Getting a new puppy? How exciting!
When I ask people what goals they have with their puppy, most respond with a list of obedience behaviours. I tend to view puppy training as an opportunity to prevent future issues and to lay the foundation for our relationship and communication. Here are some of the things I train first when I have a new puppy.
Settle – teach your puppy to busy themselves.
Begin when puppy has toileted and is sleepy. Put puppy in a confinement area like a pen (not a crate) and give them several treat dispensing toys, chew items and water. Use a cue like, “I’m busy,” then remove yourself from the confinement area.
Sit just outside the area and gradually build up the distance you can move away. Next, begin going in and out of sight for just seconds at a time. After only a few seconds of confinement to start, give a cue like, “All done” and let them out for a potty break and some time with you. Once puppy seems comfortable with you at a distance and out of sight, you can gradually increase the time for each.
If they cry, you must return to them and start again. Don’t let them “cry it out.” This is the beginning of your relationship with your dog. They need to know you provide safety and comfort and are there for them.
Trade – teach your puppy to give things up happily.
Dogs to not understand “ownership.” Anything your puppy picks up becomes theirs. Do not simply take things away. Trade for anything your puppy has that you need back, and puppy gets to determine the trade value! Add to that handful of treats until your puppy happily drops what they have. This is a critical transaction that sets your puppy up for prevention of future resource guarding issues.
Recall – come when you’re called.
Begin with puppy right in front of you, give your cue and immediately feed puppy a treat. I like to use a unique sounding cue – a different word or a whistle that will catch their attention. Next, take a step away, give your cue and feed puppy several treats when they move toward you. Be extraordinarily generous with your treats. Repeat 10 times then cue, “All done” to end the session. Do this a few times throughout the day, in the house, without distractions. To support your recall, praise and treat your puppy anytime they show up beside you without being called. This will build and shape the behaviour of regularly checking in as well as coming when called.
Keep training sessions under a minute and do a few repetitions a day. Be proactive - when you’re not training, set your puppy up for success by managing their environment to prevent problems.
Think about all the things you want to do with your puppy throughout their lifetime. Direct your training efforts toward what they need to learn to live their best life with you. Everyone’s list will be different. Check in with me for a puppy class and see my blog for more puppy articles!