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Puppy Training Basics - Communication, Consistency, Connection

 Puppy Training Basics - Communication, Consistency, Connection

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Puppy Training

I finally have another baby in the house. It's been awhile; my girls are 19 and 12. I thought I missed having a baby around the house. The toddler years seemed like a distant dream of a far-away land, one I could never visit again. Then we got Maggie. She gorgeous. She's smart as a whip. She cuddles. She's fun to play with. She reminds me so much of what I've missed having around the house these last several years. In fact the first few weeks we had her I felt like I was in heaven. She's now 6 months old and I have to say, things have changed a bit. I don't exactly feel like I'm in purgatory but it's certainly not heaven anymore.

Maggie is my first puppy. There really is only one solution for the first time puppy owner, get help. I did. It's probably been the wisest decision I made. I attend puppy-training classes with Maggie at our local PetSmart. The instructor is soft spoken, firm, committed, incredibly patient, and loves animals. He taught me about puppy training basics. More specifically, I learned about communication, consistency, and connection.


There are two things to remember when communicating with your puppy. As humans we communicate on several levels due to the different manners in which we express that communication. Communication is conveyed through our words, our body language, and our tone. They convey not only our thoughts but also our attitudes.

Little puppies have no greater desire than to please their owner. When this fact is given priority over all others, it becomes easier to communicate clear, firm, loving messages to our babies. In the beginning, whenever Maggie did something she wasn't supposed to I'd raise my voice, repeatedly. Honestly, I didn't want to get up and deal with it. I was kind of hoping she's just listen to my words and my tone and stop what she was doing. That doesn't usually work.

Did you know that people who make threats usually don't follow through on them? Puppies know, at least Maggie does. If I repeatedly tell her to stop or she's going outside she figures one of two things will happen:

a. I'll get busy with something else and forget about her.

b. She has somewhere between 2 and 10 minutes before I will actually get up and do something about it.

Either way, Maggie is in control because she gets to continue her behavior without any danger or immediate consequences. Harsh voices are as ineffective as loud ones. A loud voice, especially one without an action, communicates displeasure but also it communicates frustration and inconvenience. When the loud, harsh voice is accompanied by physical violence, the puppy is left in no doubt as to his/her owner's feelings toward them.

When dealing with puppies it is best to practice using a soft, firm voice that states the command once and then acts upon the puppy's response. I've watched Maggie's trainer. Even though she will obey my commands, she obeys his on the first command. If he looks her direction, her ears are perched. If he approaches her, she looks up to see what he wants her to do. Through a soft, firm tone, her trainer is able to clearly communicate his command.


Puppies are like little children. They have very short attention spans. This makes it very difficult for the puppy to process more than one command at a time, especially without practice.

In school as a child I had to memorize my multiplication tables. This was accomplished through repetition. The more often I went over them, the quicker I remembered them. Puppies are exactly the same. In the training classes we begin with simple commands. At the end of each class the trainer reminds each one of us to be practicing with our dogs until the next class. This daily practice time does two things:

1. It builds relationship between me and my dog, letting her know that she is important to me as we spend time together.

2. It provides her with the opportunity to practice, after all, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. I've never seen a baby learn to walk that didn't first fall down.

Over these last 10 weeks Maggie has become accustomed to the commands we give her. She's also gotten used to the process of going to class. The structure of a weekly outing bonds her and I closer together. Through consistent rules, consistent outings, and even consistent affection, Maggie has the freedom to be a puppy. The process of consistency has helped make her happy and well adjusted to her new home.


Connecting with the puppy is the key to the quality of relationship that you will experience with your dog. All through the years I've listened to my kids say, "Will this cat be mine? Do you think the dog will like me best? I want the bird to be mine."

All the animals have preferred my husband to everyone else in the house. My girls get mad about it and occasionally I even get jealous of it but I've learned that the preference they have for my husband is based on the connection he has made with them. Having watched my husband over the years and desiring to make a connection with Maggie that will inspire loyalty, I have deduced three things my husband does to establish and build upon this connection:

1. He feeds the animals, always. He doesn't shirk it off and ask anyone else to do it for him.

2. He greets them whenever they have been separated - at the end of his work day, at the beginning of their day, when they come out of the kennel, or even when he comes back from a quick trip to the store.

3. He hangs out with them and pets them. Sometimes I'll find him on the office floor with his Lego's and the puppy. Other times he will take the dog with him to the store. Then there are the occasions he will sit and watch television, petting them and talking to them. More often than not my husband can be found in the kitchen with a handful of doggie treats going over Maggie's commands with her.

4. He takes them to the vet, the groomer, and gives them medicine. These tasks are very important because they reassure your pet that you care. Whether it is something they enjoy or don't enjoy, the animals can be sure that my husband will be a part of it with them.

Connections are the moments that we share with another, in which a relationship is birthed and nurtured. Relationships take time; they also require effort, whether it is a relationship between two people or between the pet and its owner.

The nicest thing about practicing these puppy training basics is the rewarding relationship I have with my Maggie.