Grooming your Puppy
Brushing and Combing
Brushing your puppy is an important bonding time for both of you. This is a wonderful time to build trust in the relationship.
Check the brush and comb you are going to be using to make sure they do not scratch your puppy’s skin. Some combs and brushes have sharp edges, and they can hurt. When this happens, your puppy will become concerned every time you try to groom him. If you are using a slicker brush, use one that has cushioning for the teeth and make sure that the actual teeth have been rounded off so they are not sharp. By checking tools before they touch your puppy, many grooming concerns can be eliminated.
If your puppy is afraid of the brush or comb, and he tries to bite you or the grooming tool, stop brushing or combing him immediately. Offer him the brush or comb to feel and taste. If he wants to bite it, let him. Give him a minute or so to check out this new object with which you are trying to touch him. When he looks away, that is a sign that he has finished checking out the new item and you can begin again.
Once the puppy has had an opportunity to explore the brush or comb, slowly start to brush him again. If he pulls away or cries, immediately stop again. Talk to your puppy and give him some pets and treats to take his mind off what just happened.
Do something else with him for a while and try again later in the day. The next time you try to brush or comb him, offer a few tiny treats as you use the back of the brush or comb to slide on his body. This will offer him a different kind of petting feeling without teeth. Talk softly, reassure him, and offer treats to reward this quiet behaviour as you are using the back of the comb or brush. After a few strokes, turn the brush or comb over and lightly do one stroke. If he accepts the stroke, be sure to praise him and keep the treats coming.
If he tries to bite, cries, or squirms, stop again. Ask him for a simple cue such as sit and then mark and reward him and end the grooming session on a positive note. You can try again later the same day or the next day. For now, do not give the puppy too much attention and go about your normal daily activities.
Some puppies can be very sensitive about being groomed and will need time to work through this procedure. The most important piece of this exercise is to teach your puppy that you are paying attention to his concerns and stopping when he asks you to. In time, he will learn to trust you enough to allow brushing and combing. Remember that this is not a race, and it is important for you and your puppy to have a positive experience.
Grooming your dog can be a wonderful bonding opportunity, and every dog needs grooming. Work with your puppy using the brush and/or comb every day. Stop if your puppy cries, squirms, or tries to bite you. If the problem persists after several days, consult with our vet because your puppy may have a medical issue you are not aware of that is causing this reaction. If our vet does not find a medical reason for your puppy’s reaction to being groomed, do not give up.
Give your puppy the time he needs to become comfortable with this procedure. In time, he will begin to trust you and learn that brushing or combing will not hurt him. When this happens, he will become comfortable with being groomed and this can become a special time for both of you.
Checking your puppy’s ears and keeping them clean can prevent infections and fungi. A number of products are on the market to keep your puppy’s ears clean. Ask our vet which product is best for your puppy.
Floppy ears can be a haven for yeast to grow, and this can be very uncomfortable for your puppy. To clean your puppy’s ears, only use products specifically made for dog ears. Baby oil, rubbing alcohol, or non-ear cleaning solutions are not recommended. Products such as these can cause more harm than good to your puppy.
Many ear problems have a strong odour. If your puppy’s ears have an odour, make an appointment with our vet. Ear problems need attention as soon as possible. The longer you wait to take your puppy to the practice, the worse the problem will become and the more painful it will be for him.
When checking your puppy’s ears, the first thing you will want to do is to get him comfortable with having his ears touched. You can start off by petting his ears. If he does not like you touching his ears, then stop petting them for now. If he pulls away at any time while you are touching his ears, do not force him to accept the touch. This will only make him more concerned. Stop what you are doing and offer him a few little treats to take his mind off your touching his ears.
Offer your puppy a treat with one hand, and pet his ear with your other hand. If your puppy is now comfortable and does not pull away, you can lift up his ear and put it back down. If he still seems comfortable, you can look inside each ear and smell it. If he is sensitive to his ears being touched, you will want to desensitize him to having them checked and/or cleaned.
You can do this by spending a minute or so a day touching his ears. Do this several times on each ear until your puppy seems comfortable and shows no signs of concern.
Next, try picking up one ear flap between your thumb and fingers. Lightly hold onto the ear and gently slide your hand out to the end of the ear. If the puppy shows any concern by crying, squirming, or trying to bite you, that is his way of asking you to stop. When you honour his concerns, over time, he will learn that you can be trusted. Once trust is established, life can be easier for both of you.
A few minutes later you can try again. Again, pet his ears with one hand while offering him a treat with the other hand. Try again to pick up the ear with one hand, and slide your hand down the ear gently while offering the treat with the other hand. Repeat this as many times as you need to, stopping every time he shows signs of concern. If he is still concerned after one or two minutes, stop for now, give him a nice pet along his back, or do something else you know he enjoys and try again later. You always want to end training sessions on a positive note.
Within a few days, the puppy will become more comfortable with having his ears touched. Once he is comfortable with the ear slides, pick up one ear at a time and look down into the ear canal. You will not be able to see all the way down into the canal, which is why smelling your puppy’s ears is so important. The odour will alert you that something is wrong.
Sometimes you will see redness or the ears seem to have a build-up much like ear wax in humans. This can be a sign of a fungus in the ear. If your puppy’s ears have a bad odour or seem discoloured, make an appointment for him to see our vet immediately.
Checking your puppy’s ears at least once a week and following an ear-cleaning regimen that our vet recommends will help keep puppy’s ears healthy and clean.
Many puppies have a concern with having their nails trimmed. This is actually very understandable. To your puppy, his feet are the major means of escape when in danger of any kind. With that in mind you will want to let him know that touching his feet or trimming his nails is safe for him. Your puppy will need nail trimming throughout his entire life. When nails are not properly trimmed, the living centre of the nail (the quick) will continue to grow along with the nails. When this happens, it can cause discomfort and result in physical problems.
When trimming your puppy’s nails, the first thing you will want to do is to get him used to having his feet touched by desensitizing him. The easiest way to accomplish this is by following your puppy’s lead. Always move slower if you have a fearful puppy. Fearful puppies should be encouraged and rewarded for being brave with any new experience.
You can begin these exercises while you are holding your puppy in your lap or while sitting on the floor with him. Learning moments are everywhere for young puppies, so take advantage of them whenever possible with short learning moments.
Take your hand and slide it down your puppy’s leg and pick up one paw at a time. If he is okay with you doing that, then take a finger and slide it between each toe of that paw. If he is comfortable with you playing with his feet and sliding your finger between each toe, you can repeat the exercise on each paw. If he pulls away or cries, stop immediately. Wait a minute or so and offer him a treat with one hand as you slide the other hand down his leg again.
