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Three tips to win and keep your puppy's trust

1. Make sure that when you call them, they experience something good every time

  • I like to keep treats handy in a pouch I wear on my belt

  • Some puppies respond to praise and rump scratches, others may enjoy playing tug or chasing a tossed toy.

  • Make sure you know what your pup prefers and what their face looks like when they're pleased and when they're not. Treats are almost always a safe bet. The reward-value of petting and play can depend on the situation.

A puppy looks at the camera with a mischievous expression, surrounding by fragments of cardboard from the box she's chewing to pieces
This puppy is having lots of fun chewing up a shoebox

Always be a safe place for your puppy to come to. No matter how naughty they're being, if you call them and they leave the scene of the crime to come to you, let them know they've done something wonderful.

  • Their attention span is short, so if you scold, they attach your attitude to the most recent thing they've done (coming), not the bad thing they were doing before that.

  • Once you've interrupted the mischief, you can calm down and think about how to prevent future naughtiness.

  • It's better to prevent mischief than to interrupt it. Dogs are quick to learn they can do something naughty to get a reward for stopping.

If you have to call your puppy to do something they won't like, break the chain of prediction so they never worry that coming when called might be risky:

  • Take a minute to play with them, or do a quick (5-10 treats), fun train-for-treats session. Then you can put them in their crate or give them a bath.

If you'd like ideas for preventing mischief or help with taking the negativity out of crates and baths I'm happy to help. There's a contact button at the bottom of this post.

2. Make sure that being picked up has good consequences for puppy (and don't overdo the picking-up).

I know - they're irresistibly cute and you NEED another whiff of puppy breath. But I see lots of older puppies who have learned to duck away from human hands because they're done with being swooped off their feet without warning.

Create a win-win situation by teaching your puppy to say "I'm ready" or "no thanks" to being picked up.

If you make saying "yes" rewarding, they'll assent more often than not.

Here's a simple method, for pups that don't already have negative feelings about being picked up:

  • Hold out both hands. When puppy comes to you, give a treat. Repeat twice more.

  • Hold out your hands and when puppy comes, gently touch puppy's side with one hand. Give a treat. Repeat twice more.

  • Hold out your hands and when puppy comes, gently touch puppy's side with both hands. Give a treat. Repeat twice more.

  • Say a cue that warns them you're about to lift them. This takes the surprise out of the experience once they learn the meaning of the word.

    • You could say "lift" or "takeoff" or any other word that appeals to you.

    • Say the cue just before you lift puppy off the ground.

    • Give puppy a treat right away, while you're holding them, then put them down.

    • Repeat 2-3 more times, then take a break.

Tip: puppy may be more willing to come to you if you kneel or squat instead of bending over them.

A human in their airspace is intimidating for some dogs (they still love you - it's an instinctive response).

a long-haired chihuahua is sitting in a round tub.  Another one is lying on a bath towel beside the tub, surrounded by bath supplies.  The dogs have blobs of shampoo suds on top of their heads and grumpy expressions on their faces
These chihuahuas don't look happy about bathtime

Avoid picking your puppy up to do something they won't like.

Being picked up should always have positive consequences. If you have to put them in their crate or give them a bath, plan in advance to spend a minute or two doing something they enjoy after you pick them up and before starting the unpleasant activity.

3. Teach them to trade you stolen things for treats, instead of chasing them down and prying their mouth open.

Puppies investigate the world with their mouth.

Chasing them down to repossess the item is a natural human reaction. The problems with this are:

  • Many puppies learn this is a fun way to start a game of chase-and-wrestle

  • If the loot is something they value, they may learn to find a secluded place to chew it up, or even to swallow the item whole to prevent you taking it. I adopted an adult dog who had this habit. You will lose a lot of socks and may face a big vet bill if they swallow something that causes a blockage.

  • Some puppies will learn to growl and defend their treasure.

The solution: teach a word that means they'll get a treat for letting go.

Here's a link to a blog post that describes how to do this: "Teach your puppy to give you things they've stolen."

The short video below shows the result of this training after several weeks of practice (I'm so glad she didn't swallow this!)

You may wonder, "Doesn't this reward the puppy for stealing the thing?"

It does not! Puppy already has a reward in their mouth (the thing they stole).

You are rewarding them for relinquishing their treasure.

I'm happy to help you teach them to let you pick them up, go into their crate, and/or to cooperate with bath time. Here's a link to my contact page.

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