Ch 2: Raising A Puppy

From the very first day your puppy comes home the clock is ticking. All aspects of puppy training and behavior modification will only get harder as time goes by, so don’t wait, start training today!

The first item on the agenda is errorless housetraining and chewtoy-training. You can’t expect your new pup to magically know where to pee and poop, what to chew, or when to bark. Instead, you need to teach her. Additionally, you will need to teach your pup that these rules still apply when she is home alone, and that there’s no need to be anxious in your absence. All of this is easy with a doggy den and puppy playpen: short- and long-term confinement areas for your puppy that will help her learn to have free reign of the house.

It is essential to teach your pup to like people and to enjoy being handled. If you don’t actively socialize your puppy to numerous unfamiliar people, she will most certainly develop fears about strangers, especially men and children. These fears can escalate into defensive and aggressive behavior, and a generally unhappy and stressed dog.

As your pup grows older, you must remember to continue socialization outside the home, certainly in puppy classes where your pup can learn to play appropriately with other pups and develop bite inhibition, but also you should strive to incorporate positive training into all aspects of your dog’s life. By training on your walks, in the car and at the park, you will raise a dog who is confident and relaxed in all situations.

Want to raise the perfect puppy?

Learn more about puppy training with The Best Online Puppy Training Programs:

The Top Dog Academy. Learn how to deal with puppy biting, crate training, toilet training, socialization and more with videos, worksheets and podcasts about puppy training. When you join the Top Dog Academy you also get access to personalized email support so you can train your puppy yourself. Use this link to get your first month for free.

SIRIUS Puppy Training. Looking for more support? Get personalized, real-time, video dog training guidance from an expert SIRIUS Puppy Training instructor. Dr. Dunbar's SIRIUS Puppy & Dog Training classes revolutionized the world of pet dogs when they were first created. Now, our online small-group classes allow you to get the expert assistance you need from the comfort of your home.

Training:  Raising a Puppy

Puppy's First Week at Home (8-9 weeks)

Start housetraining your pup the moment he comes home. It is important, and surprisingly easy, to train your puppy without him making a single toilet or chewing mistake. Each mistake will make training considerably more difficult. Puppies quickly establish toilet habits and even a single mistake heralds many more in the future. Also, punishing puppies for soiling the house or making chewing mistakes inadvertently teaches them to soil the house or chew on shoes while their owners are away (and therefore, cannot punish). Remember, good habits are just as hard to break as bad habits and so, housetrain your puppy from the outset.

Confinement is the secret to errorless housetraining — using a doggy den and a puppy playroom) to make sure your unsupervised puppy will not make any mistakes. The whole point of confining puppies while they are young is so that they will be able to have as much freedom as possible when they are older. Alternatively, if you let your new puppy roam free and form bad house-habits, you will no doubt confine him as an adult. Also, of course, make sure you teach your puppy to love his den and playroom.

With the proper use of a doggy den it is very easy to predict when your puppy will need to use the toilet. This means you can take your puppy to your chosen toilet location and know they will promptly pee or poop so that you may reward them extravagantly and play with them indoors, knowing they won’t have an accident. Additionally, you are in complete control of what objects they have access to in their confinement areas, so they may learn to chew only appropriate items. Hollow chewtoys stuffed with food will teach them what is appropriate to chew, and reward them for quietly enjoying some appropriate recreational chewing.

Regular, early confinement will help your puppy learn to enjoy spending time at home alone.

You need to ensure that an errorless housetraining and chewtoy-training program is instituted the very first day your puppy comes home. During the first week, puppies characteristically learn good or bad habits that set the precedent for weeks, months, and sometimes years to come. Never forget, good habits are just as hard to break as bad habits!

(For more information about your Puppy's First Week at Home, including videos, worksheets, and personalized email support, join Dr. Ian Dunbar's Top Dog Academy. Use this link to get your first month for free.)

The Very First Day Your Puppy Comes Home

Your canine newcomer is just itching to learn household manners. She wants to please, but she has to learn how. Before the young pup can be trusted to have full run of the house, somebody must teach the house rules. There's no point keeping house rules a secret. Somebody has to tell the pup. And that somebody is you. Otherwise, your puppy will let her imagination run wild in her quest for occupational therapy to pass the time of day. Without a firm grounding in canine domestic etiquette, your puppy will be left to improvise in her choice of toys and toilets. The pup will no doubt eliminate in closets and on carpets, and your couches and curtains will be viewed as mere playthings for destruction. Each mistake is a potential disaster, since it heralds many more to come. If your pup is allowed to make "mistakes," bad habits will quickly become the status quo, making it necessary to break bad habits before teaching good ones.

Begin by teaching your puppy good habits from the very first day she comes home. Your puppy's living quarters need to be designed so that housetraining and chewtoy-training are errorless.

Be absolutely certain that you fully understand the principles of long-term and short-term confinement before you bring your new puppy home. With a long-term and short-term confinement schedule, housetraining and chewtoy-training are easy, efficient, and errorless. During her first few weeks at home, regular confinement (with chewtoys stuffed with kibble) teaches the puppy to teach herself to chew chewtoys, to settle down calmly and quietly, and not to become a recreational barker. Moreover, short-term confinement allows you to predict when your puppy needs to relieve herself, so that you may take her to the right spot and reward her for eliminating.

From the moment you choose your puppy, there is some considerable urgency regarding socialization and training. There is no time to waste. Basically, an adult dog's temperament and behavior habits (both good and bad) are shaped during puppyhood — very early puppyhood. It is easy to make horrendous mistakes during your puppy’s first few weeks at home. Such mistakes usually have an indelible effect, influencing your pup's behavior and temperament for the rest of his life. This is not to say that unsocialized and untrained eight-week-old pups cannot be rehabilitated. They can, if you work quickly. But while it’s easy to prevent behavior and temperament problems, rehabilitation can be both difficult and time-consuming, and it is unlikely that your pup will ever become the adult dog he or she could have been.


If your pup is ever left unsupervised indoors he will most certainly chew household articles and soil your house. Although these teeny accidents do little damage in themselves, they set the precedent for your puppy's choice of toys and toilets for many months to come.

Any housesoiling or chewing mistake you allow your puppy to make is absolute silliness and absolute seriousness: silliness because you are creating lots of future headaches for yourself, and seriousness because millions of dogs are euthanized each year simply because their owners did not know how to housetrain or chewtoy-train them.

You should treat any puppy housesoiling or house-destruction mistake as a potential disaster, since it predicts numerous future mistakes from a dog with larger bladder and bowels and much more destructive jaws. Many owners begin to notice their puppy's destructiveness by the time he is four to five months old, when the pup is characteristically relegated outdoors. Destruction is the product of a puppy's boredom, lack of supervision, and a search for entertainment. Natural inquisitiveness prompts the lonely pup to dig, bark, and escape in his quest for some form of occupational therapy to pass the day in solitary confinement. Once the neighbors complain about the dog's incessant barking and periodic escapes, the dog is often further confined to a garage or basement. Usually though, this is only a temporary measure until the dog is surrendered to a local animal shelter to play the lotto of life. Fewer than 25 percent of surrendered dogs are adopted, of which about half are returned as soon as the new owners discover their adopted adolescent's annoying problems.

The above summarizes the fate of many dogs. Without a doubt, simple and predictable behavior problems are the number one terminal illness for domestic dogs. This is especially sad because all these simple problems could be prevented so easily. Housetraining and chewtoy-training are hardly rocket science. But you do need to know what to do. And you need to know what to do before you bring your puppy home. Make certain that your puppy does not develop life-threatening behavior problems.

If you already have a puppy and feel that you are behind, do not throw in the towel. You must acknowledge, however, that you are behind and that your puppy's socialization and education are now a dire emergency. Immediately do your best to catch up. Immediately, seek help from a pet dog trainer. To locate a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT) in your area contact the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

Maybe take a week or two off of work to devote to your puppy. The younger your puppy, the easier and quicker it is to catch up on her developmental timetable and minimize losses. Every day you delay, however, makes it harder.

Want to raise the perfect puppy?

Learn more about puppy training with The Best Online Puppy Training Programs:

The Top Dog Academy. Learn how to deal with puppy biting, crate training, toilet training, socialization and more with videos, worksheets and podcasts about puppy training. When you join the Top Dog Academy you also get access to personalized email support so you can train your puppy yourself. Use this link to get your first month for free.

SIRIUS Puppy Training. Looking for more support? Get personalized, real-time, video dog training guidance from an expert SIRIUS Puppy Training instructor. Dr. Dunbar's SIRIUS Puppy & Dog Training classes revolutionized the world of pet dogs when they were first created. Now, our online small-group classes allow you to get the expert assistance you need from the comfort of your home. 

Puppy Playroom & Doggy Den

Successful domestic doggy education involves teaching your puppy to train herself through confinement. This prevents mistakes and establishes good habits from the outset. When you are physically or mentally absent, confine your puppy to keep her out of mischief and to help her learn how to behave appropriately.

The more you confine your puppy to her Puppy Playroom and Doggy Den during her first few weeks at home, the more freedom she will enjoy as an adult dog for the rest of her life. The more closely you adhere to the following puppy-confinement program, the sooner your puppy will be housetrained and chewtoy-trained. And, as an added benefit, your puppy will learn to settle down quickly, quietly, calmly, and happily.

When You Are Not at Home

Keep your puppy confined to a fairly small puppy playroom, such as the kitchen, bathroom, or utility room. You can also use an exercise pen to cordon off a small section of a room. This is your puppy’s long-term confinement area, which should include:

1. A comfortable bed

2. A bowl of fresh water

3. Plenty of hollow chewtoys (stuffed with dog food)

4. A doggy toilet in the farthest corner from her bed

Obviously, your puppy will feel the need to bark, chew, and eliminate throughout the course of the day, and so she must be left somewhere she can satisfy her needs without causing any damage or annoyance. Your puppy will most probably eliminate as far as possible from her sleeping quarters — in her doggy toilet. By removing all chewable items from the puppy playpen — with the exception of hollow chewtoys stuffed with kibble — you will make chewing chewtoys your puppy's favorite habit. A good habit!

The Purpose of long-term confinement is:

· To confine the puppy to an area where chewing and toilet behavior are acceptable, so the puppy does not make any chewing or housesoiling mistakes around the house

· To maximize the likelihood that the puppy will learn to use the provided toilet

· To maximize the likelihood that the puppy will learn to chew only chewtoys (the only chewables available in the playroom)

· To maximize the likelihood that the puppy will learn to settle down calmly and quietly, i.e., without barking

When You Are at Home

Enjoy short play and training sessions hourly. If you cannot pay full attention to your puppy’s every single second, play with your pup in his Puppy Playpen, where a suitable toilet and toys are available. Or, for periods of no longer than an hour at a time, confine your puppy to his Doggy Den (short-term close confinement area), such as a portable dog crate. Every hour on the hour, release your puppy and quickly take him to his doggy toilet. Your puppy's short-term confinement area should include a comfortable bed, and plenty of hollow chewtoys (stuffed with dog food).

It is much easier to watch your pup if he is settled down in a single spot. Either you may move the crate so that your puppy is in the same room as you, or you may want to confine your pup to a different room to start preparing him for times when he will be left at home alone. If you do not like the idea of confining your puppy to a dog crate, you may tie the leash to your belt and have the pup settle down at your feet. Or you may fasten the leash to an eye-hook in the baseboard next to your puppy's bed, basket, or mat. To prevent the chewtoys from rolling out of reach, also tie them to the eye-hook.

The Purpose of Short-term Close Confinement is:

· To confine the puppy to an area where chewing behavior is acceptable so the puppy does not make chewing mistakes around the house

· To make the puppy a chewtoyaholic (since chewtoys are the only chewables available and they are stuffed with food)

· To teach the puppy to settle down calmly and happily for periodic quiet moments

· To prevent housesoiling mistakes around the house

· To predict when the puppy needs to eliminate

Dogs naturally avoid soiling their den, so closely confining a puppy to his bed temporarily inhibits urination and defecation. This means the pup will need to relieve himself when released from the crate each hour. You will then be there to show the puppy the right spot, reward him for eliminating in the right spot, and then enjoy a short play/training session with the delightfully empty puppy.

Train Your Puppy to Train Himself

Housetraining and chewtoy-training will be quick and easy if you adhere to the puppy confinement plan above, which prevents the puppy from making mistakes and prompts the puppy to teach herself household etiquette. If you vary from the program, you will likely experience problems. Unless you enjoy problems, you must reprimand yourself for any mistakes you allow your puppy to make.

Want to raise the perfect puppy?

Learn more about puppy training with The Best Online Puppy Training Programs:

The Top Dog Academy. Learn how to set up your pup's crate and playpen, and teach them to love spending time there with videos, worksheets, podcasts, and more. When you join the Top Dog Academy you also get access to personalized email support so you can train your puppy yourself. Use this link to get your first month for free.

SIRIUS Puppy Training. Looking for more support? Get personalized, real-time, video dog training guidance from an expert SIRIUS Puppy Training instructor. Dr. Dunbar's SIRIUS Puppy & Dog Training classes revolutionized the world of pet dogs when they were first created. Now, our online small-group classes allow you to get the expert assistance you need from the comfort of your home.

Errorless Housetraining

Housesoiling is a spatial problem, involving perfectly normal, natural, and necessary canine behaviors (peeing and pooping) performed in inappropriate places.

Housetraining is quickly and easily accomplished by praising your puppy and offering a food treat when she eliminates in an appropriate toilet area. Once your pup realizes that her eliminatory products are the equivalent of coins in a food vending machine — that feces and urine may be cashed in for tasty treats — your pup will be clamoring to eliminate in the appropriate spot, because soiling the house does not bring equivalent fringe benefits.

Housesoiling is also a temporal problem: either the puppy is in the wrong place at the right time (confined indoors with full bladder and bowels), or the puppy is in the right place at the wrong time (outdoors in the yard or on a walk, but with empty bladder and bowels).

Timing is the essence of successful housetraining. Indeed, efficient and effective housetraining depends upon the owner being able to predict when the puppy needs to eliminate so that she may be directed to an appropriate toilet area and more than adequately rewarded for doing the right thing in the right place at the right time.

Usually, puppies urinate within half a minute of waking up from a nap and usually defecate within a couple of minutes of that. But who has the time to hang around to wait for puppy to wake up and pee and poop? Instead it's a better plan to wake up the puppy yourself, when you are ready and the time is right.

Short-term confinement to a dog crate offers a convenient means to accurately predict when your puppy needs to relieve herself. Confining a pup to a small area strongly inhibits her from urinating or defecating, since she doesn't want to soil her sleeping area. Hence, the puppy is highly likely to want to eliminate immediately after being released from confinement.

Housetraining Is as Easy as 1-2-3

When you are away from home or if you are too busy or distracted to adhere to the following schedule, keep your puppy confined to her puppy playroom where she has a suitable doggy toilet. Otherwise, when you are at home: 1. Keep your puppy closely confined to her doggy den (crate) or on-leash. 2. Every hour on the hour release your pup from confinement and quickly run her (on-leash if necessary) to the toilet area, instruct your pup to eliminate, and give her three minutes to do so. 3. Enthusiastically praise your puppy when she eliminates, offer three freeze-dried liver treats, and then play/train with the pup indoors; once your puppy is old enough to go outside, take her for a walk after she eliminates.

If errorless housetraining is so easy, why do so many dog owners experience problems? Here are some common questions and answers that help make errorless housetraining work.

(For more information about Errorless Housetraining, including videos, worksheets, and personalized email support, join Dr. Ian Dunbar's Top Dog AcademyUse this link to get your first month for free.)

Why confine the pup to his doggy den? Why not his playroom?

Short-term close confinement allows you to predict when your puppy wants to go so that you may be there to direct him to the appropriate spot and reward him for doing the right thing in the right place at the right time. During the hour-long periods of close confinement, as your puppy lies doggo in dreamy repose, his bladder and bowels are slowly but surely filling up. Whenever the big hand reaches twelve and you dutifully release the pup to run to his indoor toilet or backyard doggy toilet to relieve himself, your puppy is likely to eliminate pronto. Knowing when your puppy wants to go allows you to choose the spot and most importantly to reward your puppy handsomely for using it. Rewarding your puppy for using his toilet is the secret to successful housetraining. If on the other hand the puppy were left in his playroom, he would most likely use his indoor toilet but would not be rewarded for doing so.

What if my puppy doesn't like going in his crate?

Before confining your puppy to his crate (doggy den), you first need to teach him to love the crate and to love confinement. This is so easy to do. Stuff a couple of hollow chewtoys with kibble and the occasional treat. Let your puppy sniff the stuffed chewtoys and then place them in the crate and shut the door with your puppy on the outside. Usually it takes just a few seconds for your puppy to beg you to open the door and let him inside. In no time at all, your pup will be happily preoccupied with his chewtoys. When leaving the puppy in his long-term confinement area, tie the stuffed chewtoys to the inside of the crate and leave the crate door open. Thus, the puppy can choose whether he wants to explore the small area or lie down on his bed in his crate and try to extricate the kibble and treats from his chewtoys. Basically, the stuffed chewtoys are confined to the crate and the puppy is given the option of coming or going at will. Most puppies choose to rest comfortably inside the crate with stuffed chewtoys for entertainment. This technique works especially well if your puppy is not fed kibble from a bowl but only from chewtoys or by hand, as lures and rewards in training. To use this method, each morning measure out the puppy’s daily ration of food into a bag to avoid overfeeding.

What if I don't like putting my puppy in a crate?

Short-term confinement, whether to a crate or tie-down, is a temporary training measure to help you teach your puppy where to eliminate and what to chew. A dog crate is the best housetraining tool to help you accurately predict when your dog wishes to relieve herself and is the best training tool to help you to teach your puppy to become a chewtoyaholic. Once your puppy has learned to eliminate only in appropriate areas and to chew only appropriate objects, she may be given free run of the house and garden for the rest of her life. You will probably find however, that after just a few days your puppy learns to love her crate and will voluntarily rest inside. Your puppy's very own den is a quiet, comfortable, and special doggy place. If, on the other hand, your puppy is given unsupervised free run of the house from the outset, the odds are that she will be confined later on — first to the yard, then to the basement, then to a cage in an animal shelter, and then to a coffin. Without a doubt, housesoiling and destructive chewing are the two most prevalent terminal illnesses in dogs. Using a dog crate will help you prevent these problems from ever developing in your puppy.

Why not just leave the puppy outdoors until he is housetrained?

