Training a New Puppy

June 9, 2009 Through her experience creating and conducting classes at AnimalSense, Jamie has developed various puppy training strategies. For more information or to find out about classes for dogs of all ages, contact Jamie at AnimalSense ( or 312-564-4570

Positive Training Principles and Tips

Training your dog should be an enjoyable experience for you both. The more you understand about how your dog thinks and learns, the more effectively you can communicate. Clear communication means successful training and good behavior – with no need for force or coercion!

1. Behavior that is rewarded is more likely to reoccur. This powerful principle is a key component of reward-based training. Dogs do what works. If your dog receives praise and a treat for sitting, he is more likely to sit the next time you ask. If he knows that jumping on you will earn your attention, he will keep jumping, because attention is rewarding to him.

2. Dogs learn by association. When training, it is important that the reward closely follow the desired behavior. For example, when teaching your dog to sit, the praise and treat should be given when his rear touches the floor, not after he's stood up again. On the other side of the coin, reprimanding your dog for something he may have done hours ago (e.g., you come home to find your slippers shredded) is pointless. Your dog won't associate your yelling with what he has done, and if it happens enough, he may begin to fear your arrival home, as you are always angry for no reason he can fathom.

3. Reward behaviors you want, rather than punishing behaviors you don't want. Most of us are so accustomed to noticing "mistakes" our dogs make that it seems strange to begin noticing and rewarding "good" behavior. For example, your dog barks, so you yell at him to be quiet. Sure, a barking dog is hard not to notice. But what about when he's lying calmly? Most of never consider rewarding calm behavior, so the dog only gets rewarded with our attention (even yelling is attention) when he is doing something inappropriate. Having been rewarded, of course he keeps doing these things! Make a habit of noticing and rewarding your dog for good behavior.

4. Extinction. If a behavior is ignored, it will eventually extinguish on its own. Imagine you are trying to buy a soda from a vending machine. You drop in your change, press the button, and wait. Nothing happens. You press the button more forcefully, and try a few others as well. Still nothing. You jangle the change lever. No soda, no change. You might even, at that point, shake or kick the machine. Finally, grumbling to yourself, you give up and leave. In this example, the soda-seeking behavior extinguished because there was no payoff, no reward. Kicking or shaking the machine is an example of an extinction burst. What that means with your dog is that if you ignore an unwanted behavior, it will eventually stop (unless it is something that is inherently self-rewarding to the dog, such as digging). But before your dog gives up, the behavior may actually escalate. Recognize the extinction burst for what it is, and wait it out – the behavior will eventually stop, and will stop even sooner the next time around.

5. Positive reinforcement is something the dog wants. Just because you think those expensive new treats are a great reward doesn't mean they are. If your dog turns his nose up at them, they're not much of a reward in his mind. A reward can be petting, verbal praise, a throw of a ball, a quick game with a favorite toy, sniffing grass, saying hello to another dog, etc. The sky's the limit. Consider what your dog finds rewarding, and use it!

6. Jackpot! The jackpot is something really special, head and shoulders above the usual reward. Your dog can earn this amazing prize by doing something especially wonderful. While it is always important to use training treats your dog likes, save the Super-Yummy, Best-Treat-In-The-World as a jackpot. For example, a dog knows what Sit means, but doesn't sit very quickly. When you give the Sit cue, he watches you for a moment, and then languidly lowers his butt to the floor. You almost hear him sigh, "Okay, if I must". But on the fourth repetition, he responds immediately; butt hits the floor in record time. Jackpot! You immediately give him one piece after another of the special treat, along with effusive praise (and petting, if he enjoys it). You can also give a mega-jackpot by tossing a shower of treats. Jackpotting makes an impression – it calls the dog's attention to the fact that he's done something wonderful. He is therefore more likely to perform the behavior better than usual the next time around. A jackpot doesn't have to be food, either. If your dog lives for a toss of the ball or a game of tug, use that as your jackpot. Know your dog and use what works for him.

7. Find an alternate behavior. When you want your dog to stop doing something, give him something else to do that is incompatible with the behavior you don't want. For example: if your dog jumps on you, have him sit instead; he can't sit and jump at the same time. If he chews on furniture, give him an appropriate chew toy instead. Try this: On a piece of paper, draw a vertical line down the center. On the left side, list all the things your dog does that you'd like him to stop doing. On the right, next to each behavior, write down something he could do instead. It's easy!

