dog training basics
Socialization is key!!! This cannot be overemphasized!!
Dogs have key socialization periods up to around 16 weeks of age. From three weeks until they are taken to their forever homes, our pups meet between 80-200 different people! While that may seem like a lot, maintaining this socialization is absolutely crucial for your dog’s confidence.
During this socialization period, aim to have your pup interact with as many different people as possible. We suggest being as diligent as possible to even go beyond this socialization window and try to bring your pup on one outing a day until they are 6 months old. Bring treats. Let your dog look forward to this time! And, of course, have water available!
Puppy obedience classes are crucial as well as one excellent way to socialize your dog. Start these RIGHT away. (If your dog is not fully vaccinated, just carry your pup into the cleaned training area.) Although I have trained dogs before, I still brought our last pup to puppy obedience classes for socialization…she needed the outside-the-home socialization, and I can always learn more from other dog trainers! Some stores, such as Petco, also offer once-a-week puppy play time, which provide excellent socialization practice as your dog meets all different sizes and types of pups..
Outing ideas for your pooch:
Many stores will allow you to have your pup in the cart. (I just lay a blanket down in the cart first.)
Outside grocery stores
Farms/ horse stables
Home Depot or Lowes
Dog friendly shopping centers (ie. Aspen Grove in CO.)
County fairs where dogs are allowed
Local outdoor pubs which allow dogs (after shots)
Taking walks in the dark
Walking next to major roads (use a double leash system if you think your dog could ever slip out from your leash. I use a harness and a collar with two leashes in this situation.)
Any event with cheering
Lots of car rides
Nursing home or rehab– meeting people in wheelchairs or walkers
Areas with Skateboards and scooters
Going into a tent
Going on popular hikes
Outside neighborhood schools *
Children’s play parks *
Neighborhood sports events *
*(Some of these are not recommended for single men, as motives could easily be questioned.)
Have your pup…
Meet a variety of people of different ethnicity, people wearing uniforms, people wearing hats, masks, etc. Meet babies, heavy people, thin people, bald people, older people, etc. Meet loud people, meet quiet people. Meet people using crutches or other help. (Keep distance so pup doesn’t interfere.)
Meet all different types of animals
Other pets - A friends cat, horse, bird, etc. All types of dogs – big dogs, little dogs. Farm animals.
Feel water from sprinklers, hoses, baby swimming pools, streams, puddles, hoses, the ocean if available. Walk by drainage areas on streets after heavy rains.
Walk on different types of surfaces and locations – gravel, cobble stones, mud, plastic, sand, pine needles, metal grates, small bridges, walking through puddles and streams or by lakes, walking through tunnels, going on elevators, etc. If your dog will be used as a service dog later on, get him used to escalators early. Again, make all super positive!
Noises – If you have a dog which needs to be trimmed, introduce the trimmer early. Just turn it on and let your pup hear it while they eat treats. Allow your pup to approach sounds slowly, such as vacuums, blenders, hedge trimmers, lawn mowers, fireworks, crying babies, bells, automatic umbrellas opening, automatic toilets in public restrooms, construction equiptment, etc. Naturally in some cases keeps some distance!
Texture and noise together – If there is an interesting texture or noise, encourage your dog to explore. We make a “puppy playpen” from crushable water bottles in a baby swimming pool or a long low plastic container. Pups especially love hunting for treats in the puppy playpen and this provides lots of texture and noise! (Be sure to remove all caps and labels from the water bottles.)
See a Variety of Objects — What types of objects seem “different” which may be frightening to a dog. Introduce him to the red balls in front of Target, low light up signs, lawn ornaments, and large scary Halloween mannequins (Home Depot and Lowes usually have plenty on display; a few weeks before Halloween). Remember to give lots of treats so that your dog will explore and not be afraid!
Make all new experiences happy – Instill curiosity, not fear. If your dog is fearful, do not pick him up or pet him. This will reinforce their fear. Instead, aim to keep a happy tone by giving treats and showing your dog that you are having a great time. Your dog will pick up your mood. Watch your dog’s energy level. If they are getting stressed, leave while they are still in a happy and non-exhausted spot. You want to make outings fun for your dog, not overwhelming. If too many people are petting them and they no longer enjoy the attention, it’s time to leave.
Always bring treats – Make new situations a party!
Ideas - Dog food, small chicken pieces, grass fed (no nitrates) hot dog pieces, freeze dried organ meats from Keiser, tiny baked sweet potato pieces, etc. If food motivated, just using your dog’s food might be the best! I often have the people we meet give the treats to the pup I am training.
Stay away from dogs if you are unsure about their shots. Until your pup is fully immunized, do not let your pup in any public area where other dogs go. Pick up your pup when going into a pet store. The puppy play area is usually sanitized but the rest of the store isn’t.
Dog Park Caution – When your dog has received all of their shots, make sure that the dog park is safe before taking your dog there. You want this to be a positive experience for them and you don’t want your dog bullied. Avoid doggy day cares until you are positive that your pup really enjoys them. I know of some dogs who have disliked other dogs their entire life because of traumatic experiences in doggy daycares or dog parks early in life.
Two TWenty-minute walks a day – not to be missed!
Probably the most important “training” technique we have used with dogs has been to give them two 20 minute walks a day. Many behavioral problems can be avoided by ensuring that these two walks are part of your daily routine. During this time, the dog walks by our side and does not pull on the leash or “control” the walk.
An energetic dog can easily go much longer than a 20-minute walk. (Our dog can now hike for hours.) However, care should be taken with pups to prevent them from overtiring. Pups forced to walk long distances or run for long stretches can die as a result.
Puppy Note on exercise: See how much energy your pup has. Let your dog determine how far your go. If your pup gets too tired, carry him. Puppies can die from too much exercise. Wait until your pup is one year old before taking your dog for runs. Watch your dog’s interest.
