Puppy Pre School - Week 1
The Importance of Independence and Confidence
Build your puppy’s self-confidence and ability to cope with the world without needing you by his side at all times. The young social animal needs to feel confident in your ability to provide and protect. He will grow into a self-assured animal if his place and position of minimal responsibility in the family group is acknowledged by the other family members. Puppies and dogs that become over-dependent on their owners will develop behavioural problems. Prevention is always more successful than cure.
The tie-up or restraint exercise stops the puppy from being able to be at your feet the whole time you are at home. It will eventually produce a dog that is confident to be tied-up and left alone, even in an unfamiliar scenario. It will provide a scenario for the puppy to develop a tolerance of and an ability to cope with frustration.
Start at the easiest possible level: tie the puppy on a short lead (approx 40 cm) to the leg of the chair you are sitting in. Experience will show the puppy that any fighting or struggling against the lead (or you, at the end of the lead), is futile. When the puppy has become accepting of this situation of restraint, you can move onto the next level. If your puppy is strong enough to pull the chair over without you sitting in it, you will now need to tie the lead to the leg of a table or something else strong enough to hold the pup. Sit just out of reach of the puppy – when the puppy is accepting and calm in this scenario, step up to moving around the room, then leaving the room, etc, etc.
Build on success – our aim is to avoid the puppy ever becoming panicked – we want to build confidence. Panic will undermine confidence. Tie-up exercises can last anywhere from two minutes to two hours – just remember to take toileting requirements into consideration. Also, vary the location of the exercise. Freedom from the restraint exercise must only be granted when the puppy is behaving perfectly and has been for at least the last ten seconds. Aim for once a day.
Play, Play and Then More Play.
Play is so important for the puppy’s general development and for relationship building with his new family. Play is a means of helping puppies to develop impulse control and tolerance of frustration – similar to a two-year-old child.
Providing numerous different toys will stimulate the puppy’s interaction and development. Put some toys away so that you can swap them around to provide variety. Despite previous “bad press”, tug-o-war is one of the most beneficial games you can play with your puppy. It will aid in developing responsiveness to you and your commands. Tug-o-war does not encourage aggressive behaviour! And, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHO WINS OR LOSES!
Developing the retrieve of a ball or toy can be assisted by sitting in the doorway of a room with the puppy chasing the item into the room. Once he has picked up the toy, he will have nowhere to go but back to you. Training can be further assisted by the use of a long line attached to the puppy’s collar to enable you to block incorrect responses.
Attaching a cord or string to a toy can enable you to make the toy more stimulating to the puppy and also establish a habit of returning to you with the toy.
To train the puppy to release the tug or retrieve toy on command simply say the command, “leave”, and then offer a food treat to the puppy. Hopefully he will release the toy in order to eat the treat. Further reward him by re-initiating the game after he has finished eating.
Alternatively, if the puppy is not keen to give up the toy for a food treat; gently hold your hand on the toy without pulling and lift the puppy by his collar just off his front feet with your other hand. You may have to quietly hold this position for a few moments until the puppy gets bored and releases the toy. At which point, you praise and re-initiate the game. You must remain calm, non-competitive and non- threatening throughout the process.
Show your puppy that fighting and struggling with you will not achieve success for him; but working with you achieves huge success!
Greetings on your return home or on getting up in the morning should be calm. In fact, at least twice a week, ignore the puppy for the first ten to thirty minutes, acknowledging him only once he has calmed down and given up demanding your attention.
Puppies will benefit from learning to accept that there will be times when they will be excluded, by being placed in the laundry, bathroom or backyard, not only when you go out, but also for periods of time when you are at home. Aim for once a day – ten minutes to two hours.
Sleeping independently of the other members of the family will further build a puppy’s self-confidence. Best options include: closed into the laundry/bathroom or other small room; another enclosed area; or a crate. If you feel you want your dog in your bedroom at night, keep it to only one night per week until the puppy is an adult and then always have at least one or two nights per week independent for the remainder of the dog’s life.
Have your puppy hold a sitting position while meal is placed on the ground and await the release command, “okay” (followed by two claps), before allowing puppy to eat the food.