Who is going to housetrain your pup outside — a shrub? If the dog is left outside unattended, he will become an indiscriminate eliminator. Basically, your puppy will learn to go wherever he wants, whenever he wants, and he will likely do the same whenever you let him indoors. Puppies left outdoors and unsupervised for long periods of time seldom become housetrained. Also, they tend to become indiscriminate barkers, chewers, diggers, and escapists, and they may be more easily stolen. Outdoor puppies also become so excited on the few occasions they are invited indoors that eventually they are no longer allowed inside at all.

Why release the pup every hour?

Why not every 55 minutes or every three hours? Is it really necessary to do it on the hour? Puppies have a 45-minute bladder capacity at three weeks of age, 75-minute capacity at eight weeks, 90-minute capacity at twelve weeks and two-hour capacity at 18 weeks. Releasing your puppy every hour offers you an hourly opportunity to reward your dog for using a designated toilet area. You do not have to do this precisely each hour, but it is much easier to remember to do so each hour on the hour.

Why run the puppy to the toilet? Why not walk sedately?

If you take your time getting your puppy to his doggy toilet, you may find that he pees or poops en route. Hurrying your puppy tends to jiggle his bowels and bladder so that he really wants to go the moment you let him stand still and sniff his toilet area.

Why not just put the puppy outside by himself? Can't he do it on his own?

Of course he can. But the whole point of predicting when your puppy wants to relieve himself is so you can show him where and offer well-deserved praise and reward. Thus your puppy will learn where you would like him to go. Also, if you see your puppy eliminate, you know that he is empty; you may then allow your empty puppy supervised exploration of the house for a while before returning him to his den.

Why instruct the pup to eliminate? Doesn't he know he wants to go?

By instructing your puppy to eliminate beforehand and by rewarding him for eliminating afterward, you will teach your pup to go on command. Eliminating on cue is a boon when you are traveling with your dog and in other time-constrained situations. Ask your pup to "Hurry up," "Do your business," "Go Pee and Poop," or use some other socially acceptable, euphemistic eliminatory command.

Why give the puppy three minutes? Isn't one minute sufficient?

Usually, a young pup will urinate within 30 seconds of being released from short-term confinement, but it may take one or two minutes for him to defecate. It is certainly worthwhile to allow your pup three minutes to complete his business

What if the puppy doesn't go?

Your puppy will be more likely to eliminate if you stand still and let him circle around you on leash. If your puppy does not eliminate within the allotted time, no biggie! Simply pop the pup back in his crate and try again in half an hour. Repeat the process over and over until he does eliminate. Eventually, your puppy will eliminate outdoors and you will be able to reward him. Therefore, on subsequent hourly trips to his toilet your puppy will be likely to eliminate promptly.

Why praise the puppy? Isn't relief sufficient reward?

It is far better to express your emotions when praising your puppy for getting it right, than when reprimanding the poor pup for getting it wrong. So really praise that pup: "Gooooooooood Puppy!" Housetraining is no time for understated thank yous. Don't be embarrassed about praising your puppy. Embarrassed dog owners usually end up with housesoiling problems. Really reward your puppy. Tell your puppy that he has done a most wonderful and glorious thing!

Why offer treats? Isn't praise sufficient reward?

In a word, no! The average person cannot effectively praise a moribund lettuce. And specifically, many owners—especially men—seem incapable of convincingly praising their puppies. Consequently, it might be a good idea to give the pup a food treat or two (or three) for his effort. Input for output! "Wow! My owner's great. Every time I pee or poop outside, she gives me a treat. I never get yummy treats when I do it on the couch. I can't wait for my owner to come home so I can go out in the yard and cash in my urine and feces for food treats!" In fact, why not keep some treats in a screw-top jar handy to the doggy toilet?

Why freeze-dried liver?

Housetraining is one of those times when you want to pull out all of the stops. Take my word for it: When it comes to housetraining, use the Ferrari of dog treats — freeze-dried liver.

Do we really have to give three liver treats when the puppy pees or poops? Isn't this a wee bit anal retentive?

Yes and no. Certainly you do not have to give your puppy exactly three treats every time. But it's a funny thing: If I suggest that people offer a treat each time their puppy eliminates promptly in the right place, they rarely follow instructions. Whenever I tell people to give three treats, however, they will painstakingly count out the treats to give to their puppy. Here’s what I am trying to say: Handsomely praise and reward your puppy every time he uses a designated toilet area.

Why play with the puppy indoors?

If you reward your pup for using his doggy toilet, you will know he is empty. "Thank you, empty puppy!" What better time to play with or train your puppy indoors without facing the risk of a messy mistake. Why get a puppy unless you want to spend some quality (feces-free) time with him?

Why bother to take an older puppy outdoors for a walk when he's empty?

Many people fall into the trap of taking their puppy outside or walking him so that he may eliminate, and when he does they bring him indoors. Usually it takes just a couple of trials before the puppy learns, "Whenever my urine or feces hits the ground, my walk ends!" Consequently, the pup becomes reluctant to eliminate outside, and so when brought home after a long jiggling play or walk, he is in dire need to relieve himself. Which he does. It is a much better plan to praise your puppy for using his doggy toilet and then take him for a walk as a reward for eliminating. Get in the habit of taking an older puppy to his doggy toilet (in your yard or curbside in front of your apartment building), standing still, and waiting for the pup to eliminate. Praise the pup and offer liver treats when he does: "Good dog, let's go walkies!" Clean up and dispose of the feces in your own trash can, and then go and enjoy a poopless walk with your dog. After just a few days with a simple "no poop—no walk" rule, you'll find you have the quickest urinator and defecator in town.

What should I do if I've done all the above and I catch the puppy in the act of making a mistake?

Pick up a rolled newspaper and give yourself a smack! Obviously you did not follow the instructions above. Who allowed the urine-and-feces-filled puppy to have free-range access to your house? You! Should you ever reprimand or punish your puppy when you catch him in the act, all he will learn is to eliminate in secret—that is, never again in your untrustworthy presence. Thus you will have created an owner-absent housesoiling problem. If you ever catch your pup in the act of making a mistake that was your fault, at the very most you can quickly, softly, but urgently implore your pup, "Outside, outside, outside!" The tone and urgency of your voice communicates that you want your puppy to do something promptly, and the meaning of the words instruct the puppy where. Your response will have limited effect on the present mistake, but it helps prevent future mistakes.

Never reprimand your dog in a manner that is not instructive. Nonspecific reprimands only create more problems (owner-absent misbehavior) as well as frightening the pup and eroding the puppy-owner relationship. Your puppy is not a "bad puppy." On the contrary, your puppy is a good puppy that has been forced to misbehave because his owner could not, or would not, follow simple instructions. Please reread and follow the above instructions!

The Doggy Toilet

For the best doggy toilet, equip a litter box or cover a flat tray with what will be the dog's eventual toilet material. For example, for rural and suburban pups that will eventually be taught to relieve themselves outside on earth or grass, lay down a roll of turf. For urban puppies that will eventually be taught to eliminate at curbside, lay down a couple of thin concrete tiles. Your puppy will soon develop a very strong natural preference for eliminating on similar outdoor surfaces whenever he can. If you have a backyard dog toilet area, in addition to the indoor playroom toilet, take your pup to his outdoor toilet in the yard whenever you release him from his doggy den.

If you live in an apartment and do not have a yard, teach your puppy to use his indoor toilet until he is old enough to venture outdoors at three months of age.

For a goog indoor or balcony doggy toilet check out PetaPotty or The Pet Loo.

Training Your Dog to Use an Outdoor Toilet

For the first few weeks, take your puppy outside on-leash. Hurry to his toilet area and then stand still to allow the puppy to circle (as he would normally do before eliminating). Reward your puppy each time he "goes" in the designated spot. If you have a fenced yard, you may later take your puppy outside off-leash and let him choose where he would like to eliminate. But make sure to reward him differentially according to how close he hits ground zero. Offer one treat for doing it outside quickly, two treats for doing it within, say, five yards of the outdoor doggy toilet, three treats for within two yards, and five treats for a bull's eye.

Once your dog has not had a housesoiling mistake for at least three months, you may increase your puppy's playroom to two rooms. For each subsequent month without a mistake your puppy may gain access to another room, until eventually he enjoys free run of the entire house and garden when left at home alone. If a housesoiling mistake should occur, go back to the original puppy confinement program for at least a month.

Want to learn more about how to toile train a dog without a single single mistake?

Check out The Best Online Puppy Training Program:

The Top Dog Academy. Learn how to crate train your dog so you can prevent toilet training mistakes and reward your dog when they eliminate in the correct place with videos, worksheets and podcasts that make the process easy to understand and easy to do. When you join the Top Dog Academy you also get access to personalized email support so you can train your puppy yourself. Use this link to get your first month for free.

Errorless Chewtoy-Training

The dog is a social and inquisitive animal. He needs to do something, especially if left at home alone. What would you like your dog to do? Crosswords? Needlepoint? Watch soaps on the telly? You must provide some form of occupational therapy for your puppy to pass the day. If your puppy learns to enjoy chewing chewtoys, he will look forward to settling down quietly for some quality chewing time. It is important to teach your puppy to enjoy chewing chewtoys more than chewing household items. An effective ploy is to stuff the puppy's chewtoys with kibble and treats. In fact, during your puppy's first few weeks at home, put away his food bowl and, apart from using kibble as lures and rewards for training, serve all your puppy's kibble stuffed in hollow chewtoys — Kongs, Biscuit Balls, Squirrel Dudes, Busy Buddy Footballs and sterilized bones.

For errorless chewtoy-training, adhere to the puppy confinement program. When you are away from home, leave the puppy in his puppy playroom with bed, water, toilet, and plenty of stuffed chewtoys. While you are at home, leave the puppy in his doggy den with plenty of stuffed chewtoys. Every hour after releasing the pup to relieve himself, play chewtoy games — chewtoy-search, chewtoy-fetch, and chewtoy-tug-o'-war. Your puppy will soon develop a very strong chewtoy habit because you have limited his chewing choices to a single acceptable toy, which you have made even more attractive with the addition of kibble and treats.

Once your dog has become a chewtoyaholic and has not had a chewing (or housesoiling) mishap for at least three months, you may increase your puppy's playroom to two rooms. For each subsequent month without a mistake your puppy may gain access to another room, until eventually he enjoys free run of the entire house and garden when left at home alone. If a chewing mistake should occur, go back to the original puppy confinement program for at least a month.

In addition to preventing household destruction, teaching your puppy to become a chewtoyaholic prevents him from becoming a recreational barker because chewing and barking are obviously mutually exclusive behaviors. Also, chewtoyaholism helps your puppy learn to settle down calmly because chewing and dashing about are mutually exclusive behaviors.

Chewtoyaholism is especially useful for dogs with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since it provides them with an acceptable and convenient means to work out their obsessions and compulsions. Your dog may still have OCD, but a chewtoyaholic will happily spend his time obsessively and compulsively chewing his stuffed chewtoys.

Most important, chewtoy chewing keeps the puppy occupied and effectively helps prevent the development of separation anxiety.

What Is a Chewtoy?

A chewtoy is an object for the dog to chew that is neither destructible nor consumable. If your dog destroys an object, you will have to replace it, and that costs money. If your dog consumes the object, you may have to replace your dog. Eating non-food items is extremely hazardous to your dog's health. The type of chewtoy you choose will depend on your dog's penchant for chewing and his individual preferences. I have seen some dogs make a cow's hoof or a compressed rawhide chewy last forever, whereas other dogs consume them in a matter of minutes. For years, I considered Kong products to be the Cadillacs of chewtoys. Now, there are other equally good products, such as Premier Pet Product’s Squirrel Dudes and Busy Buddy Footballs. Hollow sterilized long bones are a very close second choice. I like Kong and Premier products and sterilized bones because they are simple, natural, and organic, i.e., not plastic. Also, being hollow, they can be stuffed with food.

Want to learn more? Join The Top Dog Academy. Learn how to prevent destructive chewing with videos, worksheets, podcasts and more. When you join the Top Dog Academy you also get access to personalized email support so you can train your puppy yourself. Use this link to get your first month for free.

Dinner from Chewtoys, Not from Bowls

Customarily, puppies receive their entire daily allotment of kibble at dinner, which often becomes a jackpot reward for boisterously barking and expectantly bouncing around. Moreover, if you allow your puppy to wolf down dinner from a bowl, he will be at a loss for what to do for the rest of the day. In the wild, dogs spend a good 90 percent of their waking hours searching for something to eat, and so in a sense, regular bowl-feeding deprives a dog of his principal activity — searching for food. Instead, after eating, your inquisitive puppy will search for entertainment for the rest of the day. Most likely you will consider your puppy's choices of occupation to be mischievous misbehavior.

Without a doubt, regularly feeding a new puppy (or adult dog) from a bowl is the single most disastrous mistake in dog husbandry and training. Although unintentional, the effects of bowl-feeding are often severely detrimental for the puppy's household manners and sense of well-being. In a sense, each bowl-fed meal steals the puppy's raison d'etre — its very reason for being. Within seconds of gulping his meal, the poor pup now faces a mental void for the rest of his day with nothing but long, lonely hours to worry and fret, or work himself into a frenzy.

As the puppy adapts to fill the void, normal behaviors such as chewing, barking, strolling, grooming, and playing become stereotypical, repetitive, and maladaptive. Specific behaviors increase in frequency until they no longer serve any useful function except to pass the time. Investigative chewing becomes destructive chewing. Alarm barking becomes incessant barking. Strolling from one place to another becomes repetitively pacing, or racing back and forth. Investigating a shadow or light becomes a neurotic fixation. Routine grooming becomes excessive licking, scratching, tail-chasing, head-pressing, or in extreme cases, self-mutilation.

Stereotyped behaviors cause the release of endorphins, perpetuating their repetition, and in a sense, the dog becomes drugged and hooked on mindless, repetitive activity. Stereotyped behaviors are like behavioral cancers; as they progressively increase in frequency and squeeze most useful and adaptive responses from the dog's behavior repertoire until eventually the "brain-dead" dog spends hours on end barking, pacing, chewing himself, or simply staring into space.

A vital facet of your puppy's early education is to teach him how to peacefully pass the time of day. Feeding your puppy's kibble only from hollow chewtoys keeps your puppy happily occupied and content for hours on end. It allows the puppy to focus on an enjoyable activity so that he doesn't dwell on his loneliness. Each piece of extracted kibble also rewards your puppy for settling down calmly, for chewing an appropriate chewtoy, and for not barking.

Chewtoy Stuffing

An old chewtoy becomes immediately novel and exciting when stuffed with food. If you use kibble from your puppy's normal daily ration your puppy will not put on weight. To protect your puppy's waistline, heart, and liver, it is important to minimize the use of treats in training. Use kibble as lures and rewards for teaching basic manners and reserve freeze-dried liver treats for initial housetraining, for meeting children, men, and strangers, as a garnish for stuffing Kongs (see below), and as an occasional jackpot reward for especially good behavior.

Kong Stuffing 101

The basic principle of Kong stuffing ensures that some food comes out quickly and easily to instantly reward your puppy for initially contacting his chewtoy; bits of food come out over a long period of time to periodically reward your puppy for continuing to chew; and some of the best bits never come out, so your puppy never loses interest. Squish a small piece of freeze-dried liver in the small hole in the tip of the Kong so your puppy will never be able to get it out. Smear a little honey around the inside of the Kong, fill it up with kibble, and then block the big hole with crossed dog biscuits. There are numerous creative variations on basic Kong stuffing. One of my favorite recipes comprises moistening your puppy's kibble, spooning it into the Kong, and then putting it in the freezer overnight—a Kongsicle! Your dog will love it.

Kong Is King!

If from the outset you always confine your puppy with a selection of stuffed Kongs and Biscuit Balls, chewing these appropriate chewtoys will soon become an integral part of his day. Your puppy will quickly develop a socially acceptable Kong habit. And remember, good habits are just as hard to break as bad habits. Your puppy will now spend a large part of his day musing over his Kong products.

Let's pause for a moment to consider all the bad things your puppy will not be doing if he is quietly engaged with his chewtoys. He will not be chewing inappropriate household and garden items. He will not be a recreational barker. (He will still bark when strangers come to the house, but he will not spend all day barking for barking's sake.) And he will not be running around, fretting, and working himself up if left at home alone.

The wonderful thing about teaching a puppy to enjoy chewing chewtoys is that this activity excludes many alternative, extremely annoying puppy behaviors. A stuffed Kong is one of the best stress-relievers, especially for anxious, obsessive, and compulsive dogs.

A Kong for a dog is also one of the best stress-relievers for the owner. There is no single device that so easily and so simply prevents or resolves so many bad habits and behavior problems.

Settle Down and Shush

High on the educational agenda is to teach your pup that there are times for play and times for quiet. Specifically, you want to teach the youngster to settle down and shush for short periods. Your life will be more peaceful, and your pup's life will be less stressful once he learns that frequent little quiet moments are the name of the game in his new home.

Beware the trap of smothering your new puppy with non-stop attention and affection during his first days at home, for then he will whine, bark, and fret when left alone at night, or during the daytime when you are at work and the children are at school. Of course the pup is lonely! This is his first time alone without his mother, littermates, or human companionship.

You can really help to ease your pup's anxiety by getting him used to settling down alone during his first few days at home. Remember, first impressions are very important and long lasting. Also keep in mind that the average suburban puppy will likely spend many hours and days left to his own devices. So it is well worthwhile to teach the pup how to spend time by himself. Otherwise, the puppy may become anxious when left alone and develop hard-to-break chewing, barking, digging, and escaping habits.

When you are at home, confine your puppy to his doggy den with lots of chewtoys for housetraining, chewtoy-training, and teaching the pup to settle down peacefully and happily. It is important to confine your puppy for short periods when you are home in order to teach him how to enjoy his own company when left at home alone.

I am certainly not advocating leaving puppies alone for long periods of time. But it is a fact of modern day life that many puppy owners leave home each day to work for a living, so it is only fair to prepare the pup for this.

When you are at home, the key is short-term confinement. The idea is not to lock up the puppy for hours on end, but rather to teach him to settle down quickly in a variety of settings and be confined for variable but mostly fairly short, periods. Make sure the only objects within reach are stuffed chewtoys. Thus the dog develops a strong chewtoy habit right from the outset, if only because there is precious little else at hand to chew. And let me repeat: A puppy happily preoccupied with a stuffed chewtoy is not destroying household articles and furniture, and is not barking. When you are at home, it is also a good idea to occasionally confine your puppy to his puppy playroom (long-term confinement area) as a practice run for your absence. Occasional long-term confinement when you are at home allows you to monitor your pup's behavior so you have some idea how he will act when you are gone.

