Puppy training: expert shares his top five tips for the New Year

Whilst getting a new puppy is a dream for most, research from pet health and insurance company, Bought By Many, revealed that more than four in 10 dog owners admit to having ‘struggled’ to look after their pet as a puppy.

A further 17% said that puppy ownership is tougher than raising a baby. The study revealed that 30% of owners believe the first two years of having a pooch are the hardest with 23% admitting they had ‘no idea’ how much work went into training a puppy.

As a result, 21% were left with ruined carpets because of their disobedient pet – while one in four had to bid goodbye to their chewed slippers. Toilet training (27%) , not jumping up at people ( 20%) and not chewing the furniture (19%) ) were among the hardest things to train a new puppy on.

Requiring patience, the average owner spends 21 hours a month, or 43 minutes a day, training their new pup – with it taking an average of six months to get the basics sorted.

Training puppies at this early stage is key, particularly now, as Bought By Many has seen a 87% increase in behavioural claims between 2019 and 2021. Claims data also revealed that those with puppies aged under one are 62 per cent more likely to claim for a behavioural issue compared to just 16% of owners who have dogs aged 1-2. Volumes of claims continue to drop significantly after the dog reaches three years old.

Dog Trainer and Behaviourist, Oli Juste:Getting a puppy can be an absolute joy, however it’s important to know what you’re getting in to as they do require a lot of work. Training before 16 weeks is fundamental for a new puppy, and there are lot’s of ways in which you can do this. Socialisation, the process of introducing them to new things and environments, is a very beneficial form of training and can encourage good behaviour as the dog grows. Leaving the puppy in a room on its own for short periods of time is also key to avoiding separation anxiety – something that is very common with dogs bought during the pandemic. My top tip is to always remain calm and patient with your puppy, they won’t respond well to being shouted at.”

The study also found that of the one in five owners polled who picked up their pups during lockdown, 78% were convinced they would have more time on their hands for training. However, seven in 10 found combining working from home, with training a dog, much trickier than they had anticipated.

More than a fifth have even taken their dog to a vet, trainer or specialised behaviourist to help control their pet. This is perhaps not surprising when owners estimate their dog has done  damage worth £435 to their homes and personal belongings.

Sarah James, Vet Nurse at Bought By Many, said: “It’s well-known puppy training is time consuming and requires a lot of personal effort, but that doesn’t prepare owners for how overwhelming it can be.  The first few nights with a puppy can be sleepless and messy and the first year can feel like a struggle. But the good news is that owners are not alone.

“Toilet accidents or chewing are all part of the puppy process and more challenging issues such as separation anxiety can be managed with time and patience – and occasionally professional support from vets and qualified behaviourists. My number one recommendation when getting a puppy is to do thorough research into exactly what kind of dog suits you best, not just from a training point of view, but all areas of the dog’s life and your lifestyle.”

Typically, puppies are a lot more accident-prone than adult dogs. Accidents accounted for 22% of puppy claims, but just 10% of claims for adult dogs according to Bought By Many.

To help new owners, Dog Trainer and Behaviourist, Oli Juste, provides his top tips for new pet parents raising a happy puppy:

Socialisation starts as soon as you bring your pup home

Socialisation means training your puppy to remain calm and polite whilst being exposed to different situations, environment and ‘things’. This exposure is key and can help them develop into a happy and confident dog. This process should take place before they are 16 weeks old and can shape their behaviour into adulthood.

Discourage biting

Puppy teeth are very sharp and while their nibbles aren’t usually a sign of aggression, they need to learn that biting is not appropriate behaviour. Instead, make sure you redirect the biting with a toy and if your puppy bites your hand, turn your attention away for a few seconds so they learn boundaries. Whatever you do, don’t shout at that dog!

Be patient with toilet training

Start by taking your puppy outside on the hour every hour. When your puppy ‘goes’ give them lots of praise and treats. Importantly, never tell your dog off when toilet training, this will discourage them from doing their business when you are around. Like all puppy training, positive reinforcement is best.

Prevent separation problems

Start by leaving the room for a few moments and gradually increase the time away. Leave them with something to keep them occupied, like a food dispensing toy. The goal is to keep your dog’s brain cognitively engaged so it doesn’t process anxiety.

Discourage Jumping

When you first get your pup, manage the environment, and use baby gates or puppy pens if needed. Don’t underestimate the power of ‘sit’ from an early age. Practice ‘sit’ in a range of places, so that if your dog jumps up, you can quickly and calmly as them to sit instead.

On puppy training, dog owner Nick Simmons, 38, who lives with his 9-month-old Chihuahua, Mabel, in Brighton, said: “Getting a puppy feels a little like having a kid. No one mentions the gross bits. Equally, once you have them you genuinely can’t imagine life without them. I’ve never known someone so pleased to see me in the mornings or greeting me as if I’ve been away for years when I’ve only taken the rubbish out.

“Unconditional love, endless amusement and buckets of personality more than makes up for the occasional accident, or total destruction of a work report when your back is turned. The training pays off, the patience is rewarded, and what you get back is so much more than I ever expected.”

 For more information and support on introducing a new puppy into your home visit: https://boughtbymany.com/news/article/first-day-with-your-new-puppy/