8. Raise criteria gradually in small increments, building on each success. Simply put, that means don't expect too much too soon. Instead, build small steps to get from Point A to Point B. For example: when teaching your dog to down-stay, start with a three-second down-stay. If that is successful, add two seconds, and so forth. Any time your dog does not perform an exercise correctly, consider whether you have proceeded to quickly. Go back to the point at which your dog was last successful, then build gradually. Setting your dog up to succeed eliminates the need for corrections.

9. If trained correctly, behavior is not contingent on food being present. This is something that many people who are opposed to food-rewarding training don't understand. If you phase treats out gradually and use lots of real-life rewards (petting, games, etc.) as well, your dog will do as asked even when no treats are present. Use lots of treats at first to teach and then practice new behaviors. Eventually, rewards should come fewer and farther between – but they should not stop altogether. You wouldn't want to stop getting paid once you got better at your job, so don't forget to reward at times for a job well done!

10. Training should be fun!

11. Keep training sessions short. 3-5 minutes a few times daily is fine.

12. Focus on one behavior in each session.

13. Keep an upbeat attitude when training. Don't train when you're cranky.

14. End each training session on a successful note. Did your dog do seven good sits, with the last one being really great? End the session there.

15. Once a new behavior has been learned, incorporate it into your daily routine.

Let's Talk About Crate Training!

Use your crate for a happy calm place, as a house training tool, to encourage good manners, and to discourage bad manners.

Important Basics

1. The crate should always be a positive experience for your pup. You should approach the crate as if it were a safe, happy place. Speak and move calmly. You can feel angry but don't act angry.

2. Use your crate during house training when you cannot watch your little pup with an eagle eye. You can use it often for short periods during the day.

3. Only good manners and quiet, calm puppy behavior cause the crate door to open. Never open the crate door for barking, whining or scratching. But, use your best judgment and common sense. If you feel your pup is in serious physical pain, act accordingly.

4. Crates are a great management tool. Do not give puppies that practice bad behaviors the privilege of human company. Put them in the crate so that barking, nipping and pestering do not become habits. Use the crate for a timeout when bad behavior starts, or, once you can predict that "crazy maniac" time of day, put your pup into the crate before the insanity begins!

Putting your pup in the crate

1. Keep a jar of treats near the crate.

2. Calmly carry or lead your pup on leash to the crate.

3. Open the door.

4. Toss a treat into the crate.

5.Guide your pup inside.

6. Remove his or her collar.

7. Calmly close the crate door.

Opening the crate door

1. Wait until your dog is calm; wait 2 minutes, 20 minutes or 2 hours.

2. If your dog is calm and relaxed, approach the crate door.

3. If your dog barks, whines, scratches, don't get angry, just turn around and walk out of the room.

4. Finally, when your dog is calm, open the door!

5. When still house training, carry your dog immediately outside for a chance to pee and poop or tether him or her to you. (See our housetraining handout for more housetraining related tips!)


1. Place the crate in the room where you spend the most time.

2. Use multiple crates: one in the TV room, one in the human bedroom.

3. If you discover that your crate is a giant penthouse to your pup—with a bathroom and living room—get a smaller crate or partition your current crate. The right crate is big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down.

4. Leave the radio or television on when your pup is in the crate. Create the same environment when you are there as when you are gone. This will reduce stress on your dog.


1. Crates are not substitutes for exercise or proper training. When faced with house training or manners training, use the crate as one piece of a larger training puzzle.

2. When using the crate for management to prevent the practice bad behavior, be sure to watch out for good behavior that occurs outside of the crate and reward it!

3. And perhaps the most important thing: don't feel guilty about using your crate! Dogs are den animals and actually like the safety and close quarters that a crate offers! Remember, dogs don't do guilt!

Housetraining Guide

Congratulations on your new puppy! Although your puppy is ready to learn, remember that your puppy does not know the rules of living in your house. One of the first things you will teach your pup is where to eliminate. Around 8 weeks of age, most puppies begin choosing a favorite area and type of surface to eliminate. You can teach your puppy to choose to eliminate outside on the grass instead of inside on your new rug!

Your Puppy's Schedule

Your puppy will need to eliminate frequently. You will need to take your puppy outside frequently:

  • • Immediately after waking up (including after naps);
  • • Immediately after playing;
  • • Immediately after seeing an "early warning signal" (see below);
  • • 15-30 minutes after drinking or eating (including treats);
  • • 1-2 times during the night, depending on your pup's age.

To determine the maximum number of hours you can expect your puppy to "hold it," add one to the puppy's age in months. Although every puppy is different, in general you can expect your two month old puppy to need to go out at least once every three hours, even in the night. If the puppy wakes up during the night and starts to cry, it's time to go out! You'll soon learn the difference between whining that means "Can I get out of my crate?" and whining that means "Hey, I gotta go!" If you don't believe the puppy needs to go, ignore the whining. Otherwise, your pup will learn that crying makes that crate door open like magic. Try to wait until your pup is quiet before letting him or her out of the crate. (See Crate Training handout for more details on using the crate.)