If your puppy barks or whines when confined to his short- or long-term confinement area, reward-train him to rest quietly. Sit next to your puppy’s crate or just outside his puppy playroom and busy yourself by reading a book, working on the computer, or watching television. Completely ignore your puppy while he vocalizes, but each time he stops barking, immediately praise him calmly and offer a piece of kibble.

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The Top Dog Academy. Learn how to prevent destructive chewing by training your dog to enjoy chew toys instead with videos, worksheets, podcasts and more. When you join the Top Dog Academy you also get access to personalized email support so you can train your puppy yourself. Use this link to get your first month for free.

SIRIUS Puppy Training. Looking for more support? Get personalized, real-time, video dog training guidance from an expert SIRIUS Puppy Training instructor. Dr. Dunbar's SIRIUS Puppy & Dog Training classes revolutionized the world of pet dogs when they were first created. Now, our online small-group classes allow you to get the expert assistance you need from the comfort of your home.

Home Alone


All owners find it occasionally necessary to leave their puppydog at home alone. So before leaving your puppy for long periods, you should teach him how to amuse himself appropriately when left alone, such as by chewing stuffed chewtoys, and learning how to enjoy his own company without becoming anxious or stressed. A dog is a highly social animal and therefore requires adequate preparation for spending some of his time in social isolation and solitary confinement.

To teach your puppy how to settle down calmly and quietly when you are absent, start by teaching him to settle down with a chewtoy at times when you are present.

A dog is not like a television or a video game. You can't just pull the plug or temporarily remove the batteries from a rambunctious puppy. Instead, you must teach him to settle down and shush. Right from the outset, make frequent quiet moments part of the puppy's daily routine. Following the confinement schedule (described in Puppy’s First Week at Home) will help your puppy train himself to settle down. Additionally, encourage your puppy to settle down beside you for longer and longer periods. For example, when you're watching television have your pup lie down on leash or in his crate, but release him for short play-training breaks during the commercials. For a young puppy, you can't have too many rules.

When playing with your pup, have him settle down for frequent short interludes every one or two minutes. Initially have the pup lie still for a few seconds before letting him play again. After a minute, interrupt the play session once more with a three-second settle-down. Then try for four seconds, then five, eight, ten, and so on. Although being yo-yoed between the commands "Settle down" and "Let's play" is difficult at first, the puppy soon learns to settle down quickly and happily. Your puppy will learn that being asked to settle down is not the end of the world, nor is it necessarily the end of the play session, but instead that "Settle down" signals a short timeout and reward-break before he is allowed to resume playing.

If you teach your puppy to be calm and controlled when told, you will have years of fun and excitement ahead. Once your puppy has learned to settle down and shush on cue, there is so much more your dog can enjoy with you. Your well-trained dog is likely to be invited for many walks, trips in the car, picnics, visits to the pub, or to Grandma's, and even on incredible journeys to stay in ritzy dog-friendly hotels. On the other hand, if you let your dog play indiscriminately as a puppy, he will no doubt want to play indiscriminately as an adult. Your dog will be hyperactive and uncontrollable because you have taught him to act that way. If your pup has not been taught to settle down by the time he reaches adolescence, he will be unfit to be taken places. Your pup will begin a lifetime of confinement and isolation at home while the rest of the family go out to have a good time. Not fair!

Until you have trained your puppy to enjoy spending much of his day at home alone, you might recruit a puppy sitter who has time to spend with him. Just a few houses down the street, there may live an elderly gentleman, for example, who would just love to live with a dog (but who doesn't for some reason) and therefore would be willing to come over during the daytime and sit and enjoy your TV or the contents of your fridge; maintain your puppy's confinement schedule and regularly reward him for using his doggy toilet; and periodically play with the pup and teach him household rules.

Separation Anxiety

Maintaining your puppy's confinement schedule when you are at home prepares your puppy to be calm when you are gone. Allowing a young puppy unrestricted access to you when you are at home quickly encourages him to become overly dependent, and overdependence is the most common reason why dogs become anxious when left at home alone.

Try your best to teach your puppy to enjoy his own company, to develop self-confidence, and to stand on his own four paws. Once your puppy is confident and relaxed on his own, he may enjoy all of his time with you when you are at home.

When leaving your puppy for hourly sessions in his short-term confinement area (dog crate), make a point to check how he fares when left in another room. For example, periodically confine your puppy to his crate in the dining room while you prepare food in the kitchen, then keep the pup in his crate in the kitchen while the family eats dinner in the dining room.

Most importantly, when you are at home, make certain to familiarize your puppy with his long-term confinement area (puppy playroom). Confining your pup when you're home enables you to monitor his behavior during confinement and check in on him at irregular intervals, quietly rewarding him for being quiet. Thus your pup will not necessarily associate his confinement area with your absence, but rather he will learn to look forward to time spent in his playroom with his special toys.

Give your puppy plenty of toys whenever leaving him on his own. Ideal chewtoys are indestructible and hollow (such as Kong and Premier products and sterilized longbones), as they may be conveniently stuffed with kibble and occasional treats which periodically fall out and reward the pup for chewing his toy. If your puppy is gainfully occupied with his chewtoy, he will fret less over your absence.

Additionally, leave a radio playing. The sound will provide white noise to mask outside disturbances. The sound of a radio is also reassuring, since it is normally associated with your presence. My Malamute Phoenix was quite partial to Classical music, Country, and Calypso. Oso prefers television, especially ESPN or CNN — the sound of reassuring male voices, perhaps?

When Leaving Home

Make sure to stuff a number of chewtoys with kibble and treats. Make sure to stuff a piece of freeze-dried liver into the tiny hole of each Kong, or deep into the marrow cavity of each bone. Place the tastily stuffed chewtoys in your puppy's long-term confinement area and shut the door… with your puppy on the outside! When your puppy begs you to open the door, let him in and shut the door, turn on the radio or television, and leave quietly. Your puppy's chewing will be regularly reinforced by each piece of kibble that falls out of the chewtoy. Your puppy will continue to chew in an attempt to extract the freeze-dried liver. Eventually your puppy will fall asleep.

When Returning Home

Do not acknowledge your puppy's presence with praise or petting until he retrieves a chewtoy. Once he brings you a chewtoy, use a pen or pencil to push out the piece of freeze-dried liver that your puppy has been unable to extract. This will impress your puppy to no end.

Dogs are crepuscular and quite happy to sleep all day and all night. They have two activity peaks, at dawn and dusk. Thus, most chewing and barking activity is likely to occur right after you leave your pup in the morning and just before you return in the evening. Leaving your puppy with freshly stuffed chewtoys and offering the unextracted treats when you return prompts your puppy to seek out his chewtoys at times of peak activity.

Jekyll-and-Hyde Behavior

Smothering your pup with attention and affection when you are home primes your puppy to really miss you when you are gone. A Jekyll-and-Hyde environment (lots of attention when you are there, and none when you are gone) quickly creates a Jeckyll-and-Hyde puppy that is completely confident when you are there, but falls apart and panics when you are gone.

If you allow your puppy to become overdependent upon your presence, he will be anxious in your absence. Canine anxiety is bad news for you and bad news for your pup. When stressed, dogs are more likely to indulge in bad habits, such as housesoiling, chewing, digging, and barking. Being anxious is also decidedly unpleasant for your dog.

During your puppy's first few weeks at home, frequent confinement with stuffed chewtoys is essential for your pup to develop confidence and independence. Once your puppy is quite happy busying himself with his chewtoys whenever left alone, you may safely allow your now well-behaved and confident pup to enjoy as much time with you as he likes, without the fear that he will become anxious in your absence.

Is It Really Separation Anxiety?

Most doggy "disobedience" and wanton house destruction occurring in the owner's absence has nothing to do with separation anxiety. In fact, separation relief might be a more precise and descriptive term. The dog chews, digs, barks, and soils the house only when the owner is absent because he has learned it would be foolhardy to indulge in these pastimes when the owner is present. Owner-absent misbehavior is an indication that the owner has tried to suppress normal and natural dog behaviors with punishment, rather than teaching the dog how to behave — namely, how to express his basic doggy desires in an acceptable fashion. Often the term “separation anxiety” is an excuse for a dog who is simply not yet housetrained or chewtoy-trained.

Adapted from AFTER You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar

Training:  Home Alone

Puppy's First Month at Home (8-12 weeks)

Puppies are simply custom-designed for easy socialization. Young puppies eagerly approach everyone, and everyone who sees them instinctively wants to pick them up and cuddle.

The more people your pup meets and enjoys, the more your pup will like people as an adult. Additionally, the more your pup is handled and rewarded by people, the more your future adult dog will enjoy being hugged by children and examined by veterinarians.

The Critical Period of Socialization ends by three months of age! This is the crucial developmental stage during which puppies learn to accept and enjoy the company of other dogs and people. Thus your puppy needs to be socialized to people by the time he is twelve weeks old. However, since his series of puppy immunization injections is incomplete at this point, a young pup needs to meet people in the safety of his own home. As a rule of thumb, your puppy needs to meet and party with at least a hundred people during his first month at home.

Puppies have very sharp teeth and even fairly gentle bites can hurt. However, puppy biting behavior and periodic painful (yet non-harmful) bites are essential for a puppy to ultimately develop a soft mouth as an adult dog. Puppies learn that play-fighting and play-biting are fun, but that painful bites bring an abrupt end to the play session. Thus, the more that puppies are allowed to play and bite, the quicker the painful bites decrease in frequency. Puppies must learn to control the pressure of their biting and mouthing before they develop the strength to cause serious harm and so, you must teach your puppy proper bite inhibition before he gets too old. Bite inhibition must be taught during puppyhood.

Additionally, you must teach your puppy to be confident and happy regarding human presence around their food bowl and valued objects, otherwise your puppy may become overly possessive and begin to guard objects.

Unfortunately, far too many owners underestimate the crucial importance of teaching bite inhibition and socializing their young puppy and so, I have included a list of common excuses. Not teaching bite inhibition is both asinine and potentially dangerous. Not sufficiently socializing a puppy is inhumane; as an adult, the poor dog will forever feel stressed, anxious and edgy around people. Not fair. Please socialize your puppy. In fact, please enjoy socializing yourself and your puppy with many puppy parties during your puppy’s first month at home.

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SIRIUS Puppy Training. Looking for more support? Get personalized, real-time, video dog training guidance from an expert SIRIUS Puppy Training instructor. Dr. Dunbar's SIRIUS Puppy & Dog Training classes revolutionized the world of pet dogs when they were first created. Now, our online small-group classes allow you to get the expert assistance you need from the comfort of your home.

Socialization With People


Raising and training a pup to be people-friendly is the second most important goal of pet-dog husbandry. Of course, teaching bite inhibition is always the most important goal. But during your pup's first month at home, urgency dictates that socialization with people is the prime puppy directive.

As a rule of thumb, your puppy needs to meet at least a hundred people before he is three months old. Since your puppy is still too young to venture out on the streets, you'll need to start inviting people to your home right away. Basically, you'll need to have lots of puppy parties and invite friends over to handfeed your pup and train him for you.

Doggy Dream or Nasty Nightmare?

A most important quality in a pet dog is his temperament. A dog with a good temperament can be a dream to live with, but a dog with a tricky temperament is a perpetual nightmare. Moreover, regardless of breed or breeding, a dog's temperament, especially his feelings toward people and other dogs, is primarily the result of his level of socialization during puppyhood — the most important time in a dog's life. Do not waste this golden opportunity. Solid gold temperaments are forged during this period.

Your puppy must be fully socialized to people before he is three months old. Many people think puppy classes are the time to socialize puppies to people. Not so — too little, too late. Puppy classes are a fun night out to continue socializing socialized puppies with people, for therapeutic socialization of puppies with other puppies, and most important, for puppies to learn bite inhibition.

You now have just a few weeks left to socialize your puppy. Unfortunately, your pup needs to be confined indoors until he is at least three months old, when he has acquired sufficient immunity through his puppy shots against the more serious dog diseases. However, even a relatively short period of social isolation at such a crucial developmental stage could all but ruin your puppy's temperament. Whereas dog-dog socialization may be put on temporary hold until your pup is old enough to go to puppy school and the dog park, you simply cannot delay socialization with people. It may be possible to live with a dog that does not like other dogs, but it is difficult and potentially dangerous to live with a dog that does not like people, especially if the dog doesn't like your friends and family.

Consequently, there is considerable urgency to introduce your puppy to a wide variety of people — to family, friends and strangers, and especially to men and children. As a rule of thumb, your pup needs to meet at least a hundred different people before he is three months old — an average of three unfamiliar people a day.

A Hundred People

Capitalize on the time your pup needs to be confined indoors by inviting people to your home. Your pup needs to socialize with at least a hundred different people before he is three months old. I know this may sound like a bit of an ordeal, but it is actually quite easy to accomplish. Twice a week, invite different groups of six men to watch sports on TV. Generally, men are pretty easy to attract if you offer television sports programs, pizza, and beer. On several other nights a week, invite different groups of six women for ice cream, chocolate, and good conversation. (Or the other way round—you know your friends better than I do.) On another night of the week, catch up on all of your outstanding social obligations by inviting family, friends, and neighbors for meet-the-puppy dinners. Another tactic is to bring your puppy to visit your office for the day. Or, have a puppy party once a week. Above all, don't keep your puppy a secret. One of the great things about puppy socialization is that it also does wonders for your social life!


From the very first day you get your puppy, the clock is ticking. And time flies! By eight weeks of age, your puppy's Critical Period of Socialization is already waning and within a month, his most impressionable learning period will start to close. There is so much to teach, and nearly everything needs to be taught right away.

Be Safe

Puppies may become infected with serious dog diseases by sniffing the urine or feces of infected dogs. Never let your puppy on the ground where other dogs may have eliminated. You may take your puppy for car rides and to visit friends, but always carry your puppy from house to car, and vice versa. Of course, these precautions also apply to visits to the veterinary clinic. The ground immediately outside the door of the clinic and the floor of the waiting room are two of the most likely contaminated areas. Carry your puppy from the car to the clinic and keep him on your lap in the waiting room. Better yet, keep your puppy crated in your car until it is time for his examination.

Three Goals Of Socialization

1. Teach your puppy to enjoy the presence, actions, and antics of all people — first the family, and then friends and strangers, especially children and men. Adult dogs tend to feel most uneasy around children and men, especially little boys. A dog's antipathy toward children and men is more likely to develop if the puppy grows up with few or none around, and if the puppy's social contacts with children and men have been unpleasant or scary. 2. Teach your puppy to enjoy being hugged and handled (restrained and examined) by people, especially by children, veterinarians, and groomers. Specifically, teach your puppy to enjoy being touched and handled in a variety of "hot spots," namely, around his collar, muzzle, ears, paws, tail, and rear end. 3. Teach your puppy to enjoy giving up valued objects when requested, especially her food bowl, bones, balls, chewtoys, garbage, and paper tissues.

Adapted from AFTER You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar

Teach Your Puppy to Like and Respect People


Compensate for your puppy's temporary but necessary social vacuum during his first month at home by introducing him to as many people as possible in the safety of his own home. Initial impressions are important, so make sure your puppy's first meetings with people are pleasant and enjoyable. Have every guest handfeed your puppy a couple of pieces of kibble. Puppies that enjoy the company of people grow up into adult dogs that enjoy the company of people. And dogs that enjoy the company of people are less likely to be frightened or bite.

Make sure to invite a number of different people to your home each day. It is not sufficient for your pup to meet the same people over and over again. Your puppy needs to grow accustomed to meeting strangers — at least three a day. Maintain routine hygiene at all times; have guests leave outdoor shoes outside and wash their hands before handling your puppy.

Training Treats

To prevent your puppy from porking out on junk food treats, use your pup's daily ration of kibble as training treats. To prevent your puppy from being overfed by members of the family, measure your puppy's daily diet of kibble plus treats into a separate container first thing in the morning. Thus at any time of the day, if any kibble or treats remain in the container, they may be fed to the puppy as a snack, as a meal, or individually handfed as rewards when training.

Invite many people to meet your puppy. Show every guest how to teach your puppy to come, sit, lie down, stand and rollover.

If your puppy is regularly handfed dinner by guests in this manner, he will soon learn to enjoy the company of people and to approach happily and sit automatically when greeting them. And, of course, as an added bonus you will have successfully trained your family and friends to help you train your puppy.


The actions and antics of children can be extremely scary to adult dogs that are not socialized with children during puppyhood. Even well-socialized adult dogs may get into trouble, since much that children do excites dogs and incites them to play and chase. Puppies and children must be taught how to behave around each other. This is easy and fun to do, so let's do it.

For puppy owners with children, the next few months present a bit of a challenge. It is infinitely worthwhile, however, because puppies successfully socialized with children generally develop exceedingly sound temperaments — they have to — and once they mature there is little in life that can surprise or upset them. However, to maximize the relationship between dogs and children and to ensure the dog's good nature and solid disposition, parents must educate their children as well as the pup. Teach your children how to act around the pup, and teach your pup how to act around children.

Puppy owners without children have a different kind of challenge. You must invite children to your home to meet your puppy, now! However, unless your child-training skills exceed your puppy-training skills, initially invite over children only in small numbers. To start with, invite only a single child. One child is marvelous. Two are fine. But usually, three children plus a puppy quickly reach critical mass and emit levels of energy unmeasurable by any known scientific instrument. And, after all, we are trying to teach the puppy and the children to be calm and mannerly.

First, invite over only well-trained children. Supervise the children at all times. I repeat, supervise the children at all times. (Later on, puppy classes will offer a wonderful source of children who have been trained how to act around puppies and who have been trained how to train puppies.)

Second, invite over your friends' and relatives' children — children your puppy is likely to meet regularly or even occasionally as an adult.

Third, invite over neighborhood children. Remember, it is usually neighborhood kids who terrorize your dog through the garden fence, exciting him and inciting him to bark, growl, snap, and lunge. Then, of course, it is the children's parents, your neighbors, who complain because your dog is barking and harassing their kids. Dogs are less likely to bark at children they know and like, so give your puppy ample opportunity to get to know and like neighborhood children. Similarly, children are less likely to tease a dog they know and like, owned by people they know and like, so give the neighborhood kids ample opportunity to get to know and like you and your puppy.

