The First 24 Hours
For a smooth start with your dog
- Follow through on all plans
Make a safe place for your dog, like a playpen for a baby, where you can leave it unattended and know that it will not harm anything or be harmed by anything. This could be a crate or pen or a small room or kitchen that has been dog-proofed. Pictures: puppies in pens
A crate may be used for a few hours at a time, but not longer than the time the dog can last without needing to eliminate. Provide an indestructible chew toy for entertainment.
If the dog needs to be alone for a longer period, provide a place to eliminate, a bed area, a source of water and several indestructible toys.
A tether is a plastic coated steel cable with a hook on each end. One end attaches to the dog’s flat buckle collar and the other to a sturdy eye bolt in a baseboard or another buckle collar around the leg of a sturdy piece of furniture (not recommended if the dog is prone to chewing furniture!) The advantage of a tether is that it is easier to move from room to room than is a large crate and it takes up less space. The tether is intended for short term use under supervision.
You will need: dog, crate, clicker, and delicious (according to your dog!) treats. Begin by putting a small but delicious treat in the crate and closing the door with the dog on the outside. It won’t be long before your dog asks for help in opening the door so she can go in. Open the door and click as she reaches in for the treat. Call her back out and click and treat her for coming back out – even if she did not go in all the way.
Re-set with a new treat in the crate and the dog on the outside. Repeat. This time, click once for when she reaches in the crate for the treat and again while she is still inside (even partly) and deliver another treat into the crate. Call her out and repeat the whole routine.
- Next steps may include:Additional treats when in the crate to reinforce what a great place it is
- Treat in crate then close the door and treat through door to make closing of door a positive thing
- Give additional treats through door for added seconds or minutes inside
- Open door to empty (no treat) crate and click/treat when dog goes in
- Keep crate door closed when dog is out, so opening door becomes an exciting opportunity to get a treat and dog dashes in
- Each dog will be different. Depending on the dog’s prior experiences more smaller steps may be needed over a longer time or training may skip steps and go very quickly.
Your dog will appreciate knowing what is about to happen. Be considerate by giving the dog information such as:
- Say “Pick up” before you grab your pup and lift him off his feet
- Say “Leash” before you grab his collar or harness to attach the leash
- Say “Outside” before you open the door to go out
- Say “Brush” or “Paw” or “Teeth” before grooming, trimming nails, or brushing teeth
- These are merely examples. Think about what your dog needs in your circumstances and choose words that you will be able to use consistently.
In any case, make it important to the dog and something he will accept and look forward to by associating it with a treat. For instance, say “Pick up,” lift the dog into your arms and give it a treat. Many dogs will learn to rise up to meet you after a few repetitions. When this procedure is not followed, dogs quickly begin to crouch in apprehension, or duck and move away to avoid the unpleasant experience of being grabbed and lifted suddenly off their feet.
Be sure to pay attention to your dog at times when it is showing self-restraint.
Give quiet attention or a treat at times when the dog could be behaving in ways you do not like, but has chosen not to, for instance:
- Dog is looking out window and NOT barking
- Dog runs up to someone and does NOT jump up
- Dog is in kitchen and does NOT have feet on counter
- Dog is walking with you and NOT pulling on leash
- It is your job to make sure the dog gets most of its attention for the behavior you like. If you do not recognize the dog for these behaviors, but only respond with scolding (=attention) when it barks or jumps or pulls, then it will continue to bark or jump or pull because that is what works best.
When your dog is offering behavior that you do not like, try not to respond at all.
If at all possible, do not look at, speak to, or touch your dog. If possible, do not move at all and watch for a different behavior that is – perhaps only slightly – more acceptable. Click and treat the new, better choice that the dog is making. The goal is to help the dog understand which behaviors will pay off best. The ones that do not pay off will begin to be abandoned, especially when other behaviors do pay well.
Sometimes it will not be possible to ignore the unwanted behavior. In that case, plan ahead for the next time. Set up the situation so that it will not be possible for the dog to offer the unwanted behavior again. This will often require a change of routine, a new piece of equipment, a different setting, a change in the environment or anything that will prevent the dog from the ability or desire to offer the behavior again.
It is very important to do this planning, as it is very important that the dog not be allowed to practice the unwanted behavior and create a more established habit.
Imagine a dog that is frantically jumping up alternately grabbing at clothing with teeth and scratching with paws. Be ready with plenty of high value treats and thumb on the clicker as quick action will be required. Stand firm, watch closely and click and treat immediately when any of the following occur:
- Dog momentarily drops front feet to the floor
- Dog momentarily releases clothing from mouth
- Dog momentarily ceases scratching motion with paws
- Keep watching and repeat. Chances are good that the behaviors will slow down as the realizes her ability to control the treats. Continue to click and treat for any of these behaviors, noting which ones are falling away and focusing more on those remaining. Click/treat when:
- The dog’s jump is lower than it had been
- The dog keeps her front feet on the ground
- The dog sits or lies down
- There is a momentary pause between behaviors
- There is a two-second pause between behaviors*
- There is a three-second pause between behaviors*
- The dog’s tail wag slows down
- The dog’s tail stops wagging**
- *Be sure to click and treat before any other behavior occurs – our message is that holding still pays off
- **Now the dog is beginning to relax, rather than revved up and poised to jump again
Imagine a dog that is frozen in fear. It is difficult to begin clicking for behavior when no behavior is being offered. Search for a treat that will be of interest to the dog – try a little jar of baby food. Will the dog lick it off your finger or a spoon? Practice the treat delivery process first. Once that is going well, introduce the clicker. With a shy dog, try a ball point pen with a soft click and be sure to hold it away from the dog to keep from adding a new thing to worry about. Click and treat about ten times to make the association.
Then wait and watch for any behavior, such as:
- Open or close mouth
- Glance in a new direction
- Flick an ear
- Shift body weight
- Any change of position
- Sniff the floor
- Click and treat any behavior offered as soon as it occurs. Be sure to click quickly then move slowly and deliberately to deliver the treat as previously practiced. Once the dog understands that he can control the outcome, he will gain confidence and begin to offer more behavior.
For puppies under 16 weeks: remember the dog your puppy is going to be it is now becoming – take advantage of the opportunity to develop your dog’s world view by establishing positive associations with new things in the environment
When you notice your puppy noticing anything new – sights and sounds and other beings in particular – click and treat. The goal is to teach your puppy that new things are fun and interesting rather than something to be feared.
For puppies over 16 weeks: remember your dog already has an established world view – start right away to adjust its thinking by establishing new associations
If your older pup or dog already has decided that some sights and sounds and other beings are of concern, it will take a little longer to change their mind, but it can be done. When you notice your focusing on anything – sights and sounds and other beings in particular – click and treat. The goal is to teach your dog that whatever preconception it may have, from now on that thing lead to good things.
For instance, if your dog is concerned about garbage trucks, click and treat the moment your dog notices one. Continue to click and treat while the truck is present. Do so every time your dog sees one. Sooner or later (after 17 times or 317 times depending on your dog’s history) your dog will see a garbage truck and look at you as if to say, “I see one – you owe me a treat!”
At this point we know that the dog is no longer responding emotionally to the sight of the truck and is available to learn. For a while, you will want to click and treat for the dog looking at you upon noticing a garbage truck. Eventually it will become a non-event.