How To House Train a Lab Puppy (cont’d from Medium)
Now that we’ve discussed the merits of reward-based training and the principles that will help ensure it works, let’s put that knowledge into practice to understand how we can deploy this training method in specific circumstances. Remember, for the free e-book and the online training, you can go to healthfitplace.com/braintraindog.
Potty training, sometimes referred to as house training, should begin straight away when you get your new puppy. There will be some accidents and at this stage its crucially important to remember the three P’s.
In the early days you’ll need to keep a close eye on your dog while they are indoors. If they look like they may be about to do their business, then you should try to call them outside. Some of the main indicators that a Labrador may need to go are sniffing the ground, circling, and straightening their back legs as they walk.
Hopefully you’ve managed to get them outside; if you have, then make sure you give them plenty of praise after they have done the necessary to let them know you approve. You can also use a treat to help reinforce this behaviour. If your young Lab pup has a lapse in judgement and goes in the house, don’t panic, it’s normal for this to happen in the early stages. You don’t need to punish your pup in anyway, just don’t give them any compliments or a treat and they’ll soon work out where they need to go.
It’s helpful if your pup can go to the bathroom on command and there is a simple way to encourage this behaviour. When your dog needs to go, encourage or follow them outside and as they do their business repeat a phrase or word a few times as they go. A common phrase to use is actually ‘hurry up’. Over time the dog associates this phrase with going to the bathroom, and this comes in handy later on, as you can use that phrase and your dog will go if he or she needs to. If you are on a long journey or about to head out of the house, this phrase can make sure there aren’t any accidents while you aren’t watching.
Potty training will take some time but it’s important to get it done early. Observe your pup as closely as you can to understand the specific behaviours that indicate he or she needs to go. Be patient when they have an accident and persevere with it and your dog will get the hang of it in no time.
If you put in the work early on, you can create a comfortable and reassuring environment in your puppy’s crate where they can get some downtime or rest. Effective crate training comes with a lot of benefits, it can improve your Labradors quality of sleep and it helps them get used to a little separation.
To begin with, the aim is to get your puppy used to being in and around his crate. To start with, leave the door open and occasionally place your puppy in his or her crate. As they sit or lie in the crate drop in some treats. This will help reinforce a positive association with the crate and get your puppy comfortable with being in there.
After the first few nights, where it’s good to have your puppy next to your bed in a cardboard box or your crate, you can move the crate downstairs. You will need to attend to your puppy if they start to howl or cry as he or she may need to be toileted. To begin with, your puppy may not sleep through and it’s important not to leave them alone too long so be prepared to get up in the night to reassure them. Your Labrador puppy will likely get used to the separation quite quickly but be patient and understand their perspective. At this stage they will be homesick and will need plenty of reassurance.
As your puppy gets comfortable in his crate you can start to develop a command to make them go in at will. This is very useful in the evening to put your puppy down to bed or if the day has been a little hectic and you need to deal with something quickly. Regularly train your puppy to get in their crate, using food to lure them in. As they get in the crate, repeat a certain phrase such as ‘in your crate’ or ‘in your bed’. They will start to associate these instructions with getting in their crate and getting a treat. Be consistent with this training and train in short bursts so your pup doesn’t lose focus.
The time will come when your puppy will no longer require a crate. Take your time with this transition as Labradors up to a year old may be inclined to chew on the furniture as they are teething. When you are confident that your pup will sleep through you can use a soft bed for them to sleep in.
Recall training starts when you first get your new Labrador puppy. Good recall training will create a good understanding between you and your pup and when the time comes to head out and about you can feel confident letting your dog off the leash knowing they will come back whenever you call.
To begin with, it’s good to get your puppy used to responding to their name. Whenever you use their name and they acknowledge you treat them to help them become self-aware. However, be careful to not use their name too much as they may become less inclined to respond to it. Use clicks or high-pitched sounds as alternatives to get your pups attention.
When you begin your recall training, make sure you ‘treat well’ whenever your dog comes to find you in the garden or your house. Start to develop an association with their name being called and receiving treats so they get in the habit of looking for you for when you are out and about.
One particularly effective method for recall is using a whistle. When you give your puppy their meal use a dog whistle and blow on it three times in quick succession before you give them their food. Feed them in different areas of the house so when they hear the whistle they come running for their food. When you eventually begin off-lead walks, take the whistle with you, and three blows on that is a sure-fire way to get your dog to come back to you.
You’ll also want to get started teaching some basic commands early on like sit, down and leave. Start with sit and use a treat to encourage your dog to lean back and sit down before giving them the treat and plenty of fuss. As they perform the movement use the command ‘sit’ to develop the association, eventually you’ll only need to use that word and you’ll have your dog sat obediently.
When teaching your Labrador puppy to lie down, start with a sit and then use a treat to encourage them to lie down and use the command as you do it.
Remember to train in short bursts and employ the rule of three. After three attempts, if your puppy isn’t responding to your command then stop trying for now and come back to it later. If your puppy isn’t understanding they may become confused and will stop enjoying the training process.
Leash training starts with your dog being comfortable with putting the leash on. Depending on what leash you have this process will be slightly different. If you have a loop, tempt your pup through with a treat and give plenty of fuss. Soon your dog will associate the leash with going on a walk and you should have no trouble getting them to oblige.
Start practising your leash walking in your home or garden before you head out on a walk. Reward good behaviour when your dog isn’t pulling and is walking calmly alongside you. You’ll develop transferable skills that will help your dog stay focussed when you are out and about.
Many pups struggle with pulling on the lead, but there are effective techniques to counter this behaviour. Try the ‘stop and go’ technique. Whenever your pup pulls on the lead simply stop walking until they stop pulling. Over time they’ll learn that not pulling means a nice steady walk at a good pace. Leash training may take a while as it’s not an instinctive behaviour for Labradors but keep at it and keep in mind the three P’s.
Once you’ve mastered walking you may want to try running. Some things to consider before you do can be found here.
Months down the road when you have an obedient Labrador who can walk politely on the lead, responds to his name, and can obey lots of commands you’ll thank yourself for the training hours you invested at the start.
For a more in depth look at dog training, get this free and comprehensive ebook on how to train your dog for any situation – and / or enroll in the class we have for you! https://healthfitplace.com/braintraindog