The Animal Behavior Network

Error-Free Puppy Raising® Tips

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS

Preview the ECourse  |  Positive Dog Parenting   |   Topics by Age   |   Topics by Category    All Dogs   |  Media Center

  Index  |  Day 1 - Week 13  |  Week 14 - 35   |  Week 36 - 53 |

Welcome To Error-Free Puppy Raising

Wet clay

The first few months of life for your puppy is like the first five years of life for humans. Pups develop their personalities and social skills from the experiences provided. This is also an optimal learning period up to age 4 - 12 weeks old.

Between 8 and 11 weeks on age, the puppies are more vulnerable to remember fearful experiences. Therefore, you must protect the puppy from bad experiences that might leave a lasting fear into adulthood.

Timing is everything

Your puppy lunges at the cat, you say, "Stop!" and the puppy sits, then you proceed to tell the puppy, "No, don't do that!" 

Ooops!  You have just reprimanded the puppy for sitting quietly and looking at you, instead of praising the puppy for stopping so quickly in response to your unhappy voice tone. See how easy it is to confuse a puppy simply acting like a human?

You must interrupt the puppy from doing what's wrong, and then immediately praise the puppy for NOT doing what's wrong any more!

Be a good teacher!

No spanking or harsh scolding of any kind! Make learning fun and rewarding. Remember, to a canine, the human world is a foreign language and culture.

Humans are often as clear as mud to a new puppy!

Out of sight-out of mind.

Don't allow your puppy out-of-your sight indoors. It will be MUCH easier to teach the puppy what NOT to do if you are RIGHT there! Prevent bad habits.

If you can't watch the puppy indoors, prevent accidents by confining the puppy in a kennel or  exercise pen outdoors. Provide comfort, safe toys and chews.

Caught in the act

If the pup is "caught in the act" interrupt, gently with a stern "Ah, Ah, Ah" or "No" then pick the puppy up, then show the puppy what you DO want, and praise that! For example, if the puppy begins to circle and sniff, take him out to the potty area.  If she starts to chew on your shoe, take her to her chew toy.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions

Use a clicker or praise within 1 to 2 seconds ALL behaviors you DO want. Couple the sound of a clicker and praise with a food treat for faster learning.

Treats should be less than 10% of the puppies daily diet. 

The sweetest sound on earth.

Some say the sweetest sound on earth is your name spoken with respect. Make sure your puppy feels the same way by NOT using your puppies name if you scold the puppy for any reason. 

Instead of saying the puppies name in a harsh tone to interrupt the puppy, instead use an instructive reprimand.  If the puppy is barking, say, "Quiet" or "Sit" and then praise the minute your pup stops barking. 

If the puppy jumps on you, say, "Off."  If the puppy is acting hyper, say, "Down." 

Give the puppy something the puppy knows how to do to earn your praise, THEN say the puppy's name with praise.

Haste makes waste

If you want a friendly, relaxed adult dog that is not fearful or aggressive with all types of people, pets, car rides, and other every day experiences, make every experience in the first four months a lesson. 

Truth or consequences  

What your puppy learns before four months of age makes a lasting impression.

What gets rewarded will get repeated. If your puppy does something really cute like jump up and lick your face, and you do NOT want your adult to do this, turn away.

Be careful to watch the behaviors you may be reinforcing simply by giving eye contact, smiles, or a loving touch!

It's not fair!

It is not fair to teach a cute, little puppy that it's okay to jump up and lick your face, or rest with you on furniture, if that's not the rule you want for the adult dog. Your puppy will remember learning this from you and does not understand the concept of growing bigger.

No free lunch

An unemployed canine is an unhappy canine. The easiest job to give your puppy is called, "learn to earn everything that you want." 

Begin by using the puppies kibble before feeding breakfast and dinner. Put the kibble in front of the puppy.  Walk backwards and coach the puppy to follow the food in a fun-loving voice, "Puppy come!"

Hand feed the first 5 pieces of kibble of each meal. Move the kibble to show the puppy other positions such as sit, down, watch, crawl and stand. Make learning a fun game!

Follow the leader

Your pup will learn faster from you when he or she realizes that YOU control everything that the puppy wants. This is easier said than done!

Before you give the pup ANY privilege such as a meal, walk, toy, passage through a door (in or out), petting, brushing, prolonged eye contact, or praise, SIMPLY ask the pup to do something FIRST such as wait or sit. 

When the puppy does what you want, give the puppy something he or she wants. It's that simple but it is learning a new habit for both you and the puppy!

Puppies don't speak English!   
English is hard enough for humans to learn let alone canines! Use one word to always mean the same thing.

If you want to teach the puppy to lie down when asked, use one word, "down". The puppy will learn faster if you use a consistent hand gesture each time.  Don't confuse the puppy by using the word, "down" when he jumps up. Instead, say, "off." 

Don't say, "down" one time and then say, "lie down" another. Keep is clear and simple!

It's a salary not a bribe!

