Raising a Lab puppy, the professional way
A hunting or competition dog’s ability and performance is greatly influenced by training done during the crucial first few months. Unfortunately, many new puppy owners feel that they should wait for the puppy to mature before starting any training. But this can be a major mistake. Retriever puppies are well equipped to learn during those first few weeks. And training done during this time will eliminate many obedience and behavioral issues down the road. Here is the training you should be working on with your 9-week-old Labrador puppy.
Training and socialization for 9-week-old Labrador puppy – week two home
As week two roles around, you will notice that your puppy is gaining energy and excitement. This is normal. He/she will become more inquisitive, more comfortable with surroundings, and likely, more trouble! Your puppy’s personality will start to show, and you will begin to learn about your puppy.
Here is the training we introduce or continue in week two home or a 9-week-old puppy.
Training equipment for young Lab puppy
In week one home, the only training equipment we used for Bubba was a nylon collar and a Flexi-lead. In week two, we will add a couple things.
Puppy sized chain collar
The first week home, Bubba was not very strong so hooking a Flexi-lead right to the nylon collar was all that was needed to control her on leash. In week two, Bubba is getting stronger.
As your puppy gains strength, he/she will pull harder and harder against the nylon collar. This can quickly create a bad habit of pulling on lead and is the source of frustration for many owners, especially down the road as the dog grows larger and even stronger.
Adding a puppy-sized chain collar at this point is helpful. A chain collar will provide more pressure and allow for corrections, both of which the puppy needs to learn how to handle. But mostly, the chain collar gives you more control.
Tie out or outdoor play area
A tie out becomes very helpful as your puppy comes into week two. Since you must watch your puppy closely while they are not in a crate in the home (so that you can catch your puppy in the act of having a potty accident) a tie out can help take the burden off you for a little while.
We use a cable tie out and a pound in post. Some people use outside cages or play pens. Either way, the point is that if the puppy is outside, you don’t have to watch for accidents. Be sure that the area where the puppy is tied out or caged is shaded, especially if it is hot outside, and that you provide water and toys to keep him/her entertained. Also, I recommend setting a timer so that you don’t forget about your puppy. They should only be on the tie out for a limited time each day. This is not a whole day babysitter. One half-hour to one hour at a time is long enough followed by time in the crate to rest.
Paint roller or puppy sized bumper
In week two, we introduce formal retrieving. For Bubba, we use a full-sized paint roller, or a puppy sized canvas bumper for this training. And we start in a long hallway with all the doors closed so the puppy has not option but to return to you with the bumper or paint roller.
For full details on how to start teaching your puppy to fetch, check out this post.
Puppy training that will continue in week two and beyond.
Continue crate training
Crate training in week two should be getting easier. Your puppy should be making less noise and it should be easier to get your puppy to go into the crate. We continue crate training by putting the puppy in the crate at intervals throughout the day broken up by time out of the crate playing inside the house or outside on a cable tie out.
In week two, I feel confident leaving Bubba in the crate for 2 hours at a time, followed by ½ hour to 1 hour of play time or time on the tie out.
If you are using a very small crate for your puppy, she may already need a larger one. Bubba was moved to a 21-inch crate one week after we brought her home. We don’t want the crates to be too big, as that will hinder with housebreaking, but we want the pup to have enough room to stretch out but not walk around.
Housebreaking is something that will continue for a while. When Bubba is playing inside, we keep her confined to one room and make sure to try and watch her constantly so that we can catch her when she goes potty inside. Potty accidents where we catch her in the act will provide Bubba with the understanding of what she is doing wrong so that she can adjust her behavior.
Housebreaking is a slow, painful process, but a very necessary one.
Commands we use in week two
We will continue to use the commands from week one including NO BITE, OFF, OUTSIDE, HERE, and SETTLE. But we will also add a couple new ones.
The SIT command is introduced in week two, but we are not expecting the puppy to be flawless with the command. We introduce it by saying SIT and pushing down on the puppy’s bottom. We do this a few times a day.
