wolfhound training

All dogs should be trained to some extent. A puppy (in fact, any dog) will be learning all the time it is with you, so you may as well make sure it is learning some useful things (useful to you, that is) and all the things that will make you enjoy its company more. A puppy is never too young to learn. Hopefully, the breeder of your puppy will have done some basic training such as wearing a collar/lead, walking on the lead, coming when called, sit, and down, because those commands are so easy to teach during the period of six to twelve weeks of age. If not, then you should make a start as soon as you get the puppy.

Coming when called is simple because a puppy is going to be following you around anyway and, even when it is exploring, is easy to attract to you. The usual way of training a puppy to come to you is just to call the puppy to you (usually the command is "[Puppy's name] - Come!") in a bright, cheerful tone of voice and give it a small treat such as a bit of cheese and praise and pet it when it comes to you. It is a good idea to hold the puppy by the collar or with a hand on its back while you pet it with the other hand, so that the pup gets used to being restrained (even if only for a few seconds) when it responds. The puppy should be only too willing to come at this early stage and it makes things a lot easier if you can get this command firmly fixed as early as possible. However, to begin with don't call the puppy when it is investigating something interesting; instead choose a moment when it is just on the verge of coming towards you anyway.

Clicker training (operant conditioning) utilizes just such natural moves to shape the behavior wanted and is an excellent way to train a puppy or older animal, because it actually allows understanding of what is being asked and creates confidence in the animal. A book by Morgan Spector, Clicker Training for Obedience, covers all the theory of clicker training as well as all you need to know to train a dog to whatever standard you require; from just having a well-behaved companion to having a potential obedience champion.

Always be pleasant to come to, however long your hound takes to respond to your command. Making coming to you unpleasant (for example by shouting at the hound or, even worse, smacking it for not coming immediately) is not going to improve your hound's recall. It is far more likely to feel that staying away from you as long as possible is a better option. Screaming or yelling at your hound to come is no way to make it feel that being with you is more pleasant than being away from you. Keep your voice bright and cheerful, however frustrated or furious you are that your hound has not come immediately. Just bear in mind that you have not properly trained your hound if it does not respond to your commands, so it is hardly fair to blame the hound.

Training to sit and down by traditional positive training methods uses tidbits, which can be anything tasty (such as a piece of cheese or cooked liver) but should be very small (small enough to be concealed between your fingers) and can be part of the puppy's next meal rather than extra. For the sit, hold the tidbit just above the puppy's head and move it backwards so that the pup has to sit to get it. When it sits, say "Sit", give the pup the tidbit and praise it. For teaching the down, hold the tidbit in front of the pup at head height and then lower your hand down to the floor while moving your hand slightly away from the puppy so that it has to lie down to get at the tidbit. As it goes down, say "Down". You can also train for "down" by holding the tidbit on one side of a chair or other piece of furniture with the puppy on the other, so that it has to get down to get the tidbit. These are methods used by trainers such as Ian Dunbar, but clicker training, although it too uses treats, shapes the behavior in a different way.

Clicker training may not suit dogs that are extremely sound sensitive. However, it is often possible to get even a sound sensitive dog to accept it by muting the clicker to begin with. Clicker training is based entirely on reinforcing the behavior you want, which is what all training should be, rather than punishing the behavior you do not want, which is what so much of training used to be (and sometimes still is), and is thus excellent at improving your relationship with your dog, as well as getting the dog to understand what it is you want rather than just following an order. It is particularly helpful for training behaviours rather than commands, and, in fact, you do not start using a command until you have fixed the behavior. See the list of books and the Links for more details.

Train your puppy to walk properly on the lead, especially if you intend to show. It should be possible to train a puppy to walk (and trot when older) to heel on a loose lead without having to resort to such uncomfortable devices as the Halt or a check chain. Although dogs are normally walked on the handler's left, it is sensible to do some lead training walking your pup (and older hound) on your right, because this sometimes becomes necessary both in the ring and at other times but is usually scary to a dog that has only ever been walked on the left. Don't keep jerking on the lead; that teaches the dog nothing. Clicker training can be used for teaching walking on the lead as well as other behaviors. Or, if the hound pulls, simply stop and wait until it is calm at your side then move forward again. This is described in the "Dog Listener" books (see the list of books and the Links for more details), although the basic training for heelwork should have been carried out off lead indoors to begin with, so that the dog already knows about staying close to you on the command of "[name] Heel".

There is a book by Turid Rugaas called "What do I do....When my Dog Pulls?" which gives a simple way to teach your dog to walk calmly beside you so you can both enjoy your walks to a much greater extent.

You can also learn dog communication by reading Turid Rugaas' book on calming signals. This is all about working with dogs on the dog's level rather than trying to browbeat/dominate/force the dog. Using body language that is taken from the body language dogs use among themselves you can calm a dog and work with it in harmony. These are skills you can use in any interaction with dogs and benefit both the dogs and yourself.

Puppy socialization classes are a great idea. These get pups used to other dogs, children, and people, teach them proper social behavior, and give them some basic training as well. There should be details in your local paper of those classes nearest to you. All puppies need to be socialized in some way to introduce them to all the different aspects of the environment they may come across, including humans, other dogs, and vehicles.

Even if you take your puppy to puppy socialization classes, do also take it out and about in your community so that it gets to know about traffic, noise, people, etc. Sitting with it in the car park of your local supermarket can be useful, for example, as can introducing it to different surfaces at home (e.g. tarmac, gravel, grass, concrete), machines (washing machine, lawnmower, car, vacuum cleaner), umbrellas, walking sticks, and so on. The wider the range of things a puppy is introduced to at an early age, the more calm and accepting it is going to be of anything new later.