If the pup begins to eliminate in the home, swiftly pick the pup up and carry him out to the right area, then praise. As the pup gets older and wiser, you can begin to phase food out but NEVER phase out praise or using privileges as rewards for good behavior. Would you work if you were never paid?
I think I hear my mother calling!
What if you were being called for a spanking instead of being called to dinner?  Would you hesitate?  What if you were never sure if you would be getting dinner or a scolding?  How would you feel? 

She loves me, loves me not

One of the most common reasons for pups or dogs to stop coming when called is because they remember being called just before something bad happened. Canines know they came but do not know they didn't come quickly enough. 


If you want to enjoy an adult dog companion that is not easily scared or fearful, start now by teaching your puppy that most sights and sounds are not scary.  Introduce many new things to your puppy with a happy voice and treat.  Show your puppy by example that things are not scary. Introduce, babies, toddlers, cats, rabbits, funny hats, umbrellas, hair dryers, vacuums, fireworks, mail boxes, skateboards, bicycles, etc.

Never allow your puppy to panic.  Go slowly and keep all learning a positive experience.

Can I trust you?

Punishment is risky because it is so likely to confuse the canine and break the trust in humans. Be on the safe side.  Be the provider of everything good, and nothing that is scary or bad.

I'll be right there!

People accidentally teach puppies to think twice before coming when called. For example, NEVER call the dog and then do something the dog doesn't like such as putting in a bath tub or outside, or scolding for not coming quickly enough. 

Help the dog to learn that EVERY time you call, SOMETHING good will happen. 

English as a second language

Teach one word to mean one thing. To teach "come", begin before a meal with a hungry pup. Put a piece of dog kibble in front of the pup's nose, say the pup's name and "come" in an animated voice. Then move backwards, keeping the food in front of the pup's nose. If the puppy jumps you are holding the food too high.  If the puppy doesn't follow, let the puppy lick the treat while coming.

The pup has a natural chase instinct and will usually follow the food. After a few steps, give the food and praise.

Do this daily. Keep to one word. Resist the temptation to embellish, "Come 'ere, come on," or say the same word over and over, if you want the puppy to respond later to one word.

Huh?  One word - many places

Believe it or not, puppies need to learn the same word in many different places and situations or they may only respond to one word in one place!

After a week or so of the puppy coming to you for a piece of kibble before a meal in the kitchen, call the pup from different parts of the house or yard.

He always does it at home!  That's what many families say in puppy class when they ask their pups to sit and the puppy looks at them with a confused, "Huh?" expression.  Puppies must be taught one word in many places before they really "get it!"

Always begin teaching the puppy in a place with no distractions. Then expand learning to many places. 

The Ultimate Challenge

Save this game until you are SURE the puppy knows the word, such as "sit" in many places. Then, see if you can keep the puppies attention around distracting activity such as other pets, people, bouncing balls, etc.

For harder lessons like this one, you need to find an "ultimate reward" that the puppy does not get for "regular work" and games. Try the big guns - SMALL pieces warm pieces of warm chicken, hot dog, or brie cheese.

Ping Pong Puppy

Buddy up with another family member and call the pup back and forth between you, giving a treat each time. Think of this a fun, learning game!  After 4 or 5 times, stop the game to keep the puppies interest.

Think Cheerios!

Thinks quality not quantity when it comes to giving your puppy treats. Let the size of a cheerio be your guide. Think of food treats as a salary for a job well done!

Use treats to teach new games, and vocabulary. A small treat goes a long way is helping the dog to make the connection between words and actions. If you puppy won't work for food, withhold favorite toys as rewards for learning and doing what you ask.

People first!

The expressions, Treats should be less than 10% of the puppies daily diet" and, "age before beauty," are concepts our canines understand. Canine's consider going through a doorway first as a privilege of rank. 

ALWAYS insist your puppy wait, and allow you to go through doorways first to help puppy learn to that you rank respect.

Yes Sir!

In the military, if you are a Private, you show respect and deference postures to a Sergeant, and other higher ranking officers. The military is hierarchy with privileges of rank. Canines naturally think this way.

Your puppy is constantly assessing who is above me and who is below me in rank. Who controls the privileges in this pack? The easiest role in the family for the puppy is to be lowest ranking, or Private.

Otherwise, the puppy will be looking for that "symbolic salute" from humans and will naturally try to control others.

Goochie, goochie, goo!

Your puppy will respond to your body language and voice tone more than to your words. Dogs read other dogs body language and understand the tone of vocalizations. 

Just like a baby, your puppy loves this loving, high tone, baby talk with a big grin on your face, "Oh, you are just the cutest puppy that ever was!" Like babies, puppies also get wound up easily when we are, and can be calmed when we are. Practice this monkey see, monkey do relationship between you and your puppy.

Dogs are NOT democratic animals

We tell our children, we love you all the same, and then try not to show favorites. This is very democratic. Canines do not relate to this type of thinking or behavior. Your puppy wants to know, who is above and who is below me in rank.

