Watching a young man and a young puppy struggle together to get some basic connection yesterday, it reminded me that we all have to start from success to build more success. Meaning, if you and your pup can’t focus on each other well outside, move inside. If the world seems distracting, bring your very best treats with you and add more movement or enthusiasm to your session or try something simpler.
Your pup, as distracted and busy as he is, is not being difficult. He is clueless. Deeply and totally. Truly a blank little learning slate filled with genetic urges and sensory distractions but weak on interspecies communication skills.
Our job? To set him up for success. To set both of you up for success. So, start inside. Start in a back hall or quiet corner of the kitchen. Start by yourself. Start just before meals when your pup is hungry (or just after meals if food is overwhelmingly distracting for your pup.) Put all his toys away. Use treats your pup loves. Put him on a flat 4-6 foot leash (no retractable!) attached to a wide, flat, buckle- or clip- type collar.
Now, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Decide what you’re going to work on. Choose one thing. Pick something easy for both of you. Decide what defines success for this thing: a head turn, a simple sit, a guided down (My Smart Puppy games.) Pick just one thing at a time to focus on.
Know training is probably going to be a mess at first. That’s okay. That’s normal. Learning IS messy. And learning when both the teacher and the student are leaning together? More messy. Oh well. No matter. Stay calm. Keep trying. Keep helping your pup get it right. Be loving. Notice the smallest success. Celebrate it. Take a happy moment together. Don’t rush passed it; stop, enjoy, praise, pet. Leave no doubt in your pup’s mind (and in your own) that something wonderful just happened.
Always remember you’re both doing the best you can. Be patient with both of you. Have fun, keep trying and things will get better.
Now go! Give it a try.