1. Timing

Timing is referred to how promptly you correct, redirect or reinforce your puppy’s behaviors.  Sometimes these behaviors may be elicited for example:

  1. When you give your puppy a verbal cue such as “Rover Sit,”
  2. When you give a non-verbal by bending down to the floor and your “puppy jumps on you,”
  3.  Or When you puppy needs to satisfy his/her natural needs such as “relieving himself/herself on your carpet.

If your timing is prompt, you can teach your dog that “sit” is a good thing, and he/she will earn a treat.  You could either ask your puppy to sit or wait until he/she sits, and when the behavior occurs, while the dog is in the “sit” position, you could reward him/her by giving him/her a treat.

If your timing was poor/delayed, you may catch yourself rewarding the “sit” behavior once your puppy has broken the “sit” by standing up or lying down or jumping… anything other than actually sitting.

Watch out!  It is important to make note of what behavior you want, defined clearly by what variation of that behavior is acceptable and not acceptable, because you may find yourself rewarding indirectly.  For example, let’s say I ask my puppy to “sit.” 

My puppy goes into a “sit” but then starts whining.  Initially I may want to reward the “sit” but it is important I change my criteria for what is acceptable when I say, “sit” and what is not.  Otherwise, my dog will quickly learn to “sit” and begin vocalizing…. I don’t want my puppy to learn to tell me off or tell me just how he/she feels… I just want him/her to do.  Timing is critical.

2.  Consistency

Consistency is defined by how clear I am with my rules, and how much leeway I give my puppy.  

  • Puppies are pushy
  • They are needy
  • They are demanding
  • They are persistent
  • They do what works for them. 

Even for those puppies that may come of as cooperative, calm, gentle, and perfect….push them to their limits or wait until it is something they really want to see that they do what works for them.

Puppies are born this way.  In the wild or as strays, or as the animals they once were… scavengers and or working dogs to people, they have to inherit these traits to survive and fend for themselves.

Today, most puppies are acquired to be companions to humans.  The difference between today’s canine companionship and yesterday’s (historically) canine companionship is that today we over feed them, provide no work for them (mental stimulation), and barely allow them the physical stimulation they need (exercise).

Historically, we could have got away with a lot while raising a puppy, but today, to be successful puppy parents, we must provide consistent feedback to them.
Historically, the dog was going to be raised by one person.  They worked for one person, and they served as companions to one person, their master.  Today, a puppy’s role is different.  He/she must serve as a companion to the entire family.  

The difficulty in that is, that each person has his/her own set of rules, tolerances, and limitations, which sends all sorts of mixed signals to the puppy.  Imagine raising a two year old in this environment… we all know the product of this kind of environment don’t we?  That is a screaming, obnoxious, manipulative, ill-mannered child. No different than a puppy raised in a household with inconsistent rules.

To be consistent is critical when raising a puppy. Consistency helps set healthy guidelines that are easy to follow and allow the puppy to learn with confidence.  The puppy knows what to expect and does what is expected.  

Consistency teaches a puppy he/she is not going to get away by being pushy.  This lesson is probably one of the most important lessons a puppy needs to be taught.  It’s like playing a game. If you have players that are not following the rules, and keep breaking the rules, no game is fun and no one wants to play.  If players are consistent with the rules then games are fun.  If your family displays consistency in following the rules on raising a puppy, having the puppy will be fun.

3.  Socialization

Socialization is defined by allowing your puppy to make friends, or have positive experiences in different social environments, whether it is with other dogs (all kinds), people (all ages, races, sizes, genders), and other animals.  Socialization is the act towards other beings and learning to coexist with them.

Take for example a person that is very well traveled and has visited countries/places of all different ethnicities of people, where people speak languages different from English and eat foods that maybe unheard of to you.

Then take a person who is not well traveled and grew up in a small rural town, where by everyone knew each other, and being stuck in traffic was defined by having four cars behind you.  

Then take both these people and put them in a room of 10 other people they have never met before.  Who do you think would make friends first?  Who do you think would be most comfortable (physiologically)?  

Assume when these two people were brought into the room with the ten others, all of them were asked to sit silently (kind of like waiting at the vet).  Which one of our two subjects could do this with ease?  Without breaking down, biting their nails, pacing, sweating, and counting sheep in their mind… and so on and so forth.

