April 29, 2014 @ 6:30 PM


When someone calls me and asks when they should start training for their new puppy, I always answer "you already have".

Every interaction you have with your puppy you are either teaching something you want, or perhaps inadvertently teaching something you don't want.

Tulip is very active and playful. She likes to playfully jump on people to get attention and to say hello. I make sure that she is never reinforced for this behavior by people petting or acknowledging her when she greets them with jumping behavior. I do this by asking people to turn their back on her when she jumps up, and my family does the same. Ignoring unwanted behaviors give you a much better outcome then pushing the dog down, saying off, or any other technique I know of, as you are still engaging the dog when you react to it.  Ignoring totally extinguishes behavior you don't want. You just need to stick to the plan, perhaps counting to ten while doing so, so you can maintain your cool

I have had a few formal training sessions with her where we worked on sit, leave-it and down. So I wait for her to offer a sit, which she will do when the jumping is ignored. I am substituting a sit for the unwanted jumping, also known as teaching an incompatible behavior. She can't sit and jump at the same time. Making sure all sits get clicked and treated increases the frequency of the sitting behavior, and decreases the jumping. 

Tulip is a bit mouthy. She likes to grab my bathrobe when I take her out in the morning. The other morning she grabbed my robe and pulled so hard I feared I would be standing naked in my front yard while my neighbor was checking his mailbox. Luckily Tulip responds very well to a high pitched, squeaky "ouch". I turned my back again and gave her a short, social time-out. This works well with puppies as a high pitched "ouch" lets them know they hurt you (even though she didn't, only my pride would have been hurt) and ignoring for 30 seconds or so also tells them to stop being so rough or you won't interact with them.

Luckily this behavior is also decreasing due to the "ouching", and my other dogs are also a big help. She can play rough with them instead of me, I really can't imagine Tulip being an "only dog". She has so much energy she really needs playmates. Of course I don't allow anyone to play rough with her as that would just encourage rough play with people. Instead we play with her with her toys, she can grab them in her mouth all she wants, but not our hands or fingers. We spend a lot of time re-directing her to toys as objects to chew on and mouth.

As I have already said in the first sentence of this post, you are already training  as soon as you get your  puppy. Just make sure you are training behaviors you want, and not reinforcing what you don't want.