When pups ask “Why?”

Develop a lifestyle…

I say it all the time in class, “take your puppy everywhere you go” if possible. In order to get your puppy to be happy and balanced, you need to socialize him/her to the world we live in. But to get your puppy to respond to you here, there, and everywhere, she needs to be trained here, there, and everywhere! Train your puppy using many short sessions each day. A favorite author of mine, Ian Dunbar, says: “The secret is to totally integrate training into both your puppy’s lifestyle and your lifestyle.” That is so true!

Like in Puppy class, ask your pup to perform many cues per day. For example, call your puppy for a body-position sequence (like a “Sit”, “Sit Stay”) with variable length stays in each position whenever you go into the kitchen, go out to get the mail, sit in your favorite chair or go to the car. If you instruct your pup to perform a simple body-position sequence on every such occasion, you will easily be able to train your puppy many times a day without deviating from your normal lifestyle. Remember using the NIFF (nothing is for free) habit, not only teaches your pup to use polite manners, it also exercises his brain and helps remind him that you are his leader, not roommate!

Practice, Practice, Practice…
Helping your dog to see you as the calm confident leader will help him avoid many of the behavior problems people do not like. Such as door dashing, barking out the window, chewing on your arm and not coming when called. With this in mind, practice moving your dogs feet several times a day. This is a nice way of letting your pup know that you are in charge. Have your pup move out of your way rather than walking around him, ask him to move off his bed and have a seat yourself. Teach your dog to fetch your paper, his ball or toy! I often sit on the couch in the evening with my dogs (Sophie, my foster dog is against my leg as I type thisHappy) But the key is that she asks politely to join me. When she comes and bounces up and down, I know she wants up, I ask her to “wait”, she sits and waits until I say “ok”, then up she comes! We expect our children to ask politely, why not teach our dogs to have polite manners as well? Another example, people automatically assume that it is bad to let your dog sleep on your bed. The truth is it is fine, as long as it is on YOUR terms. My Pablo will stand by my bed with his head resting on the mattress and wait for me to say “ok”. Sometimes I say, “get in your bed” followed by “good boy” he does what I ask without question. When this becomes your new lifestyle, your puppy will see no difference between playing and training. Fun times will have structure and rules they can live with and training will be fun!

Forming habits you can live with…
Practice short training sessions with quick sits, stays and emotional control moments into your puppy’s walks and off-leash play times. Each quick sit is immediately reinforced by allowing the dog to resume walking or playing, which becomes the reward. Practicing emotional control with quick sits before each and every activity with your dog (like riding in the car, watching you fix their dinner, lying on the couch, and playing doggy games). For example, have your dog sit before you throw a tennis ball, before you put the leash on. Add duration to your cues of sit-stay with each repetition. Ask your dog to wait before he goes out the door, before he eats, or before he/she jumps out of the car.

Right from the start, make frequent little quiet moments part of your dog’s daily routine. Remember, a puppy is not like an irritating child’s toy. You cannot simply remove the batteries from a rambunctious adolescent dog. Instead you must learn how to “turn off” your dog. Learn to use walks and your puppy’s favorite and most exciting games as rewards for settling down quietly and calmly.

Throughout the course of the day, have your puppy settle down for longer periods of time at home. For example, when watching the television, have your pup lie down on-leash, or in his bed, but during the commercial breaks, release the puppy for short, active play-training sessions.

When playing with your puppy, have him take a break every 30 seconds or so. To begin with, have the pup lie still for just two seconds before letting it play again. Use a release command, such as “Free Dog,” “Ok”, or “Let’s Play.” After 30 seconds, interrupt the play session again with a three-second quiet moment. Then try for four seconds. And then five, eight, ten, and so on. Alternate “Settle Down” with “Go Play” and with each repetition, it becomes progressively easier to get your puppy to settle down quickly.

Once your pup gets the picture, the exercise may be profitably practiced on walks. When walking round the block, periodically have your puppy settle down for just a few seconds before resuming the walk. An entertaining way to train is to instruct your pup to settle down every twenty yards or so, while you read this article! I hope you will read and re-read it many times!

Positive Reinforcement…
Puppies are easy to train. In fact, a young puppy will do just about anything you ask, especially when we use that sweet pitch as a reward! As the puppy grows into an adolescence, however, it begins to ask world-shattering questions, such as “Why?”
Just because your puppy has learned what “Sit” means, it does not necessarily mean she will sit when you request her to do so. Therefore, the most important ingredient of any educational program, weather for children or dogs, is “Why comply?” You must teach the relevance of complying. I believe, once you have taught your puppy the positive consequences of cooperating, she will eagerly want to behave!

Make it Fun…
First ask yourself, what does my puppy love? Make a list! Then institute a simple and effective rule: Nothing will be denied, nor withheld from the pup, but the puppy has to sit beforehand. It’s just common canine courtesy, really. Nothing more than a puppy “please.”

Does your puppy like to play Tug? Great! this is a fun game and will give your pup some indoor exercise! The key to this game is following the rules: Your pup must wait until you make eye contact and say “take it” before grabbing the tug toy. After some good tugging, look away, relax your arm and say “leave it”. If your pup doesn’t know this cue yet, offer a treat to reward him for letting go. After some practice, you will not need to reward with a treat.

In no time at all, your pup will learn the importance of complying with your wishes and will be only too willing, eager, and happy to oblige. Now your dog will want to do what you want it to do because you make her life fun and exciting! Positive Reinforcement is “heads-and-tails” above any adverse training programs!

Basically, you need to convince your pup that he or she is the trainer and you are the pupil! As Ian Dunbar says in his book, After You Get Your Puppy, your puppy needs to believe, “Sitting is the canine cue — the veritable key to the door — which makes my owners do anything I want. If I sit, they will open doors (how courteous). If I sit, they will massage my ears (how affectionate). If I sit, they will share the couch (how cooperative). If I sit, they will throw the tennis ball (how athletic). And if I sit, they will serve supper (how well-trained).”

The rewards of having a well mannered dog are endless! For starters, you can take your dog anywhere and not be stressed. Having a well behaved dog saves time as you can get through your day with less hassle, and you can be proud of you pup! Inviting friends over to the house is no longer dreaded as your pup has a new set of skills to show off! Jumping on Grandma is no longer an issue because your dog has learned to sit when ever he meets a new person. No sit, no reward, it is that simple!

So be a great dog owner and give your dog plenty of Reinforcement for well performed behaviors!