It is an exciting, but sometimes overwhelming time when you bring home your new 8-week-old fluff ball. There is so much that your pup first needs to learn to be able to acclimate to living in a human house! While we recommend starting with kennel and potty training from day one, these are both long, ongoing processes (read some tips here for training young puppies).
First, Teach Your Puppy Potty Training, While Also Teaching the "Sit" Command
When it comes to actual commands to teach your pup, we recommend starting with a simple “Sit.” But when and how you teach and use this command is very important for setting the stage for your pup’s future training and development.
If you’re training a puppy, always remember that your pup starts out by being guided by his basic instincts and has no idea what humans expect from him. Often the behaviors that come most naturally to dogs are the very ones that humans are trying to train out of them! Using their paws or teeth to get at what they want as well as jumping and barking are all very basic canine instincts.
You are not merely teaching your pup commands, but also trying to shape his general understanding of the human world. If you are teaching your pup to sit, we find that you can use this one simple command in many ways to start to shape your doodle’s understanding of how to interact with humans in general. The goal is to reshape how your pup reacts when he wants something. Let’s take a look at the practical steps required to make this happen!
First of all, training your new pup should be done in short sessions. Most 8 week old pups can only focus for short bursts of 2-5 minutes of training exercises before they need to relax and play! Follow your pup’s cues to make sure you are not making training to stressful or taxing for him. Once he loses interest in the treats and starts becoming restless and playful, it is time to take a break.
The Importance of Teaching a Puppy to “Sit”
When it comes to teaching “Sit,” make sure your pup is well-rested. We often start a training exercise shortly after our pup wakes from a nap. Following a quick potty-break and a couple minutes of play time to get a quick burst of energy out is usually a good time to engage your pup with training.
The easiest way to get your pup to sit is by guiding him with a treat. Show him the treat in your hand, once he is interested, hold the treat just out of his reach above his nose and slowly move it up and back. As your pup follows the treat with his snout, he will likely naturally move into a sitting position.
As soon as his rump touches the floor, give him a positive affirmation (either with a click from your clicker or a quick verbal “yes!”) and release the treat. The timing is key! If you are able to reward your pup the moment he starts to move into a sit, then he will be quick to make the connection. If you delay even by a second or two after he sits, your pup is less likely to understand what behavior you are rewarding him for.
Doodles are incredibly smart and trainable pups so often catch onto “Sit” in just a few brief training sessions. But don’t worry if your little guy takes longer as every puppy is different and sometimes the first command is the hardest to teach as your young puppy has no clue of even the most basic concepts of how training works. If your puppy tries to jump, bite, or paw at your hand to get the treat instead of naturally going into a sit, raise the treat a bit higher and step towards your pup at the same time.
After You First Teach Your Puppy to “Sit” You Can Build Upon This Basic Command
Once your pup has “sit” mastered, you may be tempted to move on quickly to other basic commands, especially if he learned it in only a few attempts. But we recommend slowing down and really mastering the sit in a variety of contexts and situations so as to provide a solid backdrop for the rest of your training before moving on to other commands.
There is so much you can teach your pup through this one simple command! Now that he understands that you like it when he sits, you can incorporate this command into all types of situations throughout the day to help shape your puppy’s behavior. We recommend having your puppy sit to get anything that he wants! Meal time, or when he wants a toy, or is trying to get your attention are all good times to employee his new trick.
For example, it comes naturally to puppies to jump or nip to get your attention and try to instigate play. Saying “no” or “off” is a start, but it is often much easier to redirect your puppy to a behavior that you do want him to do. Giving him something to do to replace these negative behaviors is key to helping him understand what you expect from him. We recommend simply ignoring any unwanted behaviors and only giving your puppy attention when he is doing something you like such as sitting!
As mentioned previously, doodles are known for their intelligence and providing mental stimulation and having them actually think through a situation can really accelerate their training and sharpen their understanding of how to get what they want. This is where the “auto-sit” comes into play!
Once your pup has a solid understanding of the “sit” command, you can begin letting him problem solve in a variety of situations. For example, if your pup is jumping on you for attention, you can ignore him but not give him the sit command right away. This allows the pup to think for a moment on his own.
Many doodles will eventually learn to sit without being officially asked. As the owner, this requires you to always be paying attention to your pup’s cues. When you see him sit, make sure to praise and reward him, even if you did not specifically ask him to sit! Constantly reinforcing that sitting is a wonderful behavior that you always approve of will help your pup do this more and more when he wants to ask for something rather than jumping or pawing.
Allowing your puppy to “self-correct” and master the “auto-sit” has lasting implications.The overall goal is to teach your pup that jumping, biting, etc. never works when it comes to getting what he wants. But calmly sitting is rewarded! Before you know it, your doodle will be choosing to calmly sit in a variety of contexts without you even having to tell him!
By first teaching your puppy potty training, you’ll avoid stress and messes. If you can then teach them to sit, you’ll really unlock a whole new world for your puppy!
Of course there are many other important commands that will eventually follow such as “stay” and “come.” But taking your time and really mastering “sit” can often help your pup understand both how to follow a command from a person as well as the basics of how to conduct himself to receive positive interaction in this strange new human world!
Jenna and the JLDD Team