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Training Tips Before You Bring Home Your New Puppy

Many dog owners make the mistake of giving commands in long sentences that only another human being would understand. You get certain inflections in the dog's bark or whine, but only another dog understands "dog talk." Why should you expect your dog to understand all the words you use? True, your pet will love to hear you talk. Still, it is your tone that reaches and pleases him.

In his lifetime a dog comes to recognize many words, but he can be a well-trained, obedient pet by knowing just a few. He must know: "Come!," "Out!," "Stop it!," "No!," and "Down!" To them, add "Walk?," or "Want to go for a walk?," "Get in your chair!," "Go to bed!," or some such command to direct action, usually taught with a gesture or by actually lifting the dog to the indicated spot. Of course, he soon knows "Good dog!" or "Bad boy." If you think though that he "understands every word," try bawling him out some time in a honey-sweet tone. That little tail will wag madly; it sounds mighty nice to him!

The most important word is his name. You may decide what you will call your puppy before you get him, or his name may come out of the blue, but do not delay choosing it. Use it every time you speak to him, over and over again, until he knows it as well as you do. Once he knows it, he will rush to respond because of your affectionate tone, or hang his head, ashamed, because your voice carries reproach.

He will soon learn your name, too, and those of other members of the family. To these, he will add the names of friends, neighboring children, and their dogs - names which will be useful in his daily life as your friendly, well-mannered pet.

The capacity to learn is born in every puppy, to a greater or lesser degree. Your puppy starts learning the moment he enters your house. (He starts learning about you and soon knows whether you or he will be the boss.) His capacity to learn grows as he does and is fully developed at the age of about a year. Although he eventually stops growing, he never stops learning.

One way to train the puppy, and prepare him for more formal training when he is an adult, is to play with him. This may sound simple, but in our busy lives we often fail to play with a new puppy as much as we should. At first he is a novelty, but it becomes "too much trouble" to give the time to him, and we tell the eager, bouncing little fellow to "be a good dog and lie down." He'd much rather be a good playfellow and later lie gladly at your feet for a snooze.

The game of fetch-and-carry, for instance. . .running after a ball or a stick, catching it and then bringing it back. . .is a chance for obedience training. The command "Go fetch!" may later be useful. Vary the game by substituting other items for the ball or stick. At first all these toys should be hidden in some place that is easy to find; then make it harder. Identify objects by word until he associates the word with the object - your slippers, the newspaper, etc. Fetch soon becomes a known word, and so does find, when you use them often for the same purpose.

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