When we cater to our canines, showing them with love and affection, we feel good, even healthier. Unfortunately, if we don't balance this need to nurture by teaching our canine companion a clear role, and job in the home, we may end up with a problem.

One day, we may not give our dog what he or she demands, and hear a growl.  If we push the point, we may even be surprised by a nip from our most beloved.

To humans this is outrageous. To canines it is a natural evolution of privileges of rank.

Fact or Fiction?

Canines love unconditionally. This is a myth. We must earn the respect and unconditional devotion that canines show higher ranking pack members.  Canines depend on ranking members of a social group for survival. This dependence results in behaviors that look to us like unconditional love. This is in fact, respect, and a survival instinct.

However, dogs do show the same emotions as we do - joy, humor, love, jealousy, fear, anger, confusion, playfulness, etc. Our dogs can grow to adore us. But, as most things this devotion, is not free, it is earned. We must understand how the canine mind works, and then be worthy of this love by how we act.

Say what you mean.  Mean what you say.

It's amazing that dogs learn any human words when their language is so different from ours.  And then, we often make learning harder by using the same word to mean different things.

We teach the dog that stay means don't move from that position - sit, down - until I release you with a word like, "okay".  Then, we leave the house and tell the day, "You stay here."

Do we really intend the dog to stay frozen in one position until we return?

Time out!

Your puppy craves social interaction, therefore, your attention. If you are playing a game, and the puppy play bites your hand or clothing, simply stop playing, and give the puppy a few minutes of time out to calm down.

Praise your puppy for biting toys not people in play. Don't play tug games unless YOU both start and stop the game. If your puppy knows, sit, then use sit as the password to start the game. This helps keep the puppies attention on you as a rule maker and the key to playtime.

Go Fetch!

Not every breed naturally retrieves or even chases balls. You can encourage this healthy game by doing the following.  Start with a squeaky toy to get the pups attention. Throw the toy a few feet away, then call the puppy in an excited voice. If the puppy comes back with the toy, do NOT take it. Instead, praise, rub the puppies back, and then throw a second toy.

The goal is to teach the puppy how fun it is to chase an object and then bring it back to you. Over time, you can ask the puppy to give (the toy) AFTER you make a big fuss over the puppy for bringing it to you. Trade up by offering the puppy another toy or treat.

Kennel up!

Its important for your puppy to have a safe, comfortable place to sleep and hang out when you are not able to supervise activities.

Do not put the puppy in the kennel when the puppy is wound up. Instead, begin at times when the puppy is tired. Feed one meal per day in the kennel, then 15 minutes later, let the puppy out to eliminate.

It's important to introduce a kennel as the place where all good things happen. So begin by throwing kibble and treats into the kennel. Make all toys first appear in the kennel. Make the most comfortable bed in the kennel.

If the puppy cries, and you know the puppy does not need to eliminate, drink or eat, it is okay to ignore the puppy. Let the puppy out of the kennel when the pup is quiet.

If the puppy has an accident in the kennel, you must clean well with soap and water - not with chemicals.

Who's food is it?

To prevent food bowl aggression, feed the first few kibbles by hand.  Ask the puppy to sit before you put the bowl down, then sit with the puppy during meals to get the puppy use to having people close.

Practice picking up the food bowl, asking the puppy to sit, and then putting it back down. During the meal, surprise the puppy with at least one food treat added by putting your hand in the bowl.

Morning nature breaks.

Your puppy will learn faster, and feel more relaxed if the daily schedule is routine and predictable. For example, take the puppy from the kennel, with no greeting. Carry the pup out to the toilet area, put the pup down and act boring. Give a cue, "get busy" and then continue to act boring.

If the puppy eliminates, give calm praise and a food treat. If no elimination after 5 minutes back in the kennel for 5 - 10 more minutes, then try again.

Routine learning

Your puppy will be more relaxed if you establish a regular routine. All playtime indoors must have 100% of your attention. If the puppy starts to sniff or circle - back out to go potty!

6:00 am - carry from the kennel to the elimination area. After elimination, play time indoors.
6:30 am - breakfast in the kennel
7:00 am - back out to the elimination area. After elimination, play time indoors or walk.
8:00 am - back into kennel with a safe, engaging chew toy and a ball.

Take your puppy out every 1 - 2 hours during housetraining to reinforce learning and to prevent accidents in the house.  Always go out upon wakening and after play!



Positive Dog Parenting® by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS     

For your education...

Error-Free Puppy Raising EBook and CD


Helping you raise the dog of your dreams and best friend for life.

The content of this web site is copyrighted and content can only be copied or distributed through video, print,  or the internet with paid Animal Behavior Network Membership and Copyright information included. NO DUPLICATION WITHOUT PERMISSIONS.

...::::::: Copyright © 2000-Present  All Rights Reserved by Rolan Tripp, DVM  and Susan Tripp, MS, Animal Behavior Network and Associates :::::::...