There is just something about a Lab Puppy. The way they smell, the warm snuggles and the goofy behavior as they learn their new environment. As Lab Puppy Owners we want to enjoy this phase as much as possible and help positively shape their behavior. That is why we are talking about How to Train a Lab Puppy. With a little work you will lay the groundwork for future training. During this puppy phase you are teaching your new Lab Puppy how to learn and exposing them to people, places and things. We will in a fun manner introduce them to concepts of being still, moving towards us and moving away from us. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of How to Train a Lab Puppy but it is the process we have used in our home to get pups started. It is important to remember that we are just focusing on teaching the pup how to learn and shaping behaviors. This is 100% informal and fun. We are building a relationship with our new pup not trying to win our first Field Trial.
Crate training in my opinion is an essential part of training your Lab puppy. The safety of your new puppy and possibly your house may depend on it. Dog crates offer a safe space for your dog to rest, get away from other pets and keep them safe when you can’t watch them. There are really 3 segments in crate training your Lab Puppy. Sleeping in the crate, going into the crate and increasing the time you pup stays in the crate.
Sleeping in the Crate: The first couple days when a pup comes into our house, I sleep on the couch with the pups crate right next to me. We pick a bed time and make sure we have a good playtime and potty before settling in. I want them to feel comfortable with me there. We also want to be close to hear the slightest whimper to get them out to potty overnight
Going into the Crate: Get some small training treats and lure them into the crate. Don’t say anything except “Good Dog” once in the crate. After they are eagerly going in for their treat, start saying “Crate.” Soon your puppy will be flying into the crate for their treat. We don’t care if they come right back out at this point. Now you’ll be using this sequence. “Crate,” puppy enters crate. Give pup treat and say “Good Dog.” Next, you can start extending the distance from the crate. I also feed in the crate to help the puppy know good stuff happens in the crate.
Extending Crate Time: First rule of crate training is your puppy doesn’t come out unless they are settled or at least not barking or fussing. Exception is if it is a potty time. This can be one of the hardest things to endure as a new owner. You have a little Fluff Ball of Cuteness who wants to see you, but if you let them out while barking or fussing you are conditioning that behavior and will be dealing with it well into the future.
Gradually extending crate time is a perfect start. It is really beneficial to make sure you have a few days off work or someone (responsible) in the house will be home with your new pup. Make sure your pup doesn’t have to potty and put them in the crate. Maybe five minutes to start or maybe two, just remember they don’t come out until settled. Now simply keep extending. Eventually your puppy will need to stay in the crate maybe all day so these initial steps will dramatically help that transition.
Two words on potty training a puppy. Prevention and Timing. You want to be somewhat fanatical (my wife says I am a lunatic with potty training) and take your puppy out to potty more than probably needed. Anytime your pup comes out of the crate or awakes from one of their many naps – Outside to Potty. When the pup eats or drinks, five to ten minutes later – Outside to Potty. After playing or training – Outside to Potty.
Conditioning the pup to understand they are doing good while doing their business is important. When they are little, carry them to the same spot you want them to go. Once they start doing their business, tell them “Good Dog Potty” in an excited tone. They will begin understanding this area is their bathroom. Another great idea is to use the same door to take them out. This helps them learn, as they get older, to go to that door to let you know it’s PEE PEE IN THE POTTY time.
Teaching your Lab puppy be still or to sit is a basic command that is going to be the foundation of so much future training. Again, remember this is fun, not formal and is only shaping behavior. Start by holding a treat above your puppy’s nose and moving it slowly toward its back, hopefully as their head goes up, their butt goes down. As soon as their fluffy rump hits the ground, treat and “Good Dog Sit.” If they are not plopping their rump down sometimes just a little gentle pressure pushing their butt down is all you need. Do this 3 – 4 times a couple times per day.
Teaching your lab puppy to recall has two functions, one is safety and the other is to start understanding when they come towards you something good happens. Eventually, we want to be able to call our dog away from any dangerous situation, think about Fluffy chasing a squirrel towards the road…a solid recall could save their life.
If you have one of those fat bellied lab pups that like kibble this one is going to be easy. Simply say “Here” and when the puppy gets to you immediately treat and say “Good Dog Here.” After a couple repetitions you are going to have to distract your pup because they are not going to leave your side. Again, 3-4 times a couple times per day.
With the place command we are teaching the puppy to move away from us and go to a specific spot. We use a place board or rug to establish the location. You may have to guide your new puppy onto the place board with a treat at their nose to start. Once one paw hits the spot, treat and say “Good Place.” Use this process until your pup is getting all four paws on the place board. Once that is complete, you should be able to point to the place board and say “Place.” Like always, when all four paws hit…treat and say “Good Place.” At this early age we are not worried about you pup staying on the place board, lets just focus on them getting on it. We’ll extend the time on place in a couple of weeks.
One of the things I enjoy most about bringing new puppies into our home is exposing them to all the cool stuff they are going to see in life. We go to the pet store, we ride in boats, we go to salt marshes, we go to fields, we walk around decoys, we walk around floating docks and all sorts of fun stuff.
Training your Lab puppy takes time and patience, but we have so much fun doing it. We just covered the first little bit of time when your new puppy arrives home. Please remember at this stage there is no pressure and this should be fun for the pup. We are building a relationship, teaching our pup how to learn, while we are learning how to train a lab puppy.