Just like in people, a well-socialized dog is well adjusted dog and is a dog that is socially apt.  A well socialized dog is a dog that is easy to have a relationship with, easy to make part of your family, and one that you can trust to take places with you, without the fear of having to worry about how he/she is going to behave.  

A well-socialized dog does not display inappropriate levels of arousal amongst new people or animals.  A well-socialized dog will be happy to greet, show interest, show curiosity and will be attentive to their surrounding, but will happily back off and settle down.

A dog that is socialized does not act like it’s “Disney World”, every time he/she is amongst other people, dogs or animals.

A well-socialized dog understands dog behavior and body language, and is an effective teacher to other dogs.  A well-socialized dog will develop bite inhibition naturally, and will also correct a puppy or adult dog when completely appropriate.  Many times, the humans get in the way of this because in our perfect world we expect all animals except for the human animals to get along without disagreements.

4.  Exposure

Exposure is defined by the experiences your puppy encounters through:

  • Touch/Tactile
  • Sight/Visual
  • Sound/Auditory
  • Taste/Tongue
  • Smell/Olfactory

Exposure is the act towards a puppy’s environment. Puppies that are exposed to as many different stimuli as possible are more apt to adjusting and coping to unusual stimulus later on in life. 

The first sense to open up in a puppy is their sense of smell.  They are born with the ability to touch of course, and with the help of their nose, they move around mum to find her nipples for feeding.

The second sense to open up is their ears and then the third is the their eyes.  Some dogs (sight hounds) may open their eyes before their ears, but both happen fairly close together.

What does all this mean? 

Dogs learn their world through their sense of touch and smell most.  Exposure involves allowing your puppy to explore and learn the world around them. This means, exposing your puppy to all different kinds of different environments and allowing them to smell, touch, maybe taste, and learn from these experiences. A puppy raised on the end of a leash, despite put in different environments is not a puppy that is learning.

Allow a puppy to do what he/she naturally is inclined to doing and watch his/her awareness grow.  Inhibit a puppy from doing this, and the product will be a dog that is out of control when in new places.

Exposure to different environments that stimulate all different senses develops a happy, healthy, stable, confident, well-adapted, well-adjusted dog.  This puppy  will display compliance, cooperation and excellent coping skills when confronted with unpredictable scenarios or new environments.

5.  Obedience Training 

Obedience Training is defined by a language used to be able to communicate effectively and meaningfully to your puppy.

All dogs can naturally sit, stay, down, move towards a person (come/recall), walk, and stop, roll over etc.  They do this even when they are not asked.  Obedience training is not about teaching a dog to fly, dog’s don’t have wings and so obviously they are not going to learn how to fly.

Obedience training is not about teaching your puppy something they cannot already do.  It is about teaching your puppy a set of behaviors that are put on cue, to aid with:

  1. Redirection of alternative behavior/responses.
  2. Their safety…applied in the real world.
  3. Politeness.
  4. Patience.
  5. Cooperation/compliance.

An obedient dog is not a dog that is unable to think or act without their human counterpart.  I prefer my own dogs to be independent and I allow them to live an “off leash” lifestyle, but I expect them to come as soon as I call them… this is for their safety.

An obedient dog understands when the time is right to be a dog, and when the time is not.  An obedient dog does not always
have to be directed, he/she is well aware of the environment, their expectations, their rules and is compliant with them.  

An obedient dog may show to be disobedient at times, but then he/she would not be a dog or a living animal… he/she would be a robot.

Obedience training is more so for the human counterpart to help establish leadership, control and direction and open up communication between dog and human.

6.  Temperament

Temperament training is defined by a puppy’s ability to cooperate, handle restraint, stability/recovery, confidence, curiosity, and reactivity (boldness, shyness, fear, anxiety etc).

Temperament training is training a puppy’s temperament/instinctual response to a set of experiences or his/her environment.

Temperament training is making the best and most of what your puppy has.  Temperament training is training a psychological and physiological response.  Temperament training consists of setting your puppy up for gradual stress, whether it is an experience your puppy reacts positively or negatively to.

Temperament training is the most important part of raising a puppy between 8 and 16 weeks of age, and cannot happen without the rest of the 9 Habits of Highly Effective Puppy Parenting.

Puppies are born with a fight or flea response, and teaching them to cope is a learned lesson that comes through effective temperament training exercises.  Take for example, walking an eight-week-old puppy on leash.  Most 8-week-old puppies strongly dislike a collar around their neck, let alone getting tugged by a leash attached to that collar.