Give children tasty treats such as freeze-dried liver as well as kibble to use as lures and rewards during handling and training exercises. Thus, your puppy will quickly learn to love the presence, and presents, of children.

For the first week, make sure your puppy's interactions with children are carefully controlled and calm. Thereafter, however, it is important for puppy parties to be festive. Balloons, streamers, and music set the stage, and treats for the puppies plus presents, noise-makers, and costumes for the children set the scene.

It is so important that your puppy be very young when he first encounters and becomes thoroughly accustomed to the noise and activity of children. If your dog is already an adolescent before he sees his first child running and screaming in the park, generally you will be in for trouble because the dog will want to give chase. However, for the lucky puppy who has hosted numerous puppy parties with children (or adults) laughing, screaming, running, skipping, and falling over… well, that's just old hat. Been there, done that! After just a couple of occasions partying with children, it is unlikely anything in real life will be as weird as what has become the snoring-boring, established status quo during puppy parties.

Puppy-Party Games

Initially, Round Robin Recalls and Puppy Push-ups are the best games to play. Have the children sit in chairs in a big circle. The first child calls the puppy and has him lie down and sit up three times in succession before sending him to the next child in the circle — "Rover, Go to Jamie," whereupon Jamie calls the puppy to come and perform three puppy push-ups, and so on. This is a wonderful exercise to practice prompt recalls and lightning-fast control commands — sits and downs.

In subsequent puppy parties, Biscuit Balance and Drop Dead Dog competitions are the name of the game. Give each child praise and a prize, but give special praise and special prizes to the children who can get their dog to balance a dog biscuit on his nose for the longest time — the longest sit-stay, or to get their dog to lie down and play dead for the longest time — the longest down-stay.

As a rule of thumb, before your puppy is three months old he should have been handled and trained (to come, sit, lie down, and roll over) by at least twenty children.


Many adult dogs are more fearful of men than they are of women. So invite over as many men as possible to handle and gentle your puppy. It is especially important to invite men to socialize with your puppy if no men are living in the household. Make sure you teach all male visitors how to handfeed kibble to lure/reward your pup to come, sit, lie down, and roll over. Add a few extra tasty treats to each male visitor's bag of training kibble so that your puppy forms a fond and loving bond with men.


Young puppies tend to be universally accepting and tolerant of all people, but, unless taught otherwise, adolescent and adult dogs predictably develop a natural wariness of people they do not know. Introducing your puppy to a hundred people before he is three months old will help make him more accepting of strangers as an adolescent. To remain continually accepting of strangers, however, your adult dog needs to continually meet strangers. Meeting the same people over and over just won't do it. Your adult dog needs to meet at least three new people each day, so you must maintain your newly improved social life at home or walk your dog regularly.

Willing Compliance

When a puppydog approaches promptly and happily, it is a sure sign that he is people-friendly. Sitting and lying down in close proximity to people further shows that your dog likes them. Using food lures and rewards in training is the best possible way to teach your dog to like children and strangers. A puppy that has been taught by a range of people to lie down and roll over will have learned to show friendly appeasement and deference upon request. Most important, by coming, sitting, lying down, and rolling over on request, your dog shows respect for the person issuing instructions. This is especially important with children. When children lure/reward train, they issue requests (commands), and the dog happily and voluntarily complies (obeys). And when it comes to dogs and children, happy and voluntary compliance is the only type of compliance that is effective and safe.


If your puppy is slow to approach, or doesn't approach your guests, do something about it now. Certainly, your puppy may be shy or lethargic. But more likely, he is frighteningly undersocialized. It is absolutely abnormal for a two- to three-month-old puppy not to eagerly approach people. You must resolve this problem within one week, otherwise, it will rapidly get worse — much worse. Moreover, if you let the days slip by, future attempts at therapeutic socialization will become progressively less effective.

Please do not ignore your puppy's fears by rationalizing: "He takes a while to warm to strangers." If your pup takes a while to warm to strangers now, he will likely be intolerant and scared of strangers as an adult. It is simply not fair to let your puppy grow up to be scared and anxious around people. Please help your puppy today.

The solution is simple and effective, and usually only takes one week. For the next seven days, invite over half a dozen different people each day to handfeed your puppy's meals. For just one week, your puppy must not receive any food from family members or in his dog bowl. This technique works quickly if your puppy only receives kibble and treats from the hands of household guests. Once the puppy happily accepts food from the hand, your guests may then ask the pup to come, sit, and lie down for each piece of kibble. Your guests will soon become your puppy's new best friends.

A Very Important Rule

One single person can have a dramatic impact on your puppy's personality — for better or worse. Insist that nobody — nobody — interact or play with your puppy until they demonstrate they can get him to come eagerly, sit promptly, and lie down calmly.

Untrained visitors, especially children and adult male friends and relatives, are renowned for ruining good puppies in short order. If your visitors won't listen and wise up, put your puppy in his long-term confinement area, or ask the visitors to leave.

Teasing and Roughhousing

Some people appear to enjoy teasing, manhandling, or roughhousing with puppies. Puppies may find teasing and roughhousing to be positive and enjoyable, or unpleasant and frightening.

Good-natured teasing can be a lot of fun for both parties. Properly done, teasing can do a lot to build a puppy's confidence by gradually and progressively desensitizing him to all the weird things people, especially men and children, do. On the other hand, relentless teasing can be frustrating and damaging. Malicious teasing is not teasing; it is abuse.

Confidence-building might involve temporarily withholding toys or treats from the pup, temporarily hugging or restraining the pup, making strange noises, or temporarily making mildly scary faces or slightly weird body movements, and then praising the pup and offering a food treat. The food reward builds the puppy's confidence by reinforcing his acceptance of your scary faces and weird actions. With each repetition you may act a little scarier and weirder before offering a treat. After time, your puppy will confidently accept any human action or mannerism. If the puppy ever refuses a treat, you have stressed him. So stop being silly for while until you have handfeed the pup half a dozen treats in a non-threatening situation.

Puppies have to be trained to enjoy teasing. For example, being relentlessly pursued by a child with outstretched arms can be the scariest thing on the planet for a puppy without prior preparation. However, being pursued round the dining room table by an owner doing monster-walks can be one of the most enjoyable games for a puppy that has been taught to enjoy playing the game. Most dogs love to be chased as long as they have been taught that the game is non-threatening.

Malicious teasing — taking pleasure in the puppy's displeasure — is just too cruel and silly for words. It is decidedly not funny to cause the puppy discomfort or to make him afraid. You are teaching the pup to distrust people, and it is your fault when, as an adult, the dog reacts defensively. Sadly though, it will be the dog that gets into trouble, not you. Please don't allow this to happen.

There is a simple test to determine whether or not the puppy finds teasing to be enjoyable. Stop the game, back up, and ask the puppy to come and sit. If the puppy comes promptly with a wagging tail and sits with his head held high, he is probably enjoying the game as much as you are. You may continue playing. If the pup approaches with a wiggly body, lowered head and tail, makes excessive licking motions with his tongue, and lies down or rolls over when asked to sit, you have pushed the puppy too far and he no longer trusts you. Stop playing and rebuild the puppy's confidence by repeatedly backing up and asking the pup to come and sit for a piece of kibble. If the puppy is slow to approach or doesn't come when called, then he doesn't like you any more than he likes the evil game you're playing. Stop playing immediately. Take a long look in a mirror. Reflect on what you've done. Then go back and repair the damage by tossing food treats to the puppy until you can get him to confidently and happily come and sit three times in a row.

Because teasing may be beneficial or detrimental, you must regularly and repeatedly test that your puppy is having a good time. Check that the pup will come and sit before starting the game, and stop the game at least every 15 seconds to see if he will still do so. This is a sensible precaution anyway, and checks that you are still in control of the puppy, even when he is excited and having fun.

Similarly, make sure that your family and friends all demonstrate the same ability to get the pup to come, sit, lie down, and roll over before allowing them to play with your puppy. This simple and effective precaution should apply to men, women, and children.

When played intelligently, physical games, such as play-fighting and tug-of-war, are effective bite inhibition and control exercises, and are wonderful for motivating adult dogs during obedience training. In order to be effective and not produce out-of-control dogs, however, these games must be played according to strict rules, the most important being that you are in control at all times. That is, at any time you are able to get your puppy to stop playing and lie down calmly with a single down command. If you do not have this level of control, do not roughhouse with your puppy; you'll ruin him so quickly.

Barking and Growling on Cue

A puppy can easily be trained to bark and growl on command, which has many practical uses. Tell him, "Speak!" Then have someone ring the doorbell to prompt the pup to bark. After several repetitions, your puppy will bark when you say, "Speak!" in anticipation of the doorbell. Your pup can similarly be taught to growl on command. While playing tug-of-war, ask your pup to growl and tug vigorously on the toy. When he growls, praise him enthusiastically. Then say, "Puppy, Shush!" Stop tugging and let him sniff the food treat. When the pup stops growling, praise him calmly, and offer the food treat.

Teaching your puppy to bark and growl on cue facilitates teaching "Shush!" Requesting your pup to vocalize allows you to teach "Shush!" at your convenience. This is much easier than trying to quiet the pup when he is afraid of an approaching stranger, or over-the-top with excitement when someone is at the front door. Alternate "Speak!" and "Shush!" until your pup has it down perfect. He will soon learn to shush at times when he is obediently barking or growling. Now your puppy will understand when you ask him to be quiet when he is excited or afraid.

A noisy dog tends to frighten people more than a quiet dog, especially a dog that barks repetitively and works himself into a frenzy. A simple, well-trained "Shush!" request will quickly quiet and calm the dog and make him less scary to visitors and especially children.

Teaching "Shush!" is only fair to your dog. So many dogs are repeatedly reprimanded and punished for barking and growling simply because no one has taught them to shush on command. The sad thing is that many adult dogs bark only out of excitement, enthusiasm, or boredom. Or they bark and growl as a solicitation to play the same games they played with you when they were puppies.


· Handfeeding teaches your puppy to like kibble. Kibble may then be used effectively as lures and rewards for handling and gentling exercises and for basic training, especially by children, men, and strangers.

· Handfeeding teaches your puppy to like training and his trainers, especially children, men, and strangers.

· Teaching your puppy "Off" and "Take it" will help prevent her from becoming a food guarder.

· Teaching your puppy "Take it… Gently" is the very core of your puppy's developing a soft mouth and learning bite inhibition.

· Handfeeding enables you to choose convenient times for teaching your pup to control his jaws, rather than having to deal with your puppy whenever he decides to play-bite and bother you.

Adapted from AFTER You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar


Training:  Liking People

Handling & Gentling


Living with and loving a dog you cannot touch, cuddle, or hug is just about as silly as living with and loving a person you cannot hug. It is also potentially dangerous. Even so, veterinarians and groomers will tell you that hard-to-handle dogs are extremely common. Indeed, many dogs are extremely stressed when restrained and/or examined by strangers. There are few physical differences between hugging and restraint, or between handling and examination. The difference depends on your puppy's perspective. Generally, puppies feel they are hugged and handled by friends, but restrained and examined by strangers.

Veterinarians and groomers simply cannot do their jobs unless your dog remains relaxed and still while being examined. Fearful and aggressive adult dogs and sometimes just plain wriggly adolescent dogs often need to be restrained, tranquilized, or even anesthetized for routine physical examination, teeth-cleaning, and grooming. Restraint makes the procedure much scarier for dogs. Untrained dogs are exposed to the risk of anesthesia, the additional safety precautions consume the veterinarian's time, and hence the owners must pay more money. It is just too silly. Adult humans do not require anesthesia during routine trips to the doctor, dentist, and hairdresser; neither would dogs, if only their owners had taught them to enjoy meeting and being handled by people.

It is simply not fair to allow your puppy to grow up to be wary and anxious around people and afraid of their touch. It is cruel to invite an ultra-social animal to live in the world of humans, yet neglect to teach him to enjoy human company and contact. The poor dog is subjected to a lifetime of psychological torture

It is not sufficient that your pup merely tolerates handling; he must learn to thoroughly enjoy being handled by strangers. A dog that doesn't thoroughly enjoy being restrained and examined by strangers is a time bomb waiting to go off. One day an unfamiliar child will attempt to hug and pet your dog. Your dog may object. Then the child, you, and your dog all have a big problem.

Your puppy needs to be handled by familiar people before unfamiliar people, adults before children, women before men, and girls before boys.

As with the socialization exercises, adult family members need to accustom the pup to enjoy being handled and gently restrained first. Then your puppy knows and enjoys the handling and gentling game before strangers and children become involved. It is quite easy — and thoroughly enjoyable — to teach young puppies to like being handled and examined by people, whereas teaching adolescent and adult dogs to accept handling, especially by children and strangers, can be time-consuming and potentially dangerous. So do not delay. Do it now.


This is the fun part: you get to hug your puppy. In fact, every family member and all your guests get to hug the puppy. Relaxing with your puppy is a lot of fun, especially if your puppy is relaxed. If he is not relaxed, you are going to teach your puppy to relax, calm down, and thoroughly enjoy a good long cuddle.

Provided your pup was handled frequently prior to weaning and especially neonatally, at eight weeks of age he should go as limp as a noodle whenever picked up, and should settle down as relaxed as a rag doll on your lap. Even if your puppy did not have the benefit of plentiful early handling in his original home, handling exercises are easy at eight weeks of age. However, you had better get started, because in just twelve weeks time, with a hard-to-handle, five-month-old adolescent, the same simple handling exercises will be a completely different story. Untrained adolescent dogs are notoriously difficult to handle.

Pick up your pup, put him on your lap, and hook one finger around his collar so that he doesn't jump off. Slowly and repetitively stroke the pup along the top of his head and back in an attempt to get him to settle down in any position he finds comfortable. If your pup is a bit squirrelly and squirmy, soothingly massage his chest or the base of his ears. Once the pup is completely relaxed, pick up the pup and lay him down on his back for a soothing tummy rub. Massage his belly by making a repetitive circular motion with the palm of your hand. Gently rubbing the pup's inguinal area (where the inside of the thigh joins the abdomen) will also help the puppy relax. While your puppy is calm and relaxed, periodically pick him up to give him a short hug and maybe a kiss on the nose. Gradually and progressively increase the length of the hugs (restraint). After a while, pass the puppy to someone else and have them repeat the above exercises.


Should your pup struggle violently, or especially if he has a tantrum, you must not let go. Otherwise, your puppy will learn that if he struggles or throws a tantrum, he needn't calm down and be handled because the owner gives in. Bad news! With one hand on your pup's collar and the palm of your other hand against the puppy's chest, gently but firmly hold the pup's back against your abdomen. Hold the puppy so that his four legs point away from you and sufficiently low down against your abdomen so that he cannot turn his head and bite your face. Hold the pup until he calms down, which he will eventually do. Continue massaging the pup's ear with the fingers of one hand and his chest with the fingertips of your other hand. As soon as the puppy calms down and stops struggling, praise the pup, and after a few seconds of calm let him go. Then repeat the procedure.

If you have difficulty getting the pup to calm down and enjoy being hugged (restrained) after one day of practice, call a trainer to your home immediately. This is an emergency. You do not want to live with a dog you cannot handle or hug. Contact the Association of Pet Dog Trainers at to locate a Certified Pet Dog Trainer in your area.

Alpha Rollover???

As I mentioned before, your puppy will not trust and respect you if manhandled and forcibly restrained on his back. He will become more resistant. You'll soon have a puppy that doesn't even enjoy being cuddled because he perceives your hugs as forcible restraint. Be gentle and patient as described above.


Teaching your eight-week-old puppy to enjoy being handled and examined is as easy as it is essential. Moreover, your pup's veterinarian, trainer, and groomer will be forever grateful, as will be you and your puppy. It is a truly unfortunate puppy that finds it scary to be handled and examined.

Many dogs have a number of "hot spots," which if not defused in puppyhood can be extremely sensitive to touch. Handling the ears, paws, muzzle, collar area, and rear end often provokes a defensive reaction in an adult dog if these areas have not been desensitized during puppyhood. Similarly, an adult dog may act fearfully or defensively when you stare into his eyes, if as a puppy he was not taught to enjoy direct eye contact.

Some areas become sensitive over time simply because nobody bothers to examine them. For example, few owners regularly inspect their dog's rear end, or open his mouth to examine the teeth. Some areas are naturally sensitive and may provoke a reaction even in puppies. For example, nearly every puppy will bite your hand if you firmly take hold of his leg or paw. Other areas become sensitive because of bad husbandry and mishandling. Dogs with hangy-down ears, which are prone to infection, soon come to associate ear examinations with pain. Similarly, many adult dogs associate being stared at or being grabbed by the collar with bad times. Dogs quickly become hand-shy when people take them by the collar to lead them to confinement, grab them by the collar to put them on leash (ending an otherwise enjoyable play session in the park), or grab them by the collar to punish them for some transgression.

Handling and examination exercises serve to defuse the hot spots and help the puppy form positive associations with being handled. Desensitizing the puppy and teaching him to enjoy handling is simple when combined with handfeeding him kibble. It is so simple, in fact, that it is surprising there are so many hard-to-handle adult dogs.

Use your puppy's daily allotment of kibble as training treats to teach him to enjoy being handled. Take hold of your pup's collar and offer a treat. Gaze into your pup's eyes and offer a treat. Look in one ear and offer a treat. Look in the other ear and offer another treat. Hold a paw and offer a treat. Repeat with each paw. Open his mouth and offer a treat. Feel his rear end and private parts and offer two treats. And then repeat the sequence. Each time you repeat the process, progressively handle and examine each area more thoroughly and for longer periods.

Once your puppy is quite happy being handled and examined by family members, it is time to play Pass the Puppy with your guests. One at a time, have each guest offer the pup a treat, take hold of his collar, look in his eyes, handle and examine his ears, paws, teeth, and rear end, and offer treats as described above before passing the pup (plus the bag of dinner kibble) to the next person.

Few people intend to hurt or frighten a puppy, but accidents happen. For example, a guest may inadvertently step on his paw, or the owner might accidentally grab his hair when reaching for the collar. But if the pup feels secure when being handled, he will be less likely to react defensively.


Twenty percent of dog bites occur when a family member reaches to grab the dog by the scruff or collar. One doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. Obviously, the dog has learned that when people grab the collar bad things often happen. Consequently, the dog becomes hand-shy, plays Catch-Me-if-You-Can, or reacts defensively. It is potentially dangerous to have a dog dodge you when you reach for his collar. For example, you need to know you could effectively grab your dog if he ever tried to dash out the front door.