Learn to Wait – Patience is a Virtue
Each and every puppy has an individual tolerance of frustration. Some puppies seem to be eternally patient and others have a hissy-fit the instant something does not go their way! There are numerous ways we can raise your puppy’s tolerance of frustration and generally improve his competence in coping with his emotions, including: crate training; restraint or tie-up exercise; the control exercise; sitting and focusing on your face until released for his dinner; releasing the toy on cue during retrieve and tug-o-war games; simple obedience skills where the puppy must hold position until the release cue is given. Additionally, your puppy must learn to wait for your invitation at doorways and gateways. With the puppy on lead at a closed door that he is keen to get through; open the door a crack and when the puppy pushes to get through; say “ah-ah” and close the door abruptly. The aim is not to catch the puppy’s toes or nose or cause any pain – you are simply assertively stopping the puppy from proceeding in such a pushy manner. The puppy will now pull back from the closed door and you can attempt to open the door a crack again. Repeat the process until the puppy voluntarily holds back and awaits your directions!
Sit for Dinner
Have the puppy hold a sitting position while his meal is placed on the ground and await the release cue, “free” (followed by two claps), before allowing puppy to eat the food. You can use a piece of food from the bowl to hold the puppy’s attention and then drop it back into the bowl after giving the release cue.
Good Eating Habits
Tidy up puppy’s eating habits and improve food motivation in readiness for training with food treats. Meals are left down for ten minutes only. If there is any food left after ten minutes or the food is completely untouched, it should be removed and nothing further offered until the next regular meal-time. If the puppy is ten weeks of age or older and still receiving three meals per day, consider cutting to two meals per day. Once over six months of age, consider cutting to one meal a day.
Good Manners at Dinnertime
Prevent the puppy from developing aggression over his food. When feeding raw, meaty bones, give the puppy some small portions, then walk away. Return to give him more. When feeding regular dog food, save some tasty scraps to add to the bowl
after the puppy has already started eating.
Practice at least four times per week and continue throughout
Commence or formalise the “sit” exercise. Remember, you are not only training the puppy to sit on command, but to pay attention to you and; to hold that sitting position until you end the exercise with the release command, “free”, followed by two claps of the hands.
Once the puppy has sat, praise the behaviour and then give the puppy a food treat from the fingertips of
your right hand. Use your voice, the food, the lead or anything else to get the puppy’s focus and attention on your face and further pay him for holding the sitting position and paying attention to you. Focus and attention to the owner is the back-bone of all training and successful relationship building with the puppy. Use the lead to block the puppy from successfully leaving the sitting position.
The praise, “YES”, is always given before the delivery of the food treat, to build an association between the two. The term, “ah-ah”, is to indicate to the puppy that his current action will not be rewarded or successful in any way. Example: if the puppy lifts his front feet off the ground in order to get to the incoming food reward, “ah-ah” and you quickly withdrawing the food, will result in the puppy holding the sitting position in order to draw the food reward back in. Once the release command has been given, gently or playfully push the puppy out of the sitting position.
Aim to achieve at least one training session each day. However, each training session should be no more than three minutes. You want to finish the session with the puppy begging to do more, so that the next time you do a session the puppy will be keen and enthusiastic.
Socialisation – NOW!
Get your puppy out and about in the big, wide world. This is the critical time for the puppy to have good experiences with all types of people and animals. Avoid allowing the big, goofy, friendly dog from galloping up and scaring your puppy. Your puppy should always feel able to escape from anything frightening. If their flight path is blocked, they may turn to aggression or intimidation. Your reaction to their fear should be very off-hand – do not try to console - the puppy may interpret this as you also being nervous. Keep the lead loose so that the puppy does not feel like it is cornered without an escape path. Other dogs must always be on lead and under control when your puppy meets them, particularly on the first occasion. Off-lead dog parks are not a good place to take your puppy.
Your puppy should always feel able to escape from anything frightening. If their flight path is blocked, they may resort to defensive aggression. Your reaction to their fear should be very off-hand – do not try to comfort or console the puppy. He may interpret your consoling voice as you also being nervous. Instead use a voice that sounds “jolly” and confident.
Keep the lead loose so that the puppy does not feel that he is cornered without an escape. Allow him to run to the end of the lead, but do not go any further with him – stand your ground and wait for him to voluntarily move closer. If you are able to interact with the fear-eliciting stimulus, do so, to demonstrate to your puppy that you are comfortable and safe with the situation.
If it is a person or another dog or puppy causing the fear reaction, do not allow them to force themselves on the puppy. Insist that they hold back and where possible, ignore the puppy until the puppy is ready to approach in his own good time.
Always try to set your puppy up for success. Avoid failures. Our training technique is a combination of rewarding correct behaviour and blocking undesired behaviours from being successful or rewarding in any way. This will most often be achieved by having the lead attached to your puppy.