It’s puppy season! It’s a busy time for those of us who train puppies, rescue and foster puppies, or who are breeders planning that next litter.
Timid puppies can grow up to be serious problem dogs. They have a tremendous propensity to bite, usually a reactive behavior due to fears and insecurity. Fortunately, timidity in a young puppy is super easy to fix.
I was given this mini Golden doodle to keep for ten days or so and house train. Unfortunately for the new owners, this puppy likes to race and dodge just out of reach. She doesn’t want to allow herself to be caught.
Rather than just fix it, I decided to journal the process so that others who have similar issues can see some solutions.
- First of all, I do not free feed these puppies. I make sure that every bite of food is earned. I carry delicious treats with me when I work with them. A hungry dog is a motivated dog: Use it!
When a puppy is dodgy like this I kind of ignore it for the most part. I don’t do a lot of talking, wheedling or coaxing. I never say the dog’s name. Name recognition is taught as a separate exercise at a later time. A lot of talk is certain death! It is a sure way to condition the dog to ignore your voice.
I just sit calmly and tap the ground with my fingers. As long as the hand is lower than chin level, the puppy feels confident enough to mince toward me.
Naturally, these exercises all have to be performed within a safe and enclosed area. This puppy is very social with other dogs, so her contact with my dogs will be kept to a minimum. I want her to become people-social.
We started off on enclosed deck with solid floor so there would be little distraction. Puppy is pretty hungry.
2) Puppy did so well that I moved her into an area with more stimulus. She is starting to experiment with biting my hand in a play mode. Mostly what she is doing is sucking on my fingers. I am armed with delicious bits of chicken. I haven’t started clicker training yet.
She is very wiggly and excited.
3) Once we had established a little bond, I started teaching her what the clicker means. This is the first stage of what I call Attention Training.
I click when the puppy makes eye contact or at least looks up toward my face.
This is outlined in my booklet, 25 Ways To Raise a Great Puppy.
4) Our last exercise of the day was to take a walk.
There is a big, enclosed field in the back of the property. Puppies have a strong instinct to follow. So I walk pretty fast and it becomes her job to run to keep up with me. I don’t call her or talk to her or say her name. I just keep moving. Since she is timid, I become the security object and when I stop moving she will sit on my feet.
I can occasionally bend down and give her a treat, and reinforce her for sticking with me. But most puppies at the age of under four months will do this naturally.
Off-leash walking is a tremendous opportunity to instill this “following” mechanism in a dog’s brain. Beginning this type of walking early on can create a dog that will always stay with you, even off leash, who comes when you call, who can be trusted in all situations.
For more information on puppy training, check out my book, 25 Ways To Raise a Great Puppy.
For more information on clicker training, check out 15 Rules for Clicker Training Your Dog.