Want an awesome, well-behaved dog? You have to start early!
Tips for building your puppy’s confidence:
- Have play dates with fully vaccinated, confident dogs of all ages.
- Go for rides in the car often and to fun places, such as short trips to see playmates.
- Take trips to the vet’s office for fun visits, such as to get a treat, increasing the time spent there to meet staff, get weighed, and go into an exam room, all when you are NOT there for an appointment. This will decrease stress and anxiety during exams.
- Touch your puppy’s ears, feet, nails, and entire body regularly. This will prepare him for handling by veterinary staff and groomers.
- Learn how to read dog body language so you know when to intervene, do more training/exposure, or take a step back if your puppy is too cautious or overexcited.
- Encourage your puppy to explore different environments and objects, while you observe how he learns and moves in the world.
- Bring your puppy with you wherever you can and introduce him to 100 faces/places in 100 days, moving slowly and paying attention to his body language to know if he’s becoming stressed or is having fun.
- Go for hikes in safe places, letting him enjoy being a puppy. Do stay away from dog parks until all vaccinations are complete.
- Let your puppy sleep with you or at least, keep him in the same room as you in an exercise pen or crate.
- Create your own agility course in your own backyard or out in nature. See a downed tree or a small boulder? Say “Up” to your pup, and then lift him onto the tree, and when he feels steady on his feet, ask him to take a few steps. Repeat until he can jump up all by himself and walk along the trunk. New textures and surfaces help build confidence.
- Teach training cues at home first and then everywhere you can, while keeping it fun. Make sessions short and focused, with tons of playtime before and after, and tons of treats for encouragement. Teaching cues such as “Stay” is one of the best confidence builders. It teaches focus and patience.
- Teach games such as Fetch, Tug-o-War, and Hide and Seek, which allow you to teach the “Get It” “Drop It,” “Ready,” “Hold,” “Wait,” and “Find It” cues as well.