So teach your puppy to enjoy being grabbed by the collar. First, prevent your pup from forming negative associations to human hands, and second, teach your pup that being taken by the collar has only positive consequences.

If you let your puppy play without interruption, and then take him by the collar to end the play session, of course he will come to dislike your reaching for his collar because a collar grab signals the end of the play session. Starting in the house and later in the park, frequently interrupt puppy play sessions by taking your puppy by the collar. Ask him to sit, praise, offer a piece of kibble, and then let him go play again. The puppy thus learns that being taken by the collar is not necessarily the end of the play session. Instead, a collar grab is a short timeout for refreshment and a few kind words from his owner before the puppy gets to play again. Also, every time you interrupt the play session, you may use resumption of play to reward your puppy for sitting and allowing you to take him by the collar.

If you lead or drag your puppy into confinement, he will no doubt come to dislike being taken by the collar, as he will come to dislike confinement. Instead, teach your puppy to enjoy confinement. Stuff a bunch of hollow chewtoys with kibble, put them in your puppy's confinement area, and then close the door with your puppy on the outside. In no time at all, your puppy will beg to go inside. Now simply instruct your pup, "Go to your bed (or crate)" or "Go to your playroom (long-term confinement area)," and open the door. Your pup will happily rush inside and settle down peacefully with his chewtoys.

Above all, promise your puppy that you will never (NEVER) call your puppy and then grab him by the collar to reprimand or punish. Doing this just once will make him hate coming when called and hate when you reach for his collar. If you punish your puppy after he comes to you, he will take longer to come the next time. Eventually slow recalls will become no recalls. Your puppy will still misbehave; only now you will be unable to catch him! If you ever punish your puppy after taking his collar, he will soon become hand-shy, evasive, and defensive.

To prevent your puppy from becoming hand-shy, take hold of his collar and then offer a piece of kibble. Repeat this procedure many times throughout the day, and with each successive trial progressively increase the speed with which you reach for the collar. Your puppy will soon develop a strong positive association with being grabbed and may even look forward to it.

If your puppy is already even a tiny bit hand-shy, the last thing you want to do is reach for his collar. Instead, practice reaching for and handling areas he does not mind having touched, or actually enjoys having touched. Then, gradually and progressively work toward the collar. Start by offering the dog a piece of kibble to let him know the game's afoot. "Not a bad start," thinks the dog. Then touch the tip of his tail and immediately offer another piece of kibble. If it is possible to touch the tip of the tail, then surely it is possible to touch just one inch down from the tip. Give the dog another piece of kibble and touch two inches down, then three inches down, and so on. On each repetition, touch the dog a little closer to his collar. It is only a matter of time before you can reach for and handle the dog's collar without upsetting the dog. When touching the dog's collar the first couple of times, offer one or two pieces of freeze-dried liver.

The key to progressive desensitization is to work slowly. If you even suspect the dog is a little intimidated or uneasy, go right back to square one — in this case, the tip of the tail — and this time work slower.

Adapted from AFTER You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar

Training:  Handling & Gentling

Guarding Valued Objects


Object-guarding starts during puppyhood . Owners may fail to notice their adolescent dog becoming increasingly possessive and protective. Some may actually encourage their puppy's protective displays, thinking they are cute.

It is natural for dogs to protect their possessions. In the wild, a wolf would hardly pop next door to borrow a cup of bones. Domestic dogs quickly learn that once something is gone, it is gone. So it is not surprising to find dogs trying to keep their possessions away from people.

Bitches are more likely to guard objects than male dogs. In a domestic pack, it is fairly common to see a very low-ranking bitch successfully defend her bone from a relatively high-ranking male dog. In fact, the Bitch's First Amendment to Male Hierarchical Law is "I have it, and you don't!"

With male dogs, object-guarding is more common among middle-ranking insecure male dogs. In fact, nothing better advertises insecurity and lack of confidence than object guarding — definitely not "top dog behavior." In fact, true top dogs are usually confident in their position and are often quite willing to share a bone, toy, or food bowl with lower-ranking individuals.

If you frequently take food or toys away from your puppy and she never gets them back, your pup will learn that relinquishing an object likely means she will never see it again. Understandably, your pup might develop behaviors to keep objects away from you. She may run and hide with the object, hold on tight with her jaws, growl, snarl, and maybe snap.

If you find you are backing down when your puppy is protecting any object, and are at a loss for what to do, seek help from a Certified Pet Dog Trainer immediately. (Check out This problem will quickly get out of hand, and soon you will have an adult dog backing you down. Retraining adult dogs that are protective of valued objects is complicated, time-consuming, and not without danger. You will definitely require assistance from an experienced trainer or behavior counselor. On the other hand, preventing this in puppyhood is easy and safe.

First make sure that your puppy develops a strong chewtoy habit. If she always wants to play with her chewtoys, she won’t seek out inappropriate objects that need to be taken away. Additionally, teach your pup to voluntarily relinquish her chewtoys on request.

Basically, you have to teach your puppy that voluntarily relinquishing an object does not mean losing it for good. Your puppy should learn that giving up bones, toys, and tissues means receiving something better in return — praise and treats — and also later getting back the original object.

The Token System — Exchanging Valued Commodities for Treats

Start working with objects that both you and your puppy can hold at the same time, such as a rolled newspaper or a Kong on a rope. Physical contact is a very big part of the possession game. Your puppy is less likely to protect an object if you still have hold of it. However, as soon as you let go, your pup becomes more likely to defend her prize.

As practiced in the previous exercise, tell your puppy "Off" and then "Take it." Waggle the object in front of her muzzle enticingly. Praise your puppy when she takes hold. Do not let go of the object. Say, "Puppy, Thank you," stop waggling the object to encourage your puppy to stop tugging, and with your other hand, waggle a very tasty treat (freeze-dried liver) in front of her nose. Praise your puppy as soon as she opens her mouth and you have regained full possession of the object. Continue praising as you offer one, two, or three treats (maybe luring the puppy to sit or lie down as you do so). Then instruct your pup to take the object again and repeat the procedure. When your puppy has promptly relinquished the object upon request five times in a row, you may let go of the object each time. Now you are ready to work with smaller objects, such as a Kong without a rope, tennis balls, Biscuit Balls, sterilized bones, or other toys. Once your pup eagerly takes and gives promptly, simply drop or toss the object and say, "Thank you." Your pup will pick up the object and drop it in your hand. Voilà! Your very own faithful retriever pup!

Retrieving is a lot of fun and good exercise. It has numerous applications, such as looking for lost keys, fetching slippers, and clearing up dog toys. Most puppies love retrieving and quickly develop confidence about surrendering objects. Puppies think it's a great deal. They temporarily swap their toys for treats, the owner safely holds the toy while they enjoy the treat, and then they get the toy back to exchange for more treats. In fact, some puppies enjoy proffering objects so much that it may become a bother to the owner. If your pup offers too many unsolicited presents, simply instruct her, "Take it to your bed." In fact, this is one of the best ways to teach your puppy to clear up her toys.

By teaching your puppy to retrieve objects, what had intrinsic value as a toy now has additional value as a token that may be exchanged for praise and rewards. Playing fetch with your puppy is a wonderful way to supercharge her toys, increase their effectiveness as lures and rewards for training, and greatly increase the likelihood that a bored puppy will seek out her toys to play with rather than inappropriate household or outdoor articles.

Once the above exchange exercises are working, increase the intrinsic value of the objects by stuffing the Kong or sterilized bone with treats. Before your puppy is ten weeks old, you should also repeat the following confidence-building exercise many times. Even with a ten-week-old puppy, I would advise having an assistant for these exercises. Tie a length of stout string to one end of a meaty bone. Should the pup growl, have your assistant yank on the string to pull the bone away, and quickly cover it with a plastic garbage bucket. The plastic bucket may also be used to cover the pup's food bowl should the pup act up during food bowl exercises.

Don't waste time reprimanding the pup for growling. Instead, make sure to praise and reward your puppy as soon as she stops growling. Additionally, you must make sure that a growling puppy immediately loses her bone or food bowl. Many puppies will initially growl when food is removed. These are not bad dogs; they are normal dogs. Growling is quite natural. However, your puppy must learn that growling doesn't work so that this behavior does not escalate and continue into adolescence. As your puppy develops confidence, she will learn that there is no reason to growl because you have no intention of stealing her food. When the puppy stops growling, praise her, back up, and have her sit and lie down, give her back the object, and then repeat the procedure.

If you have problems with object and food guarding exercises, seek help immediately. Do not wait until your puppy is three months old.

The Food Bowl

Many old-time dog training books advise not going near a dog when it is eating. Whereas it may be sound advice to let a trustworthy adult dog eat in peace, this does not mean letting untrained puppies eat alone. If a pup grows up eating alone, she may not want her mealtimes disturbed as an adult. Eventually, someone is bound to bother the dog when she is eating, whereupon she may respond in a characteristically canine, food-protective fashion and growl, snarl, snap, lunge, and maybe bite.

By all means, tell people not to bother your dog when she is eating, but first be certain your puppy is totally trustworthy around her food bowl. Teach your puppy not simply to tolerate people around her food bowl, but to thoroughly look forward to dinner-time guests.

Hold your pup's bowl while she eats kibble. Offer tasty treats and handle the puppy, and she will learn her dinners are more enjoyable when people are present with petting and treats. Let the puppy eat kibble from her bowl, offer a tasty treat, and then temporarily remove the bowl as the puppy enjoys the treat. Then try removing the bowl prior to offering a treat. Your pup will soon look forward to your removing the bowl and the kibble, since it signals a tasty treat is imminent.

As your puppy is eating dry kibble from her bowl, quickly put your hand in the bowl and offer a tasty treat. Give your puppy time to reinvestigate the dry kibble, to check for more treats, and to recommence eating. Then plunge your hand in the bowl and offer another treat. Repeat the procedure several times. Your pup will soon become accustomed and look forward to sudden hand movements around her food bowl. This exercise impresses puppies to no end — it's like the magician who pulls a flower, an egg, or a dove from behind someone's ear.

Sit with your puppy while she is eating and have family members and friends walk by. Each time someone approaches, spoon a small dollop of canned food on top of the kibble. Your puppy will quickly make the association between approaching people and juicy canned food being added to her kibble. Later, have family and friends approach and toss a treat into the puppy's bowl. Soon your puppy will welcome the dinnertime presence and presents of people.

The Delinquent Waiter Routine

Have you ever been kept waiting for an hour in a restaurant, eating bread and drinking water yet you haven't even ordered? "Where is that waiter? I wish he would hurry over." Well, the delinquent waiter routine prompts the same reaction in puppies. Most will beg you to approach their food bowl.

Weigh out your puppy's dinner kibble in a bowl on the counter and then put the pup's bowl on the floor with only one piece of kibble. Try to capture your puppy's reaction on camera. She will look at the bowl with disbelief. Your pup will look back and forth between you and her bowl, gobble down the one piece of kibble, and then thoroughly sniff the empty bowl. Casually walk away from the bowl and busy yourself. Maybe inquire as to whether or not your puppy enjoyed her dinner. "Was everything to your liking, Ma'am? Are you ready for second course?" Wait until your puppy begs for more, walk over, pick up her bowl, place in one more piece of kibble, wait for the pup to sit, and then put her bowl on the floor.

Your puppy will become calmer and her manners will improve with each "course." Also, by feeding your puppy's dinner in many small courses, you will teach her to welcome your approaches.

Paper Tissue Issues

Years ago, I consulted on a case of a one-year-old dog that stole used Kleenex tissues and irritated her owner by playing Catch-Me-if-You-Can. The dog ran under a bed, the owner poked her with a broomstick, and the dog bit her on the wrist. I have since dealt with many similar cases. For paper-tissue theft to escalate to the point of both owner and dog physically abusing each other is extremely silly. It is essential that you teach your young puppy to exchange rolled newspaper, toilet rolls, or individual paper tissues for food treats so that she does not becomes possessive and protective of paper products. On the other hand, if the dog finds paper tissues intriguing, use them as lures and rewards in training, or give the dog one a day as a toy. And if you don't want your dog to steal paper tissues, flush them down the toilet.

"She's a bit tricky around her food bowl."

It is surprising how many adolescent dogs still display a tendency to guard food and objects, yet their owners do nothing about it. Whereas playful food and object guarding are quite normal, and to be expected, in developing puppies, defensive guarding behavior cannot be allowed in adolescent or adult dogs. It is extremely easy to build your puppy's confidence so that she no longer feels the need to defend her food bowl, bones, and toys from people.

If you ever sense your puppy is even a little bit possessive or protective of any object, do something about it immediately. The requisite confidence-building exercises have all been described above. If you think the problem is beyond your control, seek help immediately while your puppy is still a puppy.

Adapted from AFTER You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar

Puppy Biting

Bite inhibition is the single most important lesson a dog must learn. Adult dogs have teeth and jaws that can hurt and harm. All animals must learn to inhibit use of their weapons against their own kind, but domestic animals must learn to be gentle with all animals, especially people. Domestic dogs must learn to inhibit their biting toward all animals, especially toward other dogs and people. The narrow time window for developing a "soft mouth" begins to close at four-and-a-half months of age, about the time when the adult canine teeth first show. Providing your puppy with an ideal forum to learn bite inhibition is the most pressing reason to enroll him in puppy classes before he is eighteen weeks old.

Bite inhibition does not mean stopping the puppy from biting altogether. On the contrary, puppies must bite in order to learn bite inhibition. Bite inhibition means, learning to inhibit the force of the bites, so they no longer hurt or cause damage.

Puppies bite — and thank goodness they do. Puppy biting is a normal, natural, and necessary puppy behavior. Puppy play-biting is the means by which dogs develop bite inhibition and a soft mouth. The more your puppy bites and receives appropriate feedback, the safer his jaws will be in adulthood. It is the puppy that does not mouth and bite as a youngster whose adult bites are more likely to cause serious damage.

The puppy's penchant for biting results in numerous play-bites. Although his needle-sharp teeth cause painful bites, his weak jaws seldom cause serious harm. The developing puppy should learn that his bites can hurt long before he develops jaws strong enough to inflict injury. The greater the pup's opportunity to play-bite with people, other dogs, and other animals, the better his bite inhibition will be as an adult. For puppies that do not grow up with the benefit of regular interaction with other dogs and other animals, the responsibility of teaching bite inhibition lies with the owner.

After all the socialization and handling exercises during his first month at home, your puppy will be unlikely to want to bite, because he likes people. However, should your dog snap or bite because he has been frightened or hurt, one hopes that he causes little if any damage because he developed good bite inhibition during puppyhood. While it is difficult to socialize a dog and prepare him for every potentially scary eventuality, it is extremely easy to ensure that as a puppy he develops reliable bite inhibition.

Even when provoked to bite, a dog with well-established bite inhibition seldom breaks the skin. As long as a dog's bite causes little or no damage, behavioral rehabilitation is comparatively easy. But when your dog inflicts deep puncture wounds as an adult, rehabilitation is much more complicated, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous.

Good bite inhibition is the most important quality of any companion dog. Moreover, a dog must develop bite inhibition during puppyhood, before he is four-and-a-half months old.

Do you want to learn more about puppy biting? Join The Top Dog Academy.  You'll find videos, worksheets, podcasts and more! When you join the Top Dog Academy you also get access to personalized email support so you can train your puppy yourself. Use this link to get your first month for free.

Human Bite Inhibition?

No dog is perfectly behaved, but luckily, most dogs are pretty well-socialized and have pretty good bite inhibition. Most dogs are basically friendly, even though they may occasionally be fearful and wary of some people some of the time. Also, although many dogs have growled, lunged, snapped, or even nipped someone at some time in their lives, very few dogs have ever inflicted any appreciable damage.

Perhaps a human analogy will help illustrate the crucial importance of bite inhibition. Few people can honestly say that they have never had a disagreement, never had an argument, or never laid a hand on someone in anger (especially when considering siblings, spouses, and children). However, very few people have ever hurt another person so badly that they had to be admitted to the hospital. Thus, most people freely admit that they are sometimes disagreeable, argumentative, and prone to physical violence. Even so, very few people have injured another person. Dogs are no different. Most dogs have several disagreements and arguments each day. Many dogs have been involved in full-contact fights at some time in their lives. But very, very few dogs have ever severely injured another dog or a person. This is the importance of bite inhibition.

Bite Inhibition with Other Dogs

Dogfights offer a wonderful illustration of the effectiveness of solid bite inhibition. When dogs fight, it usually sounds like they are tying to kill each other, and it appears they forcibly bite each other over and over. However, when the dust settles and the dogs are examined, 99 percent of the time there are no puncture wounds whatsoever. Even though the fight was a frenzied flurry of activity and both dogs were extremely worked up, no harm was done because both dogs had exquisitely fine-tuned bite inhibition, acquired during puppyhood. Puppies teach each other bite inhibition when play-fighting, their number one favorite activity.

Unless there are vaccinated adult dogs at home, your puppy must live within a temporary doggy social vacuum and dog-dog socialization must be postponed for a while. Until your puppy has acquired sufficient active immunity, it is too risky to allow him to socialize with dogs of dubious immunization history, or with dogs that have been in contact with the urine and feces of dogs potentially infected with parvovirus and other serious puppy diseases. However, as soon as your puppy has developed sufficient immunity to safely venture outdoors — at three months of age, at the earliest — catching up on dog-dog socialization is urgent. Enroll your puppy in puppy classes right away and take him for walks and to the local dog park several times a day. You will thank yourself for years to come. There is no greater enjoyment than watching your dog-friendly adult dog enjoy playing with other dogs.

Bite inhibition, however, cannot be put on hold. If there are no other dogs at home for your puppy to play with, you have to teach your puppy bite inhibition until he is old enough to go to puppy classes.

Bite Inhibition with People

Even if your puppy has a couple of canine buddies at home, you will still need to teach your puppy to inhibit the force and frequency of his bites toward people. Additionally, you must teach your puppy how to react when frightened or hurt by people. He should by all means yelp, but he should not bite and he should never bear down.

Even if your dog is friendly and mouths gently, by five months of age at the very latest, he must be taught never to touch any person's body or clothing with his jaws unless requested. Whereas mouthing is essential for puppies and acceptable from a young adolescent dog, it would be utterly inappropriate for an older adolescent or adult dog to mouth visitors and strangers. It would be absolutely unacceptable for a six-month-old dog to approach a child and take hold of her arm, no matter how gentle, friendly, and playful the dog's intentions. It would frighten the living daylights out of the child, to say nothing of her parents.

