Without prior training, your 3-year old pup might not have much in the way of canine manners. And whatever he's been exposed to can shape his behavior, for better or for worse. But tell the bad behavior your pup exhibits to look out, because you're coming equipped with treats and fun.
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Find out what type of dog you're dealing with. This simple but critical step determines how you'll train your big guy. At 3 years of age, dogs have gone through a lot, and they've long since developed their own personalities. If you adopted a new furry friend, maybe he grew up in a bad situation and is afraid of seemingly everything. Maybe he simply had no direction when he was younger or he wasn't trained properly and now gets distracted easily. Just pay attention to how he behaves. For instance, if he averts his eyes and looks scared when you make eye contact, he's insecure. If after a minute into training, he's off to his toy basket, you're dealing with a canine who's going to need extra motivation for even the simplest of commands.
Train him according to his demeanor. If he's scared, talk with a gentle, low voice and never hover over him. Always smile and appear relaxed. If he's a bit reluctant to listen or gets distracted by that one section of the couch he hasn't yet smelled, make yourself more assertive. Sound confident and issue commands with authority and a firm voice. Switch things up once in a while by training him in a different room of the house, use treats he goes crazy over, such as bite-sized pieces of chicken, or even try rewarding him with one of his favorite toys occasionally.
Capture your pup's positive behavior and reward him, or lure him into position. To an untrained 3-year old pup, he's gone through his entire life hearing words but he has no idea what they mean. To him, "sit" means just as much as "go fetch that ball." So instead of issuing the sit command, wait for him to sit on his own, then whip out the treats and give tons of attention. Clickers work effectively for this. As he continues to sit, work in the verbal cue just before he plops his butt on the ground, and he'll eventually associate it with sitting.
Build your pup's confidence, which may be lacking in an untrained 3-year old canine. Even if he huffs and puffs and makes himself look big and bad in front of strangers and other dogs, don't be fooled. Deep down, he's probably acting that way because he's not confident in himself. Make him confident on walks by keeping his leash loose, even when you know he's afraid of something. Challenge him in fun ways, by putting his ball in a cardboard box or treats in a treat dispenser. Anything he has to solve and will get rewarded for is always a good confidence builder. Positive reinforcement is the key to building his confidence.
Refuse to acknowledge his bad behavior. The quickest way to put his bad manners to rest is by showing him they don't give him even one teensy-weensy bit of your attention. If he mouths your hand, turn around and ignore him for a minute. If he jumps on you when you come home, walk forward slightly and give him all the attention in the world, and a tasty treat, when all four paws touch the floor.
Know what tempts him. Without a steady hand showing him wrong from right for the past three years, he might think it's OK to chase your other animals or stand on his hind legs to sneak a piece of cheese from the kitchen counter. Keeping your house dog-proof and crate training him will prevent cords from being chewed, cats from being harassed and food from mysteriously vanishing. This isn't so much about training as it is keeping him in check and out of bad situations.
- If you cannot capture his behavior, you can lure him into position in some cases. To make him sit, for example, bring a mouth-watering treat just above his head and he'll sit naturally in attempt to look up at it. You'll have to issue some commands verbally in the beginning, such as the “come” command.
- Only train your pup for short periods at a time. Five- to 10-minute sessions work more effectively than a big 30-minute session.
- If you ever feel yourself becoming frustrated or angry, stop your training sessions.
- The Thinking Dog: Crossover for Clicker Training; Gail Tamases Fisher
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Clicker Training Your Pet
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Training Your Dog
- Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Separation Anxiety
- Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images
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