What your puppy learns about people and his environment now will stay with him for the rest of his life. From his fourth to twelfth week a puppy acquires almost all of his adult sensory, motor and learning abilities. The more loving interaction you establish now, the stronger the bond your dog will have with you later. Plan to spend at least two periods a day playing with your puppy. Use playtime to teach your puppy the basic training commands.
As soon as your veterinarian says it’s safe, you should also begin exposing your puppy to as much of the outside world as possible. Introduce your pup to a variety of positive experiences. Visits three new places a week and introduce him to five new people at each place (find a variety of people). Take your pup on regular car rides-use a carrier to insure safer driving.
Puppies may be predisposed to developing phobias between 8 and 11 weeks of age. During this time, you may want to be cautious when exposing your puppy to particularly stressful experiences, like large crowds and unusually loud noises. If he does become frightened, reassure him in a cheerful voice and pass it off quickly. Keep in mind; your puppy will sense feelings from you, so keep your response fairly matter-of-fact. Too much attention to a frightening experience may actually encourage a phobia.
Brush your pup daily with lots of affection and reassurance to make it a special time for both of you. At the same time, handle your pup’s feet and ears and open his mouth for inspection. Massage him all over. If the pup fusses, say “no” firmly. When he is quiet, talk to him in a soft, pleasant voice. Similarly, teaching your puppy to allow you to wipe his paws now will be a real asset when he’s full grown, bounding inside with wet feet on a rainy day!
Leash Training Fundamentals
Complete leash training is a gradual process. However, the fundamentals of leash training are an essential part of basic puppy training. Begin by having your puppy wear a collar. She may resist this at first but do not give in; for the safety of your puppy this is one rule that must not be broken. Once your puppy is used to the collar, begin letting her drag her leash around the house, under your supervision. When it’s potty time, guide the puppy to her potty place on her leash. Get her used to walking on your left side by simply placing her there each and every time you take her outside. Most puppies learn to love their leash since it’s a signal they’re going outside – and puppies love to explore!
Once your puppy is used to her leash, you can introduce the command, “Heel.” Stand with your puppy at your left side and start your walk. Talk to your puppy and keep her focused on you by making yourself the most interesting thing in her line of sight. When she becomes distracted and runs ahead, as she undoubtedly will, call her name and say, “Heel,” and make an abrupt U-turn to the right. She will find herself behind you and hurry back to your side. Praise her and repeat. Make it fun for your puppy to heel with your praise and excitement and she will learn quickly.
This basic training command should be started from the first day you bring your puppy home. As with all the basic commands, you should announce your intention by calling his name first, followed by the one word command – i.e., “Max, come!” Make the invitation as inviting as possible by using an enthusiastic voice. When he stumbles to you, praise generously. If he doesn’t come immediately, give a tug on his leash, then guide him to you.
If you’re having trouble getting your puppy to come, examine your technique. Are you using his name, getting his attention? Squat down to his level and put a lot of energy into an enthusiastic command. Praise lavishly and repeat quickly – puppies typically enjoy learning to come to their leader. Never use “Come” in an angry tone or to call our puppy for a punishment. “Come” must be seen as a positive behavior.
Teaching your puppy to sit can keep him out of a world of trouble and do wonderful things for your relationship – and by eight weeks of age, he’s ready to learn this basic command. Start by getting your puppy’s attention, then using his name and the command, “Max, sit,” gently help your dog to a sitting position by folding his back legs under his bottom. Once sitting, praise him. Repeat the exercise often to reinforce the training.
You can also teach, “Sit” with a food reward. Using a kibble of Purina Puppy Chow, show your puppy the food. Once you have his attention, have him follow the treat as you move it slowly up and over his head. As the puppy follows the food, he will have to sit.
“Sit” is an excellent command to teach a puppy for praise. Once it’s established in his mind that sitting is the sure way to receive praise, you will never have to worry about your puppy jumping on you or other people for attention.