Bring your puppy to the crate for naps and quiet-time breaks so that he can “unwind” from family chaos. Start in increments of 10 minutes and work up to longer periods. Offer treats when he goes inside, and distraction toys, like a stuffed KONG. For years, this author has been giving her Yorkie a treat every day as soon as he goes into his crate and sits. Now as an adult dog, he runs to his crate each morning in anticipation of the goodie.
You can also lure a down from a sit or stand by holding a treat in your hand to the dog’s nose and slowly bringing it to the floor. Give the treat when the dog’s elbows touch the floor to start. After a few practices, begin bringing your empty hand to the floor and giving the treat AFTER he lies down. When he can reliably follow your hand signal, begin saying “down” as you move your hand.
Help him relax when he comes home. When your puppy gets home, give him a warm hot water bottle and put a ticking clock near his sleeping area. This imitates the heat and heartbeat of his litter mates and will soothe him in his new environment. This may be even more important for a new dog from a busy, loud shelter who's had a rough time early on. Whatever you can do to help him get comfortable in his new home will be good for both of you.
Make the puppy come to you. While he’s on his way to you, still wearing the leash and collar, back up a few paces and then reward him when he gets to you. Continue the progression until your puppy, upon hearing the cue noise, comes to you and walks with you a few paces. Remember that puppies have a short attention span, so keep your sessions short, and end them when your puppy is still eager to do more, not when he’s mentally exhausted.
The foundation of training should be based on positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is the process of giving a dog (or person!) a reward to encourage the behavior you want, like getting a pay check for going to work. The idea is not to bribe the behavior but to train it using something your dog values. Avoid using punishment such as leash corrections or yelling. Punishment can cause a dog to become confused and unsure about what is being asked of him. It is important to remember that we can’t expect dogs to know what they don’t know – just like you wouldn’t expect a 2-year-old child to know how to tie his shoes. Patience will go a long way in helping your new puppy learn how to behave.
Take it outside. Finally, you’re ready to test your puppy’s skills in the Great Outdoors. There will be new challenges with this step because all the sounds, smells, and sights your puppy encounters will be intriguing and new to him. Be patient and keep the first walks short. While you’re on a walk, if your puppy looks as if he’s about to lunge toward something or is about to get distracted (you’ll notice this because you will keep your eyes on him at all times), make your cue sound and move a few steps away. Then reward him with a treat for following you.
Once your puppy can turn around to face you, begin adding movement and making the game more fun! Toss a treat on the ground and take a few quick steps away while calling your puppy’s name. They should run after you because chase is fun! When they catch you, give them a lot of praise, treats or play with a tug toy. Coming to you should be fun! Continue building on these games with longer distances and in other locations. When training outside (always in a safe, enclosed area), it may be helpful to keep your puppy on a long leash at first.
Keep your training sessions short, consistent and always have fun. The key to shaping your puppy's behavior is to start out with very easy commands, continue to build on these successes and apply heaps of repetition. Base your puppy training sessions around trust and mutual respect rather than old school methods based on punishment, avoidance and harsh corrections. In this environment you will find that your puppy loves his training sessions and his confidence will grow with each and every session.
When your puppy comes to you, don’t reach out and grab him. This can be confusing or frightening for some dogs. If your puppy is timid, kneel and face them sideways and offer him treats as you reach for the collar. Never call your dog to punish! This will only teach him that you are unpredictable, and it is a good idea to avoid you. Always reward your dog heavily for responding to his or her name, even if they have been up to mischief!
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