When puppy comes home with you, this “mom” role is now your job and you need to teach puppy to respect your rules and acknowledge you as pack leader. One good exercise for this is waiting quietly at meal times. Your goal is to have puppy sitting and waiting quietly while you put the food down and then waiting for you to say it is okay to eat it. This “wait” command will have many practical uses as puppy grows.
You will need to start with the basic sit. At first you may have to push puppy into a sit and then hold them in place while you put the food down. Say the “wait” command. I usually hold my hand up, palm towards the dog when I begin teaching this. Have a release command. I use “okay”, but it does not matter what word you use, just be consistent.
Start with having the puppy wait about 5 seconds before you give the release and let them eat their food. Initially you will probably be holding onto their collar or harness to stop them from grabbing the food. If you are familiar with Cesar Millan’s “touch” you can use this instead to stop them from taking the food. Do 5 seconds for a few meals. Then increase the waiting time to 10 seconds until puppy becomes good at this. You will then keep increasing the time until you are getting a consistent wait of about 30 seconds.
Waiting for their turn to eat is a very basic respect behavior and is placing you ahead of the puppy in the pack. The pack leader is the one who determines who gets to eat and when.
Make sure that you think ahead about behaviors that you want in your adult dog. Often the puppy is so cute, we forget that it is going to grow, and “jumping up” which is cute in a puppy is not so cute when your dog is 50+ lbs and knocks a child over. My older adult dog does not allow our new puppy to jump up on him. If he tries, he gets a firm growl and he immediately stops that behavior.
If you were unlucky enough to get a puppy who had an over-indulgent mom who didn’t teach any ground rules this is going to make your job just a little bit harder, and much more important. I have bred both dogs and horses and behavior in both is very similar. A good mare teaches her foal from birth many rules. It is taught to lay down and stay in one place until mom comes back to fetch it. It is taught not to bite or kick mom, it learns who is head mare and the herd order.
When you start working with a foal you can tell those that had a good strong mare for a mom and those that were let to run wild. It makes a huge difference as you start training your young horse. The same goes for puppies. Those with a strong mom are easier to train and understand rules way quicker. They have had rules from the time they were born and will accept your new rules easily. Just be consistent.
Become the leader and teacher that your puppy needs to be a well-balanced, good dog citizen and you will have many, many years of laughs and love together.
Salty Dogs Agility Club