If he pulls away, stop. If he is more interested in the treats than what you are doing with the other hand, then continue. Every time you start and stop, make sure you start sliding your hand from the top of his leg. This is an exercise of trust and confidence, so always start at the top, where he was comfortable. Then work your way down toward the paw.
Remember, if your puppy is not comfortable at any time, it is okay to stop and try again later that afternoon or the following day. If you stop when he shows concern, over time he will begin to trust you. Continue to repeat the exercise until all of his paws have been desensitized to your touch.
Once he is comfortable, the third or fourth time you touch his paws and slide your fingers between them, it is time to introduce the nail clippers. Let your puppy sniff, lick, or bite the newly introduced clippers. Once he is done exploring the clippers and ignores them, it is time to introduce the new sound the clippers will make. This can be done by opening them and closing them before you actually use them. Make sure you do not have any part of the puppy in the clippers while opening and closing them. If the puppy is bored and looks away, then you can begin the nail trimming process.
When trimming your puppy’s nails, you want to clip them right before the quick. If he has clear nails, you can see the pink colour of the blood vessels. If his nails are black, start near the tip of the nail and slowly clip small pieces at a time, moving up the nail. A tiny black circle in the centre of the nail should be your warning that you are at the beginning of the quick, so stop. If you are not sure where the quick is or at what angle to hold the clippers, ask one of our nurses or vets some guidance.
If at any time your puppy pulls away, remember to simply stop what you are doing. Play with him for a while and try again later. You do not have to trim all of his nails on the same day when you are getting him comfortable with the nail trimming process. For now, the focus is on desensitizing him to having his paws touched and nails trimmed.
With time and patience, your puppy can become very comfortable with getting his nails trimmed. If you force him to have his nails cut, you will instil fear that can last a lifetime, making nail trimming a very difficult process for you and for him. Once mature, some dogs actually end up having to be sedated to have their nails trimmed. This makes a simple process very difficult and costly. Investing the time in your puppy now will eliminate this problem in the future.
When you trim your puppy’s nails, always have a product such as Quik Stop® on hand in case you do cut the quick by accident. This product helps to stop the bleeding quickly.
Cleaning your puppy’s teeth regularly will promote healthy gums and clean-smelling breath. Many puppies, though, are a bit concerned with having someone inside their mouths. Since your puppy’s teeth will need daily attention, you will want to get him comfortable with you working on them. To make this a pleasant experience, you will want to desensitise his mouth.
Start off slowly and take your puppy’s lead. Whenever he pulls away, squirms, bites, or cries, stop what you are doing. If you stop when he shows any sign of concern, he will soon begin to trust you. When your puppy’s concerns are ignored and you continue what you are doing, he can become fearful or show signs of aggression, which makes teeth cleaning harder on both you and your puppy. By acknowledging his concern and stopping what you are doing, you build trust with him.
You can begin desensitising his mouth by rubbing your finger on the outside of his lips gently. If he is comfortable with this light touch, you can slip your index finger into the mouth and rub his teeth and gums gently with your finger. After a few days, if you have stopped every time he showed any sign of concern, he will become comfortable with these touches.
Now it is time to introduce him to his toothbrush. Let him smell, lick, or bite on this new object. When he becomes bored with the toothbrush and looks away or ignores the brush, it is time to introduce it to his mouth. Begin by wetting the brush a little and using the dental cleanser you received from our practice. Never use human toothpaste; it is harmful to your puppy. Wet the brush to make it a bit more slippery so it does not stick to his lips.
Once the puppy is comfortable with having his teeth brushed, you can add a cue such as “Toothbrush time” or whatever word or words you would like to use to let him know it is time to get his teeth brushed. Since dogs are capable of learning by example, let your puppy be in the bathroom with you while you brush your teeth. When you are done cleaning your teeth, tell your puppy it is his turn to brush his. Many puppies will wait patiently and enjoy having their teeth cleaned.
Remember to move slowly when desensitizing your puppy’s mouth. Stop when he shows any sign of concern. Repeat the exercises a few times a day over many days. Your reward for the time and patience you give him now will last a lifetime.
Dogs are social animals. As a result, many puppies do not like to be left alone. Young dogs from 8 to 14 weeks of age are simply verbal during this period when isolated. If the behaviour is ignored when presented, it will dissipate over time until your puppy outgrows this period. Socialising your puppy is an important aspect of building his self-confidence.
Using a Crate
If you are concerned about leaving your puppy in the crate, it may help to know young dogs need to sleep about 18 hours a day! Even when you are home with your puppy, it is a good idea to put him in the crate a few times a day so he gets the rest he needs and you can control his environment.
If your puppy has had a chance to become comfortable in the crate while you are home, this will also help him become more comfortable when you leave. When you put your puppy in the crate, use one special toy your puppy gets only when he is in there. Hard rubber toys that you can put treats into will give him something to work on while awake in the crate.
Before putting your puppy in the crate, always give him an opportunity to relieve himself. This way, you will know if he starts to whine, cry, or bark when you put him in the crate it is not because he needs to relieve himself. It is because he does not want to be left alone. Your puppy is verbally trying to tell you to open the door of the crate to let him out.
Opening the crate for a barking, crying, or whining puppy is a big mistake. Since puppies are constantly learning, you will be teaching him that every time he cries, you will open the crate and let him out. If your puppy has not been properly introduced to the crate or you have any questions about crate training, please let us know and we can give you some helpful information on crate training.
When you are feeling guilty about leaving your puppy alone or in the crate, your puppy will pick up on what you are feeling. Long good-byes before leaving the house will only add to the problem. Without realizing it, you could be instigating the concerned or stressed behaviour.
Medication and Homeopathic Therapy
You may want to consider medication or homeopathic therapy for your puppy if he becomes concerned when left alone. Ask your vet which product would work best for your puppy.
Using a T-shirt
Another way you can boost your puppy’s confidence is with the help of a T-shirt. T-shirts give your puppy a better feel of his own body and help him to relax. The T-shirt should go over his head and fit snuggly on him. You want a T-shirt that goes all the way down to the end of his rib cage. If necessary, cut the sleeves on the T-shirt so they do not confine his front legs. This way, when the T-shirt is on, it will allow him to move around freely and will not be uncomfortable. Shirts that have spandex in them are great for this.
Put the T-shirt on the puppy for 15 minutes the first time, and then you can gradually work up the length of time until he can wear his T-shirt all day. Once your puppy is comfortable with the shirt, start putting it on him 10 to 15 minutes before leaving the house. To further ensure his self-confidence with being left alone, start using the T-shirt along with a confidence course you can put together at home.
Another way to address your puppy’s concerns is to desensitise him to you leaving the house. You can accomplish this by first breaking down what you actually do before you leave the house. Once you understand your pattern, you can begin to habituate him to each of the steps you take.
