We see lots of puppies and we want to see more puppies, and we want to see them earlier.
Waiting for your puppy to be finished his or her vaccinations or waiting until the nipping and the accidents and the chewing are driving you bonkers is too late to start your puppy’s education.
Book a puppy-session NOW and make sure that everyone gets off on the right paw!
What happens during a puppy session?
We talk about all the things that you can start to put in place so that puppy raising is easier and your puppy becomes a great, easy to live with, companion dog.
1. Social Experience
Not only must puppies know how to be dogs, but they must also know how to fit into human society – and that’s tough!
- socialisation is not about your puppy learning to greet, play with and love everyone
- socialisation is about your puppy learning that other people, dogs, animals and related goings-on are so normal that they’re not even worth getting worked up about
- socialisation is about ensuring puppy has mostly positive experiences in social interactions
- socialisation is about puppy learning how to behave appropriately in social situations
We will teach you how to teach your dog to greet politely, to manage their excitement and to teach others how to greet your puppy appropriately so your puppy doesn’t become over-whelmed, and learns that social greetings are positive, enjoyable and safe.
How to use your hand-link-a-Kong to teach all this:
Teach puppy that people approaching makes a treat appear so that puppy learns that approaching humans are safe and so that puppy learns to focus on their own people when someone else is approaching:
Puppies must get to play with other safe, healthy and appropriate dogs and puppies too.
- puppy doesn’t get to greet and play with every dog they see
- to play with other dogs, puppy must be calm and responsive
- play sessions must be short
- humans supervise and actively shape puppy play behaviour throughout
- play will be interrupted regularly for re-focus and calm, down-time
Teach puppies to be comfortable with collar grabs so that they can be restrained when needed:
Off leash puppy activities must never be a free-for-all!
2. Exposure & Experience
The world is a new, exciting and often scary place for puppies. As their new guide to the human-world, in which they will live, we want to gently and carefully expose them to all the things we want them to be able to cope with later on.
Think of the dog you want in two years time…you are preparing for that NOW!
- bring your puppy everywhere you go – you can carry him, have him in the car
- you don’t have to allow him to interact up close with stuff – stand off at a distance and just hang out – play passive focus games with him to teach him that you are always the most interesting!
- allow puppy to observe and take in information, in their own time
- pair startling, scary, sudden or weird events with good things such as tasty treats and favourite games – play this game when allowing your puppy to take in the world around him
- provide physical exercise carefully; lots here on appropriate exercise and the Puppy Exercise Chart from Puppy Culture
- think of puppy walks and outings more as opportunities for puppy to experience the world than for puppy to get physical exercise
Hair dryers and vacuum cleaners don’t have to be scary, if they are introduced properly and early on:
While your puppy is on vaccination hold (and beyond):
- play Follow Me! so that you puppy learns how to walk politely, without a lead, before you are going on walks
- set up a couple of odd things everyday, in a new place in and around the house for puppy to explore
Remember, when you start walking your puppy out and about, increase the size of their world very gradually (from the house to the street on the first day is plenty, and around local streets is lots for the first week) and take your time, stop with puppy and allow them to explore in their on time.
3. Mental Exercise
Puppies are active and inquisitive so let’s channel that energy, so it doesn’t become a people-problem and so that puppy is an active learner and problem solver.
- no food bowls for puppies!
- training puppy throughout the day, working for their regular food
- using their brains (and noses) to work out how to find food and toys
- getting them hooked on chewing their chew toys and not your furniture, shoes or belongings
- allowing puppies to try things out, to experience a little frustration and even stress, and recovery
And lots more ideas here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
4. Nipping & Bite Inhibition
All puppies do it, and most people are bothered by it.
Puppy nipping is important for puppies though so we put exercises in place to make sure puppies have an acceptable outlet for this behaviour, but preventing it from becoming to much trouble for people.
There are different schools of thought on this and lots of diverse advice.
- keeping interactions with puppy brief and low-key so puppy doesn’t become over-excited (they will often express that with mouthing and nipping)
- making sure puppy has lots of down-time, settling and sleep (over tired puppies are like over tired toddlers…)
- diverting puppy behaviour and using treats & toys so that we don’t need to restrain, physically manipulate or position puppy
- redirecting teeth onto suitable toys
- yelping and withdrawing for 5-10-count if we feel hard teeth
- moving away from puppy 20-count timeout if they turn into a landshark
- teaching puppies the rules of play with people
- making sure puppies have lots of opportunities to play bitey-face games with other appropriate dogs
You already know all the behaviours that puppy is going to do that you are not going to like – squealing when left alone, chewing your belongings, toileting in the wrong places, and that’s just for starters.
