Tips On How To Habituate Your Puppy

Habituation is getting a dog used to something by repeatedly exposing it to the stimulus until it no longer provokes a reaction.

Here are some tips on how to habituate your new puppy:

  • Get your puppy used to travelling in cars as well as any public transport you’re likely to use so it becomes accustomed to the noises and sensation the car, train or bus makes. Reward him with a treat when he is calm, but if he is anxious wait until he relaxes before giving any attention.

 

  • Expose your dog to as many different noises as possible in a calm and controlled way. If it’s not possible to expose them to gun shots or fireworks, then you can buy CD’s with the sounds on and play them in the house. Start quietly and gradually build up the volume and frequency. With all of the other items that make a noise in and around the house like the vacuum, hairdryer or lawnmower then let the dog sniff and examine the item while it is off and then when it’s turned on stay close to him and encourage him to remain relaxed. I’ve also found it helps to drop treats around the vacuum when it’s off and then when it’s on so the dog has to touch and jump over it and associates it with good things. Keep exposing them until there is no longer a reaction.

 

  • Places: Take your puppy to as many places as you can, but again, this should be done in a calm way so as to avoid frightening your dog as this will have the opposite effect. Try to expose them to different floor surfaces, animals, busy high streets, countryside noises, children’s play areas, pubs, vets waiting rooms, traffic, bridges, tunnels etc. Reward the puppy when it is calm a relaxed and do not make a fuss of it if it is anxious or whining. If it stops and doesn’t want to move, then encourage it on with a food lure and / or gently press on its rear so it walks on. If it seems anxious then stride forward confidently staying calm and quiet.

Use the following checklist:

  1. Keep calm and don’t reassure a nervous puppy – reassuring a puppy just tells him there was something to be afraid of so it’s vital you set the example of not being phased by whatever it was that made the puppy nervous.
  2. Don’t pressure a puppy into approaching whatever is frightening them as this could simply cause it to be scared in the future. Simply repeat the expose to whatever it was afraid of as often as possible, starting at a distance which does not cause them any distress and then gradually getting closer and closer over time until it’s not showing a reaction.
  3. Reward only when the puppy is relaxed – when the puppy is not reacting give it lots of encouragement and rewards but if it is showing any fear then say nothing and reward it as soon as it calms down.
  4. An exposure time of about 15 minutes is enough for a puppy so don’t do too much at once as this can lead to it forming a bad association which can then be tough to undo.

As a dog walker I see how not exposing a new puppy to many or all of the above can cause long term problems for owners. If you need help with any of the above do contact me.

Or, if you’d like me to be your dog walker I cover Thirsk, Northallerton and surrounding areas.