While your puppy is young and still learning, carry him or her to the elimination area. Touching the floor can stimulate elimination.

"Early Warning Signals"

Even though your puppy can't talk, he or she will communicate with you in many other ways. Most puppies will display an "early warning signal" before eliminating. Some common signals include circling, sniffing the floor, pacing, whining, stopping in the middle of an activity, or walking away. Observe your puppy closely, and if you think the puppy needs to go out, don't wait!

You can train your puppy to ring a bell when it wants to go outside. Hang a bell from the doorknob, then place a small amount of peanut butter inside the bell. When the puppy licks the bell, it will ring. Immediately say "outside" and open the door and take the puppy out. After a few days, stop using the peanut butter. The puppy will learn that ringing the bell means it can go outside. Of course, the puppy will probably ring the bell when it wants to play in the yard, too, but the bell can be a handy tool for house training.

Time to "Go"

1. Take the puppy outside on a leash (even in the yard) so the pup does not wander around exploring or playing – there will be time for that after the pup does his "business." Once house training has progressed, you can take the puppy out off leash but only in a securely fenced-in area. Always be safe!

2. Do not play with the puppy or allow the puppy to play with other dogs or toys at this time. 3. Instead, take the puppy to the areas where you want the puppy to eliminate and say "Go potty!" or "Do your business!" or a similar phrase. Over time, this will teach your puppy that that phrase means the puppy should eliminate.

4. As soon as the puppy squats, praise the puppy in a calm voice by saying "Good potty!" or "Good pee!" or "Good poop!" (This is important stuff, so don't worry if your neighbor thinks you are batty.)

5. When the puppy has finished, immediately say "Good dog!" and give a treat if you like. 6. Take the puppy for a walk, or allow the puppy to play for a few minutes, before returning inside. Otherwise, your puppy will learn to postpone elimination for as long as possible (and may even wait until returning indoors) in order to prolong his outside time. Resist the urge to rush back inside during bad weather!

7. If the puppy does not eliminate, return the puppy to the crate and try again in 15-20 minutes.

Avoiding "Accidents"

Every time your pup has an "accident," it learns that that spot is an acceptable place to eliminate. Avoid or minimize accidents so the puppy learns that the only acceptable location and surface to eliminate is the one that you have chosen. The fewer accidents your pup has, the faster your pup will learn the right place to eliminate. Here are some keys to preventing accidents:

1. Know your puppy's schedule for elimination;

2. Recognize your puppy's "early warning signals";

3. Always keep your puppy under close supervision when not in a crate or confined in a "puppy-proof" area (see below).

If an accident happens, DO NOT PUNISH THE PUPPY! Punishment will slow down the house training process, can encourage more accidents resulting from fearful or submissive urination, and may make your puppy afraid to eliminate in your presence. If you catch your puppy "in the act," you can say "no!" or make a noise to interrupt them and then immediately whisk your puppy outside. Then encourage the puppy to "go potty" and praise the puppy when it squats. (See "Time to Go" above.) If the accident has already occurred, simply put the puppy in a crate or confined area and clean up the soiled area. Use a pet odor neutralizer such as Nature's Miracle or Simple Solutions to reduce the chance that the pup will return to "the scene of the crime."

There is only one way to properly use a rolled-up newspaper as part of house training. If the pup has an accident, walk over to the soiled area, take the newspaper and hit yourself over the head with it as you repeat the phrase, "I forgot to watch my dog! I forgot to watch my dog!"

Watch Your Puppy

Puppies need someone to watch over them, and that person is you. Puppies have a knack for getting into mischief, so for effective house training and overall safety, keep your puppy under close supervision. Your puppy must be in visual range when not in a crate or confined to a puppy-proof area. Use baby gates to keep your puppy in the room with you or keep your puppy on a leash clipped to your clothing.

Crate Training

We strongly recommend that you crate train your puppy as part of house training. Dogs are den animals by nature, and a crate gives your puppy a safe place to relax and sleep. Crate training also encourages your puppy to control the urge to eliminate. The crate should only be large enough to allow your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably. Crate training is not a substitute for regular walks. Your puppy will still need to eliminate at least 6-8 times per day. Therefore, you (or a neighbor or dog walker) will need to let your puppy out of the crate periodically, based on the schedules set out above. If this is not possible, consider adopting an older dog that is already house trained – but remember, even adult dogs need to stretch their legs during the workday and should be walked at least twice every day. If you insist on getting a puppy but are unable or unwilling to arrange for someone to let the puppy out during the day, you will need a crate that is large enough to provide your puppy with separate sleeping and potty areas, and the potty area must be cleaned frequently. Remember that allowing the pup to eliminate in its crate will significantly increase the time it takes to house train your pup.

