Anything you want your puppy to cheerfully accept as an adult—people of all kinds, animals, things, new situations—you must introduce them to often and in a positive manner in the first six months of his life. Then you have to make sure they stay comfortable with all these new things. To help your puppy make positive associations with new experiences, follow these three simple rules.
Rule 1: Use Great Rewards
Pair new experiences with something your puppy loves, like food or play. Figure out what their favorite treats are and reserve them for creating strong positive associations.
Rule 2: Ace the First Encounter
First impressions count. If your puppy’s first encounter with something new doesn’t go well, it takes a lot of work to change his mind. Always try to make first experiences particularly rewarding.
Rule 3: Timing Is Everything
You should reward your puppy as soon as something new happens, but it’s important that the new thing happens first. For example:
- You’re out with your puppy and pass your neighbor’s house.
- You see your neighbor about to press the garage door opener.
- You wait for your neighbor to press the button.
- As the sound begins and your puppy’s ears perk up, you treat him with yummy food bites and use a happy cheerful voice.
The association we want your puppy to make: Garage door noise = Good things happen.
Tips for Applying The 3 Rules:
1: New Places
Give your puppy plenty of time to explore and get comfortable. Try to get them to play with a toy, chase you, or toss some yummy treats on the floor for them to find.
2: New People
If your puppy is shy or unsure of themselves, have people toss a few treats on the ground or feed them out of the palm of their hand. You can also teach your puppy to sit (or any cute tricks) so you can have people ask your puppy to do something. That stops them from immediately trying to pet your puppy, which can be overwhelming for them. Once your puppy is comfortable, go ahead and let them interact with the new person at their own pace.
3: New Dogs
Not every new dog is guaranteed to play with your puppy, thereby giving your puppy a good experience. That means the reinforcement for meeting a new dog needs to come from you and the best time is directly after your puppy sees the new dog.
Training Tip: Don’t rely on petting or treats to create positive associations. Some dogs like petting over treats, others like treats over petting. So, be sure to find out what your dog likes best and use that.
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