By Chelsea Evers
1. Pooch-proof your pad.
Before you bring the dog home, make sure your house is safe. Clear low surfaces of any items like magazines and decorations, and talk to your kids about the importance of cleaning up small toys that your pup could choke on. Next, put up pet gates in doorways you don't want him to cross. And consider enrolling in a prep class. "Many animal shelters offer pet parenting classes as part of the adoption process or at no cost," says Owens.
2. Keep him company.
Training should begin right away. Tethering eases dogs into being restrained without resorting to physical punishment. Secure him with a leash to a sturdy table or door in a supervised area throughout the day. "Don't let a puppy wander in the house," Owens says. "Never leave your pup alone for safety reasons." By nine months, he should be housebroken and ready to be without a leash—but keep the pet gates in place.
3. Reward good behavior.
When he sits, lies down or goes to his bed without being asked, give him a snack and praise. To get your dog to follow a command, place a treat in the direction you want him to move. He'll associate the action with the food and hand gesture. When you feel he's ready, attach a word to the behavior: Say "bed," perform the signal and wait. Be patient and willing to repeat steps as necessary. Eventually, he'll respond to voice commands alone.
4. Stay on schedule.
At the same times each day and night, take him out to go to the bathroom—Owens suggests eight trips—and stick to one area. "If your dog knows when he'll go outside, he's more likely to wait," Owens says. "As he ages, he'll learn to be flexible." If you catch your dog going indoors, stop him with "Uh-uh-uh!" and scoot him outdoors. Don't discipline him after the fact—he won't know why you're scolding him. Clean it up, and be more vigilant in the future.
Pro Tip: On average, dogs need 45 seconds to think through and understand verbal commands.
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.