It is fine to put your puppy in the crate if you need a few minutes of "puppy-free" time, but remember that going in the crate should always be a positive experience. Putting your puppy in a crate should never be used as a punishment.

If you cannot crate-train your puppy, confine them in a safe, puppy-proof area such as a kitchen or a spare room when you cannot be with your puppy. Baby gates or dog exercise pens (available from pet supply catalogs) can be useful. The area must be puppy-proofed, with no access to harmful substances that the puppy can chew or ingest. This includes household chemicals, electrical cords, plants, laundry, shoes, and other substances. As with crate training, your puppy will need to be taken outside regularly or will need a potty area.

Paper Training

If you will want your puppy to learn to eliminate outdoors at some point, we strongly advise you to avoid paper training because it teaches your pup that indoors is an appropriate place to eliminate, and your pup will become used to eliminating on newspaper and so may always prefer that surface to grass. Unless you are comfortable with the possibility that the dog will eliminate indoors for the rest of its life, you should use a crate for house training.

If you choose to paper train or use a doggie litter box, keep the paper or box in one area. When the puppy needs to eliminate, take the puppy to the paper and say "Go potty" or a similar phrase. Praise the puppy as soon as it squats and immediately after it finishes. Clean the paper or litter box regularly. The puppy may avoid the area if it becomes very dirty. However, leave a small amount of "scent" on the paper or box to help your pup remember where to go.

If you plan to wean the puppy from paper training at a later time, either keep the paper near the door or, if this is not possible, gradually move the paper from its original area towards the door (only a few inches per day). Once the paper has been near the door for several days, and your puppy is reliably using the paper, watch your puppy closely when he or she goes to the paper, and then take the pup outside as soon as it begins to squat. Place some soiled paper on the outdoor spot where you'd like the puppy to eliminate (you can secure it in place with rocks or bricks), and follow the procedures outlined above for outdoor training.


Remember, most puppies are not completely house trained until they are around six months old. In addition, the hormonal and other changes that are part of normal canine development can cause puppies to "forget" their house training for a short period when they are 8-10 months old. For this reason, we recommend you use a crate until the pup is at least 12 months old, and preferably until 2 years old, when the pup is mature enough to avoid accidents and to understand the distinction between chew toys and your slippers! If you are experiencing trouble with house training, let us know perhaps we can fine tune your house training or your pup may need to see your veterinarian to rule out any health related issues. Be patient, consistent, and kind and both you and your pup will be pleased with the results!

Puppy Socialization Scavenger Hunt

Socialization and training are the keys to a well-rounded dog. You can help your pup achieve its full potential by giving him or her a wide variety of positive experiences. Dogs that are well socialized are more comfortable with new situations and experiences later in life and less likely to become fearful or anxious when faced with novel situations. Socialization is most critical for puppies under 6 months old but should be continued throughout your dog's life. The goal is for you and your pup to experience as many of the following as possible. Feel free to add your own ideas and remember to keep it positive and fun!!

Your puppy gets a treat or piece of kibble from:

- mail carrier
- man with beard
- man with hat
- woman with head scarf
- person wearing glasses
- young children
- person on bicycle
- person in wheelchair
- person on rollerblades
- person on crutches
- person of different race or ethnicity than your family

Practice nice greeting behavior by asking your pup to "sit" before getting a treat!

Your puppy experiences:

- rides in the car
- walks to different parts of your neighborhood
- traffic noises/horns
- baby stroller
- child's tricycle/big wheel
- sound of children playing
- sound of a baby crying
-play with friendly dog
- calm cat
- sound of vacuum cleaner
-broom and mop
- snow shovel
- sound of the train or el
- flapping trash bag
- walking on different surfaces
- being gently brushed or combed
- having ears handled
- having paws handled
- having nails trimmed
- going up and down stairs
- sound of the doorbell
- a bath
- sound of knocking on door
- being dried with a towel
- dropped keys
- opened umbrella

Your puppy goes to:

- vet's office (just for a treat)
- pet supply store
- bank
- groomer
-child's sporting event
- lake or beach
- elevator
- street festival
- boat ride

If you find that your dog is fearful or anxious during any of these exercises, please let us know and we'll be happy to create a desensitization and counter-conditioning program for you and your dog.


