A thoughtful connection between you and your puppy will take time to cultivate and will require patience and consistency. Set an intention to create such a relationship, its worth should not be underestimated.
You want to create a connection so that your dog is interested in you! As with anything worthwhile, when you put in the time and energy necessary you will reap the rewards. You must be steadfast and true in your efforts to teach your puppy you are someone he can trust and count on and that you are someone worth paying attention to.
I have high hopes for you and your puppy as you go hippity hopping through life, as you walk down the sidewalk, wind through the woods, meander along a path or over a hill and onto the banks of a babbling brook. I want you to experience a reliable behavior from your dog, one that you will come to count on. A quick glance in your direction might seem insignificant to the untrained eye, this is not so. This behavior is far-reaching and valuable in so many ways.
Let’s talk about three simple moves you can work on with your puppy to start to cultivate this bond. They are fun, and you can practice anytime, anywhere. As with everything you teach your new puppy, start in quiet areas with less distractions and work towards busier environments. Introducing, Pause, Yoo-hoo and Play just remember, P.Y.P. or plucky young puppy!
One component of a healthy mindfulness practice for us humans is to stop and pause throughout our day. Before we go into a meeting, after a workout or before or after a commute from one place to the next. Simply pause and pay attention to our breath and how we are feeling. This same pause may be useful while playing and training with our pups.
In her book On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas talks about different subtle behaviors dogs use to defuse stressful situations. Some of these behaviors are slight pauses. We may or may not be aware of all these subtle moves our dogs are showing us but it sure is worth learning more about and watching for.
We can add our own version of Pause as we play and work with our pups. When we move from one environment to another, as we leave the house and head out to the yard or the street or when we switch from one exercise to the next. Pause, let your puppy acclimate to his new surroundings, let him have a look around, maybe a little sniff. Wait for him to check in with you and reinforce amply for that. Once he has had a moment, a chance to get his bearings, start whatever it is you are going to do together. You can make pause part of your training strategy wherever you go and whatever you are working on.
Pause, a break and time to get a look around
We have all seen the dogs that have no idea who is on the other end of their leash. Dogs with their nose to the ground sniffing furiously, dogs leaning hard into their collar or harness, dodging this way and that, sometimes to the point where the person hanging onto the leash might be in danger of falling. It is up to you to teach your puppy that you are someone worth checking in with, paying attention to and taking their cues from and that it is beneficial for them to do this. Translation, good things happen when he tunes into you. Try giving your pup 5 to 10 tiny pieces of high value food for him looking at you. Tiny-tiny but tasty-tasty! Cheese, chicken or hotdog are nice tasty choices of high-value food you might work with. Remember not just one treat here, but 5 to 10 tiny pieces in rapid succession! The name of the game is to teach your pup to check in with you. Making it worthwhile to your dog when he looks at you is going to increase your chances of staying connected.
Yoo-hoo, Shelby checking in
Yoo-hoo, Shelby getting rewarded for checking in
You will see the benefits of adding Play to your training strategy. Play adds a level of sophistication to your game! Always keep a toy on you. A long soft tug-type toy with a squeaky works great. A puppy can chase this, or play Tug with it, or you can use the squeak to get his attention.
Practice breaking up your sessions with a quick game of Chase and catch up, at which point the puppy can play a game of Tug. Be silly and enticing, experiment with toys and games and learn which ones your puppy loves best. Use these super-hero moves to keep that puppy having fun, and on his toes and engaged. Be unpredictable. Maybe you are relaxing on the floor together when all of a sudden you are magically producing a new toy and a great game of chase. Super-hero!
Syd and Shelby play a quick game of Chase!
What kind of dog will you raise?
A confident, curious puppy who is interested in the world around him but who is also interested in checking in with you and paying attention to what you are doing is a beautiful thing. Aim for this connection. Incorporate these moves into your everyday routine with your puppy. Try and look at your day-to-day life with your new puppy like every moment is an opportunity to teach and educate him. This might seem like a tall order but with a good training strategy, some understanding of how dogs learn and what makes them tick you are off to a good start. Remember your Plucky Young Puppy won’t be young forever, just wait ’til they grow up!