It’s fun and helpful to take some time of work to bond with your new puppy and help them settle in. But there’s something super important to teach them during this time that a lot of people miss – how to be content being left alone.
If you are constantly with your puppy and then you need to go back to work or go out, there’s a sudden and stark contrast between what they’ve got used to and being alone. This can cause them to really struggle and feel very stressed and anxious alone.
Next, the owner often panics and arranges for the puppy to always have someone with them. But the longer this goes on, the harder it is to ever leave puppy alone, and you could end up with an adult dog with separation anxiety.
Part of healthy socialisation is learning, sights, sounds, smells, environments and situations that a dog needs to be able to deal with in the human world.
Part of that is learning to be happy left alone.
Another thing to be careful of is giving your puppy another dog for company from a young age meaning the puppy can become overly dependent on needing the other dog to be around and not truly learning independence even if the owners can go out.
If you have an older dog, teach your puppy to spend time totally alone without any other being around. You never know when you will need to do this and you don’t want a stressed out and anxious dog later.
If you need help with puppy training, check out the resources at our website including my online puppy course that goes through puppy raising essentials in more detail.
A lot of people I meet are concerned about using food treats in training. When the dog is performing well, they’ll say, “he’s just doing it for the treats,” or, “she’ll do anything for food!”
When it boils down to it, there are two motivations in dog training – the dog is either working to receive something or working to avoid something.
There is then a spectrum of value on either side. For most dogs, food treats are of high value compared to say, verbal praise or pats. The other advantage of a food treat is that you can be more precise in timing the treat to be a clear reward for a specific moment in time, especially using marker training.
Not many dogs will work for praise only when they have no prior experience with the command. When they’re experienced with the command through training with a higher value reward such as food, they can be gradually weaned to praise only. But when you’re starting from scratch you need a way to show the dog what to do and how to move their body. There are usually two options for this: show the dog where to move their head by following a treat or physically move the dog into position. You can also do a combination of the two.
For most dogs, receiving a reward as part of the process and not being shoved around is a lot more motivating.
The next step is to ensure the food reward happens as a reward, not a bribe. The dog may initially learn the movement by following the treat but next, you want to create the behaviour to happen first, then present the reward second.
In this way the food can truly be a reward rather than a bribe, and can be reduced to a sometimes thing, rather than a necessity.
For more training tips, visit our website.