Take some more time with your puppy to show them around the house. See how they respond to their new environment. They may still be anxious in a new environment.
You’ve set up a schedule for your new friend. Now is the time to really stick to it. If your puppy starts life with a good routine and habits, they will more easily stick with them as they grow. This routine will also have the beneficial effect of preventing anxiety in your dog.
Basic Obedience Training
Most dog training is built upon a simple formula. Dog’s are guided by the trainer closer to the desired behavior, and then rewarded whenever they make progress. The trainer uses an obvious and specific verbal and visual cue for each command they are teaching their dog. For example, the trainer says ‘Shake’ and presents a hand to their dog. They may do things to adjust the dog’s behavior, (for example, guiding the dog’s paw to their open hand), but will always say ‘Shake’ in the same tone, and will always present their hand.
It is very important to be consistent while training your new puppy. Always use the same verbal and visual cues for a specific command, and always reward your dog any time they do something right. Dogs live in the moment, and therefore you should reward them as immediately as possible so they connect the reward with their good behavior. It should be very obvious to your dog what they are being rewarded for. If one day your puppy is rewarded for not barking at the mailman, and the next day they are not, they may become confused as to what they were rewarded for in the first place.
Initially, a dog treat is a great way to reward your pup. Food is a natural desire of any animal, and therefore works as a quick and obvious reward. Always praise and give affection to your dog when rewarding them. Eventually, the praise will be all your puppy needs for positive reinforcement, and treats will be unnecessary. However, you can always return to treats for new or particularly challenging tricks.
Once your puppy finally learns a trick or skill you are teaching them, you might jump to the conclusion that there is no room for improvement, but usually there is. it is a good idea to practice with the ‘Three D’s’ in mind: Distance, Duration, and Distraction.
Distance – Vary the distance you are from your puppy while commanding them: For tricks other than the ones that require a certain orientation with your puppy, such as ‘heel’ or ‘shake’, you can instruct them to carry out the trick while you are at different distances from them. For example, try commanding them to ‘sit’ from ten feet away rather than from right in front of them.
Duration – Vary the time between steps in the command : Changing the ‘rhythm’ of a command can trip up your puppy. You want them to learn to deal with this. For example, if you instruct your puppy to sit, wait a varying amount of time before rewarding them.
Distraction – Challenge their attention span . Of course, you can usually train your dog in a quiet, ideal setting, but this is not going to prepare your puppy for when you want them to listen to you while friends and other pets are around. Try to practice the trick in different locations in and away from your house, and with different people and animals around.
Here are a few of the most fundamental commands that you should start teaching your puppy right away.
While it is a staple at professional dog shows, ‘Heel’ is not well known enough to the general public. A lot of people walk their dogs and let them jump for ahead as if the owner is the one being walked, and let their dogs stop them whenever they want to smell something. This does not give your pet a sense of your pack leader position. If Heeling is done correctly, your leashed pup will walk on your left side, with their head even with your legs and their body trailing behind you. There will be no tension on the leash. You will be the leading your dog, and your dog will gladly follow.
To practice this, hold your dog’s leash in your left hand and a squeaky toy in your right hand. Get your dog next to you, and make their leash very short. It helps if they know Sit/Stay, so you can position yourself once they are in the ‘stay’ position. Move your right hand across your body and hover the squeaky toy a little above their head. Come up with a command word or short phrase – some owners use ‘Forward’, or ‘Let’s go’, some simply use ‘Heel’. Start walking, and your dog should follow, transfixed by the toy. You can squeak the toy if they lose their focus. Once they obey for a good distance, give them the toy as a reward and praise them. As with most training, you should start with short distances and work up to long walks with your pup by your side. Eventually, you can integrate a ‘Stay’ command into Heel so they will promptly stop when you stop.
This is an extension of Heel. Get your pup positioned in Heel in between you and a wall. With a treat or toy in your hand, Say ‘Back Up’ while moving your hand under their head and then gently into their chest. They should naturally back up, upon which you reward them. Gradually decrease your hand movements as they start to understand the command better.
Sit and Stay:
These are not just classic tricks, but are also fundamentals of obedience training. There are a few ways to teach a dog to sit. One is to squat next to them, place a hand on their chest and a hand near their rear legs. With gentle motion, push up on their chest and down on their legs while saying ‘sit’, and guide them into the sitting position. Once they are sitting, give them a treat or affection. Another strategy is to place a treat near your pup’s nose, and slowly lift it above their head. You puppy should follow the treat, possibly nibbling on it. If they back up instead of sit, gently push on their rear end. Once sitting, give them the treat. You will want to gradually have less and less physical involvement in their sitting until you can simply say ‘sit’ from afar and they will obey.
‘Stay’ is a logical extension of the ‘Sit’ command. ‘Stay’ instructs your dog to remain seated in place until you allow them to move. After they are seated, tell your puppy in a calm, stern voice ‘Stay’ and slowly back away from them, with your hand up and palm facing them. If they get up to come after you, tell them a gentle ‘no’ and instruct them to sit again. Once they stay for a few moments while you back up, instruct them with a release word or phrase, like ‘Get Up’ or ‘Be Free’, and reward them with praise and a treat (eventually just praise). Gradually make the time they stay for longer, and the distance you walk away from them further. Eventually, you should be able to leave their field of vision entirely before releasing them.
Find a quiet area to practice this. Start by instructing your puppy to sit. Raise your hand with a treat, and then bring the treat down and in front of their nose. Then, say ‘Stand’ and move your hand away from their nose and slightly down. They might lift their bottom off the ground to follow the treat. If they don’t, call them and pat your knees to encourage them to come forward. As soon as they raise their bottom off of the ground to come towards you, reward them.
This is another essential command. You want your dog to come to you in situations that could jeopardize your dog’s well being. In fact, I recommend using a very tasty and high quality treat for the reward for this command alone, so they will learn to be extra responsive to it.
You’ll want to start practicing this in an area free from distraction, such as a quiet room in your house. Pay attention to your posture. Some dog owners make the mistake of leaning forward, motionless. Your puppy may interpret this as threatening. You should stand up tall and loose, or squat and put your arms out wide. In an encouraging, cheerful, and loud voice, say ‘Come’! If your puppy obeys, offer praise. If not, slowly leash them, and walk them towards the place where you were just calling them from. Reward them once they reach the spot.
After they consistently come to you in this situation, one variation to practice is to run about ten feet away from them after you say ‘Come’. If they come to you still, and stay next to you if they reach you before you stop, reward them that very delicious treat. You may have to practice this for multiple days. Keep them on a very long leash if it helps your puppy stay focused.
Try not to call your dog when they are in the middle of something else, or doing something where they are less likely to respond to you. If you do this many times, this may lessen the impact of your call later, ‘poisoning’ this command. You want to always have their attention before you say ‘Come’. If they are having trouble with distractions, having them leashed helps as you can gently direct them towards you until their behavior improves.
Tomorrow, we will cover two of the most important aspects of housebreaking – potty training and crate training.