What could be sweeter than a new puppy. We have 4 baby chihuahuas waiting for adoption and you can't help but laugh at their bravery and playful antics.
But will they be as much fun in 6 months? Will they be able to walk on leash, go to their beds, be house trained, love friends and tolerate strangers, and come when called? What we do in the next few months, according to many behavior experts, will determine the answer. Early socialization and education will give you a willing member of your household, and a canine citizen that is a joy to live with.
What do you need to do now?
1. Create rewards that your pup will work for. Dogs that are reward junkies for food, toys and play, cuddle time, walks and sweet talk will be easy to train.
E.G. Teach your pup to go into a crate or follow you outside for a cookie or its meal and then back in for sweet talk, or reverse it.
2. Visualize the behaviors you want; not what you are going to do or say, but what you want your dog to do. These are the solutions to problems.
E.G. I want my puppy to come when I call by stopping and turning its head toward me, running straight to me and stopping right in front so it touches my hands.
3. When you have a problem, flip the behavior to the solution you have visualized (see 2 above). Then reward the heck out of what you want.
E.G. If your puppy jumps up to greet you, think first about rewarding the solution, 4 feet on the floor. Ignore the problem, jumping up.
4. Recognize signs when your puppy is getting over its head emotionally, or more graphically, "over threshold". Your puppy can't learn good behavior in that emotional state. It can learn to be afraid and react accordingly, which is not cute in an adult.
E.G. If you see these, remove your pup from the situation immediately. Rethink your strategy. Shyness, freezing, biting, snapping, bullying, intense roughhousing either on top or on bottom, snapping, hackles raised, screaming, incessant barking, running away, yawning, lip licking.
5. Start quiet and simple then gradually increase the numbers of people, sights and sounds. A reminder, see #4. Puppy behavior experts say to get your pup wormed and vaccinated then find safe places to begin to expose it to life.
E.G. Friends' houses, puppy play groups, neighborhoods where dogs are fenced, puppy classes, quiet parks and shopping areas, offices and stores(with permission).
By Augusta Farley CKO CPDT-KA