Out-of-Control Play Sessions

Some owners, especially adult males, adolescent males, and boys, quickly let play-mouthing sessions get out of control. This is why many dog-training texts recommend not indulging in games such as play-fighting or tug-of-war. The whole point about playing these games is to improve your control. And if you play these games by the rules, you will soon have excellent control over your puppy's mouthing behavior, vocal output, energy level, and activity. However, if you do not play by the rules, you will soon have an adult dog that is dangerously out-of-control.

I have a simple rule with my dogs: no one is allowed to interact or play with them unless they have demonstrated that they can get them to come, sit, lie down, speak, and shush. This rule applies to everyone, especially family, friends, and visitors, that is, the people most likely to ruin your dog's behavior. For active games, such as tug-of-war and play-fighting, I have an additional rule: No one may play with the dogs unless at any time they can immediately get the dog to stop playing and sit or lie down.

Practice "Off," "Sit," and "Settle Down" many times during your puppy's play sessions, and you will soon have an easily controllable adult dog, one that has learned to listen to you no matter how excited and worked up he may be. Do not play with your pup without frequent interruptions. Have short timeouts at least every fifteen seconds or so to check that you're in control and can easily and quickly get the puppy to let go, calm down, and settle down. The more you practice, the more control you'll have.

Puppies with Soft Mouths

Many gundog breeds, especially Spaniels (and especially the nice Spaniels), have extremely soft mouths as puppies and therefore receive limited feedback that their jaws can hurt. If a puppy does not frequently mouth, bite, and does not occasionally bite hard, this is serious. The puppy must learn his limits, and he can only learn his limits by exceeding them during development and receiving the appropriate feedback. Again, the solution lies with puppy classes and off-leash play sessions with other puppies.

Puppies That Don't Bite

Shy dogs seldom socialize or play with other dogs or strangers. Hence they do not play-bite, nor do they learn to reduce the force of their bites. The classic case history describes a dog that didn't mouth or bite much as a pup and never bit anyone as an adult — until an unfamiliar child tripped and fell on the dog while he was gnawing on a bone. Not only did the dog bite, but his first bite left deep puncture wounds because he had developed no bite inhibition. With shy puppies, socialization is of paramount importance and time is of the essence.

Similarly, some Asian breeds have an extremely high degree of fidelity toward their owners, and, consequently, tend to be fairly standoffish with other dogs or human strangers. Some restrict their mouthing and biting to members of the family, and some simply do not mouth at all. Hence, they never learn to inhibit the force of their jaws.

Non-biting puppies must be socialized immediately. They must commence play-fighting and play-biting well before they are four-and-a-half months old. Initiating play, socialization and learning bite inhibition are all best accomplished by promptly signing up for puppy classes.

Speed of Development

The large working dog breeds develop slowly and, as long as they have not developed problems, may delay starting puppy classes until they are four months old. But they must start classes by four-and-a-half months. Smaller breeds, however, especially cattle dogs, develop much faster, and waiting until they are four months old is too late. Cattle dogs, working sheep dogs, toys, and terriers all need to be enrolled in puppy classes by three-and-a-half months of age.

Of course, regardless of the size and speed of development of your puppy, to get the most out of his formal education, enroll in a class when your puppy is three months old and then enroll in a second puppy class when he is four-and-a-half months old.

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Teaching Bite Inhibition

Please read this section extremely carefully. I shall repeat over and over: teaching bite inhibition is the most important aspect of your puppy's entire education.

Certainly puppy biting behavior must eventually be eliminated. We cannot have an adult dog playfully mauling family, friends, and strangers in the manner of a young puppy. However, it is essential that this be done gradually and progressively via a systematic two-step process: first, to inhibit the force of puppy bites and second, to lessen the frequency of puppy mouthing.

Ideally, the two phases should be taught in sequence, but with more active puppy biters you may wish to work on both stages at the same time. In either case, you must teach your puppy to bite or mouth gently before puppy biting behavior is eliminated altogether

Inhibiting the Force of Bites

The first step is to stop your puppy from hurting people: to teach him to inhibit the force of his play-bites. Physical punishments are certainly not called for. But it is essential to let your puppy know that bites can hurt. A simple "Ouch!" is usually sufficient. When the puppy backs off, take a short time-out to "lick your wounds," instruct your pup to come, sit, and lie down to apologize and make up and then, resume playing. If your puppy does not respond to your yelp by easing up or backing off, an effective technique is to call the puppy a "Bully!" and then leave the room and shut the door. Allow the pup a minute or two time-out to reflect on the association between his painful bite and the immediate departure of his favorite human playmate. Then return to make up. It is important to show that you still love your puppy, only that his painful bites are objectionable. Have your pup come and sit and then resume playing once more.

It is much better for you to walk away from the pup than to physically restrain him or remove him to his confinement area at a time when he is biting too hard. So make a habit of playing with your puppy in his long-term confinement area. This technique is remarkably effective with lead-headed dogs, since it is precisely the way puppies learn to inhibit the force of their bites when playing with each other. If one puppy bites another too hard, the bitee yelps and playing is postponed while he licks his wounds. The biter soon learns that hard bites interrupt an otherwise enjoyable play session. He learns to bite more softly once play resumes.

The next step is to eliminate bite pressure entirely, even though the "bites" no longer hurt. While your puppy is chewing his human chewtoy, wait for a bite that is harder than the rest and respond as if it really hurt, even though it didn't: "Ouch, you worm! Gennntly! That really hurt me, you bully!" Your puppy begins to think, "Good Heavens! These humans are soooooo sensitive. I'll have to be really careful when mouthing their delicate skin." And that's precisely what you want your pup to think: that he needs to be extremely careful and gentle when playing with people.

Your pup should learn not to hurt people well before he is three months old. Ideally, by the time he is four-and-a-half months old — before he develops strong jaws and adult canine teeth — he should no longer be exerting any pressure when mouthing.

Decreasing the Frequency of Mouthing

Once your puppy has been taught to mouth gently, it is time to reduce the frequency of mouthing. Your pup must learn that mouthing is okay, but he must stop when requested. Why? Because it is inconvenient to drink a cup of tea or to answer the telephone with fifty pounds of wriggling pup dangling from your wrist. That's why.

It is better to first teach "Off" using food as both a distraction and a reward. The deal is this: once I say "Off," if you don't touch the food treat in my hand for just one second, I'll say, "Take it" and you can have it. Once your pup has mastered this simple task, up the ante to two or three seconds of non-contact, and then to five, eight, twelve, twenty, and so on. Count out the seconds and praise the dog with each second: "Good dog one, good dog two, good dog three," and so forth. If the pup touches the treat before you are ready to give it, simply start the count from zero again. Your pup quickly learns that once you say "Off," he can not have the treat until he has not touched it, for, say, eight seconds, so the quickest way to get the treat is not to touch it for the first eight seconds. In addition, regular hand-feeding during this exercise encourages your pup's soft mouth.

Once your pup understands the "Off" request, use food as a lure and a reward to teach it to let go when mouthing. Say, "Off" and waggle some food as a lure to entice your pup to let go and sit. Then praise the pup and give the food as a reward when he does so.

The main point of this exercise is to practice stopping the pup from mouthing, and so each time your puppy obediently ceases and desists, resume playing once more. Stop and start the session many times over. Also, since the puppy wants to mouth, the best reward for stopping mouthing is to allow him to mouth again. When you decide to stop the mouthing session altogether, say, "Off" and then offer your puppy a Kong stuffed with kibble.

If ever your pup refuses to release your hand when requested, say, "Bully!" rapidly extricate your hand from his mouth, and storm out of the room mumbling, "Right. That's done it! You've ruined it! Finished! Over! No more!" and shut the door in his face. Give the pup a couple of minutes on his own to reflect on his loss and then go back to call him to come and sit and make up before continuing the mouthing game.

By the time your pup is five months old, he must have a mouth as soft and reliable as a fourteen-year-old working Labrador Retriever: your puppy should never initiate mouthing unless requested; he should never exert any pressure when mouthing; and he should stop mouthing and calm down immediately upon request by any family member.

Whether or not you allow your adult dog to mouth on request is up to you. For most owners, I recommend that they teach their dog to discontinue mouthing people altogether by the time he is six to eight months old. However, it is essential to continue bite inhibition exercises. Otherwise, your dog's bite will begin to drift and become harder as he grows older. It is important to regularly handfeed your dog and clean his teeth each day, since these exercises involve a human hand in his mouth.

For owners who have good control over their dog, there is no better way to maintain the dog's soft mouth than by regular play-fighting. However, to prevent your puppy from getting out of control and to fully realize the many benefits of play-fighting, you must play by the rules and teach your dog to play by the rules.

Play-fighting teaches your puppy to mouth only hands, which are extremely sensitive to pressure, but never clothing. Shoelaces, ties, trousers, and hair have no nerves and cannot feel. Therefore you cannot provide the necessary feedback when your pup begins to mouth too hard and too close to your skin. The play-fighting game also teaches your dog that he must adhere to rules regarding his jaws, regardless of how worked up he may be. Basically, play-fighting gives you the opportunity to practice controlling your puppy when he is excited. It is important to establish such control in a structured setting before real-life situations occur.

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The Top Dog Academy. Learn how to deal with puppy biting, and how to teach bite inhibition with videos, worksheets and podcasts about puppy training. When you join the Top Dog Academy you also get access to personalized email support so you can train your puppy yourself. Use this link to get your first month for free.

SIRIUS Puppy Training. Looking for more support? Get personalized, real-time, video dog training guidance from an expert SIRIUS Puppy Training instructor. Dr. Dunbar's SIRIUS Puppy & Dog Training classes revolutionized the world of pet dogs when they were first created. Now, our online small-group classes allow you to get the expert assistance you need from the comfort of your home.

Common Excuses For Not Socializing Your Puppy


"Our last dog was perfectly trustworthy."

Maybe you were just lucky and picked a born-to-be-perfect puppy. Or maybe you were an excellent trainer. But can you still remember what you did back then and do you still have the time to do it?

"Our last dog just loved kids!"

One young family doted on their first dog and devoted a lot of time to his training. The whole family attended puppy classes and held puppy parties at home for the children's friends. So many children spent time playing games and reward-training the dog, that of course the dog loved children. The dog enjoyed his sunset years proudly watching the children grow up and graduate from high school. By the time the parents got their second dog, the children had all left the nest. The new puppy grew up in a world without children. All went well for many years — that is, until grandchildren appeared on the scene.

"He's fine with me."

Wonderful! Certainly the first step of socialization is to make sure the puppy is perfectly friendly with the family. But it is imperative that the pup become Mr. Sociable with friends, neighbors, visitors, and strangers so that he does not object to being examined by the veterinarian or playfully grabbed and hugged by children.

"Our pup gets more than enough socialization with our family."

Not true! In order to be accepting of strangers as an adult, your puppy needs to meet at least three unfamiliar people each day, not the same people over and over again.

"I don't have any friends to help me socialize my puppy."

Well, you soon will. Socializing your puppy will do wonders for your social life. Invite your neighbors over to meet the pup. Invite people over from work. Check out the puppy classes in your area and invite over some puppy owners from there. They will more than appreciate the problems you are about to encounter in the future. If you cannot get people to come to your home to meet the puppy, take him to safe places to meet people. Do not put him on the ground in public places that may have been frequented by unvaccinated adult dogs until he is at least three months old and current with his vaccinations. Buy a soft carrier and take your puppy on errands: for example, to the bank, the bookstore, or hardware store. See if you can take your puppy to work. Later on, you will be able to take your pup to puppy classes, to dog parks, and on neighborhood walks. But he needs to meet lots of people right away. So whatever you do, do not keep your puppy a secret.

"I don't want my dogs to accept food treats from strangers."

Perhaps your concern is that someone may poison the dog. As a rule, dogs are only poisoned when left alone in backyards — because they are not housetrained and therefore cannot be left safely indoors — or when let loose to range and roam. But you are not inviting dog-hating strangers to interact with your puppy. Instead, you are inviting over selected family, neighbors, and friends. Regardless, every puppy should be taught never to touch or take any object, including food, from any person's hand unless first the puppy hears "Rover, Take it," or some such command. Having learned these basic manners, your dog will only accept food from people who know his name and who know the appropriate take it command — namely, from family and friends.

"I don't want my dog to like strangers. I want him to protect me."

Oh, come on … try telling that to your veterinarian, or to your children's friends' parents. However, if you mean you want your dog to perform some protective function, that's a different matter. But surely you are not going to leave it up to a poorly socialized dog to make decisions regarding whom to protect, whom to protect against, and how to protect. Any good protection dog has first been super-socialized to the point of total confidence, and then carefully taught how, when, and whom to protect. Training your dog to bark or growl on command is a more than sufficient protective deterrent. Your dog may be taught to vocalize in certain situations: for example, when somebody steps onto your property or touches your car. Alarm barkers are extremely effective deterrents, especially if they do not bark when people simply walk by your house or car.

"I don't have the time."

Then give the puppy to someone who does have the time! This puppy may still be saved if someone is willing to take the time to socialize him.

"I need to dominate my pup to get him to respect me."

Not necessarily. Or, not at all. If you physically force and dominate your puppy, he won't respect you. He may heed your commands — grudgingly and fearfully — but he certainly won't respect you. More likely, your dog will grow to resent you.

Besides, there are easy and enjoyable ways to get your dog to show respect. Years ago in one of my puppy classes, I remember a young couple who had a four-year-old daughter named Kristen and a Rottweiler named Panzer. In class, Kristen had the dog better trained than her parents and could consistently get Panzer to come, sit, lie down, and roll over. Kristen would give Panzer a tummy rub when he was lying on his side and he would raise his hind leg to expose his belly. Kristen would talk to Panzer in a squeaky little voice. Kristin squeaked, and Panzer did what she asked. Or, we could say that Kristen requested and Panzer agreed. Or, that Kristen commanded and Panzer obeyed. More important, though, Panzer happily and willingly complied. And when it comes to children training dogs, happy willing compliance is the only kind of compliance that is safe and makes sense. Was Kristen dominating Panzer? Absolutely! But in a much more effective way than by using brute force. As a child, Kristen had to use brain instead of brawn to control Panzer's behavior. Kristen mentally dominated Panzer's will.

Kristen's training engendered Panzer's respect and friendship. Panzer respected her wishes. Also, by approaching promptly off-leash, Panzer demonstrated that he liked Kristen. By sitting and lying down, Panzer showed that he really liked Kristen and wanted to stay close to her. By rolling over, Panzer displayed appeasement. And by lifting his leg to expose his inguinal area, Panzer displayed deference. In doggy language, exposing the inguinal region means, "I am a lowly worm. I respect your higher rank, and I would like to be friends." If you want your puppy to respect you, lure/reward train him to come, sit, lie down, and roll over. If you want your puppy to show deference, teach him to lick your hand or shake hands. Licking and pawing are both active appeasement gestures — signs of wanting to be friends. If you would like your puppy to show doggy deference, tickle his goolies when he is lying on his side and watch him raise his hind leg to expose his inguinal area.

"Dogs of this breed are particularly hard to handle."

Using this excuse to give up on handling, gentling, and socialization exercises is too silly for words. If your research on dog breeds has convinced you that you truly have a difficult breed, you should double or triple the socialization and handling exercises, wind back all developmental deadlines, and start each batch of exercises earlier. Strangely enough, though, I have heard this excuse given for just about every breed of dog. As soon as you think that your chosen breed is too much dog for you, seek help immediately. Find a trainer who can teach you how to handle your puppy before you cause irreparable damage to his temperament.

"My spouse/significant other/parent/child selected the most dominant pup in the litter."

Did you remember the cardinal rule of puppy selection, that all family members completely agree? Well, it's a bit late for that now, and so I would suggest the same advice as above. As soon as you suspect you have a difficult pup, double or triple the socialization and handling exercises and start each batch of exercises earlier. Additionally, you might consider learning how to train your spouse, significant other, parent, or child.

"Something is genetically wrong with the puppy."

Same advice as above: as soon as you suspect your puppy has some kind of organic problem, double or triple the socialization and handling exercises and start each batch of exercises earlier. It's a bit late for genetic screening, and, in any case, what else can you do —t weak the dog's genes? Many people use breed, dominance, or organic conditions as an excuse to give up on the pup — and as an excuse to not socialize and train him. In reality, socialization and training is the puppy's only hope. Your puppy needs socialization and training. Lots of it! Right away! Regardless of breed and breeding, and regardless of your puppy's socialization and training prior to coming to your home, as of right now, any change in your puppy's temperament, behavior, or manners is completely dependent on how you socialize and train him. Work with your puppy and he will get better. Don't work with your puppy and he will get worse. Your puppy's future is entirely in your hands.

"He's just a puppy!" or, "He's sooooo cute!" or, "He's only playing!" or, "He'll grow out of it!"

Of course your puppy is only playing — play-barking, play-growling, play-biting, play-fighting, play-protecting a bone, or playing tug-of-war. If you just laugh at him, your pup will continue playing the aggression game as he grows older, and in no time at all, your fully grown adult dog will be playing for real. Puppy play is all important. Play is essential if a puppy is to learn the social relevance of the vast jumble of behaviors in his doggy repertoire, specifically the appropriateness and inappropriateness of each behavior in each setting. In a sense, play enables a pup to learn what he can get away with. What you need to do is teach your puppy the rules of the game. And the more rules he learns in puppyhood, the safer he will be as an adult dog. Puppy barking and growling are quite normal and acceptable, just as long as you can stop the noise when you wish. Stopping an eight-week-old puppy from barking or growling is pretty easy. Be still yourself, so the puppy may calm down more easily. Say, "Puppy, Shush!" and waggle a food treat in front of his nose. Say, "Good dog," and offer the treat when the pup eventually shushes. Similarly, tug-of-war is a normal and acceptable game, just as long as your pup never initiates the game and you can get the pup to release the object and sit at any time. Both are easy rules to teach to an eight-week-old puppy. When playing tug-of-war, instruct your puppy to release the object and sit at least every minute. Periodically stop tugging, say, "Thank you," and waggle a food treat in front of his nose. When the puppy releases the object to sniff the treat, praise him, and ask him to sit. When he sits, praise him profusely, offer the food treat, and then resume the game.

Euphemism, Litotes, and Other Outrageous Silliness! "He takes a while to warm to strangers!" "He's not overly fond of children!" and "He's a bit hand-shy!"

How can anyone live with a dog knowing that he is stressed by the presence of strangers and children and scared of human hands? The poor dog must be in a state of extreme anxiety. Just how many times does this dog have to beg, implore, and warn you that he feels uncomfortable around strangers and children and doesn't like people reaching for his collar? This is simply an accident waiting to happen. What if an unfamiliar child should reach for the dog's collar, possibly around the dog's food bowl, when the dog is having a bad-hair day and not feeling good? A dog bite for sure. What will we say? That the dog bit without warning and without reason? The poor dog had at least five good reasons to bite: (1) a stranger, (2) a child, (3) reaching for his collar, (4) proximity to his food bowl, and (5) not feeling good. And the dog had been warning his family repeatedly for some time. If there is anything that upsets your puppy, desensitize him to that specific stimulus or scenario immediately. Help your puppy build his confidence so that he may approach everyday events without stress or fear. The required confidence-building exercises have all been described. Use them!

Adapted from AFTER You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar

Training:  Common Excuses

Puppy Outside the Home


Once your puppy has received the proper vaccinations, it’s time to explore and enjoy the great outdoors and to continue socialization in puppy classes, dog parks and dog walks. Make sure to incorporate training into all of your puppy’s favorite activities; train your puppy on walks, in the car and in the park.

The most urgent priority is to continue socializing your puppy to a wide variety of experiences and people, especially children, men, and strangers. Well-socialized puppies grow up to be wonderful companions, whereas antisocial dogs are difficult, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous. Your puppy needs to learn to enjoy the company of all people and to enjoy being handled by all people, especially children and strangers.

The most important priority is that your puppy learns to perfect reliable bite inhibition and develops a soft mouth before he is eighteen weeks old. Whenever a dog bites a person or fights with another dog, the seriousness of the problem depends on the seriousness of the injury. Hence, the ease and success of retraining depends almost entirely on the dog's degree of bite inhibition. The reliability of your dog's bite inhibition determines whether you have a minor problem which may be easily corrected with a few safe, basic training exercises, or whether you have a serious and potentially dangerous problem which is going to be extremely difficult to resolve.

In a perfect world, you will successfully socialize your puppy so that he thoroughly enjoys the company and actions of all people, all dogs, and all animals. More realistically, though, accidents happen. Someone accidentally shuts the dog's tail in the car door. Someone runs to answer the telephone and accidentally treads on a sleeping dog's leg. A child runs and trips and falls on top of the dog while he is gnawing on a bone. When dogs are hurt or startled, their natural response is to snap, lunge, and even bite. Even wonderfully friendly dogs may feel inclined to protect or defend themselves when picked on by other dogs and people.

For example, when hurt or frightened a dog may snap and lunge at a person. But if a dog has well-established bite inhibition it is unlikely his teeth will even touch the skin. Or if there is skin contact, it is unlikely that the teeth will break the skin. The dog has caused no damage. On the other hand, if the dog has inadequate bite inhibition and his teeth puncture the skin, then you have a serious situation which may be difficult and time-consuming to resolve.

Similarly, dogs with well-established bite inhibition never cause damage when fighting with other dogs. The problem is minor because your dog is simply squabbling in a socially acceptable manner. On the other hand, if your dog ever hurts another dog or another animal, you have a major problem and resolution is unlikely.

Bite inhibition must be established in puppyhood, before eighteen weeks of age, since it is difficult to instill bite inhibition in an adolescent or adult dog. Learning the skills and techniques to ensure your puppy develops a reliable bite inhibition and an ultra-soft mouth is the primary reason for you to attend off-leash puppy classes. Your puppy needs to play with other puppies. Playing with adult dogs at home or in the park is simply not sufficient.

The most enjoyable priority of dog ownership is to accustom your well-socialized, soft-mouthed puppy to the world at large and prevent the development of predictable adolescent problems, thus assuring that he remains well-socialized and soft-mouthed. Remember, your dog will only remain sociable if he continues meeting and greeting unfamiliar people and unfamiliar dogs every day. Meeting the same people and dogs over and over is not sufficient. You want your dog to practice the art of meeting and getting along with strangers, not simply getting along with old friends. Consequently, regular walks with your dog are as essential as they are enjoyable.

Your life is about to change. You are about to enjoy all the joys of dog ownership — long, energetic, or relaxing walks, trips in the car, afternoons in the dog park, picnics on the beach, plus so many enjoyable organized doggy activities.

Continued Socialization


Training a dog to be people-friendly and especially to enjoy the company of his immediate human family is the second most important item in your puppy's education — much more important than socializing him to other dogs. (And as we all know by now, the most important item in your puppy's educational curriculum is teaching bite inhibition.) Although a few common sense precautions make it possible to live quite happily with a dog that does not get along with other dogs, it can be extremely difficult and even dangerous to live with a dog that does not like people — especially if he doesn't like family members! So people-friendliness is a much more important doggy quality than dog-friendliness. But it is truly wonderful when a dog is dog-friendly, having had ample opportunity to meet and play with other dogs on walks and in dog parks.

Unfortunately, few suburban dogs are regularly walked or even given the opportunity to interact with other dogs. For many dog owners, dog-friendliness is simply not a top priority. On the other hand, for owners who consider dog-friendliness important, in fact a major reason for having a dog, their dogs are presumably walked and/or taken to dog parks regularly and so are likely to grow up to be sociable with other dogs. But even for these dogs, people-friendliness is much more important than dog-friendliness, because every day when walked or taken to a park, they are likely to meet many strangers, often children. Most puppy classes are family-oriented, so your pup will have opportunities to socialize with all sorts of people — men, women, and especially, children. And then there is the training game. It will blow your mind just how much your puppy learns in his very first lesson.

Dogs learn to come, sit, and lie down when requested, to stand still and roll over for examination, to listen to their owners, and to ignore distractions. Additionally, of course, puppy classes are an absolute blast! You will never forget your pup's first night in class. Puppy classes are an adventure, both for you and for your dog. Remember, you are attending puppy class for you to learn! And there's still an awful lot to learn. You'll pick up numerous useful tips for resolving behavior problems. You'll learn how to control the rambunctiousness that is inevitably part and parcel of doggy adolescence. But, most important of all, you'll learn how to control your puppy's biting behavior.

Training:  More Socialization

Puppy Classes


Check out the new videos from SIRIUS Dog Training on the new SIRIUS Berkeley Puppy 1 page.

As soon as your puppy is three months old, there is an urgent need to play catch-up in terms of socialization and confidence building with other dogs. At the very latest, before he is eighteen weeks old, your pup should start puppy training classes.

Four-and-a-half months marks a critical juncture in your dog's development, the point at which he changes from puppy to adolescent, sometimes virtually overnight. You certainly want to be enrolled in class before your pup collides with adolescence. I cannot overemphasize the importance of placing yourself under the guidance and tutelage of a professional pet dog trainer during your dog's difficult transition from puppyhood to adolescence.

Puppy classes allow your pup to develop canine social savvy while playing with other puppies in a nonthreatening and controlled setting. Shy and fearful pups quickly gain confidence in leaps and bounds and bullies learn to tone it down and be gentle.

Puppy play sessions are crucially important. Play is essential for pups to build confidence and learn canine social etiquette, so that later on as socialized adult dogs they would much rather play than either fight or take flight. If not sufficiently socialized as puppies, dogs generally lack the confidence to have fun and play as adults. Moreover, once they are fearful or aggressive as adults, dogs can be difficult to rehabilitate. Luckily, these potentially serious problems with adult dogs are easily prevented in puppyhood, simply by letting puppies play with each other. So give your puppy this opportunity. It's not fair to condemn your dog to a lifetime of social worry and anxiety by denying him the opportunity to play during puppyhood.

This is not to say that a socialized dog will never spook or scrap. A socialized dog may be momentarily startled, but he gets over it quickly. Unsocialized dogs do not. Also, socialized dogs, which have encountered all sizes and sorts of dogs, are better equipped to deal with occasional encounters with unsocialized or unfriendly dogs.

The Ultimate Reason for Puppy Class

The number one reason for attending puppy class is to provide your puppy with the very best opportunity to fine-tune his bite inhibition. Whether your puppy is still biting you too much and harder than you would like, or whether he is biting less than necessary to develop reliable bite inhibition, puppy play sessions are the essential solution. Other puppies are the very best teachers. They say, "Bite me too hard and I'm not going to play with you anymore!" Since puppies want to spend all their time play-fighting and play-biting, they end up teaching other puppies bite-inhibition.

Classes of young puppies of about the same age generate high energy and activity levels, pretty much on par with groups of children who are of similar age. Each puppy stimulates the others to give chase and play-fight, such that the frequency of bites during puppy play is astronomical. Moreover, each puppy tends to rev up all the others, such that the physical nature of the play and the force of play-bites periodically increase to the point where one puppy predictably bites another too hard and receives the appropriate feedback. A young puppy's skin is extremely sensitive, so pups are likely to provide immediate and convincing feedback when bitten too hard. In fact, a pup is likely to receive better feedback regarding the force of his bites during a single one-hour puppy class than he would all week from his owners at home. Moreover, much of the pup's bite inhibition with other dogs will generalize to good bite inhibition with people, making the pup easier to train and control at home.

Now, as mentioned earlier, even well-socialized dogs may have occasional disagreements and squabbles. After all, who doesn't? But just as we have learned how to resolve disagreements with each other and with our dogs in a socially acceptable manner without tearing flesh or breaking bones, so can socialized dogs. Although it is unrealistic to expect dogs never to squabble and scrap, it is absolutely realistic to expect dogs to settle their differences without mutilating people or other dogs. It all depends on the level of bite inhibition they develop while mouthing other puppies in play. So get your puppy enrolled in puppy class right away. Have him develop a supersoft mouth so that all his woofs are friendly and furry.

"But our puppy’s great with our other dog at home."

Your puppy may be Mr. Sociable with your other dog, but you're in for a shock when your puppy goes out alone, whether for a walk on the street, to a dog park, or to training class. You will quickly find that your dog is not socialized at all. Instead he will likely run and hide and defensively growl, lunge, and snap. Your puppy may appear to be extremely well-socialized and friendly at home, but he is only socialized and friendly to one dog. Also, he has likely become overdependent on one dog, and when he goes out alone for the first time, he will fall apart, missing the security and company of his best friend and bodyguard, your other dog. Socialization requires meeting a variety of dogs. To keep a socialized puppy socialized, he needs to meet unfamiliar dogs every day. So walk your puppy and take him on regular trips to dog parks. And be sure to enroll him in puppy classes.

Looking for a Puppy Class

One hopes you will have checked out a variety of classes before you get your puppy so that you will have a pretty good idea of what you are looking for. But here are a few tips: Avoid puppy classes that advocate the use of any metal collar or any means of physical punishment that frightens, harms, or causes pain to your pup. Push-pull, leash-jerk, grab-and-shake, alpha rollover, and domination techniques are largely ineffective, besides being adversarial and sometimes downright unpleasant. These out-of-date methods are now, thank goodness, by and large a thing of the past.

Remember, this is your puppy. His education, safety, and sanity are in your hands. There are so many good puppy schools. Search until you find one.

Look for puppy classes where the pups are given ample opportunity to play together off-leash and where pups are frequently trained and settled down during the play session, using toys and treats and fun and games. Off-leash puppy play is vital, but equally as important, the play session must include many short training interludes, so owners may practice controlling their pup when he is worked up and distracted. Look for classes where puppies learn quickly and owners are pleased with their puppies' progress. And above all look for classes where the trainer, puppies, and owners are all having a good time!

You be the judge, and judge wisely. Choosing a suitable puppy class is one of your most important puppy husbandry decisions.

To locate Certified Pet Dog Trainers in your area contact the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

"The vet says our puppy is too young for class."

Understandably, veterinarians care about the physical health of their patients. Common and serious infectious diseases such as parvovirus and distemper are a big concern with young puppies, which require a series of immunizations to produce solid immunity. A puppy's risk of infection depends on his level of immunity and the infectiousness of the environment.

A puppy's acquired immunity increases with successive immunizations to around 70–75 percent immunity by three months of age and approximating 99 percent immunity at five months of age. Different environments range from relatively safe to extremely hazardous. But no animal is 100 percent immune to disease, and no environment is 100 percent safe. The safest environments are indoors (homes and puppy classes) and private outdoor property (fenced yards). Sidewalks and dog parks are potentially more hazardous and the two most hazardous areas are the ground outside of a veterinary clinic and the waiting room floor.

It is a sad fact of life that your puppy is always at risk. For example, dried feces carrying parvovirus may blow in the wind and end up in your garden or home. Or a family member could step in infected urine and feces and track it through the home. The safest place for your young puppy is inside your home or fenced backyard. Keep him there until he is three months old and make sure to maintain routine hygiene and leave outdoor shoes outside. Your puppy has household manners to master and many pressing socialization exercises to do in the safety of your home before he is three months old. Other relatively safe places include your car and the homes and fenced yards of family and friends. So it is possible for your pup to begin to safely explore the world at large. Just remember to carry him between house and car.

Puppy classrooms are pretty safe places, since only vaccinated puppies are present and the floors are regularly cleaned and sterilized. However, I would still recommend carrying the pup between car and class until he is four months old. Luckily, the breeds that sometimes have immunity problems — Rotties and Dobies, for example — are slow developers, and it is fine to delay starting class until they are four months old. I actually prefer bigger, slower-maturing dogs to start class at four months so that adolescent problems can be dealt with while the dog is still in class. Otherwise, if a big dog starts class at three months of age, he will graduate at four-and-a-half months and the owner is still under the misapprehension that they are living with a teddy bear.

I would similarly advise to delay taking your puppy to dog parks or for walks in public places frequented by other dogs (and may be contaminated with a variety of viruses and other infectious agents) until he is at least four or five months old. You can always practice leash-walking around your house and yard before performing in public, and you should be inviting people to your house on a regular basis.

I would strongly advise that a puppy not be put on the waiting room floor or on the ground outside of a veterinary clinic until he is at least five months of age. Until then, carry your puppy from your car directly to the examination table.

Physical health concerns are important but do remember, that your puppy's physical health is only part of the picture. Psychological and behavioral health are equally as important. Very few puppies actually die from parvovirus (especially if treated), whereas thousands of dogs are routinely euthanized because of behavior and temperament problems. Indeed, behavior problems are the dog's most common terminal illness during his first year of life. And just as a developing puppy needs immunizations against infectious diseases, he also requires social and educational "immunizations" to prevent him from developing behavior and temperament problems. For all-around health, a young puppy must receive immunization against disease, but he must also get out to friend’s houses and puppy classes and eventually on walks to dog parks as soon as possible.

Adapted from AFTER You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar

Training:  Puppy Classes

SIRIUS® Berkeley Puppy 1

SIRIUS Dog Training: The Original Puppy School.
In 1982, Dr. Ian Dunbar created the first modern puppy training classes designed specifically for pet dogs under 6 months of age. Utilizing lure-reward training techniques, Dr. Dunbar made raising a well-mannered dog easy, effective and enjoyable for everyone involved. His methods have since become the standard for puppy classes worldwide, and SIRIUS has grown to include over a dozen trainers, with locations all over the San Francisco Bay Area.

Now you can watch a real SIRIUS Puppy classes in action, right here on DogStarDaily!

We're in the process of reorganizing our videos right now.  To see the SIRIUS Berkeley Puppy 1 videos, please use the following link:

Training:  Puppy Classes

Lifestyle Training


If you want your puppy to obey each family member in all settings and situations, then every member of the family must train the pup in every setting and situation. In order to teach your puppy to respond here, there, and everywhere, it needs to be trained here, there, and everywhere. The secret is to train your puppy little but often — at least fifty tiny training sessions a day — with only a couple of sessions lasting for more than a few seconds.

Integrate Training and Games

Playing games with lots of rules is a fun way to train your dog and exercise her mind. Your puppy will learn that games have rules and that rules are fun. Training becomes a game, and games become training.

Integrate Training and Lifestyle

In order to get your puppy to respond here, there, and everywhere, she needs be trained here, there, and everywhere. Train your puppy little but often. The secret is to totally integrate training into both your puppy's lifestyle and your lifestyle.

Train regularly and you'll discover that integrated training is easy and enjoyable. For example, call your puppy for a body-position sequence with variable length stays in each position whenever there are advertisements on the television, or every time you open the fridge, make a cup of tea, turn a page of the newspaper, or send an e-mail. If you instruct the pup to perform a simple body-position sequence on every such occasion, you will easily be able to train your puppy over fifty times a day without deviating from your normal lifestyle. Remember that you are responsible for a young, impressionable, developing canine brain. Exercise that doggy brain. Allow your pup to achieve and enjoy her full potential.

Integrate Training into Your Own Lifestyle

Once your dog is well-trained, she may enjoy full run of your house, will be welcome almost anywhere, and may eventually graduate to couch work. My dogs spend most of the evening snuggled on the couch. They like BBC America and Soccer (Arsenal supporters.) Occasionally, I may ask them to do something during breaks, like move over, fetch the paper, change the channel, vacuum the living room, or fix dinner. They're highly trained dogs.

Your Dog's Lifestyle

Integrate short training interludes (quick sits and releases) into your puppy's walks and off-leash play. Each quick sit is immediately reinforced by allowing the dog to resume walking or playing — the very best rewards in domestic dogdom. Integrate short training interludes into every enjoyable doggy activity — riding in the car, watching you fix their dinner, lying on the couch, and playing doggy games. For example, have your dog sit before you throw a tennis ball and before you take it back. Progressively increase the length of sit-stay with each repetition.

Similarly, insert short training preludes before all your puppy's enjoyable activities. For example, ask the pup to lie down and roll over for a tummy rub, or to lie down and stay a while before being invited for a snuggle on the couch. Have her sit before you put her on leash, before you open the door, before you tell her to jump in the car, before you allow her to get out of the car, and before you let her off-leash. And be sure to have her sit for her supper. With total integration, your puppy will see no difference between playing and training. Fun times will have structure, and training will be fun!

Life Rewards

Puppies are easy to train. It is so easy to teach them what we want them to do. In fact, a young puppy will do just about anything you ask just for the sake of doing it. As the puppy collides with adolescence, however, it begins to ask world-shattering questions, such as "Why?"

Just because your puppy has learned what "Sit" means does not necessarily mean she will sit when you request her to do so. Consequently, the most important ingredient of any educational program, whether for children, employees, husbands, or dogs, is teaching "Why comply?" You must teach the relevance of complying. Indeed, once you have taught your puppy the positive consequences of cooperating, she will eagerly want to comply!

First make a list of all the things in life your puppy enjoys. Then institute a simple and effective rule: Nothing will be denied, nor withheld from the pup, but the puppy has to sit beforehand. It's just common canine courtesy, really. Nothing more than a puppy "please."

In no time at all, your pup will learn the relevance of complying with your wishes and will be only too willing, eager, and happy to oblige. Now your dog will want to do what you want it to do.

Basically, you need to convince your pup that he or she is the trainer and you are the pupil! Your puppy needs to believe, "Sitting is the canine cue — the veritable key to the door — which makes my owners do anything I want. If I sit, they will open doors (how courteous). If I sit, they will massage my ears (how affectionate). If I sit, they will share the couch (how cooperative). If I sit, they will throw the tennis ball (how athletic). And if I sit, they will serve supper (how well-trained)."

Aside from producing a more reliable dog, integrating training into the daily routine of your dog makes your life more enjoyable, and allows your dog to have more fun and freedom. For example, something as simple as going through a door with an untrained and uncontrollable dog can be a time-consuming and daunting prospect. It can take some owners almost five minutes to put on the leash and make their exit. This means leaving the house with the dog just once a day may easily waste more than a whole fortnight over the lifetime of the dog. That's the equivalent of fourteen entire days and nights spent struggling with dogs in doorways. The result, of course, is that many owners do not bother to walk the dog at all if it's that much trouble.

On the other hand, well-trained dogs get to be taken on walks, picnics, days out, and car trips with their owners, and they are far less likely to be relegated outdoors, or isolated in a back room when visitors arrive. A well-trained dog has much more fun.

Settle Down and Shush

Right from the outset, make frequent little quiet moments part of your dog's daily routine. Remember, a puppy is not like an irritating child's toy. You cannot simply remove the batteries from a rambunctious adolescent dog. Instead you must learn how to "turn off" your dog. Learn to use walks and your puppy's favorite and most exciting games as rewards for settling down quietly and calmly.

Throughout the course of the day, have your puppy settle down for longer periods at home. For example, when watching the television, have your pup lie down on-leash, or in his bed, but during the commercial breaks, release the puppy for short, active play-training sessions.

When playing with your puppy, have him settle down and shush every 30 seconds or so. To begin with, have the pup lie still for just two seconds before letting it play again. Use a release command, such as "Free Dog," "At Ease," or "Let's Play." After 30 seconds, interrupt the play session again with a three-second quiet moment. Then try for four seconds. And then five, eight, ten, and so on. Alternate "Settle Down" with "Free Dog" and with each repetition, it becomes progressively easier to get your puppy to settle down quickly.

Once your pup gets the picture, the exercise may be profitably practiced on walks. When walking round the block, periodically have your puppy settle down for just a few seconds before resuming the walk. An entertaining way to train is to instruct your pup to settle down every twenty yards or so, while you read an article from the newspaper, or a page from a good book, such as Jean Donaldson's doggy bestseller, The Culture Clash.

With the above exercises, your puppydog will learn to settle down quickly following a single command, no matter how excited or distracted he may be. Moreover, your dog settles down willingly and happily because he knows being told to lie down is not the end of the world, and not necessarily the end of the walk. Rather, your dog has learned, "Settle Down" is just a relaxing time-out for gentle praise and affection before his exciting life as Mr. Activity Dog resumes once more.

It is difficult to have too many rules with an adolescent dog. Teach your dog to be calm and controlled when requested and there will be years of enjoyment ahead. Let your puppy pull on-leash, and it will pull on-leash as an adult. Let your puppy play indiscriminately and without frequent interruption, and it will become inattentive and uncontrollable as an adult. Integrate play and training, and integrate training and walks. In no time at all, training will be fun, and fun activities (play and walks) will be structured.


Adapted from AFTER You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar


Training:  Lifestyle Training

Training on the Dog Walk


As soon as it is safe for your puppy to go out, take him on walks — lots of them. There is no better overall socialization exercise and no better overall training exercise. As an added benefit, dog walks are good for your health, heart, and soul. Walk that dog! Tie a pink bow to his collar and see how many smiles you get and how many new friends you make. Doggy socialization is good for your social life.

Housetraining on Walks

If you do not have a private yard or garden, make sure your dog urinates and defecates before you begin your walk. Thus, the walk becomes a reward for doing the right thing in the right place at the right time. Otherwise, when you terminate an enjoyable walk after your dog has done her duty, you end up punishing her for eliminating. Your dog might then start delaying elimination to prolong his walks.

Put your puppy on-leash, leave the house, and then stand still and let the pup circle and sniff. Give her four or five minutes. If she doesn't perform, go back indoors and try again later. Keep your pup in her short-term confinement area for the interim. If your puppy does go within the allotted time, praise her profusely, reward her with a dog treat, say, "Walkies," and off you go. You'll find a simple "no feces = no walk" policy quickly produces a speedy defecator.

There are additional benefits to teaching your dog to eliminate prior to a walk. Clearing up the mess and depositing it in your own trash is much more convenient than a mid-walk cleanup. Walking an empty dog empty-handed is also generally more relaxing than walking a dog and lugging around a bag of dog doo doo.

Socializing on Walks

Take a few time-outs on each walk. Do not rush your young dog through the environment. Give your dog ample opportunity to relax and watch the world go by. A stuffed Kong will help her settle down quickly and calmly each time you stop.

Never take your dog's even temperament for granted. The great outdoors can be a scary place, and there will be the occasional surprise to spook your pooch. The best approach is to prevent these problems. Handfeeding your dog her dinner on walks helps her form positive associations with people, other dogs, and traffic. Offer your dog a piece of kibble every time a car, big truck, or noisy motorcycle goes by. Offer your dog a couple of pieces of kibble every time another dog or person passes. Praise your dog and offer a treat whenever she greets another dog or person in a friendly fashion. Praise your dog and offer three tasty treats whenever a child approaches. And when a child whizzes by on a skateboard or dirt bike, handfeed her the whole bag of food.

Should someone wish to meet your dog, first show them how to use kibble to lure/reward her to come and sit. Ask the stranger to offer the kibble only after your dog sits to say hello. From the outset, teach your dog to always sit when meeting and greeting people.

Training on Walks

When your dog is five months old, puppyhood is over, and you will begin to realize that the canine weight-pulling record approximates ten thousand pounds. Dogs pull on-leash for many reasons. The view is always better for the lead dog. A tight leash provides the dog a "telegraph wire" that communicates the owner's intentions, thus affording the dog the luxury of looking around and otherwise checking out the action. Pulling while on-leash appears to be intrinsically enjoyable for dogs. And we let them do it. Each second the leash is tight, each pulling moment is hugely reinforced by each step the dog takes, forging ahead to investigate the ever-exciting, ever-changing olfactory environment. Here are a few dos and don'ts for teaching your dog to walk calmly on-leash:

DO practice leash walking around your house and yard from the very beginning, and take your puppy for walks in public as soon as he is old enough.

DON'T wait until your dog reaches adolescence before trying to teach him to walk on-leash in public, unless you wish to provide amusement for onlookers.

DO alternate short periods of 15 to 30 seconds when your dog walks by your side, with longer periods of a minute or so when your dog is allowed to range and sniff at the end of the leash. This motivates your dog to walk by your side, as walking side-by-side is regularly reinforced by permission to range and sniff.

DON'T expect your adolescent (or adult) dog to endlessly heel. He will learn that heeling is mutually exclusive to ranging and sniffing. He won't want to heel and will grow to resent training and the trainer (you) for spoiling his fun.

DO consider training your dog to pull on-leash. Thus, instead of being a problem, pulling on-leash can be the solution, an effective reward to reinforce calmly walking by your side. Alternating slack-leash walking and pulling on-leash is enthusiastically endorsed by my Malamutes. Two paws up! Also, on-command leash-pulling is wonderful for ascending steep hills, pulling sleds, soapbox cars, and skateboards.

DON'T allow your dog to decide when to pull on leash. Employ red light/green light training. When your dog tightens the leash, immediately stop, stand still, and wait. Once he slackens the leash, or better yet, once he sits, proceed with the walk.

Red Light/Green Light

The good old dog walk has to be one of the dog's biggest rewards, second only to a romp in the park. Many dogs go quite crazy at the prospect of a walk, and of course, the walk only reinforces his craziness. Moreover, dogs pull on-leash with increasing vigor with every step you take, and, of course, each step you take reinforces the dog's pulling. Luckily, there's a better way. The walk can reinforce your dog's good manners.

Before going on a walk, practice leaving the house in a mannerly fashion. Say "Walky, Walky, Walkies!" and waggle the dog's leash in front of his nose. Most dogs will go ballistic. Stand still and wait for your dog to calm down and sit. With his walk stalled before starting, your dog will suspect you want him to do something, but as yet he isn't sure what. He will likely offer many creative suggestions, maybe his entire behavior repertoire. Your dog may frantically bark, beg, jump up, lie down, roll over, paw you, and circle you. Ignore everything your dog does until he sits. It doesn't matter how long it takes; your dog will sit eventually. When he does, say, "Good dog," and snap on his leash. When you snap on his leash, your dog will likely reactivate. So stand still and wait for him to sit again. When he does, say, "Good dog," take one step toward the door, stand still, and then wait for him to sit once more. Head toward the door one step at a time and wait for your dog to sit after each step. Have your dog sit before you open the door and have him sit immediately after going through the door. Then come back inside, take off the dog's leash, sit down, and repeat the above procedure.

You'll find that the time it takes for your dog to sit progressively decreases as the exercise proceeds. You'll also notice your dog becomes calmer each time you leave the house. By the third or fourth time you leave, your dog will walk calmly and sit promptly.

Don't prompt your dog to sit. Don't give him any clues. Let your dog work it out for himself. Your dog is learning even when he presents a series of unwanted behaviors. He is learning what you don't want him to do. The longer you wait for your dog to sit, the better he learns which behaviors are unwanted. When your dog sits and receives praise and a reward, he is learning what you want him to do.

Dogs love this game. After playing the game for a very short time, your dog learns which green-light behaviors (sitting) get you to proceed and which red-light behaviors (everything else) cause you to stand still.

When your dog can leave the house in a mannerly fashion, it is time to go for a real walk. Put your dog's dinner kibble in a bag, for today he will dine on the walk. Hold a piece of kibble in your hand, stand still, and wait for your dog to sit. When he does, say, "Good dog," and offer the kibble. Then take a giant step forwards, stand still, and wait for your dog to sit again. As soon as you step forward, likely your dog will explode with energy. Stand still and wait. Eventually your dog will sit again. Say, "Good dog," offer the kibble, and take another giant step forward. As you repeat this procedure over and over, you'll notice your dog sits progressively more quickly each time you stand still. After just a few repetitions your dog will begin to sit immediately each time you stop. Now take two giant steps before your stop. Then try three steps and stop, and then five, eight, ten, twenty, and so on. By now you will have discovered that your dog walks calmly and attentively by your side and sits immediately and automatically each time you stop. You will have taught him all this in just one session, and the only words you said were "Good dog."

Sit and Settle Down

Have numerous short training interludes during the walk. Stop for a short training interlude every twenty-five yards or so. For example, each time you stop, say, "Sit," and as soon as your dog sits, say, "Let's go," and start walking again. Thus, every time you stop, resuming the walk effectively rewards your dog for sitting.

Keep most training interludes shorter than five seconds, so as to reinforce quick sits and downs or short sequences of body-position changes, such as sit-down-sit-stand-down-stand. You may periodically reward your dog with kibble if you like, but this is hardly necessary, because resuming the walk is a much better treat for your dog. Occasionally insert longer training interludes to practice having your dog walk by your side for 15 to 30 seconds at a time or to reinforce two- or three-minute settle-downs. Offer a stuffed Kong for your dog's amusement and read a newspaper for yours.

The above training techniques will mold your dog's behavior and mend his manners in a single walk. By averaging seventy or so training sessions per mile, a single walk will troubleshoot virtually any training problem. For example, you may experience some difficulty getting your excited dog to pay attention and settle down the first few times you stop, but by the fourth or fifth time, it will be easy. After an enjoyable three-mile walk (with two hundred or so training interludes), your dog will be nothing less than brilliant.

The reason why this technique is extraordinarily successful is twofold:

1. Repeated training interludes force you to face your foremost fears and conquer them. The troubleshooting nature of these repetitive training interludes allows you to solve pressing training problems quickly. For example, your problem is not that your dog does not settle down; he does, but only eventually, only occasionally, and only of his own volition. You want your dog to settle down promptly and reliably upon request. Practice over and over in the above fashion, with many short training interludes during the walk. Your dog will comply more and more quickly with each trial. Eventually, he will learn to comply immediately.

2. Most owners train their dog only in one or two locations, such as the kitchen and training class, and they end up with a good kitchen-dog and a mannerly class-dog. But the dog still doesn't pay attention on walks and in parks. Presumably, the dog thinks that "Sit" only means sit in the kitchen and in class, because they are the only two places where he has been trained. With seventy or so training interludes per mile, however, every single practice session is in a different setting with different distractions — on quiet streets and busy sidewalks, leafy trails and open fields, near schools, and in park playgrounds. Thus, your dog learns to heed your instructions and quickly and happily comply no matter where he is, what he is doing, and what is going on. Your dog generalizes the "Sit" command to mean sit everywhere and at any time.

If you train your dog on every walk, you will soon have a puppy that will sit quickly and settle down promptly with a single request, no matter how excited or distracted he may be. Moreover, your dog settles down willingly and happily because he knows that being told to lie down is not the end of the world and not even the end of the walk. Your dog will have learned that "Settle Down," for example, is just a relaxing time-out with gentle praise before his exciting life as Walking Dog resumes.

With your now-mannerly dog, you'll find that it is quicker navigating country roads and suburban sidewalks than with your previously hyperactive hound. Now you can follow your intended itinerary without being pulled every which way but loose.


Adapted from AFTER You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar


Training:  Training on Walks

Training in the Car


Don't forget to practice in the car. It's the same technique as on the walk. For a couple of days, read the newspaper in the car, having instructed your dog to settle down with a stuffed Kong. Have a short training interlude every minute or so to practice some body-position changes —sit, down, stand, etc. —or place changes — back seat, front seat, seat belt, crate, etc. It is much easier to do this when you are not driving and the car is stationary. Once your dog promptly responds to each request, repeat the exercises with a friend driving. You'll soon find your dog happily responds to your requests when you are driving. Once you have a dog that will settle down anytime, anywhere — in the car and on walks — it's time to get him out and about. Be sure to take a bag of kibble with you. Take your dog everywhere — on errands around town, to the bank, pet store, Granny's, to visit friends, to explore the neighborhood, or maybe just for the ride. It's time for picnics in the park, walks, and more walks. And again, always have kibble on hand to give to your dog whenever dogs or people approach. Also, give kibble to strangers to train your dog how to greet them, that is, to sit for a food reward.

Training:  Training in the Car

Training in the Dog Park


Letting your dog play uninterrupted in the park can be one of the quickest ways to lose control over your adolescent dog. Allow him to play uninterrupted and you'll quickly lose his attention and have no control over him whatsoever. On the other hand, if you integrate training and play, you'll soon develop reliable, off-leash distance control over your dog.

How to Train Your Dog Not to Come When Called

Many owners let their dogs off-leash without so much as a "please" or a "Sit." Often the dogs are excitedly bouncing and barking in anticipation of playing. Thus being let off-leash reinforces their boisterous behavior. They delight in their new-found freedom, running around, sniffing, chasing each other, and playing together like crazy. The owners look on and chat. Eventually, it's time to go. One owner calls her dog, the dog comes running, the owner snaps on the leash, and the play session is over.

This sequence of events is likely to happen just once or twice, because on subsequent trips to the park the dog understandably will not be quite so keen to come to his owner when called. It doesn't take much for the dog to make the association between coming when called and having an otherwise utterly enjoyable romp in the park abruptly terminated. On future trips to the park, the dog approaches his owner slowly with head down. The owner is now doing a fine job demotivating the dog's recall and is inadvertently training the dog not to come when called.

Indeed, slow recalls quickly become no recalls, as the dog tries to prolong his fun by playing Catch-Me-If-You-Can. The irritated owner now screams for the dog to come, "Bad dog! Come here!" And, of course, the dog muses, "I don't think so! In the past I have learned that that nasty tone and volume mean you're not too happy. I think it would be a mite foolish for me to approach you right now. You're not in the best frame of mind to praise and reward me appropriately." But you are not going to do this with your dog, are you?

How to Train Your Dog to Come When Called

Instead, you are going to take your dog's dinner kibble to the park, call your dog every minute or so throughout his play session, have him sit for a couple of pieces of kibble, and then let him go play again. Your dog will soon learn that coming when called is an enjoyable time-out, a little refreshment, a kind word, and a hug from you, before he resumes play. Your dog becomes confident that coming when called does not signal the end of the play session. Your dog's enthusiastic recalls will be the talk of the town! When it is time to end the off-leash play session, I like to soften the blow by telling my dogs, "Let's go and find your Kongs!" Before going to the park, I always leave stuffed Kongs in the car and back home as a special treat.

In addition, you might consider teaching your dog an emergency sit or down, which is often better than an emergency recall. Teaching a reliable sit or down is much easier than maintaining a reliable recall. With a quick sit you instantly control your dog's behavior and limit his movement. Once your dog is sitting, you have several options:

1. You may let the dog resume playing. (Either you were just practicing the emergency sit, or the danger has passed.)

2. You may call your dog to you. (The surroundings are changing and it would be safer if your dog were closer; other dogs, people, or especially children are approaching.) Your dog is more likely to come when called if he is already sitting and looking at you, that is, if he is already demonstrating willing compliance.

3. You may instruct your dog to lie down and stay. (The setting is likely to be unstable for a while and it would be safer if your dog were not running around or running toward you. For example, a group of schoolchildren may be passing between you and your distant dog. To call your dog now would scatter the children like bowling pins.)

4. Walk up to your dog and put him on leash. For added stability, it is good practice to hold your dog's attention with your hand in a policeman stop signal and continually praise your dog for staying as you approach. (Do this when danger is imminent and a recall or distant stay would be unwise. For example, a herd of one hundred goats is being driven towards your dog. This once happened to my Malamute in Tilden Park in Berkeley.)


Adapted from AFTER You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar


Training:  Training in the Park