The timid puppy is getting less timid all the time, but the confidence- building exercises continue. At times (like at the farm store yesterday) older dogs can come in handy.
One thing that builds confidence in puppies, especially the toy and miniature breeds (because people tend to coddle and carry them everywhere) is to allow them to walk on their own four feet, and solve problems in their own way.
As example, this puppy did not want to walk up or down the stairs. We fixed this today by allowing my two chihuahuas to show her how it’s done. Here, Jack Johnson provides an example on how to descend. This is the puppy’s third attempt to go down stairs.
Meanwhile, teaching of simple tricks can help the puppy “learn to learn”. Food luring comes in handy for young puppies, as it is the genesis of hand signals. This puppy learns to turn in a simple circle by luring with a treat. The hand acts like a magnet that guides the puppy around.
Eventually, the hand luring is faded into a smaller gesture, and the puppy hopefully has the idea. The food will eventually be faded altogether, and the hand cue can be replaced with a verbal cue.
During these exercises, there will be an increase in focus as the dog watches for the cue. I haven’t been using the clicker because I am having trouble handling the camera and a clicker simultaneously. I am using verbal praise. It really doesn’t matter what I say, since the tone of my voice encourages the pup and she’s getting the food at the end of the behavior.
I will be able to fine-tune this trick with a clicker eventually as it offers a lot more precision for the reinforcement. So I can add perks like having her stay on her hind legs while performing this pirouette, or a sit at the end.
For more info on training puppies, check out my book, 25 Ways to Raise a Great Puppy.