Don’t start off the relationship by being tough and critical. Harsh discipline has no place here; you’re a teacher, not a cop. The pup has to feel he is a member of the family.
Affection first, rules later. Establish a loving bond, and trust will come from the sense of security he gets.
Keep your tone of voice soft, soothing and calming. When the puppy first comes home keep the lights low; keep the noise level low, too — no high-pitched, screechy excitement about the dog from children or adults following the puppy’s arrival. A high-pitched tone of voice is arousing. Using a high, falsetto voice will get the puppy’s attention, but right now you don’t want to rev him up.
Cuddle the Puppy
All puppies like physical contact and stimulation, so hold, rub and scratch them. Physical contact is important to convey to the puppy how you feel about him.
Handling, Grooming If you have a pup that loves to be stroked, brushed, etc, just keep it coming. If anything happens that makes her resist, give her lots of treats while slowly continuing the handling.
Common areas of sensitivity include the ears, mouth, neck, hindquarters, tail and feet. Desensitize her to such areas by going slowly, giving praise for her cooperation with verbal encouragement and delicious bits of cheese. If feet are a problem, for example, then at the point on her leg where she gets nervous as you approach, give her the cheese (or chicken). Keep touching that place and giving treats until she is okay with it. Then make your way down the leg — stopping when she gets nervous and giving her mega-treats until she’s relaxed and you can keep heading south.
Many Small Training Moments
You can train a puppy by asking for a response in ordinary situations many times a day. This method of getting the idea across and making good behavior an ingrained habit is more pleasurable and effective than drilling it in with practice sessions.
Expect the Puppy to Do Most Things Wrong in the Beginning
Don’t adopt the attitude that you can never let a puppy “get away” with anything, when all he’s doing is just trying to figure out what you want.
Make a Rule, Stick to Your Guns
Consistency is vital to a well-raised puppy. Don’t let the puppy get away with a forbidden behavior because you’re tired or in a rush, or because right now it doesn’t seem so important.
You cannot allow something like paws on the counter one day and then get furious the following day when the pup does it again.
Everyone who comes into contact with the puppy needs to follow those same rules — for example, you can’t have some family members or friends allowing the dog to jump up, because it undermines whatever rules you have laid down.
Praise profusely when the puppy does anything right, especially something new that he might not have fully understood. Your praise helps reinforce the behavior.
A puppy should be expected to sit before dinner or any treat and before getting groomed or patted. Sit should be the “please” and “thank you” that people work so hard to drill into their children — which makes polite kids so pleasant to be around.
Sitting before any greeting is really a helpful habit, because it means the dog is not in a position to jump and accidentally scratch with his claws.
Go to Your Bed
A puppy should be pleasantly sent to a bed that is near the door or near the dining table, and then praised generously and quite quickly released with an “Okay!” This makes it enjoyable to “go to your bed” — it’s almost like a game the puppy is learning while developing a quick response to being told to chill out and back off.
Anything you let the puppy get away with she will continue to do when she is full-grown. You have to ask yourself: how cute will it be then? Letting a puppy get away with murder means you are setting the stage for an adult dog who is constantly being yanked and yelled at and made to feel like a delinquent. It’s much harder to undo bad habits than to go out of your way to avoid forming them early on.
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Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner