Puppy Training Part 3

1. Teach your puppy that ALL people are ‘ok’!

Puppy hood is the time nature intended for dogs to leave the den and explore the world. It is a time when they possess a lot of ‘bounce back’ – if something frightens them a little but they survive they tick it off as ‘ok’. It is the perfect time to introduce your puppy to everything and anything he may encounter in his future life. The most important thing for your puppy to accept is people – all people , men, women, big kids, little kids, boys and girls – all look, act and smell differently to your dog. NOW is the time to socialize your dog with as many people as possible – ideally three new people every day for the first month of your puppy’s life with you. Have a real ‘puppy party’ – invite all your friends and instruct them on how to meet, greet and treat your new puppy. If your dog is frightened of vacuum cleaners you can probably learn to live with it, but if your puppy has not learnt to like the company of people- all people- he could become a liability nightmare.

2. Teach your puppy how to ‘talk dog’

Well, perhaps you don’t have to actually teach your puppy to ‘talk dog’ but you do have to give him the opportunity to learn! This is where puppy preschools are invaluable. Puppy preschools, normally held at veterinary surgeries, provide your puppy with a safe, supervised environment to socialize with other dogs and people before the completion of their vaccination programme. They are the perfect place for puppies to learn about other dogs. Young puppies think that all dogs look like their mum and littermates, but dogs come in a greater variety of shapes and sizes than any other species in the world. Your puppy needs to learn that even though they may all look different the fundamentals of dog ‘body language’ are the same. A play bow or a submissive roll over means the same to a German Shepherd as it does to a Fox Terrier. Learning to read and communicate these messages to other dogs, will help your dog to play and interact peacefully with other dogs. This play should also be interrupted with short sessions of ‘settle’ time – either by being held or by encouraging puppy to ‘come’ and ‘sit’ so that your puppy learns he can pay attention to you and still enjoy the reward of continuing play.
3. Teach your puppy to bite softly.

Bite inhibition involves teaching your puppy to first bite softly and then as he matures, not to bite at all. This is probably the single most important thing for your puppy to learn yet it is often a difficult concept to initially grasp.

The point is that there may be a moment in any dog’s life when it feels the need to snap. If it has learned to inhibit the pressure from it’s jaws, the ensuing bite will be relatively minor. For your dog to learn bite inhibition, he must be allowed to experiment with his jaws, preferably on other puppies, while he still has needle sharp teeth set in weak jaws. If a puppy bites too hard in play, the other pup will yelp and end the game for a while. Again a good puppy preschool will provide your puppy with this opportunity at the right time of his life (under 18 weeks of age).

People should try to teach bite inhibition in a similar way. Gentle mouthing from a small puppy should be allowed but if he bites too hard – yelp and withdraw all attention for a minute or so. By six months of age, the criteria should be raised to the point where any contact of canine teeth on human flesh results in loud ‘yelp’ and time out. This lesson if learnt well, will mean that even if your dog’s tail gets slammed in the car door, or a strange child falls on top of him while chewing a bone, your dog’s instinctive reaction will be greatly restrained causing little or no damage.

4. Teach your puppy your signals for . . .

. . ‘sit’ , ‘down’ and ‘come’. Your puppy already knows how to sit, down and come but what he doesn’t know is our words for these behaviours and/or why he should do them. Reward based training quickly teaches your dog the hand signals and words to signify these behaviours and provides him with the motivation for doing so – praise, a treat or a game. Over time your puppy will learn that all good things in life come through you and the best way to get what he wants in life is to do what you want. This method is fun for both owners and puppies and fosters a positive attitude to learning.
A happy future
Puppies need to be shown how to behave in our very human, urban world just as children do. The structure and exposure you provide for your puppy in your first two months together will have a huge impact on his ability to cope with modern life both in and outside your home.
Although it is important to continue the good work you establish in puppy hood into your dog’s adolescence, you will never again have such a ‘clean slate’ on which to make an impression – so please don’t delay. Provide him with regular opportunities to meet and greet people and dogs of all sizes and shapes. Think ahead and apply simple management strategies to make it easy for your puppy to learn what you want and to prevent needless mistakes. Through this combination of socialization, good management and reward based training you will ensure that your beautiful new puppy will grow into a mature dog that you will be proud to own for a lifetime.

Article courtesy of Karin Larsen Bridge, partner of Get S.M.A.R.T. Dog Training, Sydney.
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