If your puppy is a bit too energetic, you may need to hold her bottom down and say SIT a few times. When she SITs for a few seconds, say OKAY and release her.
The best way to teach SIT is to incorporate it into the puppy’s schedule. For instance, I tell Bubba to SIT each time I put the leash on her. Next week, I will start making Bubba SIT before she gets to eat her food. Making SIT a part of your puppy’s routine will help her learn the command faster and will make your life a little easier. After all, who likes to wrestle a puppy to get a leash on or off?
Week two I start using the HEEL command when I am walking Bubba on leash with a chain collar. I am not looking for perfection at this point, only looking for her to stop pulling and walk somewhat next to me.
I introduce this command with gentle jerks on the chain collar while saying NO HEEL, or simply HEEL. This is an ongoing process and will come together better as the puppy gets older.
If a chain collar is put on the puppy correctly, and this is a MUST, it will provide a tighten-release action. It is this action that teaches the puppy. If they pull, the collar tightens around their neck, if they back off and walk next to you, the collar releases.
You can help your puppy understand this correction by using commands and praise. When your puppy starts to pull, say NO-NO HERE-HERE. When the puppy stops pulling and walks closer to you, say GOOD DOG. Time your praise and correction with the behaviors you want to see and the behaviors that you want to deter. Slowly, you will see your puppy walk closer to you.
Remember, we are not looking for perfection at this point. The puppy is still way too young to do any of the commands perfectly. We just want her to stop pulling. She does not have to walk right next to you at HEEL at this point.
If your puppy just pulls and pulls, she may need a bit more pressure to learn the lesson. Give her a snap (a quick jerk) of the chain collar as you say NO-NO, HERE-HERE. Then praise her when you see a good behavior like she stops pulling or walks closer to you without pulling.
Lastly, some puppies will try to grab and carry the leash while they walk. They also may start tugging on the leash. Neither of these behaviors is acceptable, so try your best to deter them. Letting your puppy get away with this now will result in a tougher correction later.
We started using a HERE command with Bubba in week one, but with very little expectation. In week two, we will expect a little more effort.
Never use a HERE command if you are not in the position of being able to enforce the command. If you are saying HERE-HERE-HERE while you are running around the yard chasing your puppy, you are doing more harm than good. The puppy does not understand the command well, and this repeated use of the command without correction will confuse your puppy and dilute the command.
Use the HERE command when your puppy is on a leash or Flexi-lead, and you can pull your puppy toward you with the command.
Introducing your puppy to a kennel run
If your puppy is going to live in a kennel run, now is the time to start introducing that run. Bubba will eventually move out to our kennel, so I started taking her to the kennel building and putting her in a run for a few minutes each day. This gives her the experience of being confined to a chain-link run, with other dogs around. I work hard to keep her quiet during her time in the kennel since I do not want a noisy dog later.
Other things to consider in week two home
Keep checking your puppy’s collar
Your puppy will quickly grow these first few weeks. Be sure and check the collar and make sure that it is not too tight. An adjustable nylon collar will make it easy for you to let out an inch at a time to accommodate your puppy’s growth.
Socialization is key for raising a Labrador puppy to be a successful hunting partner or competition dog. But what exactly is socialization? Socialization is simply exposing your puppy to new things, new places, new people, new experiences. The more things and situations you expose your puppy to, the better your puppy will be equipped to adjust and learn in the future.
In the first few weeks I like to get my puppy socialized with kids. My grandkids love to come see the new puppies, so they are a great asset for this step. I explain to the kids that they should not allow the puppy to jump on them or bite them and that they should not tug items with the puppy. Other than that, they can play with the play with the puppy to their hearts content.
Final thoughts on training for your 9-week-old Labrador puppy
As you can see, each week we are adding new elements that Bubba needs to learn. This is good for her mentally and physically. She is growing quickly and learning how to handle pressure and correction that does not dampen her love of retrieving. Bubba is also learning that she can get corrected, and it is not the end of the world. She can handle the pressure and correction and still maintain a great attitude.
If you are struggling or need additional help with your new puppy, you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time, happy retrieving.