At this point during the beginning of preschool puppy training you should now have your puppy slowly conditioned to expect his daily 10 minute walk, while learning that praise and tasty treats go hand-in-hand.
As you continue each walk with your puppy, take notice to see if he is preoccupied with the sights or sounds around him. When this happens, repeat the following maneuver: kneel down, say your puppy’s name, followed by the command “come”. Gently pull him to you, give him the tidbit and pour on the praise. You have 10 minutes, and four tidbits, to get four “come” maneuvers in during each daily walk for days 4, 5, 6, and 7 – of the pup’s ninth week of age.
Why So Many Treats?
You may be wondering why it’s necessary to give your puppy a treat in each instance that the “come” maneuver is executed. We don’t want the tidbit reward to become the prime motivating factor in later training, as would happen if we were to give the tidbit all of the time – and for all responses.
Keep this very important thought in mind: we are teaching the puppy how to learn, knowing that praise alone just isn’t that big of a payoff at his young age.
By the end of your puppy’s ninth week of age, he will realize that the play toy does not get tossed for him to retrieve until he allows himself to be placed in the sitting position. The fact that you will again toss the toy becomes the prime motivating factor, with praise being secondary. Since the game must eventually end, there must be some reward at the conclusion – thus, the tidbit treat.
Because praise alone is not sufficient motivation for a nine week old puppy, we must motivate him something else when teaching “come”. For a puppy to give up his sight and scent excursion, and come running to you when commanded, it must be something more in it for him than a pat on the head, or simply being allowed to continue his walk. Therefore, the treat, of necessity, becomes the prime motivator. Again, the praise is secondary.
An ideal way to reinforce the command “come” – at times other than when school is in session – would be at feeding time. Call the puppy’s name, followed by the command “come” as his food dish is placed on the floor. Don’t take the food to the puppy; instead, make the puppy come to the food dish as you speak the command “come”. Don’t clutter his chalkboard mind with “come on boy, it’s time to eat” and expect it to reinforce the come response.
While it is necessary that you talk to your puppy to help develop his personality and vocabulary, don’t use any other word except the command word when reinforcing a training response.