A Certified Pet Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant and a 1999 graduate of Arizona Canine Academy, Jamie has a long history of working with animals and their people in a variety of settings. After attending DePaul University, with a major in Psychology and Communication, Jamie worked as a Social Worker and Case Manager for a non-profit organization where she introduced a pet therapy program. From January 1996 through January 2000, she owned and operated Out-U-Go! Pet Care Services in Oak Park. Jamie also created, owned and operated Out-U-Go In-home Veterinary Service, worked at the Anti-Cruelty Society as an adoption counselor and kennel staff, and worked as an assistant at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

After establishing her reputation in the community, Jamie was brought on as the Shelter Director for the highly regarded Oak Park Animal Care League where she ran the shelter from 2001 to 2002. Jamie's background and education also includes working in veterinary hospitals and doing volunteer work with children and animals. In addition to graduating from Arizona Canine Academy, she has also received certification from Purdue University Veterinary School in Behavior Modification and Owner Education. Jamie has personally cared for and/or worked with more than 20,000 dogs and counting.

In September of 2003, Jamie became one of the only 550 dog trainers in the entire world to have earned the prestigious title of CPDT, Certified Pet Dog Trainer.

Jamie regularly attends seminars, conferences and workshops all in the interest of increasing her knowledge base and gaining more insight into canine behavior. Her professional interests include human-animal bond theories, and working with canine aggression and behavior disorders. Jamie also works as the behavior consultant for Pet Vets Animal Hospital in Oak Park, and is an active member of The Association of Pet Dog Trainers and CAPTA (Chicago Area Pet Trainers Association) which she also founded in 2004.

Jamie is a frequent guest on ABC-TV Chicago and the Fox program Good Day Chicago, where she is brought in to discuss all things canine. Jamie and AnimalSense have also been featured elsewhere in the media; including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Parent, Chicagoland Tails, The Wednesday Journal, various Pioneer Press publications and also on WGN Radio Pet Central with Steve Dale. Additionally, Jamie is a sought-after featured speaker for conferences and workshops both locally and nationally. She is currently working on publishing her first book. Jamie has also been the on-set trainer for the Animal Planet series Animal Witness and has recently wrapped shooting her own Comcast On-Demand series that's available now.

Her commitment to animals goes well beyond her business: She is a member of the City of Chicago Task Force on Companion Animal Welfare and Public Safety and also serves on the Subcommittee on Pet Day Care for The City of Chicago. Additionally, she also holds a position on the Board of Directors for Felines, Inc., a progressive cage-less, no-kill cat shelter in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

When she is not working with your dogs, Jamie stays busy with her own pets: she and her boyfriend Drew live in the South Loop with their dogs, Liddie, a Belgian Malinois/Doberman Mix, Poodle, the Toy Poodle, and Shuggy, the mutant Jack Russell Terrier, all rescued from the streets of Chicago. Additionally, Jamie has personally rescued, fostered and re-homed countless numbers of dogs and cats over the past 15 years. For non-doggy fun, Jamie travels as much as a business owner is able to, trains for an occasional triathlon, pretends to do yoga and serenades her dogs with her guitar.

Product List

Jamie Damato recommends these treats from Barker & Meowsky for puppy training. They are easy to break into small pieces, have enticing aromas, and many are appropriate for dogs with sensitivities and allergies.

Real Meat Healthy Gourmet Dog Treats

These all meat treats are easy to break into small pieces for training. Their limited ingredients make them a great option for dogs with allergies.

Details: size = 4oz and 12oz packages - varieties = Lamb, Beef, Venison – price = $6.99 to $18.95


Made in Wisconsin with 100% cheese. The small size and great smell make these terrific for training.

Details: size = 1.7oz – price = $4.99

Evanger's Nothing But Naturals Jerky Treats

Evanger's has paired a unique variety of game meats with fruits and vegetables into their fantastic training treats.

Details: size = 4.5oz package – varieties = Pheasant, Buffalo, Venison & Organic Chicken – price = $7.50 to $8.50

Fido Salami and Beef Sticks

Made from 100% American Beef. These treats will make you hungry. Dogs will do just about anything for them.

Details: size = 3.5oz – varieties = Beef Salami, Beef Sticks – price = $3.95

Zuke's Mini Naturals

All-natural mini's are a great soft treat to always have with you. Details: size = 6oz, 16oz – varieties = chicken, peanut butter, salmon – price = $5.25 to $11.95

Products available at Barker & Meowsky, 1003 W Armitage, Chicago; 773.868.0200 and online

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