Welcome back! In the most recent post in this Your New Puppy series, we started building on the basic concepts you and your puppy have been learning together so far. We looked at how some planning, strategic management and a relationship built on trust, lay the foundation for enjoying the life you share together. So, let’s keep going! Think about how these building blocks might help you approach each next step along the way, such as acclimating your puppy to brief absences and beginning to teach potentially life-saving skills, such as recall and Leave It.
Prepare Your New Puppy to Feel Comfortable Spending (Some) Time Alone
As mentioned earlier, socialization is extremely important for puppies. Equally important however, is helping your puppy learn to be independent at times, and feel safe and comfortable being left alone for age-appropriate durations of time.
Here are some quick tips for new puppy parents:
- Before asking a puppy to spend time alone, first make sure they’re not hungry, thirsty, or needing to potty. Once again, it’s important to read body language and other ways dogs communicate. If your puppy is whining, pawing, mouthing or jumping, keep in mind the possible roots of attention-seeking behavior. Your puppy might be scared, hurt, sick, or have a biological urge that needs to be met.
- Gradually teach your new best fur friend to be alone in a safe place. Start with small amounts of time with you in the same room, but with puppy in her own bed, or other puppy-safe resting place. Then move on to you being in another room of the house, building up to longer periods of time with you out of the room and eventually, with you out of the house. Go slow and steady, so puppy learns to trust being alone.
- Encourage independence. It’s important we take the time to teach young dogs how to be comfortable when having to spend time on their own. And while puppies require close supervision to make sure they are safe, telling them what to do all the time can prevent them from learning to think for themselves. Try to find an equilibrium.
- Gamify training. With training games, dogs not only learn life skills but also become more independent and confident knowing they know how to make the right choices.
- Build confidence. Puzzle toys and interactive food toys are problem-solving toys, which help build self-confidence and independence. This way, they’re not always relying on you for everything fun, interesting and stimulating.
- Provide your puppy with enrichment activities. Remember, besides scavengers and predators, dogs are problem-solvers — if we don’t give inquisitive puppies “problems” to solve, they’ll find their own. So, it’s best to provide enrichment outlets for pups to ensure they’re getting sufficient mental stimulation to redirect their hunting and problem-solving energy to something productive and acceptable to you.
- If you feel your dog needs help with Separation Anxiety, contact a certified separation anxiety trainer (CSAT) with the knowledge, skills, patience, and empathy to help separation-phobic dogs and their guardians work through these issues.
Begin to Teach Your New Puppy Emergency Behaviors
In addition to home alone training, it’s a good idea to start lovingly teaching puppies essential life skills such coming when called and leaving things alone when asked. It’s best to teach these skills before you’re in a crunch, as opposed to trying to teach your puppy during an actual emergency or crisis. Waiting until it’s too late can create panic, chaos, and frustration, for everyone. So, whenever you can, train the behavior before you need the behavior.
Here are some quick tips new puppy parents can use right away when starting to teach emergency behaviors:
- Start slow and easy. Break the behavior down into small steps, practicing each step over and over until your pup becomes proficient at one level, before making it more difficult. Setting your puppy up for success is key in building a strong, solid foundation (of any behavior).
- Use a portion of the puppy’s regular meals as food for training – even just a few pieces (or licks from a spoon). Practice a few reps of a desired behavior before each meal.
- To work on recall (coming when called), capitalize on what your puppy is already doing, such as following you around and wanting to spend time with you. Call him to you at random times from just a few feet away, building to further distances.
- For leaving things alone when asked, start with an easy object that your pup will likely want to ignore, as opposed to the burger wrapper someone left on the sidewalk or a squirrel running around the yard!
- Think about where you will want your dog to be fluent at “Leave It;” and what things will you expect your puppy to leave? Training for each scenario where you will likely want a behavior to be solid is the best way to get those behaviors reliably when and where you need them.
To sum up, if you’re the proud pet parent of a new puppy (or are planning to be) it’s really never too early to start thinking about the skills you might want your pup to learn, and then plan ahead. If you have questions about how -or what- to train, consulting with a force-free trainer can help your new family member start off on the right paw.
Up next: Your New Puppy – Beyond Puppyhood: Adolescent Dogs
Wanna dig deeper? Here are some helpful resources:
If you’re interested in learning how to break down the skills needed to teach your dog to come when you call, how to “save your recall” and how you and your pup can stay motivated by keeping practice sessions fun and rewarding, we’ve got you covered in this post.
‘Leave it’ is a cue that takes tons of patience, practice, repetition, and high value rewards, but it’s also one that really pays off for devoted pet guardians! So, to reinforce this skill, make it clear that there is consistently something amazingly wonderful to be had in exchange for moving away from an item or situation on cue and checking in with the handler, no matter the circumstance.
Any pup can get a bit stressed at times if no one’s home or no one’s paying attention to his needs. In this two-part series on shaping confident, independent puppies and dogs, we explore training and management options (with an emphasis on fun and games!) that will set you and your inquisitive canine up for success.
So, what are some of the best ways for you to get your dog used to his or her “sanctuary”? The training steps are pretty simple actually, but just like any new behavior, the key is to teach the steps slowly and help create positive associations along the way.