Many do not realize how important it is to have much more positive experiences than negative as a puppy. Trust me when I tell you- I understand how they seem closer to being little devils than puppies sometimes. This is where you need to be focused on setting them up for success by puppy positive reinforcement training. In other words, do not give them the chance or choice to do something bad.
Positively Consistent Reinforcement
The phrase setting them up for success resonated with me when I was talking with my friend Andy who owns his own dog training company. In the one hour we spent together, I learned one big thing about training your dog. It is not just about giving them treats when they listen to a command. Rather, it is really about rewarding any behavior you want them to do. When he came over he was rewarding her for just doing nothing. That’s right, laying down or just being calm got her a treat. I found this to be very interesting and it seemed to work as the weeks went on. If she ran around like crazy and was being very needy for attention or biting my hand or foot she would not get anything at all from me. In fact, I would just ignore her.
As long as you are consistent, they will figure out calm is okay and they will realize this behavior is not desirable. They naturally want to please you. They are attention and food motivated largely in the early stages of puppyhood. Do NOT ever let them get your attention from undesirable behaviors. Stay consistent and stay positive.
Control the Environment…Control Everything
Another thing I did to set my pup Lilou up for success was buying a playpen. This is slightly different than crate training but I have her sleep in a playpen upstairs when it is time for bed. She uses her crate when I am running out for a little while. Both can serve a similar service to set them up for success. As far as the playpen is concerned you have two choices in puppy positive reinforcement training: watch them like a hawk all day– many of us just do not have the time for that. The second choice or you can set them in a CONTROLLED environment.
The playpen is one of the BEST things for me because she gets to feel freer than in her crate, and I KNOW she is not doing things she shouldn’t. All she has is the floor, her bed, and LOTS of toys. That is setting them up for success. Rather than you watch her run around the house where she will eventually get you upset with her. At this age, (<6 months), they need to realize as often as possible that toys are the only thing fun to chew on and you have nothing to yell at them for. This will make your overall relationship with your puppy better because they do not really respond well at all to anger and yelling so don’t waste your time.
Overall I keep her in her playpen if I will be busy, but she wants to play still and has a lot of energy. Now she can walk around freely, but ONLY have things that I approve of in this space. She does not nearly whine as much if I put her in the crate. She can walk around and it gives her the illusion of freedom. The things at her disposal in her playpen are the things you want her to play with. You don’t need to have a relationship where she is constantly avoiding you thinking you will yell or take things. Setting up for success!
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