Puppy Training Tips

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Did you know this about puppies? Pups_ 1 week

   Did you know puppies are pretty helpless the first 12 days of their lives.  Their eyes and ears are not yet open. They spend the majority of the time nursing and sleeping.The transitional period is between 12 and 21 days. Motor skills begin to develop and walking is unstable.  Between 21 and 84 days the puppies socialization period begins.  This is the period that is best for a puppy to experience its environment without being fearful. The primary socialization stage is between 3-5 weeks. Puppies learn immensely at this stage. This stage establishes the foundation for good or bad behavior as they get older. Improper socialization at this stage can lead to anxiety, fear and aggression towards people or other dogs.

The secondary socialization stage is between 6-12 weeks. This is the  “process of bonding and social conditioning within the context of the human domestic environment…..” (Lindsay,2000). Puppies should be given the opportunity to experience everything in its environment. The exposure should always be fun for the puppy. The list of some exposures could be:  touching by strangers, different types of dogs, different types of people, Loud noises, bicylists, joggers, fast moving vehicles, and skateboarders. The list is endless. The puppy should be relatively calm and having a good time. The puppy should not be showing any stressful reactions.

Puppies with poor social skills can become adults with many problems. These problems can be life debilitating and hard to rehabilitate to full recovery. Owners with little experience with dysfunctional dogs are hard pressed to find answers. That’s why it’s important for owners to understand the importance of socialization at a early age.   Usually puppies with poor socialization skills have trouble “fitting in” because of their dysfunctional behavior. Some things to look for with a poor socialized puppy are: distrust and fear of people or other dogs, poor learning skills, lack of problem-solving abilities, behavior disabilities, shun companionship, shys away from social contact. An obvious symptom is Aggression


Puppy Aggression –  What does it look like ?

  A common question asked by owners is, ” is my puppy aggressive” ? Perplexed by the puppies hard play, growling, and biting owners get concerned. Unsure what they’re witnessing is unsettling to them. First of all an owner must have a puppy to ask this question. Many times an owner will refer to their dog as a puppy when it isn’t. If a dog is over 8 months old it’s no longer a puppy. When aggression is mentioned genetics and/or environmental explainations are commonly mentioned.

  Genetic and environmental causes are legitimate. However, predisposition doesn’t nescessary have to be a driving force. A puppy born with a certain gene pool doesn’t mean it’s a ” Fixed Behavior”. A puppy inherits the ‘Propensity’ to develop certain motor skills. A puppy from an excellent hunting gene has the propensity to be a great hunting dog. The caveat is, the puppy needs to be trained to bring out those excellent traits. The puppy has great potential but if it never gets nutured the potential for greatness never comes to be realized. As is the case with all dog behavior. The notion that humans affect a puppies future is true. That’s why Socialization is so important.

  What does puppy aggression look like?  Dogs age so fast  they develop their behaviors so quickly. Due to that fact an evaluation by a qualified behaviorist or trainer should be considered. A fearful puppy  is a red flag. Depending on the  overall personality of the puppy and breed will determine the steps to take. Not every fearful puppy becomes aggressive. An owner will probably spend time helping a fearful but non-aggressive puppy build confidence.  The  easiest way to determine puppy aggression is to put things into context. What has been the overall demeanor of the puppy with all things.  A puppy that plays hard in a wrestling match with you usually will look pretty ferocious. Showing teeth, snarling, growling, biting, scratching,  forcefully jumping on person, and looking out of control. Sometimes that looks pretty scary with all the force the puppy is showing.  If a puppy is well adjusted that might be a fun thing to do if owner can control the game at all times. Especially starting and stopping the game.  Those behaviors are in context for the moment. What if your puppy is showing all those descriptions  but seemed out of context of what was  going on at the time.  If that’s the case you have problems.

   Some signs in general to watch out for:  Tense body, hard eyes, Stiffening of jaw, tail between legs, tail stiff and high in air, moving in slow motion, eyes dilated, head hanging low, watching from corner of eyes, raising of lip and showing teeth, body movement looks conflicted, extremely nervous at being touched, low growls, hard and forceful barking, quick snapping, ears pinned back, fur raised on back, and lip licking. These are just a few things to watch out for. These are all warning signs.  Be very cautious of the stealth dog that gives no apparent warning. The stealth actually does give very subtle signs but aren’t recognized by some people until to late. Puppies with these behaviors can  easily become chronic. If  deep rooted phobias take place the situation gets harder.     


Mouthing:   Mouthing is something many owners get disturbed with. A couple of reasons are because of their razor sharp teeth and owners thinking the behavior is leading towards aggression. Mouthing is something puppies do from the time they’re  feeding off their mother to interacting with the siblings.  Using their mouth is just a natural act. When puppies interact they’re learning social skills. When puppies interact with each other they’re sharpening their ability to read body language.   Most of their learning is during play.  Obnoxious playful behavior towards the mother will lead to a quick correction.  The  puppy will be  taken aback and learn to pause. The mother is slowing the exuberant behavior down. Mouthing between siblings will also get different reactions due to the different personalities.  Within the family unit puppies learn bite inhibition. They are beginning to learn how to use a soft mouth. Of course some puppies learn quicker than others.  Playtime never stops for puppies even when the family is seperated.

