Expert Q&A: Tips for training your puppy
Could you give me any advice on toilet training our new puppy?
Be patient, and try to see things from your puppy’s point of view. Make it easy for her to get it right, and praise her when she does. Take her outside after food, or when she wakes up from a nap. Learn to recognise the signs, such as walking in tight circles and sniffing the ground, and take her out smartly so she can do it in the right place. Then praise her for getting it right. It can be useful to teach her a command, by saying a suitable word while she’s going to the toilet – just choose your word carefully as sooner or later you’ll be using it in front of other people!
People have told me I need to socialise my puppy, what does that mean?
This is about your puppy learning how to interact with other dogs so he can have fun without being either fearful, or too rough and aggressive. Once he’s old enough to go for walks, try to ensure he has lots of pleasant encounters with other dogs. Puppy classes are a good way for him to meet other pups, and you will pick up lots of training tips too.
Puppies always want to play but other dogs may not be in the mood. It is your responsibility to keep him under control until he learns the boundaries. Put him on a lead when you meet another dog, until you can train him to wait until you tell him it’s OK to play with them.
My spaniel seems scared of the vacuum cleaner, what should I do?
Try to ignore the unwanted behaviour, and take care not to reinforce his fear by vacuuming close to him when he’s in his bed, or backing him into a corner. You won’t desensitise him, you’ll only make things worse. Don’t make a fuss either. He needs the freedom to be able to move away to a distance he finds comfortable. Store the vacuum cleaner in plain view so he can get used to it being around and, if possible, try to do most of your vacuuming when the dog isn’t at home. Try to keep sessions short and in another part of the house away from the dog, and build up gradually.
My labrador puppy is sometimes reluctant to get in the car, is he car sick?
Many puppies are fine travelling in the car, but some do get car sick. Often they will grow out of it, but others become very unhappy, drooling and anxious even before you set off.
Try getting the dog used to being in the car without going anywhere, then build up starting with short trips of just a minute or two before letting them out again. If that isn’t working, you may want to contact a dog behaviourist for help. Your vet may be able to prescribe medication to help with the occasional long journey, but these drugs aren’t suitable for daily use.
My terrier whines and barks when I leave her alone, what should I do?
This is called separation anxiety, and it can sometimes become quite extreme, leading to destructive behaviour. Ideally you would take her for a walk before you leave her, or at least spend a few minutes playing outside, so she’s ready to relax and have a nap. Some owners find it helpful to leave the radio on when they go out. You can also vary the amount of time you leave her, sometimes coming back after just a few minutes. If you’ve tried these with no improvement, then the next step is to get help from a dog behaviourist. Ask local dog walkers for a personal recommendation, or talk to
Be patient with your new puppy
get help if your dog is anxious
Emma marchington, a small-animal vet at Brelades Vets in Surrey, is our expert in animal health.