If your pattern is to put your shoes on before you walk out the door, then put your shoes on and stay in the house. At first, he may become very concerned about you putting your shoes on. However, when you stay in the house, he will realise you are not leaving, and he will settle down. After a little while, take your shoes off. A half hour later, put your shoes back on again, but stay in the house. Repeat this exercise a few times a day until your puppy ignores you when you put your shoes on.
If the next step in your pattern is to grab your keys, then begin the key-grabbing habituating just like you did the shoes. Repeat each pattern you offer before leaving the house separately until he becomes comfortable with every step. Once he is comfortable with the separate steps, it is time to walk out of the house.
Remember to not give any long goodbyes. Walk out of the house for just a minute, and then return inside. Once he is quiet, let him out of the crate. Repeat this exercise a few times a day, extending the time you leave him alone. In time, he will realise that when you leave, it does not mean you are leaving him forever. It just means you are leaving for a little while. Once he is comfortable knowing you will return, his anxiety should dissipate.
If you have tried all of the suggestions in this hand-out and your puppy is still distressed when left alone, please contact our practice to discuss additional options
Toilet Training/House Training
The following are the keys to successfully housetraining your puppy:
- Manage your puppy’s environment.
- Keep the puppy on a feeding schedule (routine).
- Pick up any food the puppy does not consume after 15 minutes.
- Always reward the correct behaviour (eliminating) when and where it happens.
- Always be consistent.
- sniff the ground
- others will circle
- some will raise their tails higher than normal
- some will sit by the door leading outside
- others will walk quickly and suddenly squat.
- Every puppy has his or her own style and signals. It is your job to learn your puppy’s signals.
- when they first get up in the morning
- after a nap
- after play periods
- 5 to 10 minutes after drinking
- 5 to 20 minutes after eating
- before they go into their crates
- when they first come out of their crates
- before going to bed at night
- During waking hours, puppies may need to eliminate every hour or so.
- the veterinary practice without needing to be examined
- visiting nursing homes
- going to parks
- seeing children running, screaming, and playing
- hearing loud noises, such as trains, motorcycles, and gunshots.
- You will also want to give your puppy opportunities to meet:
- the elderly
- people in wheelchairs
- people using canes, big hats, sunglasses, and costumes
- people in uniforms, such as police officers, postal workers, and delivery truck drivers
- Take your puppy for:
- rides in the car
- let him walk on different surfaces
- go for a ride in a lift
- take a nice walk through a park
- go to a ball game.
Basic Rules for Housetraining
Introduce a cue (word or words) to him when taking him to the designated elimination area, especially if the puppy is being trained to go outside. Do not take the puppy for a walk to eliminate. Instead, take him to a designated place to eliminate and give him about six feet of leash to walk around while you are standing somewhat still. Once he has done his business, mark the elimination that has occurred in the proper area and reward him with a treat or take him for a walk as a reward.
If you take the puppy for a walk to eliminate, the puppy can easily become distracted with all the different smells and sounds, and he may wait until he comes back inside the house to eliminate. The other reason a walk is not recommended for elimination is because puppies quickly learn that once they eliminate the walk is over.
They will learn to hold it as long as possible so the walk does not end. As the puppy’s ability to hold it grows, walks will take longer and longer while waiting for the puppy to eliminate. There will be times when you do not have the time to continue the walk, you will come back inside the house, and he will eliminate on the floor.
Bring a treat with you when you take him outside to eliminate. Offering special treats just for proper elimination can make the training easier. The only time your puppy gets this really great treat is when he eliminates in the designated area. The second he is done with his business, mark the elimination with a word like “yes” or use a click from a clicker, then reward the behaviour with the treat.
After rewarding the initial elimination, stand still and wait if you think the puppy needs to eliminate again. Once he is finished eliminating the second or third time, mark and reward the proper elimination each time he eliminates. However, do not get too excited when marking the elimination behaviour or you might distract him. A verbal “Yes, good boy” in a soft voice will suffice.
Avoid giving him the treat inside when he returns from outside. The puppy will want to return inside too quickly to get his treat. He will relate the treat to coming back into the house and not the elimination he just did. Then, instead of completely finishing all his business outside, he will want to go back inside to get his treat.
Manage Your Puppy’s Environment
You must constantly watch your puppy when he is not confined to a room, space, or crate. Accidents happen when you try to watch the puppy and cook, watch TV, do homework, or talk on the phone. Young puppies require constant supervision to understand what is expected of them with their new families and to learn what the rules are. When you are distracted, you may miss your puppy’s warning signals that tell you he is looking for a place to eliminate. Some puppies will:
When accidents occur—and they will—do not scold your puppy. This is very important! Scolding will cause many puppies to hide when relieving themselves so they do not get in trouble. This is why many new puppy parents end up finding surprises behind the couch or under tables. Elimination mistakes are usually the result of the puppy not being properly supervised. Paying close attention to him when he is not confined to his space will help prevent accidents from happening in the first place.
When an accident is in progress, make a short sound such as clapping your hands together to distract your puppy. Quickly scoop him up, if physically possible, and take him to the proper elimination area either outside or a wee-wee pad inside to finish his business.
Stay with him until he is finished, and remember to mark and reward him with a treat or walk for eliminating in the designated area. Clean the accident area with a product that will eliminate the odour completely. Do not use any products that contain ammonia, however. They only encourage future eliminations in the same place. Use products that are made specifically for this purpose.
Remember to put your puppy in his crate or confined area when you cannot manage his environment. Most puppies want to keep their sleeping area clean and will try to hold it as long as possible before eliminating there. Puppies need to eliminate on a fairly regular schedule/routine:
Small dogs can sometimes be a little more difficult to housetrain. They are very close to the ground, and you may not realise when your puppy is actually eliminating until it is too late. Keep a close eye on little ones to help them learn what you expect from them. Manage their environment carefully.
Teaching Your Puppy to Communicate
If you are taking your puppy outside to eliminate, it will be important to teach him how to tell you he needs to go outside in the future. You can begin working on this now by teaching your puppy to speak (bark) to let you know he needs to go outside.
Offer your puppy a special treat and tease him with the treat until he barks. The second the puppy barks, say the word “speak,” then mark the behaviour by using a word like “yes” or a click from a clicker. Reward him with the treat for barking. Repeat this exercise several times until he will speak on cue.
After he has learned to speak on cue, every time you take him outside, ask him if he wants to go outside, and give the cue “speak.” Mark the behaviour and reward him with a tiny treat, then take him outside to his designated elimination area. In time, he will learn to tell you he needs to go outside by barking.
