All Things Dog

A Confident And Well-Mannered Puppy

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Teaching a friendly greeting
To play the game you need: One puppy, one leash, a non-tightening collar, treats, and a willing friend to act as your assistant. Your puppy should know, and feel comfortable, with your friend.

Give your friend some puppy treats – they will be used during the game as rewards for your puppy. Attach your puppy's leash to his collar. Holding his leash, start the game by standing about six feet away from your friend. In an enthusiastic voice give your puppy the command "say hello," then walk your puppy to your friend.

When you reach your friend have him give your puppy a treat. Your friend should not speak to or pet your puppy at this point. Once your puppy has the treat, turn and lead him away, and praise your puppy in a happy voice. Your praise will help your puppy relax if he's finding the game stressful. It's important that your puppy associates approaching a stranger as an enjoyable experience.

Repeat the game until your puppy is obviously eager to approach your friend when he hears "say hello." This is not the time to worry about your pup pulling on his leash. If your pup wants to pull you toward the person – great! That can be dealt with later, right now his enthusiasm is a good sign.

Once your pup is good at this, use another friend to assist in the game, and then another (family members are fine). Keep using different, but still known people, until your puppy is eagerly greeting everyone. Once this is accomplished it's time to play the game with people your puppy is less familiar with. Again, the friend assisting should not speak to or touch your puppy. Their job is simply to hand, or toss, your puppy a treat when he approaches, and then you and your puppy should move away.

Eventually, your pup will resist moving away and that is your sign that your puppy is feeling a lot more comfortable approaching someone. The friend who is assisting in the game can now look at your puppy, or briefly pet him, followed by a second treat. Practice having your puppy "sit" on command before giving him the second treat. If your pup is anxious, or prone to being shy, then continue to move away after the first treat is given – always try to retreat before your pup's stress level forces him to move.

Keep it stress-free
There are two easy errors to make with this game. The first is to use someone your puppy isn't familiar with as an assistant when you start the game. This defeats the goal of teaching your pup a stress-free response. Begin with people known to your puppy and you won't risk any negative associations. The aim is for the game to be a fun experience for your puppy – you don't want him to feel nervous or fearful.

The second mistake is to stay, rather then walk away, when you have reached your assistant. Walking away is important because it gives your puppy a chance to walk off any stress he might be feeling. This is especially true for shy, fearful puppies. Many people tend to remain near the assistant to "see how the pup will act," but at this stage you shouldn't be testing your puppy – this is the teaching stage. Approach, treat, retreat – that's the game.

This is a particularly important game to teach shy or fearful pups. The effort you put in early in your puppy's life will pay off as he matures but if you're starting with an older puppy: fear not! It's never too late to teach your puppy confidence and good manners.

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