just by virtue of their size, it simplifies a lot of what you need to do. Also, it is a silly unfounded idea to think that the size of a dog has the slightest thing in the world to do with its need for exercise. The biggest couch potato dogs in the world are Great Danes, perfectly content to live in a shoebox and watch TV as long as they can do it with you. Get yourself a Jack Russell or ANY kind of working dog…watch out! You will have a nutcase on your hands if you don’t put that dog through serious paces every single day.

And do not ignore the advice about physical discipline. Getting your dog’s attention physically is one thing, “punishing” them by hurting them is **completely pointless **and counterproductive to your goal. Learn how dogs think and you will understand why whacking your dog is stupid.

Anthropomorphizing aside :rolleyes: , the point of positive (or reward-based) training is that you don’t need a negative stimulus reinforcement – you can simply withhold the positive stimulus (reward). Properly conducted, you can show the dog what you want and reinforce when you get it…and when you don’t, waiting a moment for the dog to figure it out will often produce the desired behavior, at which point you reward normally.

It may be that a given dog might not respond to positive training methods quickly enough to suit your taste. Even so, it seems to me that starting with positive training (and making a serious good-faith effort at it) gives a chance for an all-positive relationship to develop; if you find you must fall back onto aversive, punishment-based training, you can always do that afterward.

I have had very good results staying all-positive with our rescued dogs. A possible caveat is that we don’t know what else they were exposed to before they lived with us. They do seem to have had hard lives before living with us; maybe a dog who’s never suffered wouldn’t be as urgently inclined to please, for all I know.

Here is a website with a comprehensive article surveying the positives and negatives of the choice between aversive and reward-based (positive) training. Although the author favors positive training, she makes considerable effort to show both sides in a factual manner and to be honest about some of the difficulties of all-positive techniques, and she emphasizes that you should consult multiple sources and make up your own mind.

A big source of confusion about how the techniques differ is that reward-based techniques involve positive reinforcement but negative punishment (you withhold praise or reward or attention to correct a dog, thus negative in the sense that you are not supplying something) and aversive-based techniques involve negative reinforcement (you stop supplying an unpleasant stimulus to reward the dog) and positive punishment (you apply an unpleasant stimulus to correct misbehavior). Perhaps I should be using the terms “reward-based/aversive” since positive/negative is used so confusingly here.

She also mentions that some trainers mix and match, and specifically that Victoria Stillwell of It’s Me or the Dog uses some aversive techniques that do not involve dominance or pain (she’s probably talking about the sharp “ah-ah!” warning sound Victoria uses on problem dogs).

Despite the Shiba Shake website’s concern that aversive techniques may produce faster and more obedient responses, our dogs have done especially well with the critical, potentially life-saving commands: the recall (come here and don’t run into the road) and “leave it” (don’t eat that, drop it!). Difficult as it may be to believe, we used entirely reward-based methods for “leave it” and it’s their best response. They can ignore a tasty treat in front of them quite reliably.

Bottom line: the more you learn, from a variety of sources, the better-equipped you will be. I advocate reward-based, non-aversive techniques out of personal philosophy, because I learned from a great trainer, who works with rewards and the dogs’ natural body mechanics, and because they’ve worked well for me. I see no need to punish if one gets everything one wants without punishment. Other people may bring a different initial psychology, or a different set of less-successful experiences, to this question.

Explain why, and I will explain why I disagree :slight_smile: