It is very exciting to bring home a new puppy. When he initially arrives, you might think he needs to learn everything all at once. However, making certain behaviors a priority will help in setting up his success for the future.
Here are 3 things to teach your new puppy right away.
1. How to take a treat
Over the next 10-20 years, you will most likely be giving your puppy treats numbering in the thousands. It will probably be more enjoyable if he learns to receive them in a gentle manner. Teach treat-taking as a skill on its own before you dive into other behaviors. By offering food in a flat or cupped hand, you can hand-feed your puppy (as opposed to using two pinched fingers). Bring the food directly under his mouth so he does not learn the habit of leaping for it.
2. You don’t need to guard anything from me
You will find a lot of poor advice out there on preventing guarding behavior, a lot of which includes shoving your hand into your dog’s food while he is in the middle of eating or grabbing items away from him at random. These actions will actually teach your dog he needs to guard more than not at all. Think about it; if you were to try these moves on a human, how quickly do you think they’d get defensive?
Rather than taking from your dog, give. Bestow an extra treat while he is eating or chewing, then – up to 90% of the time – just turn around and walk away. From this, he will learn that your approaching him when he has food is not something to dread. If you do need to take something away before you have had the opportunity to teach the command for “drop”, trade with him. Practice this consistently to gain his trust for the day you will need to take something away without giving it back to him.
3. Love thy mat
Settling in on a small mat is one of the greatest behaviors your dog can learn, as it is so very useful going forward. A dog who is lying comfortably on his mat cannot also intrude on a dinner guest, jump on a visitor, dig in the garden, and so forth. Not to mention, puppies who learn a command for “settle” early on tend to move to that as a default; he will most likely settle on his mat when he is bored and does not know what to do with him time, which also helps in keeping him from developing destructive behaviors.
Enjoy your time with your new puppy, and allow him the opportunity to learn these 3 things to ensure a good start for his (and your!) future.