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You just brought your new puppy home. You want your pup to feel comfortable in their new home, but they act skittish and strange around you. You are starting to worry that your puppy doesn't feel safe in the house. Dogs speak a different language. To gain your puppy's trust, you need to learn to speak their language and consistently let them know they are safe and secure around you.
Training your puppy to trust you requires patience and consistency. The amount of time it takes for your puppy to trust you will depend on a few factors, including their history and how much you work with them. When you are working with a new dog, at any age, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you should always be kind to your puppy. Act with patience and kindness, even when you are dealing with a frustrating situation. Second, show your pup that you care about their safety and well-being by protecting them and removing them from situations which make them nervous. And finally, provide reinforcement for your puppy when they do something good, rather than punishing them for messing up.
Building trust with your puppy starts from the moment you meet them and grows from there. You can use treats to reward good behaviors from your dog. Remember, the key to earning your pup's trust is consistency. You want to show your puppy over and over again that certain behaviors get rewards and others don't. By showing them what is good instead of scolding them for what goes wrong, you show your dog that you are a fair and loving owner who will take care of their needs.
The Obedience Method
Start out with simple commands
Choose a few basic commands to start practicing with your puppy. You want to start off with ones that are easy for your pup to learn so they gain confidence. Most often, dog owners begin with 'sit', 'down', 'stay', and 'come'.
Start with 'sit'
Generally, 'sit' is a good starting point for any young puppy. Use a treat to lure your puppy into a sitting position and then give them lots of praise for completing the action successfully. Repeat this process several times until your puppy is sitting without a lure.
Have your puppy sit in lots of situations
Once your pup has a good grasp on 'sit', use the command to set up consistent behaviors in other areas of your puppy's life. Have them sit before you give them their dinner bowl or before you leave the house on a walk. Building a routine creates consistency in your puppy's life and helps them trust you further.
Add in other commands
Work with your puppy on additional obedience commands, such as 'down' and 'stay'. Remember to keep your rewards consistent for each new command. Every training session is another opportunity to show your puppy how fair you are.
Keep up the praise
As you add more and more commands to your puppy's repertoire, continue to praise them rather than discipline them. Love and mutual respect are the best tools you have to gain your puppy's trust.
The Respect Method
Remain calm at your first meeting
Earning your new puppy's, or any dog's, trust starts at the very first meeting. When you interact with your puppy for the first time, project calm and relaxed energy to avoid prompting an aggressive greeting. Greet the dog softly and with a calm, friendly voice.
Respect your puppy's space
Give your puppy time to get used to you before you try to pet them. Stay a few feet away if you can. While it may seem rude, ignoring your puppy when you first meet them is a good way to begin establishing trust.
Get on their level
When you do approach your puppy for the first time, do so from the side rather than directly. Kneel down and face the same direction as your pup is facing. Both approaching head on and making direct eye contact may be interpreted as an act of aggression.
Let them come to you
Rather than reaching out immediately to pet your puppy, hold your hand out in a fist and let them respond by sniffing you. Typically, a dog will let you know they are okay with you by licking your hand. At that point, you can pet the front of their chest. It is best not to touch a dog on the head in the first meeting.
Give your puppy a treat
Allow your puppy to take a few treats out of your hand one at a time. After each treat, say "good dog" and give them some physical affection. Letting your puppy eat out of your hand shows you are non-threatening and a trustworthy figure.
The Examine Method
Have your puppy lie down
For this method, it is best if you have already trained your puppy on a few of the basic commands so you have a base to build from. 'Sit' and 'down' will likely be enough to start with.
Put your puppy in a 'down'
Either give the command "down" or place your puppy in a 'down' using your hands. If your pup already knows 'stay', great! You can use it to help them hold this position. If not, gently keep your puppy in the 'down' position with your hands.
Examine your pup
Gently "examine" your puppy by touching their ears, teeth, tail, paws, and other areas of their body. Praise your puppy as you do so to let them know that this activity is fun and safe.
Respond calmly if biting occurs
Your puppy may not like the examination, which is fair. They may try to squirm away from you. However, if they bite you, say "ouch" in a loud, high-pitched voice. This sound should prompt your puppy to stop biting. When they do, praise them.
Repeat this activity regularly
Once or twice a day, repeat the examination process with your puppy. Show them that there is nothing to fear from you handling them. At the end of the session, give them a nice treat if they did not bite you.
By Christina Gunning
Published: 04/13/2018, edited: 01/08/2021