As a general guide, you can confine an 8-week-old puppy for three hours, a 12-week-old puppy four hours, and a 16-week-old puppy for five hours before he will usually need to eliminate. If he does not get a chance to relieve himself within that time frame, you may end up with him soiling his area. Do not get upset with him if this occurs; he simply could not hold it any longer. This was the result of human error, not your puppy’s mistake.
If he is sleeping, you do not have to wake him up to go outside. Wait for him to wake up on his own before you take him to his designated elimination area. Remember to take the treats with you when you go outside so you will be ready to mark and reward him for eliminating in the proper area. House (toilet) training takes time, patience, and consistency.
Toilet Training Troubleshooting
Suppose it has been more than a month since your puppy had an accident in the house. You think your job is complete and your puppy is now housetrained. Then, more housetraining accidents start to appear. What happened?
The puppy may have a medical problem, such as an infection, and needs to be seen by our vet.
You forgot to teach him a cue that lets the puppy alert you to the fact he needs to go outside. If this happened, go back to the basics and introduce the cue (word or words).
Cues such as “Outside,” “Let’s go outside,” “Do you want to go outside?” are appropriate. You can use any word or words you choose, just be sure to use the same word or words consistently. Your puppy can learn to respond by getting excited, barking, or sitting.
You forgot to teach your puppy to communicate with you when he needs to go outside. This can be accomplished by teaching him to speak (bark), sit, or even ring a bell that is hung on the door you use when taking him outside. You may also use a bell placed on the floor for your puppy to ring to let you know he needs to go out.
You take your puppy for a walk, and he comes in the house to eliminate. Since puppies are constantly learning, the puppy now realises that once he eliminates, the enjoyable walk comes to an end. As a result, he holds it as long as possible. You run out of time to keep walking him and come back inside. The walk has ended and the puppy forgot to eliminate while outside or did not want to because he didn’t want the walk to be over.
Either way, the puppy eliminates in the house. If this has happened, return to the basics and take the puppy to the designated elimination area. Stand there for a few minutes and wait until he eliminates. If he does, mark and reward him. If he does not eliminate in the elimination area, take him back inside and confine him to either his crate or a designated area. Wait 10 to 15 minutes and repeat the exercise.
This must be continued until he finally eliminates outside. Mark the behaviour (elimination) with “Yes” or a click from a clicker. Now take your puppy for a nice walk as the reward. You will need to repeat this exercise every time he needs to go out over the next several days until he understands that walks happen only after the elimination occurs.
Your puppy does half of his eliminating outside and the other half of his eliminating inside. This can happen when treats are given to the puppy inside the house instead of outside where the elimination occurred. The puppy thinks he is being rewarded for coming into the house and, in turn, he hurries to get back into the house for his reward. Your puppy cannot relate the reward to the desired behaviour when the behaviour is performed at one location and the reward is given at another location.
Rewarding your puppy in a different location only confuses him. To address this issue, take the treats outside with you and be ready to mark and reward him as soon as the elimination occurs. If you know he is not done, be patient. Stand there and wait for the next elimination.
Once it has occurred, mark and reward immediately at the location of the elimination. After a few days, he will connect the wonderful treats with eliminating and will want to do as much eliminating as possible while outside to receive the rewards. If you are still having problems with your puppy soiling in the house, please contact our practice. Your puppy may be dealing with a health issue.
Puppies are full of energy and require lots of exercise. Just like children, they need lots of opportunities and time for play. The timing of exercise, attention, and playtime should be your choice, not the puppy’s. When your puppy tries to get your attention by jumping, lunging, biting, licking, barking, or nipping at your clothes, it is important that you ignore him and walk away.
Paying attention to your puppy when he is demanding your attention is not a good idea.
Keep your puppy close to you when working with this behaviour. Put your puppy on a leash so you will have more control. You may find it easier at times to step on the leash when he is acting out. This will protect you or others and allow you to ignore him when necessary.
When you step on the lead, allow your puppy enough room (about two to three feet from the clip to your foot) so that he does not feel pinned down. If he acts in a way that warrants stepping on the leash, look away and wait out his demanding and excitable behaviour. It is important that your puppy not be able to hurt you by jumping up, grabbing your clothing, or nipping at your skin.
The more opportunities you have to work with this behaviour, the faster it will stop. Here are some basic guidelines to help you teach your puppy self-control and good manners:
Never allow your puppy to initiate play with you or other family members. You or the other family members should always be the ones to start play, not your puppy. However, if your puppy brings you a toy and you have the time to play with him, ask him to sit and then play with him as a reward.
You should decide when playtime is over, not your puppy. Keep play sessions short (about five minutes) so that you can be the one to decide when playtime is over.
Offer petting, scratching, and other forms of attention only to quiet puppies. Any rambunctious behaviours are ignored.
If the puppy jumps up, cross your arms over your chest to protect your face, arms, and fingers, turn your back on the puppy, and take a step forward. If he jumps up again, step on the leash to make sure he cannot hurt you, and take all your attention away from him.
Take all attention away from your puppy if he tries to demand your attention. This includes nudging your arm with his nose or barking at you for attention. Do not say a word. Look away, stand up, and walk away from him. When your puppy is settled and quiet, walk over to him, softly pet him, and say “Yes, good, quiet.” If he jumps up on you, walk away and try again when he is lying quietly.
When he accepts the quiet petting, mark the quiet behaviour with “Yes, good, quiet,” and reward him with a soft, long pet. This will send a clear message to him that he will get your attention and rewards when he is quiet.
When it is time to feed the puppy, ask him for a sit before offering the meal. If he jumps up, do not feed him. Place the meal in the refrigerator or in a cabinet and walk away. Wait a minute or two for him to calm down and repeat the exercise. Once he remains seated for just a few seconds, quickly place the food dish on the floor and release him from the sit position.
This will help teach him patience and self-control. If you are not successful after trying a couple of times, feed your puppy his normal meal. Set aside time to work on the sit cue with him before trying this exercise again. (If the puppy is not proficient with the sit cue, ask one of our nurses (Patient Behaviour Advocate) for the hand out on teaching sit.)
A demanding puppy becomes a demanding dog, and demanding dogs can become aggressive dogs quickly. When you take all energy and attention away from this demanding and excitable behaviour, it will diminish. If your puppy is so out of control you cannot manage him, put him in his crate for a time-out.
This gives him some time to calm down and may be necessary for only a few minutes. If you put him in his crate, do not open the door of the crate when he is barking. Opening the crate when your puppy is barking means he is making demands and training you.
Remember, everything should be done when you say, not when your puppy demands it. After consistently working with him for a few weeks, you should begin to notice a change in his behaviour.
