The practice of docking began primarily as a preventive measure for injury among working dogs. Docking is now primarily performed for purely cosmetic reasons, and some breeds traditionally have their tails cropped anywhere from slightly to almost entirely. Many countries now ban cropping and docking for cosmetic purposes, including Australia, parts of Canada, the majority of the European countries (Austria, Greece, Finland, Netherlands, Italy, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Poland, Slovakia, England, Scotland, Slovenia, Ireland, Norway and Sweden), while others, such as the United States, permit it. As of 2008, the practice is opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Some breeders also prefer to declaw the dogs to prevent future injuries caused by scratching, or in the case of dewclaws, ingrown and ripped-off nails. Docking and declawing procedures are usually performed within the first few days after birth, by a veterinarian, or by an experienced breeder.
“Down” can be taught very similarly to “sit.” You can wait for your dog to lie down (beginning in a boring, small room such as a bathroom can help) and capture the behavior by reinforcing your dog with a treat when he lies down, giving him his release cue to stand back up (and encouragement with a lure if needed) and then waiting for him to lie down again. When he is quickly lying down after standing up, you can begin saying “down” right before he does so.
You can also lure a down from a sit or stand by holding a treat in your hand to the dog’s nose and slowly bringing it to the floor. Give the treat when the dog’s elbows touch the floor to start. After a few practices, begin bringing your empty hand to the floor and giving the treat AFTER he lies down. When he can reliably follow your hand signal, begin saying “down” as you move your hand.
When your puppy comes to you, don’t reach out and grab him. This can be confusing or frightening for some dogs. If your puppy is timid, kneel and face them sideways and offer him treats as you reach for the collar. Never call your dog to punish! This will only teach him that you are unpredictable, and it is a good idea to avoid you. Always reward your dog heavily for responding to his or her name, even if they have been up to mischief!
It typically takes 4-6 months for a puppy to be fully house trained, but some puppies may take up to a year. Size can be a predictor. For instance, smaller breeds have smaller bladders and higher metabolisms and require more frequent trips outside. Your puppy's previous living conditions are another predictor. You may find that you need to help your puppy break old habits in order to establish more desirable ones.