puppy training

Top Tips for Puppy Training & Growing Optimism 

Everyone realises the importance of taking their puppy to a training class. Getting it right from the start is super key! Here are some handy puppy training tips for you and your growing puppy and beyond!

Grow Optimism First

We all know what an optimist and a pessimist is, well we see the same in dogs. Some dogs are naturally more of the glass half full types, while others naturally sway to thinking that any new or novel situation is bad. Optimism is one of the key concepts that we need to grow in all of our dogs. An optimistic dog will embrace novelty and overcome it, while a pessimist will likely react badly to it. Novelty is happening around us all of the time, so you can see why it is key that we grow optimism. At the end of the day, an optimistic dog finds the world they live in less stressful to deal with.

So, before you take your puppy out into the big wide world to introduce them to lots of new things and exercises, enhance their optimism at home first to prepare them for those future interactions. The cool thing is, there is usually a period when you first bring your puppy home where you can’t take them to lots of different places due to not being covered by vaccinations. So, during this period you can be playing the games listed below (and more) to prepare your puppy and to boost their optimism before stepping foot outside. Here are some of my favourite games:

  • One Object, Many Games: With one object and using food to lure or scatter, can your puppy; Get on it, go under it, go around it, go through it, get in it. Use lots of different items to play this puppy led game!
  • Novelty Item Game: Place lots of novel items (boxes, metal tins, paper, bubble wrap, plastic, wobble cushions, children’s toy, bags…gosh the list is endless!!) out on the ground and introduce your puppy to them. Allow your puppy to lead the exploration and scatter some food in amongst the novel items so that your puppy can calmly explore and associate the weird and wonderful things with positivity.
  • Human Climbing Frame: Sit on the floor, and with some food ready to feed your puppy, allow them to climb up onto your lap, wiggle your legs a little to create a bit of movement,  raise your knees slightly and lure your puppy around and lead them underneath your legs then back around to your lap again.
  • Homemade Puppy Assault Course: Using lots of item around the house, line them up in a row and lead your puppy across them using food to lure, or place food out on each item and allow your puppy to walk along and hoover up the food.

Out and about Adventures

Socialisation is an important topic when it comes to puppies, but it must be done right. When taking your puppy out and about, look at each and every experience as a learning and training opportunity, so take some food out on the road with you so that you can reward good choices and to pair interactions your puppy is having with something positive.  

Don’t view socialisation as a frantic time where you get your puppy to meet as many things, people and dogs as possible. There isn’t the need to go over-board with what your puppy meets at their young age! It’s all about the experience your puppy is having and the key thing is that your puppy is having positive exposure, and is well balanced and level headed.

View out and about adventures as un-forced, organic experiences your puppy is having. With the concept of optimism (view tip 1) built up to form a foundation layer of skills, your puppy will be better prepared to cope with new experiences. However, always advocate for your puppy, if you know an experience will be too much for them right at that moment, leave it for now, always think of these new experiences as QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.

Common Challenges

Ok, so first things first, ALL puppies play bite and nip! Your puppy isn’t a monster, they aren’t being aggressive, this is what ALL puppies do! So, what do you do when this happens?

If you’re in the moment of a frenzied puppy biting episode, either redirect your puppy on to a toy, a chew, a stuffed kong – give your puppy an activity. When redirecting your puppy onto an activity, the key is how you deliver the activity. Remember, you want your puppy to calm down so redirect your puppy on to something in a calm way! The other solution is to gently and slowly stroke your puppy’s side as this can help to calm an excited pup! One piece of advice that often flies around is to squeal when your puppy bites too hard. I personally find that this excites puppies even more so it could actually make things worse!

Puppies quite often bark to get attention, to try and get you to play! If the moment isn’t right and you would like them to be calm, as with biting, have a solution; calmly stroke or redirect your puppy onto an activity.

So that’s some solutions to dealing with your puppy in the moment of biting or barking, but the key to ongoing success is to grow calmness in your puppy generally.

Puppies need LOTS of rest, so ensure that your puppy has a quiet place to settle and sleep away from the action; a pen or a crate for example. These places aren’t bad, don’t think of it as punishment. Your puppy NEEDS the time to rest away from everything and everyone!

Blips in Confidence

As your puppy develops there will be times where their confidence dips. Lots of trainers refer to these times as fear periods. I like to call them blips! This happens to all puppies, and potentially into adulthood and beyond. However, some say that fear periods take place between certain ages, I don’t like to put a time frame on these blips. The problem with time frames is what happens if your puppy isn’t in the window of when a fear period is supposed to take place, you will worry that something else is wrong! “Oh, but the book said that fear periods take place between x and x ages, but he’s older/younger so it can’t be that!”

So what do you do when your puppy is experiencing a confidence blip? Observe it, notice it, but don’t fret! Don’t ask too much from your puppy during this time. Keep new and novel situations and experiences to a minimum and work through lots of optimism building games to give your puppy a boost. How long will it last? Just like when these blips take place, every day puppy is different. The key thing is that you know your puppy, know what is normal for them in terms of confidence and notice any changes.

Puppy Training is an Ongoing Conversation

I think I can safely say that everyone appreciates and realises the importance of taking their puppy to a training class. You’ve got this, right? Getting it right from the start is super key! You want to set and establish how things are going to be moving forward. Super!

My tip today is all about beyond that initial puppy training class, TRAINING IS AN ONGOING CONVERSATION that you have with your growing puppy and beyond! Its awesome that you have started, but you need to continue, you need to keep up the momentum! Its sounds daunting, but training is never done, there is always something new to teach or a skill to enhance or brush up on. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend £££’s on training classes. Just doing a couple 3 minute sessions a day, practising and growing the skills your dog already has, is a major game changer!

The purpose of my tip today isn’t to overwhelm you or make you run for the hills! My goal is to inspire you so that you don’t see training your dog as a HAVE to do, you should WANT to! Training your dog is a lifestyle, it is 24/7, you need to embrace, seek and find those training opportunities!

To really help get the message across that dog training is a lifestyle and one that should be enjoyed and cherished, I have popped the link below to an AMAZING eBook which has been put together by my training mentors, Absolute Dogs. Its called Optimism Rocks and it is yours for the taking for FREE! Inside there’s a ton of info and games that you can start playing with your dog today! Click on the link below and enjoy!


You can read more of our Thursday Training Tips HERE.

kelly-murrellAbout the Author: Kelly Murrell helps out with some of the work in the office at Devon Dogs, particularly with marketing and advertising. She used to work in the office at East Bowerland Farm, but recently moved to Vancouver Island, Canada with her husband. She is an avid dog trainer and regularly posts dog training tips for Devon Dogs, Bowerland and Progressive Paws.

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