How Puppies Learn And Why They Do What They Do
Your puppy is one of the most innocent creatures on this planet. Think about it, humans take them away from everything that they know at such a young age and force them to fit into our very human lives. A life with a completely different species, with arbitrary rules that no one can explain to you in your language. If this was you, you probably wouldn’t care about being the boss, being the alpha or showing dominance. You would simply just try and get by and do what you feel is necessary to do that.
Puppies have the same five senses that we do; sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch; however their sensory capabilities are very different from ours, meaning that their perception of the world is dissimilar to a human’s and will markedly influence the way that a puppy interacts, communicates, and survives. When working alongside your puppy you need to remember this and therefore not expect your puppy to immediately understand you or do what you ask of them. Instead, take the time to understand your puppy - what do they like, don’t like, what do they find to be highly rewarding, what motivates them, etc. Also take the time to teach them what you want from them.
Puppies perform behaviours to achieve something. This may be through communication, expressing the way they feel or relieving stress or anxiety. If the outcome of performing a behaviour is perceived as ‘good’ or ‘pleasant’ to the puppy then the puppy is more likely to repeat that behaviour. If the consequence is ‘bad’ or unpleasant’ to the puppy, the puppy is less likely to repeat the behaviour. When getting the puppy to do a behaviour that we want, don’t force but instead encourage your puppy to do the behaviour. Show them the benefits of performing it and what they achieve from it as opposed to what they miss out on when they don’t do it. Remember you want your puppy to do it, not because they have to but because they WANT to. Another good thing to remember is that your puppy is always watching and learning from you. Whenever you are with your puppy you are essentially training it.
When training your puppy, never fight, compete, argue with your puppy or show them who's boss. If you can feel any of the above or any tension, stop and reevaluate why. Training should never feel like it is you against your puppy. You are teammates working towards the same goal. You will take turns guiding each other but there is no boss in your training sessions. Be your puppy’s friend and take the time to help them understand what you want by breaking the big picture down into smaller steps and rewarding the smaller steps generously. It is the two of you on a wonderful lifelong journey together.