Virginia Simpson and Chance


by Virginia Simpson, Unleashed Canine Obedience

Dog Training Starts Right from the Beginning

(It’s all about the prep work!)

There is a lot of time and attention given to healing relationships, saving relationships, creating relationships and growing relationships.  And for good reason; we are built to be in relationships.  People who have strong, supportive relationships not only live longer, but they are generally happier and healthier while living that longer life.  And, studies have also shown that people who own a pet or two are less stressed out than their counterparts overall and tend to live longer.   Now, I am assuming that these studies were done with people who owned well-behaved pets!  I don’t know anyone that has a poorly behaved pet that does not have some stressed out feelings happening!  And there are a lot of people out there trying to figure out how to create the perfect relationship with their dog and thankfully for me, many of them find their way to my door with loads of questions.

I wish I could talk to most people right at the beginning of the process!  Dog training starts before you even bring your new pup home.  It actually starts with the selection process.  The importance of spending some time to really research out exactly what qualities would make the best dog companion for you is an imperative step to creating a good relationship with your prospective pup.  This is a relationship you are going to have hopefully for many years and spending some time to set up realistic expectations and “must haves” will save you manyheadaches and much heartache down the road!  And remember, just like in that bad relationship you had once upon a time, at some point those quaint little peculiarities you thought were so cute at first, can turn into hair pulling, skin grating, “I want to end this relationship NOW” defects down the road.

But let’s assume you already have your new pup and you are ready to move on to some actual training.  Training starts from moment one.  Every waking moment your puppy or new dog is learning from you and the environment around them.  They are like the proverbial sponge!  So prep work is paramount!  First thing to think about is how you need to control the amount of access to the different parts of your home your new dog will have.  Too much too soon is not a good idea.  If it’s a new puppy, potty training efforts will be thwarted if they manage to pee on the carpet too many times.  If it is a dog out of the pound, they may become overwhelmed and stressed if given too much freedom too quickly.  (Think in terms of a prisoner getting out of jail.  Although it would feel great to be out, it can be stressful too if you aren’t given time to get used to it!)  Better to start out slowly and let the dog show you when they are ready for more and more responsibility and freedom.  Use a crate in the beginning if possible!  Crates are not a bad thing.  They will help you keep your pup from engaging in behaviors that you don’t want and if they are feeling a little stressed out with all the changes, the crate will create a den like experience which the vast majority of dogs love!  Use baby gates in the beginning if needed to help create physical boundaries until your new pup learns the rules of the house.  If you use these things properly in the beginning and train your pup, they should not be a forever fixture in your home.

You’ll need to be thoughtful about what your body language, tone of voice and facial expressions are communicating to your new dog.  Remember that they cannot understand all your words.  Be aware of what you are rewarding.If you give your new puppy a treat when they come inside after going the bathroom outside, does your puppy think you are rewarding them for going the bathroom outside or for coming inside?  Whether you are using treats or praise or a favorite toy, try giving rewards as close as possible to the behavior you are looking for.  If your new dog acts frightened of anything or seems shy at first, don’t try and soothe them too much.  Your body language and tone of voice may actually end up reinforcing their fear and keep them stuck in that state of mind.  Either use what we like to call the “happy jolly voice” or even just ignore them for a bit until they come out of it and then pay attention to them when they are not so worried.  That way you are rewarding the behavior you want and giving your new pupa chance to be ok!  That also gives them time to notice that you are not overly concerned about whatever it is that frightened them.

So, these are just a couple of things to think about here when choosing and bringing home a new puppy or dog.  Have any questions?  Please feel free to contact us and maybe think about attending a class or coming in for a private consultation.  We’d love to help out!


Virginia L. Simpson
Certified Dog Trainer
Unleashed Canine Obedience, LLC
IACP Member #3141
Phone:  513.317.7484