We are assuming that you read our week one tips here, congrats, you made it through your first week with your new puppy! We know that you may be a little sleep deprived and even a bit exhausted at this point, however, we assure you that is temporary. Everything will get better soon!
We already know that you may be having trouble with the leash part. So let’s start with that.
For starters, your puppy simply has no idea what this leash thing is all about. That’s all. Some puppies struggle with it at first because they feel extremely restricted. It is critical to desensitize your puppy to this. You can begin this step by playing their first game of fetch! Show it to them, toss it a bit and then reward them for bringing it to you! While they may not bring it back to you, they are at least beginning to look at the leash from a different perspective. When we say reward, we do not mean food or treats. Food and treats are extremely highly value and should not be wasted for something basic like this. What we mean by “reward” is you showing them your excitement and happiness. Lightly clap your hands in excitement, praise them in a higher pitched voice and the like. While at this stage they are not quite looking for your approval, that part will evolve soon and you are at the beginning stages.
Repeat this until they seem happy to see the leash, or at the least, not so bothered by it. Then try connecting the leash to their collar. Leave it connected for a few minutes and then remove it. See what you are doing? You are showing them that this leash thing is temporary and not a long term bad thing. When they are ready for real walks outside, they are already somewhat comfortable with this process.
Repeat these steps and you will begin to see a positive reaction. Don’t forget the positive reinforcement “reward”.
This segues to the beginning stages of training through playing.
Playing with your puppy also doubles as critical learning opportunities. For example, rope toys can help your dog learn impulse control. While they are attempting to win this battle of tug of war at all costs, you can help them learn that its OK to share, as well as that there are ways for them to win. Maybe they automatically win if they respond to a command? Maybe if instead of jumping, they win if they have all four paws on the floor? Things like that. But, keep it simple and always reward them with praise.
Command training may be a bit more difficult and take more time, but try teaching your puppy the command of “drop”. Teach your puppy to “drop” by trading them one toy for another. Teach them the command “leave it” by covering the toy with your hand, followed by in a nice way, asking them to “leave it”. Then patiently wait until they turn away, then rewarding with the toy. The key here is when they turn away. That is when their attention has been slightly focused elsewhere. And of course, upon success and then returning the toy to them, it’s a big deal. So a vocal “reward” of praise is in order!
There are many things that you can do. Whats most important is to consider that you are in fact teaching them. They are learning every single thing in this world from you and their interactions with you. Please be conscious of this fact. Please be patient with them.
Next week, we’re going to move into something different, but of critical importance – socializing. So, if by the end of this week they have built up a bond of trust with you, they respond to basic “commands” (we are saying that loosely and for reference at this stage), then the socializing step will be even better for the both of you.
Back to week two.
Get them comfortable with being touched.
Since your puppy will have several vet visits, you’ll have friends and family over and more, it is important that they understand not to be scared of others. For example, lets prepare for Veterinarian visits by getting them used to being slightly restrained and having sensitive areas gently poked as well as them being touched in what seems like odd ways to them. Exposure to these things now, results in less stress on them later.
Armed with tons of vocal rewards and praise do the following.
Touch your puppy’s ears. If they give you no trouble about it – vocal praise. Now lift their ears and look inside them. No trouble? Vocal praise. Be careful with this next one as puppy teeth are sharp – open their mouths and sort of inspect. No trouble? Vocal praise! Hold and slightly squeeze their paws. No trouble? Vocal praise! This one may seem like no big deal, but it’s important later in life as well, lift their tail, pause while lifting it and inspect. No trouble? Vocal praise!
A lot of puppies may not be so trusting at first. It’s OK, it’s natural. However, they should not yet be “scared” of anything at this stage. If they are scared of something, fear is learned from some type of exposure and it is important to learn what caused it. If your puppy shows signs of discomfort, stress or hesitation, simply make slower movements towards them and train a bit more slowly.
Simulate them being restrained by picking them up, carrying them a few feet, and wrapping them in a towel briefly. Doing this will also help prepare your puppy for the types of restraint they might experience at the vet.