Although running around chasing balls, squirrels, etc. in a backyard is terrific for exercise, it is not the same for the dog as being led on a walk by their owner. If you are unable to walk, dogs can be led next to wheelchairs or even bikes. For bikes, the “bike tow leash” works very well. Just go very slowly at first and definitely not too far. Slowly build up your dog’s endurance. Eventually you will find your dog’s sweet spot. For Ivy, she does best with a two mile walk every morning and a 15-20 minute evening walk.
All dogs can be trained to be slack-leash walkers. Your dog will adapt to whatever norm you set. A taught/pulling on the leash norm may become normal for a dog…but it won’t be comfortable for you! To train for a slack leash, if my dog walks ahead of me, I simply turn around so this teaches her to pay attention to me and not pull ahead. (During some days of training you may have a lot of turning around, so you might not get too far mileage wise, but will get far with your training!) I also give occasional treats with my left hand when I am training my dog to walk on my left side.
Preventing Doggie Dominance
Many behavioral problems I see result from dogs believing that they are in charge of the home. Dogs that know you are in charge can relax knowing that the safety of the home doesn’t rely on them. To this end, I personally believe in the “pack mentality,” as we have had great success with it. Here is what we do when working with a puppy or a new dog:
When we first see our dog (in the morning, coming back home, etc.), we ignore her for the first 5 minutes. While this is very hard to do, it has worked well to discourage jumping and other acts of dominance. Ignoring is intended to mirror the lead dog not giving the dogs lesser in the pack attention for no reason at all. Then when our dog is in a nice calm state, we reward her by giving her attention.
Don’t Let Your Dog Jump
A small puppy jumping on you may seem cute, but this can quickly turn into dominant behavior. Thus, petting dogs when they jump up on you or jump into your lap is encouraging unwanted behavior. Your pup may seem small…but imagine you have a St. Bernard. You wouldn’t want that dog jumping on you. To stop the behavior ignore your dog or simply turn around.
I have always been fascinated by “Small Dog Syndrome.” This syndrome is most clearly seen in many small dogs, as they unintentionally have been allowed to become dominant (you can read “small dog syndrome” on wikipedia). Basically, a small dog who is constantly rewarded when being dominant (jumping up on people, not listening to commands, etc.) is conditioned to be the “head of house,” so to speak. This results in the dog thinking it is in charge, barking to continue to assert its dominance and protect the home from trouble, and other issues. Sometimes, when walking, I see owners pet their small dog to calm them down when they are barking furiously to those passing by. The dog interprets the petting as “good dog, nice job,” and the annoying behavior continues. Certainly dogs of all sizes can develop dominance issues – it’s just easier for owners to “allow” small dogs and smaller pups to develop these problems.
It is especially important that dogs are not allowed to jump on children in the home and develop dominance over them. Kids can be taught to lift their knee so that when dogs jump up, they will hit the child’s knee, making it uncomfortable for the dog to jump. (Alternatively, you can simply turn around or if necessary cup your hand and tap your dog’s shoulder when he jumps up to give the slight feel of a nip on the shoulder.) Dogs should be taught to listen to children in the family so they do not become dominant over them. They should sit for attention from children. If your pup doesn’t come, keep a leash on your dog and let your child can bring the leash toward them. Lastly, a puppy should not walk ahead of children or anyone else.
If you want your dog on your lap, put them on your lap. The key is that you determine when it comes and when it leaves. Since sitting on ones lap can be a dominant behavior, it is important for you to be in charge of when your dog is allowed on your lap and when they can leave it.
We do not allow male dogs to mark. This too is a dominant behavior.
Ask your dog to sit before eating
You are in control of the food – not your dog.
If you have an older dog and don’t want your new pup to become dominant
There are no guarantees, but some owners have had success with feed older dog first, letting older dog leave the house and come in first, not rewarding new pup with affection when he comes in-between your older dog and owner.
I believe the best way to prevent your dog from whining is to completely ignore it. When I am working with a dog who whines (whether while in the crate or anywhere), I ignore them and try to be quick to acknowledge the dog when they exhibit proper behavior. Giving your dog attention when they whine only conditions them to whine more. If my dog is whining at the back door to go outside, I may ask her to sit down and wait for a moment. She then breaks the cycle of whining and learns that sitting by the back door is the key to being let out. (I also ask her to sit by the back door to be let back in.)
We work with our pups to not make them possessive. We have heard of toddlers that came up to their own dog when it was eating or chewing their bone, and who tried to take away the dog’s treasured possession, which resulted in the toddler being bitten. To avoid this, I habitually take something away from the dog (his food dish, bone, toy, etc.), immediately give him a treat, and then give the object back. So as the dog grows up he comes to see items being taken away as something positive.
This is important to ingrain into pups with periodic reminders. For older dogs, slowly approach food areas with treats already in your hands.
It important to teach your pup how to mind their manners. Master the “sit” command right away. Have them sit before receiving food, going outside, coming back inside, and before being pet or receiving any attention. Regarding going in and out of the house, even if you don’t mind having your back door scratched by your dog when he wants to come in, if you visit others, they most likely will mind! Taking the time to train a dog to simply sit before going outside and coming inside will pay off greatly later on. We encourage the use of hand signals for sit and for many other commands. The more attentive your dog is to you (and the less you need to talk for commands) the better!
Stopping puppy biting
If the puppy bites, we say “Ow” loudly, stop playing briefly, then give the pup something appropriate to chew on. Depending on the situation, you can also turn around and ignore your dog.
Good Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dKiaKSEilg
Other Helpful Videos:
We make sure our dog stops whining before being let out of crate in the morning or when we come home.