While they are trying to imprint your role in their lives and adjusting to new surroundings, they are in formative physical and mental growth months. Beginning their training at 10 to 12 weeks of age will do both them and you the most good.
While many things you are teaching them do not kick in until they are older, this early age is an important imprint period. It is also the age when you are most meaningful to them, being new to you and their environment. Providing correct leadership is the most important thing you do. If you do all this properly, the bond you develop with your dog will be incredibly strong.
Just when they start to get it, they pass this period and become adolescents. Behaviors can change quite suddenly, or some can even continue just when you thought you had them solved. What is going on in their brains?
Once puppies learn some of the things you want from them and become comfortable in their lives and routine, they are now the equivalent of teenagers. Their new job is to test boundaries and rules to see how far they can go.
Psychologically, it is as if they are saying, “I know what you want me to do, but I don’t think I will do it right now.” It is critical to guide and direct them along the correct path.
Do not get frustrated or angry. Just keep working with them on all their puppy skills and most will come around. If you become weak in their eyes and reactive, they will know it and continue to test. Behaviors you might expect will include not coming when called, anxiety about being alone along with destructive chewing or barking, stealing things, challenging when you give them commands, or even fearful behaviors around new people or objects. To work them through all this, you must maintain a routine, schedule and training drills.
How to do this?
• Daily walking should include a change of directions each day to stimulate them in new environments.
• Taking them in the car to new places also challenges their brains.
• Innovative play such as agility, beach, dog park, find-it games and toys.
• Practicing the puppy drill: seven to eight obedience commands in a row with only one treat at the end gets them focused on you in a short time.
• When finishing walking or playing outside, have a special game or chewy for them to look forward to when they come inside, making coming in more attractive than boring.
• Work through any fearful behavior with patience, making sure not to make them more fearful or to enable the behavior by coddling.
• Consider taking the next level of dog training to keep their brain sharp and to return focus on your importance in their lives.
In short, keep them challenged, stay cool yourself, and the wonderful puppy you were starting to see will be back.
Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com