Getting a new puppy so is so exciting! Everything is new to them, and it’s fun to watch them explore the world. Their first encounter with stairs, learning how to carry a stick twice their size, protecting you from their reflection in the mirror and so much more. And there is a lot you have to teach your puppy. He needs to know where to go to the bathroom, how to chew bones and not the new shoes you just bought, and how to sleep on his own.
You got a puppy in part to have an awesome adventure buddy. But have you given much thought to what you’ll need to teach your puppy to become the ultimate adventure dog? Some people simply head out on the trail with their new puppy and hope for the best. But you weren’t born knowing how to hike, camp and climb, and neither was your puppy.
Here are our top training tips to set you and your dog up for many miles of successful camping trips and mountain trails.
Build Confidence in New Situations
One of the best things you can do for your puppy is to help build their confidence in new situations. How? Expose them to a wide variety of situations early and often! Puppies are very malleable, and they bounce back from all kinds of situations that older dogs may need more time to get used to. To build super confidence in your dog, expose them to as many new situations as possible. Take them to the park, take them to the hardware store, let kids play with them, take them downtown if you live in a rural area, take them to a rural area if you live downtown. Let them play in water puddles, and hear sirens and look at a cat. Invite new people over to your house and let them practice greeting new people. Do as much as you can to allow your puppy to explore new terrains, new animals and new people, so they can be confident when they encounter something new on your adventures.
As you plan puppy adventures, don’t forget to allow your puppy plenty of time to rest in between new experiences. Learning to be bold is hard work, and your puppy will need the chance to rest and reset in a place they feel safe, especially after new experiences. If you’ve crate trained your puppy, place the crate in the car so that after you’ve gone someplace new, they have a familiar place in the car to rest. If you’ve just experienced a busy street for the first time, maybe take your puppy to a park where it feels more quiet and familiar so they can rest in the sunshine.
Recall, recall, recall!
Recall, or your dog’s command to come back to you, is perhaps the single most important thing you can train your dog to do. It’s incredibly important in an off-leash environment, of course, because you need to be able to call your dog back when he roams out of sight, or it’s time to load up in the car. But it can also be life-saving. Maybe your dog sees a squirrel and bolts right towards a road to chase it, or they encounter wildlife that could be potentially harmful if spooked. In all of those situations and more, you’ll want your dog to have a reliable, quick recall.
There are several fun games you can play with your puppy to help practice recall. Gather up some friends that want to help and have everybody stand or sit in a circle. Take turns saying the puppy’s name and encouraging the puppy to come by patting your legs or the ground. As soon as the puppy gets to whoever was calling them, that person should give lots of praise and a treat. Then someone else in the circle takes a turn. This will help teach your puppy that when he hears his name or the recall word, he should run and find the source.
Another fun game is to have someone hold your puppy back while you start running a short distance. As you’re running, call the puppy’s name and have whoever is helping you let go of the puppy. Your puppy’s natural chase instinct will engage and he’ll come running right to you. When he gets to you, lightly grab his collar and give him a big treat and some praise. With practice, as soon as you call he’ll be running right to you on his own!
Loose Leash Walking
Loose leash walking is one of the essential skills for both you and your dog to enjoy exploring the outdoors together. And one of the best ways is to teach your puppy this essential skill is to teach them to enjoy walking next to you without the leash! As you walk forward, feed treats to your puppy from your hip. Your puppy will soon realize that walking next to you is right where he wants to be. Next, introduce the same exercise with the leash on and practice inside first. Then start practicing outside.
While you’re walking, if your puppy pulls on the leash to get ahead of you, simply stop walking. As soon as your puppy turns towards you to figure out what’s going on and the leash becomes loose, praise him and walk forward again. Repeat this every time the leash becomes tight. Soon your puppy will realize that when he pulls, the fun walking stops, but when the leash is loose he gets lots of praise and gets to walk forward again.
Puppies are so fun, and it can be tempting to focus on teaching them tricks like shake, roll over and speak. But if you want to have a safe, reliable adventure partner, focus on the basics first. You’ll be rewarded with years of enjoyable adventures together.