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1. Train and practice self control behaviors – Typically puppies are allowed to do things we would never let an adult dog do. Take jumping up or crawling into our laps for example. Unfortunately if you do not want your adult dog to behave in the same manner you should never allow your puppy to behave this way. What the puppy learns early on will be how the adult dog behaves. Changing rules as the dog matures is not only very difficult to do; it is unfair to the maturing dog. A good rule to live by is all 4 paws on the ground to receive affection or treats. Other self-control behaviors that are important to practice are gate / door manners, kennel manners, no food grabbing, and loose leash walking.
2. Close the doggy door until potty trained – A doggy door trained dog is not a housetrained dog because they have never been taught to ask to go out. The same can be said for potty pad training. Training a dog to go inside on a potty pad is still training them to go inside the house. The dog will not discern the difference from a potty pad to a dog bed or carpet. It is quite easy to be diligent in taking your puppy out to relieve himself every half hour or so the first 30 days you have your puppy. This will establish a habit for your puppy and make potty training very easy. Remember any accident in the house can set your training back so be diligent. Reward your puppy with a lot of praise when he eliminates outside. If you would like your puppy to go on cue you can simply pair the behavior with a verbal cue and reward with a treat.
3. Do not feed from a dish – puppies will grow up to be more connected and willing to perform requested behaviors if they grow up earning their meals and being fed from our hand. I begin this training with portioning out their food and playing a simple name game; say the puppies name in a fun voice and reward for the puppy looking at you. This will graduate to amazing recalls. I also use the meal for sits, downs, the side position, and hold position (stay). Once my puppy understands all 4 of these behaviors I will start training tricks for their meals. I can feed one kibble at a time or if I am in a hurry I can feed a handful for each behavior. This is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you in raising your perfect puppy. You will never have a recall problem or a dog that only performs behaviors when you have a treat in your hand. I equate it to creating great work ethic and enhancing your bond with your dog.
4. Teach your puppy to play – (The two toy game) dogs do not always innately play with toys. Training your puppy to play with the toy you choose creates a dog that wants to be with you. Dog’s loves to play with each other but you really want a dog that love’s to play with you. The trick is to make you the fun. To do this the dog needs to understand that the toy is fun because you have it. Therefore, if you change toys the dog should drop the toy he has and want to engage with you and the toy you have. This is another great relationship builder.
5. Exposure to stimuli – building your dogs confidence by exposing them to places, sounds, other dogs, people and animals is a significant part of preparing your puppy to become a mentally healthy adult dog. Often reactivity in dogs is simply due to a lack of exposure as a puppy. A well-rounded adult dog should be able to accompany you in any situation and confidently handle a multitude of stimuli without panting, yawning, sniffing or shaking. Things to try: helium balloons, noise makers, kids toys that make sounds, metal things like trash can lids or baking pans, Halloween sound makers, drive through car washes, outdoor shopping malls, kids playgrounds. Remember to bring a lot of high value treats for training through fears. Another important tip is not to allow your dog to go past his fear threshold. If the fear becomes too intense you will not be able to train through it for desensitization to occur. I recommend adding distance from the frightening stimuli and only decrease distance as the fear response lessons and the dog becomes comfortable. Decrease distance GRADUALLY! If your pup is afraid of people, ask others to feed your puppy but NOT to reach out to pet him. Petting can come later as your puppy begins to look forward to greeting strangers.
For more great training tips, check out What Your Puppy Would Like You to Know!