Australian Labradoodles are incredibly intelligent animals, but that doesn't mean that they don't need to be trained! The good news though, is that they are incredibly trainable and are always top of the class at puppy training classes. Training your puppy properly at an early age will pay dividends in the long run. A well-trained dog is a happy dog.
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When you collect your puppy from Lomond Hills, he will not have received any training as such (virtually impossible with a whole litter of young puppies), but we do employ particular protocols and utilise some smart methods to set your puppy up for success. A couple of examples:
1. When we are feeding, playing or doing something else that is a fun or positive experience from puppy's perspective, we call them to come to us. When we are going to worm them, clip their toenails or do something similarly neutral or negative from puppy's perspective, we don't call them – we just go and pick them up. This helps them to learn that when they get called, good things happen. It is amazing the difference this makes when it comes to you training your dog to come back to you when he has been off-lead.
2. When our puppies are young and only nursing with mum, they stay in one warm cosy room and mum cleans up after them. When they start eating solids and pooping more, we open up the doggy door and they have access to an indoor toileting area where we use paper bedding. This area is fully drained and is disinfected regularly, so it is a clean and safe environment for our puppies, but is realistic and really gives them a head-start on toilet training. They very quickly learn to follow their mum through the doggy door when they need to go to the toilet! It is amazing the difference this will make when you take puppy home – you will have him toilet-trained in no time!
The very first step doesn’t actually involve your puppy at all, but it does involve everyone else who lives in your household. Agree upon some basic rules, routines, commands, praise and ‘punishment’. For example, you may decide that your puppy is going to be restricted to the lower floor of your two-storey house, that he is or isn’t allowed to jump on the sofa and that he is or isn’t allowed to lick your face. It is important that every member of the household follows these consistently. If he licks one person’s face and is not reprimanded, he won’t understand why another person tells him off for licking their face. Consistency trains dogs.
Think about everything you are doing from his perspective, reward desirable behaviour and ignore or ‘punish’ undesirable behaviour. (It so happens that ignoring your Australian Labradoodle is just about the most effective punishment since they are such people-focused dogs).
When puppy jumps up on your leg, it is only human nature that you will think “oh, he wants a cuddle” and you’ll bend down to speak to him, give him a cuddle and lots of attention. You have just rewarded undesirable behaviour. If you don’t want your fully grown dog to be jumping on you and others when he wants attention, you cannot allow him to do it now.
Puppies love putting things in their mouths and this usually includes human fingers. You need to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on mouthing, right from the very beginning. If he nibbles at your fingers, squeal like a puppy and he should stop. If need be, remove them from his mouth and distract him with a toy or something that he is allowed to chew on. Make a fist so that he cannot physically get your fingers into his mouth. If he remains determined to nibble your fingers, end play time with him, ignore him, stop making eye contact. This way, he learns that nibbling fingers is not allowed and you will ignore him if he persists.
The traditional method that many people seem to employ involves covering the entire floor with sheets of newspaper – DON’T DO IT! This will only encourage your puppy to go to the toilet inside your house on your floor, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re looking to achieve. Instead, what we have found works best (quickest and most efficient) is to take your puppy outside into your garden at frequent, specific times.
The best way to introduce your puppy to his crate is to feed him in it. Pop his bowl of food in the crate, guide him towards it and if necessary, pick him up and put him inside. Ask your puppy to 'sit' and then serve him the food. Whilst he is busy eating, gently close the door so that he gets used to the feeling of being enclosed. It is important that the crate is a very positive place for your puppy to be, and the food really helps to fix the association. The crate should never be used as a place of punishment...ever! Now we’re getting to the important bit about the use of the crate overnight.
This element of training should be started from the very moment you bring your puppy home. The best time to conduct this training is at meal times. Prepare the bowl of food as you usually would and approach your puppy holding the bowl in one hand. Bend over (keeping the bowl high enough that your puppy cannot get his nose into it!) and use your free hand to take a piece of kibble. Starting at your puppy’s nose, move the piece of kibble up and over the back of his head. If he follows the piece of kibble this will naturally get him into the “sitting” position. Remember to say 'sit' while you are doing this. Once he is in the sitting position reward him with his food and lots of praise. Complete this exercise at every mealtime and it won’t take long until your puppy runs to the crate and immediately sits to wait for his food.
Best way to start off – train your puppy to walk by your side, without a lead. Introducing the lead before he is trained to walk by your side can be disastrous, as he will try to resist the lead, pull against you and try to slip out of it – a negative experience for everyone.
So, start off in your back garden, just you, your puppy and some tasty treats. Hold a treat between your fingers, show your puppy the treat and as soon as he has ‘locked onto it’, put it down by your side and start to walk forwards.
This should only be started after “sit” has been well established. The best place to practise this is in the back garden so that you have enough space, but are in a safe and enclosed area. Firstly, ask him to sit, using the verbal command and hand signal as described above. Then, use the verbal command “stay” and raise the palm of your hand as if you are signalling for traffic to stop. Continually repeat the word “stay” and keep your arm out in front of you with the palm of your hand facing your puppy and start to take backward steps. If he starts to follow, you need to start again by asking him to sit.
If you take your puppy to a new place or embark on a new activity, there is the potential for him to be nervous or scared of something. In order to prevent this from happening, or to overcome a particular thing he is frightened of there are a two things you need to do.
You need to be a cool, calm and confident pack leader that is scared of nothing. You cannot show fear or distress in new situations and you cannot make a big deal about them. Don’t tell him that everything is OK in a quiet or timid voice... that spells out that you are concerned about the situation.