BUILD A BOND: During the first few weeks, your primary focus should be on getting to know your dog and bonding with him. It is important that you build a positive relationship with your dog before progressing to training and instruction. Try to create a relaxed and fun environment for your dog and try to keep the number of people he comes into contact with to a minimum. If you are starting a training program with a dog you have had for many years, start the relationship afresh, as if you have just met each other for the first time.
FOOD AND TREATS: Food is a very powerful training aid that can deliver great results when used appropriately. During the first weeks, always feed your dog by hand. Make sure you have food with you wherever you go, and give your dog bits of food on a regular basis, not just when you are engaged in training sessions. When your dog recognizes that you are the source of food, he will remain close to you. Again, always give food directly from your hand because doing so will teach your dog that you are the only source of his food; i.e., you are the leader. As your relationship progresses, your dog will become increasingly calm when you are around.
MULTIPLE DOG HOUSEHOLDS: When you engage in feeding or training sessions with your dog, make sure that any other animals are not in the vicinity. This will allow you to establish a relationship with your dog free of any distractions.
MASTERING THE CRATE: You need to ensure that your dog views the crate as somewhere that is safe and fun. When you first introduce the crate to your dog, toss some small treats inside and make it a game for him to go and retrieve them. Repeat this a few times before taking the dog back out of the crate. Do not leave him in the crate at this stage. Some dogs may be reluctant to go inside the crate, even in the pursuit of treats. In such cases, you should gradually lure the dog inside by placing treats in strategic places; i.e., by the entrance, just inside the door, etc. This process may take several days, but be patient and avoid the temptation to immediately close the door. Wait until the stage at which your dog can comfortably sit and eat the treats inside the crate, happy and relaxed. Although this process can be frustratingly slow, it is important that you get it right so that you can prevent separation anxiety from developing.
GIVING COMMANDS: You are the leader, and you should be in control at all times. All communication between yourself and the dog should be clear: The dog obeys your every command. There is no need to be cruel or punishing. Simply give commands in a calm and even tone. Your goal is to teach the dog that he will be rewarded when he does as you ask. Bear in mind that your dog yearns to please you. You simply need to teach him how to do that. Reinforce desirable behavior by praising him. Always behave in a consistent manner and use the same set of commands to tell your dog what to do. Never scream and shout, and never beg; simply instruct in an authoritative voice. Once you have given a command, make sure your dog does as you ask. Follow through until the task is completed. Motivate him with praise and play to keep it fun and interesting. If you call your dog to you and do not reward him for coming, he will start to see it as a chore. Immediately rewarding him will motivate him to do as you ask in the future.
TOYS: Toys can be a great training tool if used in the right way. Many people make the mistake of having their dog’s toys strewn around the house for him to have whenever he pleases. Avoid this. Have one special toy that is used for training purposes. The dog will covet that toy and see it as a reward for good behavior. Toys should generally be reserved for outside play. When the dog is in the home, you want him to be calm and relaxed. You should be the one to dictate when it is play time, not the dog. While you should not have toys around the home, firm (not hard) plastic chew bones and the like are perfectly fine in moderation.
PLAY & EXERCISE: Do not allow the dog to engage in activities such as running and jumping until he is at least six months old, because his joints will not be strong enough for activities of this nature when he is still a young puppy. Let your dog decide when and how long he wants to run for. Walks, fetch, tug-of-war, etc. are great ways to exercise and bond with your dog. However, you should make sure your dog hasn’t eaten for 2-4 hours before playing because this may cause gastric torsion and volvulus (often fatal).
AVOID DOG PARKS: Dog parks are rife with diseases and putting your dog in close contact with many other dogs can spread illnesses. Your dog may also get attacked or bullied by other dogs in this environment, and this could seriously undermine his confidence. What could start out as a minor altercation between another dog and your own has the potential to breed a nervous or even aggressive animal. You should also bear in mind that you should be the source of fun, not other dogs. This reinforces your position as the leader.