The puppy’s natural reaction to a walk on leash is either:

  1. Fight: Pull away in the opposite direction of the handler or
  2. Flea: Pull ahead in an attempt to run from the tugging sensation or restraint.

A lesson most important to teach a puppy is to be handled and restraint.  If you are unable to calmly and safely handle and restrain your eight week old ten pound puppy, it is highly unlikely you will be successful when you puppy is two years old, eighty pounds with a full set of teeth, jaw strength and neck strength.

It is a natural response for dogs to not allow themselves to be vulnerable to others or their environment.  Because of this, they learn to avoid putting themselves in vulnerable positions, unless they are 100% of their environment and whatever else is around them.

Attaining trust is a big part of temperament training. Successful temperament training teaches puppies with confidence to allow they to be in vulnerable positions. Being held and restrained is just one of them.

7.  Living as a companion within a home training

Living as a companion within a home training is defined by allowing your dog to be part of your family, family interactions and activities, and a part of your home in every way possible while teaching him/her his/her role.

Dogs don’t learn through osmosis, they learn by experiencing.  If you limit your puppy to his/her crate, it is all he/she will know.  All dog’s are (or I should rephrase to say, once upon a time) were bred for a purpose. They had a job. 

Today, our dogs are removed from their jobs physically, but mentally their brains still only know what they once knew to do. If you understood your dog, his/her breed, his/her purpose, their actions would make total sense.

You would understand why he/she has to carry something in his/her mouth even if it was your wallet.   You would understand why he/she brings you a present every time you come through the front door…. even if it was your remote control. It would make total sense why all the lizards in your fenced in back yard have not tails, but the lizards in your neighbor’s back yard all have tails.

Teaching your puppy to live as a companion within your home requires patience and understanding on your part.  It also requires meeting your dog’s needs as a dog first, and asking him/her to be part human second.

This step is quite simple. If your idea of the perfect puppy is one that comes home and is completely potty trained, does not chew things around the house or display destructive behaviors, sleeps most of the day, enjoys one brief walk a day, says hello to your company at the door and then goes to his/her bed, consider rescuing an older dog.

Teaching your puppy to live as a companion requires allowing your puppy to participate in activities that aid his/her learning. Practice makes perfect.

8.  Hand Feeding

Hand feeding is defined by the act of feeding your dog through out the day as a reward for appropriate behaviors to elicited cues and even un-elicited responses that you wish to increase in frequency.

Living as a stray or working dog believe it or not, is far easier than living as a companion dog.  Their rules are clear: as a stray or working dog, the dog has to work to eat.  

As companion dogs there is no such thing as work. Naturally dogs do not eat daily.  They eat to replenish energy. Dog’s that have not moved around much, or working dogs that have not been worked, may not eat… as there is no need to expend useless energy in digesting.  Dogs are smart!

But as companion dogs, we feel obligated to feed them as many times as we eat.  Not just that, we carry guilt if they are not fed in time at six o’clock in the morning and sic o’clock in the evening.

Unfortunately, out in the wild, or as strays, or even working dogs, there is no such thing as a food bowl that magically appears on those times.  These dogs get their food by working for it, and “work” could be defined by a variety of different things.

Notice most puppies are quite food motivated. Within seconds, the food is gone! Over time, puppies learn to devalue their food.  This is when food becomes abundance, they experience treats, snacks, and the occasional wet food to change up their meal (not that any of these things are not good for the dog).

Here is the problem.  Their criterion for the treat never changes according to the type of treat you give to your puppy. For example, after a full breakfast, and maybe a mid day snack, you choose to conduct a short training session with your puppy.

You begin by asking your puppy to “sit.” He/she sits and you give him/her a piece of pupperoni.  After a couple attempts, your puppy gets bored and moves on to something more fun, but you are not done.  So you follow your puppy (wrong thing to do), and wave a piece of hot dog in front of your dog’s nose.  Now he/she is all yours.

What is wrong with this picture?

Then, you find he/she is over the hotdog, so you pull out a piece of cheese, then chicken, then liver than steak.  Where is the value in the reward?  You are still asking him/her to just “sit.” Why should he/her for a pupperoni, when he/she can get a piece of steak?