Many puppies will jump up on their new family members for attention. In response, many people will reach down and pet their puppies without realising the consequences. Rewarding the puppy with attention when he jumps on you ensures the behaviour of jumping on people will continue. As your puppy grows in size and weight, jumping can get out of hand, be uncomfortable to live with, and be potentially dangerous.
Never pay attention to your puppy if he does not have all four paws on the floor. If your puppy is already jumping, take him into a small room of the house and re-create the scenario that caused him to jump on you. The second he starts to jump up on you, quickly walk out of the room and close the door. Wait 20 or 30 seconds, go back into the room, and greet him just like you did before.
If he jumps on you again, repeat this exercise several times until he can keep all four paws on the floor when you walk into the room. This may take a few weeks, so after a few tries in each session, ask your puppy to sit, then mark and reward him to end your training session on a positive note.
If you walk into the room and he does keep all four paws on the floor, mark and reward him immediately by petting him or giving him an ear scratch.
As the behaviour starts to diminish, you can put your puppy on a leash and let him out of the room. If he jumps on you when he is outside of the room, cross your arms over your chest and look away from him.
Once all four of his paws are on the floor, mark the behaviour with the word “yes” and give an ear scratch as a reward. Crossing your arms over your chest serves two functions: It ensures your face is protected and it protects your arms and fingers from being bitten or scratched by your puppy while he is jumping.
If crossing your arms and ignoring him does not seem to work, it is time to use a lead. Put a four- to six-foot lead on him. Give him about three feet of leash and then step on the remainder. When the puppy tries to jump up,
the leash will cause himto self-correct.
The second all four paws are on the floor, mark and reward with an ear
scratch. Once you feel the puppy understands that you do not want himto jump on you, introduce treats when he
self-corrects his jumping behaviour without the help of a lead.
When your puppy tries to jump up on you, you can take a step forward into his space. This will cause himto
want to back up. To back up, he will need all four paws on the floor. The second all four paws hit the floor, mark
and reward the four paws on the floor.
You can also try taking one giant step backward. Your puppy will not have your body to lean on and his front
paws will have to go on the floor in order for him to keep his balance. The second all four paws are on the floor,
mark and reward with an ear scratch.
If your puppy jumps on guests coming into your home, you can ask themto take a giant step backward or take a
step forward toward your puppy. The second the puppy’s feet hit the floor, ask your visitor to mark the behaviour and
then give the puppy a little ear scratch as a reward. Guests should also be asked not to pet your puppy unless all four paws are on the floor.
Grabbing your dog’s paws and squeezing, or kneeing your dog in the chest, are hurtful methods and in most cases
are not successful training methods. You can also end up with additional behaviour problems. For example, these
methods may cause your dog to not trust you touching his paws, making nail trimming a difficult task. Kneeing
your dog in the chest can cause physical harm to your puppy, perhaps even a cracked rib.
If you enjoy your dog jumping on you but others do not, you can train himto jump up on cue. This behaviour can
be trained by giving the jumping behaviour a cue (word) every time he jumps on you. You can use the word “up,” if he
jumps up on you without being invited, then use one of the methods described above to stop or ignore the uninvited
A jumping puppy can be a danger, and accidents can occur. Jumping puppies can accidentally knock over an eld-
erly person or a child, causing physical harm. A jumping puppy can scratch skin, rip clothing, and sometimes cause unintentional bites to the face.
Even if your dog loves people, he still needs to practice self-control and good manners. Greeting people with all
four paws on the floor is a much safer, gentler, and more appropriate way for your puppy to behave.
When your puppy pulls on a lead, he is trying to get from point A to point B faster than you are. When your young dog pulls on the lead, stop walking and wait for him to turn and look back at you. The moment he turns his attention toward you, mark the behaviour (paying attention to you) with a word like “yes” or click your clicker and have him come to you for the reward.
Consistency is the key. You must stop any forward movement every time he pulls on the leash. Wait for him to pay attention to you and then mark and reward the correct behaviour. You can also take a step or two backward or change direction if he is still pulling on the lead.
Another way to address leash pulling with your puppy is to tether him to your waist with a lead. A six-foot lead should be used when using the tethering method. Make sure your puppy is light enough to not pull you off balance. You do not want to get hurt in the process. Begin using the tether inside the house at first. Once he has adjusted to being within the lead distance from you, try the tether outside. This method can get him used to going only a few feet ahead of you.
When the puppy is where you want him, next to your side or walking on a loose lead, gently give him a few little pats on the head or mark with “yes” or a click from your clicker so he begins to understand what you want him to do: to walk on a loose lead. Every so often, you can give him a treat for being such a good boy.
These methods work with some puppies, but not all. Many puppies have lots of energy and can experience a bit of a challenge walking at our slower pace. For these dogs, some wonderful training aids can help with leash pulling. Two of the tools you can use are head collars and halters.
When using any kind of head collar, you will want to first desensitise your dog to wearing it. Some dogs are concerned when you first try to fit them with head collars, and a halter may be a better option to start with.
Head collars and halters are training tools and should be used as such. Once your puppy has stopped pulling on the leash, you can gradually go from the head collar or halter to a flat-buckled collar, based on whether your puppy is still trying to pull.
When taking your dog for a leisurely walk as a reward for relieving himself, do not expect him to walk at a heel position. Heeling (dog taught to walk exactly at your knee and hold that position) is good to use in a crowded situation or in the obedience ring. It is not a normal position for any animal for walking.
Heeling does not give the puppy an opportunity to check out all the interesting smells that attract his attention. It is believed that dogs learn many things about other animals through their ability to smell where other animals have been. Give your puppy that opportunity.
Getting Puppy used to his Lead
To get your puppy comfortable with his lead, clip the lead onto the collar or harness. Once attached, take a few steps in front of him while holding the leash in your hand. Say the words “Let’s go.” If your puppy starts pulling away or freezes, offer him a treat a few inches in front of his nose. Keep the food just far enough away that he will have to take one step forward to get to it. The second the first step is taken, mark the forward movement with “Yes” or a click from your clicker and give him the treat for his bravery.
Repeat the exercise, but this time place the treat far enough away that he will need to take two or three steps to reach the wonderful treat you are offering. Coax and encourage him to move forward. Do not pull or force him to move forward with the lead. Once he does take those steps, mark and reward the forward movement quickly. Repeat the exercise many times until your puppy is joyfully waiting for the next treat and willing to take more and more steps to reach it.
Once the puppy realises the lead is a good thing, then it is time for a real walk. Always have some treats ready to use as rewards in case he gets a little concerned along the way. If you do not want him to pull you when on a lead, do not pull him.
If he starts biting on the lead, ignore the lead biting and keep on walking. It is better to replace a lead or two now than many leads later in his life. When your puppy receives attention from acting out when biting on the lead, then the behaviour will increase in intensity and duration.