So, if you know they’re going to bother you, why are you allowing them to happen?! Prevention is key.
Never allow puppy to practice unwanted behaviour so that they never learn to establish unwanted behaviours.
- night-time training so puppy never develops distress at separation (prevents sleepless nights too!)
- crate training for toilet training
- crate training for settle training
- crate training for self-control training
- crate training chew-toy training
- crate training for night-time training
- …see where we are going with this…?
6. Passive Training
This is lazy training, and really effective too! Puppy isn’t doing the wrong things all the time so catch him doing the right behaviour and reward that with food rewards, toys, play, attention or access to things he wants.
- rewarding puppy any time you notice he’s quiet, he has four paws on the floor, he’s keeping the leash loose and he’s showing calm focus
- rewarding polite behaviour
- rewarding puppy when he’s doing nothing
- using lots of different types of rewards
Teach your puppy how to be a good human trainer like here, here and here.
7. Parking your Puppy
More lazy dog training, while puppy learns to chill out and be calm.
- use a specific mat or bed so puppy learns that means it’s settle time
- lapping and chewing on stuffed and lined Kongs help puppies relax
- practicing parking and settling in lots of places, with your puppy’s calm-mat, will help puppy become a great companion who you can bring anywhere
8. Resource Guarding Prevention
It’s normal, natural, necessary dog behaviour (humans do it too!) so let’s set up our puppies so that they never feel the need to make people go away from them, when they have stuff.
- making sure puppies have their own place where they can eat, chew, play and hangout undisturbed
- puppies learn that when they have stuff and people come near, awesome things happen
Puppies and dogs will be handled, sometimes in invasive ways, throughout their lives. Remember, anything we want in our dog in two years time, we need to start working on right now!
- gentle handling of puppy everyday
- calming, massage helps to settle puppy
- pairing handling and manipulation with yummy treats helps puppy to become comfortable with this in lots of situations
- practicing at the vets and groomers too, before puppy needs it
- giving puppies choice in how much and how far is enough
10. Toilet training
Toilet training requires time, patience, supervision and management.
- regular toilet breaks – every 1-2 hours during the day
- more regular breaks after eating, drinking, napping, or any sort of excitement
- clean up accidents with biological washing powder (with enzyme action)
- supervise free puppies – if they have any accident it’s on you I’m afraid
- don’t scold puppy – step up supervision!
- free time is for empty puppies only – so crate puppy, supervise closely and only allow out and about after toileting
- bring puppy to a toileting area and be boring – this is a business area, not for fun
- calmly praise puppy while he goes, and reward with 3-5 high value food rewards once he’s done
- then have a little game or fun interaction with puppy so that he doesn’t learn he is just ignored after appropriate toileting
- have patience – we give children years for toilet training and most puppies will need months of structured toilet training before they are reliable
11. Obedience behaviours
The most important thing to understand here is that obedience behaviours can be taught at any time, but all the 1-10 stuff above MUST start NOW.
So, although we might introduce some obedience stuff, it’s not the main emphasis of your puppy’s early education at all.
Teach puppy to play tug, with rules, so that you are also teaching him some self-control and to give up items, even when excited:
Teach puppy to leave forbidden items by teaching him that “leave it” means to come away from that thing and reorient to his person:
Teach puppy that only polite, calm behaviour gets him what he wants:
We spend some time answering your questions and developing a program that works best for your puppy, you and your family.
- parasite control
- vet and groomer visits
- training classes
- great puppy resources
- and all the other questions new puppy owners will have too…
And this is just the beginning of your’s and your puppy’s education…
Do you know someone with a new puppy or soon to get a new puppy, or even someone thinking about maybe considering a new puppy?
Let’s get puppy-ownership off to the best start with a puppy session!
2 thoughts on “The Puppy Sessions”
This is such an amazing post, what a brilliant resource that’s applicable for everyone whether they have a puppy or adult dog. Saving this for later!!
Thanks so much Laura!
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