Proper ways to care for your new pet

Kate Whitney, Valley Patriot Pet Reporter

This month I decided to write about the importance of training your puppy/dog.  Far too many people think that because their dog knows how to “sit”, it’s trained.  This is far from true.

Remember one thing, a trained dog is a happy dog.

And a trained dog has a happy owner.  For this article I interviewed a woman named Pat Ingersoll.  Pat is a Boxford resident and owner of Moose and Me Dog Training.  She started training dogs twenty one years ago.

Her first client was her own Rottweiler named Axil.  Pat offers private, semi-private, and group dog training classes, and also does in-home care for pets.

I want to thank Pat for taking the time to meet with me so that I could write this article and share with all of you some important tips to remember when the idea of training your puppy comes up.  If you only take one thing away from reading this article, please let it be this:  the keys to successful dog training are consistency, motivation, and reward.

Why Is Training Your Dog So Important?

You need to let your dog know he’s a dog; your dog is a social creature, just like humans.  An obedience class is a great way to socialize your dog.

By taking your puppy to class, you not only create a bond away from the home, but also at the home when you continue the methods even after the class is over.  Obedience class is a place where the owner is taught how to properly teach the dog.

Do You Have Any Rules For Class?

The biggest rule for class is the “one command rule.” When you ask your dog to do something, whether it’s “sit”, “stay”, etc. only say the word one time, do not keep repeating it.  If your puppy does not do what you ask, physically help her.  Never say “sit down” because that’s two commands.

“Sit” should be accomplished first, and then if you want your puppy to lay down on the floor, you would then say “down.”  One command only and say it only once-remember this!

When Should I Start Taking My Puppy to Obedience Class? Are There Any Prerequisites?

You can start your puppy in classes as early as 8 weeks old.  However, you should always check with your vet first.  Your puppy also needs to have all appropriate shots. Who Should Accompany the Puppy to Obedience Classes?

The more family members who can go, the better….everyone can benefit from going to class with their puppy.  The family needs to be consistent with commands. 

This consistency is going to come from everyone learning the correct way treat the puppy. The key here is to make sure everyone is on the same page.  If all family members can’t make it to class, the person who does go needs to bring the rest of the family up to speed on what went on in the class.

What’s the First Command Someone Should Teach Their Puppy?

“Sit.”  A sitting dog isn’t jumping on people, isn’t running away from you.  A sitting dog is a well behaved dog.

What Is The Best Way To Reward Your Puppy?

There are a few great ways to reward your puppy.

Always try to have something yummy for your puppy. Whether it’s a treat or pieces of chicken or liver, remember it should be something quick, easy, soft, and yummy. Simple words can also be very rewarding.

Things like “good dog” or “good sit” are great ways to show that you are happy with what your dog is doing.  Always reward good behavior (positive reinforcement).  Make sure that the reward, whether food or praise, comes quickly after the dog performed the good behavior.  Remember to say your dog’s name when you praise.

For example, say “good sit, Dash.” Remember that your tone of voice is key.

Your dog can tell a lot by how you say something.  If you are happy because your dog did something good, then make sure your voice is happy.  If your dog did something that displeased you, make sure your voice shows this.

Never hit, kick, yell, or scream at your dog.  You want your dog to respect you, not fear you.

What Are Some Good Treats And Toys For Puppies? Anything To Avoid?

Peanut butter in a Kong is a great treat!  Make sure the treats that you feed your puppy do not have any wheat, corn, or gluten in it. Stay away from onions, grapes, chocolate.

A list of many other hazardous foods and plants can be found on

For toys, try to stay with toys that are made in the USA.  Remember to never give a rawhide chew if your dog is going to be alone and unsupervised.  A soft Frisbee known as a “chuck it” is great and even just a stuffed toy can do the trick to providing a well-liked toy.

Make sure you do not use human toys.  Try to get dog friendly toys: no small parts that can be chewed off, no small beads used for stuffing, no hard eyes, etc.  Inspect a toy before giving it to your puppy.

What’s the Difference Between Leather And Nylon Collars/Leashes?

What Do You Recommend? How Do You Fit A Puppy for A Collar?

Nylon can burn your hands and also your dog’s neck if it pulls.  Leather is great! The collar should be loose enough so that you are able to put your fingers under the collar, but tight enough so the collar can’t slip over the head. A retractable leash is okay for some situations. It allows freedom in the right place.

If you are walking your dog on a busy street, please don’t let it be out twenty feet in front of you, keep it on a short leash.

Housebreaking a Puppy, Any Suggestions?

Consistency….try to take the puppy out as much as you can and remember to reward the good behavior of going potty outside. If a puppy has an accident inside, be sure not to get angry at it.  Make sure your puppy’s crate is large enough so that it can stand, turn around, and lay down, but not so big that it has the opportunity to go potty in one end of the crate, and lay in the other end.

You can buy dividers to make the crate smaller if you need to.  You should always confine your new puppy to a specific area (baby gates are great for helping with this). In the beginning, the puppy should not have free reign of the house and they should always be supervised.

Keep in mind that you are going to have this puppy for a long time, you want to start off on the right foot.  You need to bond with your dog and recognize that you will be learning new things about each other everyday!  Owning a pet should be a fun experience, not a hassle or burden, and remember to make fun memories with your pet! Pat said that the biggest mistake people make with regard to training is that they take one class and think they know everything.

Training is an ongoing experience and process that takes time. As the interview came to a close, Pat reminded me of one thing.  She said, “You don’t get Lassie in eight weeks.”


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