If the lead biting is ignored, it will diminish in intensity and duration and it will stop.
Loud noises, such as motorcycles, gunshots, thunder, loud music, garbage trucks, and so forth, can bother some puppies. If it does not bother you, nine out of ten times it will not bother your puppy. If it does bother you, then in many cases it will also bother your puppy. He will pick up emotional cues from you and act accordingly. Always show confidence in what you are doing with him. He will sense it and be more comfortable.
If your puppy is concerned about loud noises, introduce him slowly to different sounds. You can distract him with an ear scratch, a toy, or a treat. Gradually increase the intensity of the noise as he becomes comfortable at each level. Proceed at your puppy’s pace; you want to desensitise him gradually to loud sounds.
If you live in a quiet place, you may want to expose him to a sound CD (e.g. “Sounds Scary” CD – available at our practice). Just because it is quiet today does not mean five years from now you won’t be living somewhere with violent thunderstorms, backfiring trucks, or fireworks. The process of desensitisation can be used for any object or situation that frightens your puppy.
Remember, it is a gradual process, and taking small steps is extremely important. If you have any additional questions, please contact our practice, as desensitisation and/or medication may be needed in some cases to help your puppy cope.
Learning his Name
It is essential for every puppy to learn his name. When your puppy learns to turn his attention to you when he hears his name, it can help with any behaviour you are teaching him. Having his attention makes training easier.
To train him to pay attention to you whenever he hears you call his name, take a wonderful-smelling treat and let him sniff it. Once he smells that wonderful treat, say his name. At the same time, bring the treat up between your eyes. When he looks you in the eyes (where you have the treat), mark the behaviour with a “yes” or a click from your clicker and give him that great treat. If you lose his attention, you may have moved your hand too quickly from his nose to your eyes or the treat you are using to lure him has no value to him.
Find a treat he really enjoys when training this behaviour. Try again, only this time move slower. Again, the second he looks at the treat between your eyes, mark and reward him with the treat in your hand.
Practise a number of times a day until he becomes accustomed to looking you in the eyes every time he hears his name and follows the treat up to your eyes. Once he is consistently looking you in the eyes every time you show him the treat, it is time to begin losing the lure (the exposed treat in your hand).
Try the same exercise without the treat in your hand but using the same hand motion. This time when he looks up at you, mark and reward him with a jackpot (many small treats given one at a time). Repeat this step several times a day over the next few days. When he looks at you every time you call his name using the hand gestures, it is time to move to the next step.
Now, with your hands at your sides, call his name. The second he turns to look at you, quickly mark the behaviour and reward him with a jackpot of treats. Continue working on this behaviour over the next few days. Once he is consistently looking you in the eyes every time you call his name, it is time to make it a bit more challenging for him. While your puppy is lying on the floor playing with a toy, call his name. When he stops playing with the toy to look at you, mark and reward him with a jackpot of treats. Repeat this only a few times a day over the next few days.
Once he is consistently willing to take his attention off his toy to look at you, it is time to add other distractions, but just once in a while. These other distractions could include calling his name while people are playing with him, while he is playing with other animals, or even while he is eating his meals.
Training your puppy to take his attention off anything he is doing to pay attention to you is a wonderful skill and something for you to be very proud of. When you have his attention every time you call his name, training new behaviours will be easier.
Shy, Timid and Fearful Puppies
Fear is an unpleasant emotion for humans and animals. Keeping this in mind will assist you in being patient and understanding with your puppy as you help him build confidence through socialisation and desensitisation. It is extremely important that you move slowly in the socialisation and desensitisation processes. Always work at your puppy’s pace.
Try not to force, pull, or demand anything unless you, your puppy, or others are in danger. Never scold him harshly or punish him in any way. This will only make him more concerned with his new world.
Getting timid puppies to wear a collar, walk on a leash, or allow anyone to pet them can be very challenging. The best thing you can do is to let your puppy experience new things at his own pace. If he pulls away from you, stop what you are doing. If your puppy freezes, stop what you are doing. The faster you stop what you are doing, the easier it will be for both you and your puppy the next time the same situation occurs.
Dogs are very good at trusting us. We can build this trust if we let them know quickly we are listening to them (by watching and interpreting their body language) and we are willing to accommodate their fear by responding to them. Stopping what you are doing when your puppy gives you a signal that he doesn’t want you to continue lets your puppy know you are paying attention to his concerns.
Knowing you are listening will help him trust you and begin to trust others.
When Dealing with Strangers
Other people should not try to pet your puppy unless he first actively moves toward them for a pet. Many shy, timid and fearful puppies are more willing to get a treat than to be petted by strangers. Have the new person offer your puppy a treat. If he does not want to take the treat from the stranger, have the person throw a treat gently toward him, so he will not have to get too close to the person to receive it.
Do this many times with different people until the puppy is comfortable walking up to a stranger for a treat. Strangers can gradually drop the treats closer and closer to themselves until he feels comfortable getting the treat right out of the person’s hand. Repeating this exercise a few times a day over a few weeks can help build your puppy’s confidence.
The Do-Not-Carry Rule
Carrying your puppy from point A to point B should be done as little as possible. When you or other family members are constantly carrying your puppy, you are sending him a message that he cannot handle anything on his own. Although it may be difficult for you to not carry your puppy a lot, letting him experience life with all four paws on the floor will be better for him in the long run.
Teaching your Puppy to Sit
There are three basic steps when teaching your puppy this cue:
Lure. Put a treat just above the puppy’s nose and move the treat slowly up over his head so he will need to look up to follow the treat. When most puppies’ noses go up, their rears go down into the sit position, which is exactly what you want.
Mark. The second your puppy’s rear hits the floor, say a word such as “yes” or give a click from a clicker to mark the behaviour (rear on floor). This lets your puppy know that was the behaviour you wanted.
Reward. Give your puppy a tasty treat, but make sure he receives it while his rear is still on the floor or you will be rewarding the wrong behaviour. The correct position is rear on floor to receive his reward. A reward reinforces the behaviour the puppy gave you; in this case, it is the sit.
Once your puppy is consistent at sitting promptly every time you give him the command and show him the lure, change the lure into a reward. This can be accomplished by moving your hands the same way, but without any treats in them. Add the verbal cue “sit” at the same time you are moving your hand over his head. The second his rear hits the floor, mark and reward him quickly. With a little time and practice, you can stop using your hands entirely and merely give the cue “sit.”
It is very important to change the lure at the beginning into a reward only for completing the behaviour, or your puppy will listen to you only when he sees a treat. The first time he sits without you showing him a treat, jackpot him for a good job. Instead of just one treat, a jackpot will be four or five tiny treats in a row. This will let him know he did a great job.
