Teaching Your Puppy Basic Life Skills

Teaching Your Puppy Basic Life Skills

    Teaching Your Puppy Basic Life Skills
    Lisa explains the basic cues that you need to teach your puppy and the importance of starting this from the moment you welcome them to their new home.

    In my previous two features, we explored bringing home a puppy and how to help him (for ease of reading I’ll refer to your pup as male) settle into his new home and start to bond with you. Your puppy will be paying attention to you and learning from you constantly, whether or not you set aside designated times for lessons. This is why consistency is important right from the start, and if you pay close attention to your puppy and observe how he responds to various stimuli and cues you’ll gain
    insights into how to teach him in ways that he finds easy to grasp.
    The basic cues you will be teaching him from this article need to be started as soon as
    your pup arrives home and starts to settle in. That way, you won’t need to ask him to unlearn behaviors in order to learn new behaviors.

    Puppies are irresistibly cuddly. They’re cute and fluffy, and they seek out contact and attention. They also need a great deal of rest: up to 22 hours daily at the age of 8 weeks, and around 16 hours of sleep daily at the age of 12 weeks. Sleep shouldn’t be disturbed, so save your handling skills for when your pup is wide awake, in between meals and after toilet breaks.
    As your pup will be visiting the vet for immunizations and examinations, getting him used
    to being checked over will prepare him for being handled by a stranger.
    With a bag of tiny treats in your pocket or clipped to your clothing, call your puppy and
    treat and praise him the moment he comes to you. Stroke him, and run your hands over his
    body, neck, legs, and paws, offering treats as you do so. Check his ears and mouth, then treat and praise. If he seems uncomfortable at any point or moves away, stops and try again later.
    You’ll want him to feel relaxed about being handled. Remember to be gentle, and speak
    softly to him. You can name the body parts you’re stroking as you go along if you like. Keep the process short, a couple of minutes at most, and make this a daily routine so that he can quickly become accustomed to the process.

    Puppies naturally sit while they’re thinking and when they’re observing. The easiest way to teach your pup to sit is to capture the behavior. Each time he sits, you can
    say “Sit” in a happy tone of voice and offer him a treat.
    From there you can graduate to saying the word “Sit” and holding a treat above his head so that when he looks up, his bottom naturally goes down. Mark the behavior by saying “Good boy” and giving him the treat.

    Once he’s learned to sit as soon as you ask him to, you can ‘proof ’ this by calling him to you (you’re also teaching recall, which was included in last month’s feature) and requesting a sit in other locations where there are tempting stimuli. Be patient if he doesn’t always ‘get it’ at first. He’s exploring the world and is surrounded by intriguing sights, scents, and sounds, so asking for his attention may not always bear fruit immediately. The trick is to make yourself the most interesting and appealing spectacle for him. Angle your body differently, avoid looming over him; sit down
    yourself, or squat, or look as if you’ve found something fascinating close by – your pup will very likely want to check out anything that you seem to be absorbed in.

    Lying down
    It’s very useful to teach your dog to lie down on request. This can help during vet checks and examinations, and when blood needs to be drawn for testing.
    Hold some treats in your closed hand and ask your dog to sit. Bring the hand with the treats slowly down to the ground just in front of your pup’s nose. His body will follow his nose as it moves downward to follow the scent. Slide your hand a little way along the ground and reward and praise him as soon as his body touches the ground. After a
    a couple of sessions introduce the word “Down”.

    Another way to teach this is to sit on the ground with your legs bent to create a tent-like space between your knees and the floor. Gain your pup’s attention and hold the
    treat on the far side of your knees so that he naturally lowers his body to crawl beneath your knees to get the treat.
    Reward and praise, and introduce the word cue after two successful practices Collar, harness and lead
    A collar and harness can feel very strange to a puppy, so gradually introduce the collar, allowing your puppy to sniff it before you gently place it across the back of his neck without fastening it. Reward and praise him, and repeat a few times.
    If your puppy seems unbothered you can fasten the collar, reward, and praise, instigate a short but fun game, and then remove the collar. The message for your pup is that good thing happen when he sees and feels the collar. You can introduce a harness in the same way, leaving it on for just a short while and then removing it.

    Getting your puppy accustomed to a lead is best started indoors or in the garden once he is comfortable wearing a collar and harness. Puppies naturally tend to follow people, so
    you can tap into that to teach loose-lead walking.
    Fill your pocket or treat bag with extra-smelly, extra-tasty treats and keep these on the side on which you want your dog to walk on-lead. Clip the lead on (a long training line is best) but don’t yet
    pick it up. Allow it to trail behind your puppy. Call your pup in a
    the happy tone of voice and walk around the home or garden, encouraging him to walk beside you and making sure he’s handsomely rewarded while he’s close to you. He’ll tend to stick close once he realizes there’s a wonderful pay-out for walking next to you.
    Pick up the end of the lead and carry on walking, keeping it loose so that there’s no tension on it, and continue to reward and praise your pup for staying by your side. Keep sessions short and end each session with a game or with a cue to go and play or sniff around.

    Dogs are social creatures, and giving your pup opportunities to develop social skills will help him to grow up into a well-rounded individual. Puppy parties and puppy classes can be great for introducing your pup to other puppies, but it’s wise to go along to observe a session without your pup, first of all. If any harsh methods are being taught, or if you see signs that timid pups are being put under pressure or bullied, that wouldn’t be a good environment to take your precious new family member into. If the puppies all seem happy and relaxed, and the session is well overseen, it’s likely your pup will have fun there.

    Outside, the behavior of other dogs can’t always be predicted, so if you take your vaccinated pup with you to visit friends with dogs, or to a park, be vigilant to ensure that (a) your puppy isn’t pestering other dogs by clambering and jumping all over them, which could lead to him having a negative experience, and (b) that the dogs in that environment are either on-lead or are tolerant of puppies who have yet to learn the intricacies of good doggy manners. Some adult dogs thoroughly enjoy romping with puppies. Others, especially if they have pain issues, don’t take kindly to uninvited attention.

    The experiences your puppy has with other dogs during the first months, especially, have a profound impact on how they relate to other dogs as they mature, so it’s vital that these are positive.
    Puppies are people magnets, so observe your pup’s body when people are cooing over your pup and wanting to pet or cuddle him. Check whether he’s comfortable with this.

    If he looks worried, anxious, or overwhelmed, remove him to a quiet space where he can rest undisturbed. However much your pup is enjoying interactions, it’s useful to remember that he’ll tire easily, and it’s better to give him the opportunity for short bursts of socializing, followed by rest time Raising a puppy is a delight, and as his guardian and protector you can ensure that life is good for him, that he’ll grow up knowing that you have his back and that he can trust you to keep him safe and happy.
    from Edition Dog – Issue 19 – May 2020

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