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Puppy only interested in environment / extremely distracted

2881 Views 18 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  kontiki
I just got my standard poodle puppy 10 days ago at 8 weeks old. We are doing great with potty training and getting better on biting etc. We have enrolled in puppy class and so far have had one private session with the trainer and one regular puppy class (just yesterday). The breeder has advised strongly to only feed his kibble, no treats, as he has had trouble with dogs refusing food / almost starving themselves in the past (I think this concerned the mother and his sister from another litter).

I am worried about him being extremely distracted basically as soon as we leave the house, even for potty breaks in the yard. His nose is on the ground sniffing constantly and I am having a really hard time catching his attention at all. Obviously there was no chance of him focusing on me in puppy class. The trainer strongly advised to give higher value treats but had no other recommendations.

Do you have any recommendations on what I should try? This is my first dog, and I specifically wished for an easy to train puppy from the breeder :-(. I have read lots of books to prepare before he arrived, but none of them say what to do if the puppy refuses to pay any attention at all. I am trying my best but scared that he will grow up to be very badly behaved. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

PS: please excuse my english, it is not my first language :)
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He really does sound like a normal puppy. He's just a a baby. They take a while to grow up. Have you ever tried to help a 4 year old human make a picture with bits of construction paper? Part of the time they are cutting out the paper shapes. Part of the time they are pasting the shapes to the paper backing. The rest of the time they are seeing what else the scissors will cut and are eating the paste. It doesn't mean the kid is bad or unteachable. It doesn't mean you are wasting your time with art projects. It just means the kid is a kid.

If you happen to have a herding breed in your puppy class, don't make the mistake of comparing your pup to that one. Shepherds and collies tend to have laser focus on their handlers. It's just the nature of these breeds. You will get good focus too if you play lots of fun games and keep things exciting for him. It will just come later after you have been working with him a while.

I deal with treats by keeping a variety of flavors in my pouch. I find that having a variety of flavors keeps the puppy interested. He wants to know the next flavor to come out of my pocket. So I might reward with a piece of kibble, then a piece of dried liver, then two more pieces of kibble, then a dried minnow. Including kibble in the mix also helps ward off diarrhea. Giving an entire pouch of dried liver to a 10 week old puppy will have wetly explosive results, shall we say. Too high value, like steak, might overwhelm the puppy in some situations. He can't think about anything apart from diving into my pocket to get some of that steak. Too low and the dog won't work. What is too high or too low depends on the situation. In my living room I might be able to practice with kibble. In class I might need to use steak or chicken pieces to get his attention back from another puppy.

At this age the puppy class really should be about socialization and learning to learn. My current puppy Ritter didn't really master how to sit or lie down in his puppy class. I taught these at home. What was invaluable were all the other experiences. He learned not to be scared in a big echoing room and not freak out when someone knocks over a chair. He learned that sometime he gets to play with other puppies and sometimes he doesn't. He learned that sometimes we run around and sometimes we just sit and watch someone else run around. Again, think of pre-school for 4 year olds. You aren't expecting the kid to come out knowing long division. Everyone is usually happy with a kid that can get along with other kids, pay attention to the teacher, and (hopefully) not eat paste.
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On the topic of treats, now is also the time to start teaching your puppy to have a soft mouth when taking treats from you. Puppies naturally get excited at the prospect of a tasty treat. They tend to nip at your fingertips with great enthusiasm, and they may even jump at your hand. People, naturally, don't enjoy getting nipped with sharp little puppy teeth. The instinctive reaction is to let go the treat and snatch your hand back to safety. Unfortunately, this instinct simply encourages the puppy to nip harder and jump higher. You may even draw blood if the puppy accidentally catches you with a sharp little fang.

Instead, keep the treat between your fingers until you feel the puppy's tongue come up to lap the treat. Think of it like setting the treat on his tongue. You will feel his teeth - it's unavoidable - but the tooth pressure should be gentle, only strong enough to keep the treat from falling back out of his mouth. If he bites down hard don't surrender to your sense of self preservation. Leave your fingers in his mouth. Hold old onto to the treat until he releases the pressure and laps the treat instead. Then let the treat sit on his tongue.

By consistently insisting on gentleness when taking treats you will encourage him to have a soft mouth. You will also discourage him later from leaping at your food when you are carrying a sandwich or a dinner plate
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