Dog Training and Dog Care advice from UK Professionals

Training the Puppy's Mind

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A Puppy's Mind is never dull! The first few weeks with your puppy are going to set a pattern for the future. Whether or not your dog becomes a well-mannered, good citizen, or a dog that is out of control is entirely up to you right now.

Experiences during the puppy's first four months determine the brain patterns and the sub-conscious mind activities.

Everything the dog does at this stage, playing, responding to you, looking at you, and exploring the world around him stimulates the networks of his brain. These connections (synapses) are strengthened when stimulated and become part of the brain's permanent structure.

You must spend as much time with the puppy as possible. This may mean you take some time off work. If this is not possible then you must give him as much time as you can when you arrive home. Many owners plan their holidays around the arrival of the puppy.

You must give him a variety of experiences and stimulants, such as taking him to train stations, schools, shopping centres, and to puppy classes. Your puppy must meet and absorb as much of the world around him as he can. If those brain synapses receive no signals they wither away and can be almost impossible to re-ignite later on (as any busy behaviourist knows!).


After you have decided on a name for the puppy you can expect him to look at you each time he is called. Praise him with a stroke, or react with pleasure shown in your body language and voice tones, anything to let him know that it is right to respond to his name and to at least look at you, though most puppies will naturally come to you once they hear their name, and this is the beginnings of basic obedience at its very easiest. Make the most of it!

This is very important for future training. The dog that does not look towards its master when called is not going to obey any other commands either. Repeatedly calling the pup's name causes confusion. You must concentrate on what you are doing, and watch the dog. The instant he glances at you, praise him enthusiastically.

Be imaginative when playing with your pup. Physical activities consisting of a variety of challenges will stimulate the growth of brain cells. Place a ladder on the floor and encourage the puppy to walk along it. Buy a toy tunnel and let the puppy run through it. Offer as many different stimuli as you can. There are many ordinary things in the home and garden that can be used.

Never encourage the dog to jump more than a few inches as it may damage his bones. Make his mind work by hiding a treat in a box filled with newspaper, or play“which hand is it in”. Your aim is to get the puppy to use his brain and his senses as much as possible WITH your interaction, so that hopefully when he is not around you, he will spend the time sleeping it off!

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Never punish the puppy. Just as he is learning positive behaviour so too can he learn negative responses. Raise your hand and smack the puppy, and he will learn that when you raise your hand, he feels pain. The next time you wave your hand to greet a friend, you will see the puppy duck down or cower.

For any negative actions use the word “NO” or use a growling tone to simulate the voice of a natural canine mother. Be consistent by keeping your voice firm and controlled. Timing is crucial. Do not allow sloppy responses. He must learn that you mean what you say.

Any other family members must know the commands and use them accordingly.

Directly related to timing is praise. If the puppy responds with the correct action he must instantly be rewarded with praise, (or a treat). He needs to learn that his actions will bring praise, and that the faster he performs the action the sooner he gets that reward. Slack training at this stage will be teaching the puppy's mind that he can perform when he wants and not when you command him.

A puppy that has not been properly socialised may end up as a fearful or unsociable dog. They will be reluctant to try anything new and may be fearful of strangers, fireworks, sirens, people, and any unusual noises or places.

The more confident the puppy is, the more capable his brain will be to learn. Introducing the puppy to different stimuli now will reap its rewards later on.

The puppy will not automatically respect your authority, you have to earn it so do so with pleasure, patience and above all, CONSISTENCY. It always works in the long run, and problems are inevitable, it's how they are dealt with that makes a good owner.

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