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Training your puppy will make having a canine companion a most rewarding experience and will help ensure his safety and well being as he matures. Your goal is to teach your puppy good behavior and to prevent him from developing bad habits. Remember that training a puppy is not very different from teaching a small child. Patience, praise, and, above all else, consistency, are all key to accomplishing your goal.

Probably the most important first lesson a puppy must learn is housetraining. Generally, puppies may begin housetraining no earlier than 8 weeks of age. Remember, a young puppy has no more physical control than a baby, so it's a good idea to take him outside at least once every hour. The other obvious times to take him outside quickly include the first thing each morning, after each meal or drink of water, after napping, after each exciting play session, before bed, and anytime he appears restless and starts to circle or sniff the floor. Always use the same door and always take him to the same spot outside. Give him words of encouragement in an enthusiastic voice and always praise him extravagantly when he has done his duty.

Initially, try to train him to a rough surface like grass or gravel that he will not associate with indoors. Never put him out alone and never hurry him or yell at him, as this will make him nervous and confuse him. At night or when you're gone, confine him to a crate or other small area covered with newspapers. Keeping the puppy confined is the basic rule of housetraining. Dogs are naturally clean and will try to avoid soiling their beds if at all possible. Be sure to provide him enough space for bedding and a "bathroom" area for accidents. A ticking clock or small radio will prevent him from feeling abandoned. Never try to correct for mistakes that occur while you are not present. Never show anger or "rub his nose in it" since this will only frighten and confuse him and may actually encourage him to eat excrement.

But count on it, accidents are bound to occur! No puppy ever grew up without having them. Keep paper towels and cloths handy. If he makes a mistake, tell him "no" and immediately take him outside. After you return, clean the spot with disinfectant or an odor neutralizer. Unless you remove the scent completely, he may return to the site and repeat the error. If you are patient and consistent you can housetrain a puppy in three to four weeks, often sooner. Once your puppy has learned that outdoors is the approved location, let him know that he can relieve himself on any surface: grass, gravel, soil, concrete or asphalt. This will prevent him from becoming "fixed" on a particular spot and refusing to go elsewhere. For some very small breeds or special household situations, paper training may be the preferred method.

You should also train your new puppy to become accustomed to being groomed and allowing his feet to be handled without pulling away. Be gentle and let him learn to associate grooming and handling with affection. Be persistent and always praise and pet your puppy when he cooperates. Trips to the vet will be much less traumatic if your puppy learns these lessons early. Training your puppy to allow you to clean his teeth will help you keep him healthy as he ages and will save on vet bills. Choose a time when he wants to nap, not in the middle of playtime. Cover a finger with a soft damp cloth and rub each tooth. Always speak in a soothing voice and praise him for cooperating.

Since you never want to turn your puppy loose without supervision, you will need to train him to walk on a leash. Get a lightweight, adjustable collar and a light leash. Some breeds grow rapidly, so check the collar weekly to ensure that it doesn't become too tight. You should always be able to easily slip two fingers between the collar and the puppy's neck. When your puppy has become comfortable with the collar, attach the leash and, at first, let him lead you wherever he wants to wander. Slowly start to coax him into going the way you want to go. Talk to him and be gentle so that he learns to associate the leash with the pleasure of walking and special attention. Exercise is good for a puppy, but do not force him to walk when he is tired. Like a baby, he needs lot of rest between play and exercise. Several 15 minute walks each day are better than one long walk.

Teach your puppy the word "no." Use it when you must take something away from him or lead him away from a place he should not be. Don't shout "no" because you will then always have to shout to get his attention. Use firm, distinct enunciation and be consistent with the use of the word. For example, don't say "no" when he jumps up on one occasion and then pet him the next time he jumps up. Once learned, "no" will become an important command that will be useful all his life.

Train your puppy to "come" by putting him on a leash, walking away from him and calling him. If he doesn't come immediately, gently pull on the leash until he comes to you. Lavish praise on him. Practice this until he come when you call his name. Never, under any circumstance, call your puppy to you and punish him. This will teach him that if he comes to you, he will be punished. If he is doing something wrong and does not respond to "no," go to him, and punish him if necessary. Usually a smack on the hindquarters will get his attention. Knowing you are displeased will likely hurt him more than the actual punishment.

Teaching your puppy to sit will often help in teaching him other lessons, like not jumping on visitors and not playing too rowdy with other dogs or children. While your puppy is on his leash, give the commmand "sit" and push down gently on his hindquarters. Always give lots of praise when he sits. Repeat this routine several times each day until you no longer have to help him sit. A treat might be in order when he has mastered this command!

When your puppy is five to six months of age you may consider enrolling him in an obedience class. Most dog owners and their pets benefit from professional training.

Finally, be aware that your puppy is like a little sponge when it comes to learning words. He'll be able to find his "ball" and know what a "treat" is in no time at all. And if he doesn't like a "bath," you may have to resort to spelling.

Remember the basics of training: patience, praise, and consistency and you will be rewarded with a well-mannered, loving friend for life.