Hand feeding your puppy is a very effective habit in teaching your dog:

  1. Respect
  2. Patience
  3. Focus and
  4. You matter

Begin by placing yellow post it notes all over your home.  Place one on the fridge, one on the computer, microwave, coffee machine, front door, back door, TV, computer, dining table, shoe rack, and where ever else you will see it during your daily routine.  If you don’t like the color yellow, choose pink, or a color you prefer.

Once all the post its are up (Do it!  Don’t cheat) pour out a zip lock bag of food and leave it on your kitchen counter. Don’t worry too much about measuring your puppy’s food, you will see why shortly.

These yellow post its are there to serve as a reminder that your puppy is new to your home, still learning.  Each time you or someone in your family sees a post it, they can grab a hand full of food and do one training session with the puppy.  Each session should only consist of six repetitions maximum… but you don’t have to do six repetitions each time you see a post it.

For example, let’s say I have a puppy and he is in the crate, as I get ready for work.  Part of my morning routine is to make
myself a coup of coffee.  Today, my routine will change slightly.  On my coffee machine is a yellow post it.  Before I can make my coffee, I must grab a handful of kibble and do a training session with my puppy.  

This session may consist of a simple “sit” and “release” exercise.  I can choose to do it six times, or just once and
then end it.

The idea is:

  1. The puppy does not know when I am going to feed him/her / work him/her it could happen any time of the day for as little or long as a session I want to make it.
  2. The more people in the house, the more the puppy is worked.  Everyone is consistent and must participate in the yellow post it training.
  3. My dog will not forget about me after eating.
  4. The moment I call my dog, no matter what he/she is doing, he/she will stop, because he/she will learn this is your chance for food.  If it’s not important, no worries, you may not be fed for quite sometime before you see the next post it.
  5. Giving your puppy attention starts and ends with your initiation.
  6. Your puppy will learn patience, focus and control, and we all know that most puppies don’t demonstrate any of these with reliability and accuracy.
  7. To teach your puppy that all human matter, because everyone will be involved in the feeding.  Everyone will have equal power, and that is to start and end the feeding.
  8. For your puppy to learn food is valuable.
  9. To eliminate all behavioral problems before they start especially food aggression and possessive behaviors.
  10. Increase the value of food as the criteria of the behavior is increased.

A puppy that is hand fed in this manner from 8 weeks of age at least until 12 months of age has had enough time to develop a
habit of good behavior.  This type of training is forever.  It is a habit, a way of living, and despite all the phases of development your puppy goes through, he/she will learn, the one thing that remains consistent is your relationship with him/her and your rules.

This is a dog you will truly enjoy for the rest of his/her life.

9.  Exercise

Exercise is defined by the amount of physical and mental exercise sufficient for your dog (not you).  

There are two components to proper exercise:

  1. Physical
  2. Mental
  3. Emotional
  4. Intrensic/innate

A puppy hat is exercised on leash, is much harder to get tired than a dog that is exercised off leash.  When a dog is off leash, his/her mind is working and so are all the other senses.  

A puppy that is walked around the block (even if it is a large block) is not sufficiently exercised.  Give this puppy a half an hour break, and he/she will be up for round two.

A puppy that is only stimulated mentally, maybe brain dead if you were to begin teaching him/her a new trick, but has plenty of energy to go for a run.  A puppy that is both physically and mentally stimulated is a content puppy.  

It does not matter if you have a three-pound Yorkshire Terrier, or a twenty-pound Labrador Retriever; both puppies have the need to work and a need to be stimulated mentally and physically.  A well-exercised puppy will not have the energy or mental capacity to lunge at the end of the leash while on a walk, or bark obnoxiously at the mailman.

Puppies and dogs, respond to training best after a short opportunity to warm up their bodies.  They are more willing to stay
focused and less likely to get frustrated through training sessions when properly exercised.

The best way a puppy learns about him/herself and his/her relation to others is through play.  Intimate, hands on, contact based interactions that promote mutual participation, self imposed rules, an exchange of continuous dialog through movement, in forms of experiences that involve all aspects of development: mental, physical, emotional and innate, that exhilarate and enhance the total wellbeing, mostly in non-threatening and non-competitive performances, is play.

Simply put:

If you find yourself using the word “no” more than the dog’s name, or if you find that your dog’s name is now “no” you are defying the 9 habits of highly effective pet parenting.

We can either put PLAY with exercise, or make that number 10.  Ending with play as number 10 may be a powerful way to tie in the importance of learning through play, and play to learning.