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Early Training:
the First Four Months

by Jennifer Floyd
As originally published in

Choban Chatter

We all want a well-behaved, mannerly dog - and that starts with the puppy's introduction to training. Training is not simply a matter of putting on a leash and collar and practicing; it is an on-going process, one that is being affected by every interaction that you have with your puppy or dog. It is training when you greet your puppy and tell him or her "off" and "sit" when they try to jump up - it is positive reinforcement if you have a bit of kibble or biscuit in your hand to reward the sit. It is training when you give your pup a stick or bone to chew on, instead of the hose - "No chew! Here, take this - good puppy!". It is training when you pat your puppy and rub its neck or ears while he or she eats, or when you tell the pup "Let me see!" and take that bone out of its mouth, then give it back with a "Good puppy!".

Make sure that your pup is accustomed to being combed, the ears handled and examined, the toes and feet massaged, the teeth looked at and rubbed with your finger. This will help with grooming and health examinations when your pup is older. Don't wait until your dog has a torn toe-nail, and then realize that you have a dog who does not want their feet handled at the best of times, let alone when one hurts. Your pup must become accustomed to pleasant handling and grooming when young, and small enough that you can gently insist.

The same idea applies to taking things out of your puppy's mouth - what if it is something bad for them? Your pup needs to know that you can look at anything they have - if it is something icky, I usually replace it with a bit of biscuit. Your pup comes to trust that you are in charge, and will either return the original object after inspecting it, or give them something else nice. This is one instance where I will roll a puppy over, pin them firmly by the scruff and muzzle, and sharply tell them "No!", if they object to having a food object messed with. Deal with it when they are little (under 4 months usually) and there will be no arguments when they are older.

For early leash training (around 2 months), a flat buckle collar and a 3/4 inch six foot leash are ideal. It is best to start out by just following the pup around the first couple of times they are on leash, letting them get used to the feeling. Then, for the around the third lesson, show the pup a treat (kibble, small biscuit piece, cheese cube), and encourage them to follow you in a 5 foot, 180 degree arc on your left side in order to get the treat (for general leash walking, I tell the pup "(name), let's go!"). If the pup stops, or tries to go in another direction, be jolly and encouraging, show them the treat, and give it to him or her when they move towards you. After the first week, start doing a lot of walking with the pup. Keep encouraging them to walk somewhere on the left, neither crossing in front of you or behind you. They will soon start to figure out that they can only walk without interference from your legs or the leash if they stay in a certain zone. Gradually reduce the arc over the next month until the pup is walking fairly close to heel position (within a 2 foot arc) on your left. Don't worry about precision yet; your pup is still growing and developing more coordination, and as long as he or she can walk nicely on lead, this is what you are aiming for.

Spice up your time on leash by moving a treat backwards and over the pup's nose to lead them into the sit position - "Sit! Good sit!" Then lower your hand in front of them, with another treat, to show them how to down - "Down! Good down!". Also, run backwards suddenly, while telling your pup "(name) come!" Then " Good come!" when they reach you, and bait them into a sit for their treat. By four months old, you should be able to tell the pup the command, then they should automatically start to do it even before you produce the reward.

You can also introduce "Easy", which a is a warning against pulling on the leash - tell the pup "Easy" when they pull, then give a squeeze on the lead (like it was a horse's reins), to slow the pup, and put some slack back in the leash. After the pup is used to getting some increased pressure, then a release, you can move to a brisk tug and release after the "Easy" warning. Praise the pup when they are walking on a loose lead, then tell them "Easy" and correct if they put pressure on the leash again. Particularly with a dog the size of an Anatolian Shepherd, you want a dog that does not put any pressure on the leash; this means that you cannot 'choke-up' on the leash either, but must always allow some slack, and get your pup to realize that walking with slack in the leash is the way to walk with you.

I can walk my 145 pound male on a shoelace, because he knows that the leash is always to have slack in it - and if he forgets and forges, the "Easy" command brings him right back. Always keep your training session short and happy (5-10 minutes is plenty) - be cheerful, and praise for things done right. Kneeling with open arms and a big smile is a more encouraging way to get your pup to come, than standing like a towering statue, dull and scary. Use lots of body language, sound excited, and reward your pup's efforts with plenty of praise and tidbits.

Next issue: Socialization

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