The finished behaviour has three basic steps: cue, mark, and reward.
Cue. Say the cue “sit.”
Mark. The moment the puppy’s rear hits the floor, offer a “yes” or a click.
Reward. Give the puppy a treat to reinforce the sit behaviour he just gave you.
Helping Your Puppy Generalise the Cue
If you are teaching your puppy to sit in front of you, start asking for the sit at your side. You are asking for a new behaviour, as dogs do not generalise well. When you teach your puppy to sit at your side, train the same way you did when asking for the sit when he was in front of you.
Once he is consistent in front of you and at your side, it is time to introduce new environments, such as a different room, then outside, then from across the room, and so forth. Each step takes time. You can also begin to add other places, being given the cue by different people, and adding distractions. Now he will understand that sit means put rear on floor.
Many new puppy parents think their puppies are stubborn, hard-headed, or have selective hearing because they will not sit when they ask for the cue. In many cases, however, it is because the puppy parent did not teach the puppy the cue in many places or with distractions.
Another reason that some puppies do not sit on cue is because they were habituated to the cue sit. This can happen when puppy parents repeat the cue more than once by saying “sit, sit, sit.” Repeating a cue habituates the puppy to the cue. If you must repeat the cue, take a step to the right or left first, get your puppy’s attention, and then repeat the cue once.
Some puppies resist the above method by backing up. You can address this resistance in several ways. You can ask for the cue in a corner so that the puppy is restricted as to how far he can back up, or you can try asking for the sit on a different surface.
For some puppies, you can use a rug or pillow as a different texture to sit on. This can make a difference when the cue is first being taught. Once the puppy is consistently sitting on the special surface, you can train him in new places on different surfaces.
If you find that your puppy seems to be resisting the cue sit, do not push or force his rear down to the floor. There may be a medical reason for this resistance. Instead, contact our practice and set up an appointment for a complete examination.
Socialisation is the process of introducing your puppy to new people, places, things, and experiences he will likely encounter in his lifetime as part of your family. This may include exposure to:
These are wonderful experiences for your puppy and can be great fun. Allow your puppy to become comfortable with one socialisation opportunity at a time until he seems comfortable with each situation before moving on to new or different experiences. You will not want to overload him with too much information too quickly.
It is important that you introduce your puppy to other animal species (such as cats, rabbits, horses, or goats), as well as other dogs. Introduce him not just to other animal members of your family, or next-door neighbours, but to all types—big, small, young, and old. Before you introduce your puppy to other animals, make sure that the other animals are properly vaccinated. It is important the other animals do not have a problem with puppies, though, or you will defeat the purpose of this interaction.
When introducing your puppy to other people, never hold him to receive a pet. Instead, let him meet the person at his own pace. If he does not want to greet the person, do not force the experience. Thank the person for his or her time and move on. Try introducing him to other people again and again until he is willing to go up to the person and receive a treat that you gave them to give to him. Once your puppy learns that other people are wonderful creatures, you have accomplished your socialisation mission with people.
If your puppy is a smaller breed, make sure not to carry him everywhere. You are not protecting him; instead, you are telling him that he is too small to handle anything on his own. If you continue carrying him around, he may bark at other dogs, animals, and people for the rest of his life.
Pushing, pulling, or forcing your puppy in any way defeats the entire socialisation experience. It is important that you build gradually on his successes. Socialising your puppy can be a wonderful and fun time for both of you.
A collar, a lead, car rides, sporting events, loud music, trains, planes, cars, stairs, and parties to go to are all new and exciting experiences for a puppy.
One of the best things you can do for your puppy is to enrol him in a puppy class if there is one available. Make sure the trainer does not use any harsh corrections on your puppy, and if the trainer tells you to do anything harsh to your puppy, leave the class and do not go back. These early months set the foundation for his future, and young dogs (under 12 months old) go through two to three fear periods. Emotional or physical harm done during the first year can last a lifetime.
You will want your puppy to be comfortable walking on, over, and through anything you would want to walk through. So introduce him to those textures while he is young. Some examples of textures you can use include grass, sand, cement, gravel, plastic bags, rocks, plastic bags with water sprayed on them (makes them slick), water puddles, bridges, collapsed cardboard boxes, ice, snow, and carpets. Let your puppy approach every new texture at his own pace to build his confidence.
Building Confidence by Using a Confidence Course
A small, easy-to-assemble confidence course can do wonders to build your puppy’s confidence. The confidence course should consist of things he can walk on, over, or through. Be creative and use items already in your home. You can use a big plastic garbage bag and place it on the floor for him to walk on. You can use a mop or broom handle for him to walk over.
You can use a hula hoop for him to walk over or through. Styrofoam blocks give your puppy something to step over. An umbrella can be used to help your puppy get over a fear of new objects. Be creative and use your imagination. As he becomes used to one new item, add a second item. Always introduce one obstacle at a time until he is comfortable walking on, over, or through the item before introducing him to a new item.
You always want to move at your puppy’s pace and build on his successes. When using a confidence course, put his collar and leash on the puppy and ask him to slowly walk through the course. Many puppies, especially in the 6 to 18 months age range, want to fly through the obstacles; however, this does not help anything. When you take your puppy through the course, take a few steps and stop. Pet him for a few seconds and take a few more steps. It is important that he does this slowly. You will want him to pay attention to what he is doing. Slow walking with frequent stops helps him to pay attention. Any item that offers a different experience will work, so use your imagination. In a few weeks, this can help many puppies be more confident, especially when left alone.
Socialisation with Children
Puppies and children should never be left unsupervised! Although they often have an affinity for one another and form a very strong bond, it is still a good idea to keep an eye on them when they are together. Left unsupervised, a puppy may bite a child in self-defence. Without proper supervision, it is difficult to identify the instigator and correct the problem. Children are often unknowingly unkind to animals, and the puppy is wrongly blamed for his response to the unkindness.
To some puppies, children are noisy, fast-moving objects with tempting flying hot dogs for fingers. Some puppies take it all in stride, but others become overwhelmed with too much stimuli happening too quickly for their comfort level.
When introductions are made, it is important to supervise the introductions. Children must be taught how to interact with animals safely. At first, instruct children to wait until the puppy approaches them before petting. They should be taught to respect when the puppy pulls away from them and to never bother the puppy when he is in his crate.
For the initial introductions, ask your child to approach the puppy from the side, never straight toward the new puppy. Ask your child to stop about three feet away from the puppy and extend one hand out to the puppy with the palm down. Allow the puppy to come up to sniff the extended hand. Once your puppy stands next to your child, the child can begin to pet the puppy on his side.
