Expert behaviorists say you can begin training your little one as early as seven weeks old, providing your sessions are presented as gentle play. Give him a few days to adjust to his new life with you, and then begin. Remember that puppies have very short attention spans, so you’ll want to school your pet for only a few minutes per lesson, with that said, you can try mini sessions several times per day. When your pup is between four and six months of age, you can begin formal obedience lessons. A few pointers:
· Whenever possible, try to arrange the situation so your pup can’t fail. For example, throw only one ball into the backyard and ask him to “fetch the ball.” (Giving him access to several toys at once would add too many variables to the game.)
· Bribery does wonders. Reward desired behaviors with praise, food and toys.
· Be consistent. If you don’t want Zeus to jump on neighbors in greeting, don’t let him jump on you either when you walk in the front door. Also, use the same simple words or phrases for the same specific behaviors.
As anyone who has tried to rein in a crotch-sniffer will tell you, your pooch must be able to respond to a handful of basic commands instantly. Here are a few that might get you out of an embarrassing (or an emergency) situation:
Off/No Jumping: Back up when you see your pup coming towards you and say “Off!” or “No jumping!” Reward him when his feet are planted on the ground.
In Your Kennel: Present your pet with a treat, and then put it in his kennel while saying “Kennel!” (Or “Go to bed!”). When he goes inside, praise him, but don’t shut the door yet. Practice this scenario, and then begin closing the door, rewarding him with a treat through the bars. Gradually extend the time in the crate. (A word of caution: If he whimpers, don’t let him out, as that rewards the behavior.) When you do open the door for good, don’t do cartwheels. You don’t want coming out to be better than going in.
Speak: Show the puppy a treat and say “Speak!” (You may have to actually bark yourself so that he gets the idea. Do this inside so your neighbors don’t think you’ve gone to the dogs.) Once he barks, praise him.
Quiet: After Zeus masters barking, really get him going. Then, suddenly bring your finger to your lips and say “Quiet!” He will likely be startled and immediately stop barking. Reward him effusively.
Give: To help avoid unwanted aggression and guarding behavior, teach your puppy to hand over his toys and food. Begin by offering him a toy-for-food trade. Say “Give!” as you make the exchange.
Get it/leave it: Leash your dog and go for a walk. Toss a treat in front of him and say, “Get it!” Once he masters this concept, try asking him to “Leave it!” Drop the treat. When he goes for it, gently bop him on the nose while saying “Leave it!” Make a game out of “getting” and “leaving”.
Sit: Place a treat in front of Zeus then gently move it upwards over his head. He’ll raise his head to follow your hand and, in the process, lower his rump. Push his hindquarters down to the ground with your free hand while saying “Sit!”
Lay: Present your pet with a treat then lower it to the ground while saying “Lay!” Try gently guiding his shoulders to the floor. Give the reward when he lies down, even if it is only momentarily.
Stay: Have your pup sit down. Back away from him a few steps while saying “Stay!” then praise him for doing just that. After a split second, reward him. Always praise him while he is still waiting, not after he gets up so that he will associate the word with the correct action.
Come: Carry treats with you throughout the day and randomly call to your pup using his name, “Mr. Bean, come!” When he races to you, reward him.
Training your puppy can be a hugely rewarding enterprise for the both of you. Not only will your pet be manageable at home, but in public when you happen to run into your boss who, by the way, is terrified of dogs.
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