   When a puppy enters its new home around 8 weeks old the desire to goof around is still very strong.  The mouthing still continues. However, this time the play friend is the new owner. With the razor-sharp teeth and hard play what’s an owner to do? The owner can attempt to redirect puppies attention to safe chew toys, Nyla bones, tug ropes, or balls. Finding a high value toy for the puppy will always benefit an owner years down the road.

   I always like to play the Freeze game. It has to to be implemented very early on in your relationship.  Wrestle withbeagle_touchstone  your puppy at a high intensity and then abruptly stop moving . Just freeze.   You’ll see your puppy follow suit. Most likely your puppy will be staring at you intently waiting for you to start again. Which you quickly oblige. The puppy must not initiate the game to start again.  Only the owner starts the game again.  If puppy trys to initiate the play the owner must correct by giving a hand gesture or vocal sound. I like to raise my index finger towards puppy with an ” uh, uh” sound but only  if I have to.   The game ends on a freeze by owner. With the puppy also freezing the owner can disengage while standing up. The owner must not show any intensity in movement.  Once standing up the owner must not give any eye contact.  I like to see puppy still in that frozen posture as I’m about to walk away. Before puppy gets up on it’s own  I release . It should be mentioned that a tug rope can also be implemented into the Freeze game.

   What’s the purpose behind the Freeze game ? It’s about  controlling the puppy with only your body movement.  It’s about the puppy pausing and watching for directions. The puppy has already experienced reading canine body language from its family. It’s now time to learn the  body language of the owner. This game will teach the puppy Self-Control under a high level of excitement, arousal, and over-stimulation. It’s also about controlling the puppies mouthing issue.  If the puppy tries to initiate any mouthing immediately correct by standing up, and give the  hand gesture. The puppy will remember the correction from the Freeze game.   Remember, the puppy shouldn’t ever control the owner in any manner. The puppy should never have that much power over an owner.  Working with puppies is about applying practical solutions to impressionable and teachable minds.  



    Most Dog Aggression cases are deeply rooted in fear, stress and insecurity. A fighting dog which is trained to commit violent acts could be an exception. However, people raising fighting dogs use very aversive techniques on their dogs. Since dogs are survivalists by nature it’s likely the” fight or die” concept crosses their minds. The fear of injury or death could be a motivating factor to comply.  So fear, stress, and insecurity can play a part with them also. Fear is a major component of aggression.  Reasons for a dog being fearful are: Fear of losing a resource, fear of losing an object, fear of losing its territory, fear of  physical harm, and fear of its pack being harmed ( includes owners).   

 A stressed dog  will protect itself from harm by confronting its threat.  This includes every dog. Eventually even the most passive dog under enough stress will go into survival mode.  An interesting observation this writer has experienced is when  given enough time  aggressive dogs will eventually reveal their true feelings of insecurity. This could take weeks or months to be revealed. A long term working relationship with an aggressive dog is necessary to witness the transformation.  

A case in point:  When I first met this particular rottweiler he was very aggressive towards humans. He was 1.5 years old and a very high-ranking german block head. Although aggressive he became submissive rather quickly to me. A submissive dog is easier to train than unsubmissive aggressors.  However, he didn’t like to be touched ANYWHERE on his body. Eventually I was able to open his mouth and check his teeth. My relationship with him established his ability to being touched.  After months of training and providing daycare for him we established a trusting relationship. However, I knew his reflex to strike was still there. Even though he hadn’t shown it for a long time.   I had  always set up situations for him to feel relaxed and enjoy his environment.  

  On one particular day as I was cleaning his eyes he appeared hesitant and uncomfortable. I was using very little pressure. As I continued to clean  he began to cry and whimper like a little baby. It was at this moment he revealed to me exactly what I always had suspected. On the outside he looked ferocious but on the inside he was still that scared little puppy.  His close bond with me allowed him to reveal how he was really feeling inside. He didn’t want to bite me so he had to tell me some way how he really felt. He really wasn’t this monster people believed he was. His aggressive behavior was only a survival instinct to protect himself from a scary world he never properly adjusted to. 

  There’s hundreds of thousands of dogs like this rottweiler in the United States. An owner with an undersocialized puppy takes the risk of having a fearful, stressed out, and insecure adult. There are many other types of symptoms other than aggression with undersocialized dogs.  If  owners take the time to introduce their puppies to a new fun world they will  learn to enjoy it.  Happy Training.


Giovannas Dog Training provides Private Dog Training, Group Dog Training, Private Puppy Training, Group Puppy Training, and Pet Sitting Service. Happy Training.




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