If the puppy backs away from the child, do not force the interaction. Giving your puppy the time he needs today will help build a strong relationship between your child and the new puppy. Proper introductions will ensure that your child and puppy develop a healthy bond and become friends for life!
When your child does get that opportunity to actually pet the new puppy, explain the importance of petting the puppy gently and speaking softly. During the early stages of developing a relationship between your child and the new puppy, it is important that the child be instructed to avoid petting the puppy on the head, as many puppies are head shy. Once the puppy becomes more comfortable with the child, pats on the head can be added if the puppy does not shy away from the hand reaching over his head. If the puppy pulls away, head pats should not be allowed for a bit longer.
Over time, with proper supervision, your child and puppy will have a very special relationship. If you have a few children, introduce the puppy to one child at a time, not all at the same time. They will be very excited, but this is not a relationship you want spoiled. Time, patience, understanding, and consistency are the recipe for a wonderful relationship between your children and their new puppy.
If your puppy is shy, timid, or fearful you will need to move very slowly in building this bond. If the puppy pulls away from your child, explain to your child that the puppy is a little shy right now and will need time to be comfortable. You can let the child offer the puppy a treat. If the puppy walks up for the treat, that is a great start. If the puppy is afraid to approach the child, let the child drop the treat on the floor and take a few steps back so the puppy can get the treat. After a few treat opportunities, the puppy will become conditioned to the idea that when the child is near, good things happen.
If the treats do not encourage the puppy to go to the child, explain to the child that the puppy is not brave enough right now and the puppy may feel a little braver next time. Most children are very understanding about such timid behaviour and are willing to wait.
As a safety precaution, tell your children they should never approach a strange dog without the dog owner’s permission. Any contact with strange dogs should be supervised by you as well as the dog owner. The same approach outlined above should be made to strange dogs. Always approach a dog from the side and not head-on. Do not reach over a strange dog’s head as this could be misinterpreted.
When teaching the cue stay, it is easiest to train from the down or sit position. Just like down and sit, the cue stay requires a release word. You can use the words “Free dog” or “Okay.” If you are a fan of the movie Babe, you can even use the words “That’ll do.”
Whichever word or words you choose to release your puppy from a stay position is fine as long as you remain consistent.
When teaching this cue, first ask your puppy to do sit or down. Say the word “Stay” verbally, and use the hand signal of an open hand, fingers together in front of his face. Stand up straight, be still, and wait a few seconds. Mark the behaviour quietly with a “Yes” or a click from your clicker and then reward and release him from the cue.
Never offer the mark or reward for staying unless he has not moved. If you put him in a sit/stay position, the mark and reward are given only if he is still in the same position he started from. If he breaks the sit/stay before you get the chance to mark, reward, and release, do not offer the mark or reward.
If he breaks the sit/stay after the mark but before the reward, do not offer the reward. When you offer the mark or reward when the puppy has moved before being released, you are rewarding the wrong behaviour. This will only confuse him. You asked for a sit/stay so the sit/stay is what you mark, reward, and release.
When you begin training the stay behaviour, you can gradually increase the length of time before you mark, reward, and release. Start off by asking for a three-second stay, and then ask for five seconds, then ten, twenty, and thirty seconds. Each time you ask for the behaviour, remember to mark, reward, and release the stay cue.
It is important to keep eye contact with the puppy when training this behaviour. Watch your puppy closely for signs that tell you he is going to break the cue. He may begin to wiggle or adjust his body, a sign that he may be losing interest. Once you see any of these signs, quickly mark, reward, and release him from the sit/stay (or down/stay).
By paying close attention to his body language, you can help him be successful. If you do not see the signs, he may break the behaviour before you have had a chance to mark, reward, and release him.
Once your puppy is staying for 30 seconds in one room of the house, begin to train the stay in other rooms until he has learned the cue stay in a few different rooms. Now that he can reliably stay for 30 seconds, it is time to lengthen the space between where you are standing and the puppy.
Start off asking for the stay right in front of him. Once he is in the stay position for a few seconds, repeat the word “Stay,” as well as the hand signal; then take a step back away from him. If he is staying quietly after a few seconds, step back into your original position. Give the mark, reward, and release. If he breaks the stay cue when you take the step back, simply return to him and put him into the exact same position again. Ask for the sit/stay in the same location you did the first time so he can begin to understand that stay means to stay exactly where you put him.
Next time you train this behaviour and you get ready to take a step away, make it a very small step. Repeat the sit/stay cue verbally and with the hand signal. If he can stay for just a few seconds, step back into your original position. Mark, reward, and release him. Always give your puppy a chance to build on his successes.
Repeat this exercise many times over many months while gradually extending the distance between you and your puppy. Each time you train the cue sit/stay, start off in front of him. As you begin to lengthen your distance, take steps backward. Do not turn your back on him yet. The cue stay must be well established before you can turn away from him when you ask for the cue. Right now, he is just learning to deal with the distance between the two of you.
When the puppy can hold the sit/stay and you can back away 10 or 20 feet, he is ready for the next step in training this cue, adding distractions. While he is in a sit/stay or down/stay position and you are across the room from him, repeat the stay cue both verbally and with the hand signal.
Take a few steps to the right, stop, and face him, repeating the hand and verbal cue. If you notice him twitching, he may be getting concerned and ready to break the cue. Repeat the cue “Stay” as you walk back to where you started. Encourage the stay every step of the way, and if necessary repeat the cue “Stay” until you are standing in front of him. Once you are in front of him, quickly mark, reward, and release him. Repeat this exercise many times over many weeks until you can take steps to the right and left and he holds the sit/stay or down/stay position.
Next, you can make it a little more challenging for the puppy. When he is in a sit/stay or a down/stay, take a ball and gently roll it across the floor. If you see him squirming and wanting to go get the ball, repeat the cue both verbally and with the hand signal as you walk back to him.
Once in front of him, mark and reward with many small treats this time for a job well done, and release him. Once he has been released, let him go get the ball and play together for a few minutes. Repeat the exercise later that day or later during the week until he can be still when he sees the ball roll across the floor.
With all training exercises it is important to remember that dogs do not generalise well. As a result, they must be taught the same cue in many different locations, possibly with different people, and with many different distractions until they can understand stay means stay where you are, even if toys, children, and wonderful treats are just a few feet away.
The cue stay can be a real challenge for puppies to learn. (Humans, too, can have a challenge with learning to stay still.) Be patient, and take small steps forward in your training. It is your job to help your puppy be successful at learning our language.
Whenever training, always end your training sessions on a positive note. If he is having problems staying still, ask him to sit, and mark and reward him for the sit. For now the training session is over. Short sessions that end on a positive note, sprinkled throughout the day, will achieve wonderful results.
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