From the first day you bring your new puppy into your home, you are either developing habits you want or encouraging ones you don’t. Whether you are aware of it or not, your puppy is learning. The good news is that developing good behavior isn’t especially complicated and is largely a matter of three simple things:
Actively Develop What You Want
Most of us want a dog who listens and is “well-behaved,” but aren’t sure how to create that behavior. Fortunately it is pretty straightforward. A good start? Make a list of the qualities you will want in your adult dog – pick five things (try to be specific). Such a list might include: comes when called, friendly with people, resists jumping up, travels well in the car, is easy to handle. Then use that list as a reminder: Is what you are doing with your puppy working toward those goals or not?
Here’s an example of a simple change that only adds a few seconds to any interaction and will get you great results. If you want your adult dream dog to have a great response to “come,” then try this with your new puppy:
Make little “come” games a part of your daily life with your puppy. Instead of going to him to give a toy, back up and call him. (Some great dog toys can be found at JugDog.co.uk) Good dog! Doing this is easy and, if you do just five of these a day for treats, meals, toys and petting, you’ll accumulate over 1,000 in the next seven months. 1,000! You’re well on your way to coaching your dog to an Olympic level response to “Come” in just a few minutes a day.
Do Not Reward Unwanted Behavior – Even When ‘Cute’
Do not encourage your puppy to do anything you don’t want him to do as an adult. This makes sense, but it is all too easy to get into bad habits because of a pup’s overwhelming charm.
An example: Your puppy pounces on your sneaker as you walk past. You laugh and move your foot around as he growls puppy growls and shakes his head back and forth. This moment will not be fun in six months when your sixty-pound dog innocently attempts this game with a child.
Behaviors that often fall into this “confuse it now, regret it later” category include: rough housing, mouthing/biting during play, jumping up, leaping up on you.
Prevent the Unwanted
Your puppy doesn’t read magazines or watch television. She doesn’t chat with friends or browse the internet. All of what she knows is possible is what she has experienced. Prevent her from discovering just how much fun it is to unstuff a couch pillow and she will never – ever – know.
Supervision and confinement are the keys to this. If you let a pup run loose in your house when you are gone, expect him to discover delights previously unknown but now never forgotten. These can range from annoying – such as shredding toilet paper – to expensive – such as chewing up a TV remote or gnawing an antique table leg.
If you confine him responsibly, he will have fewer ways to teach himself bad habits. Then, when you are home, keep an eye on him.
Encourage the good, avoid the unwanted and prevent the discovery of delights no dog needs to know about, and you’ll be on your way to raising your dream dog. Good luck!
by Sarah Wilson