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As your pup matures and now that you are heading outside where off-lead play is soon to follow, it is time to reassess whether or not your pup views you as his leader. Your dog’s responsiveness is based on training and on how he perceives you.

Think of the best teacher or coach you have ever had. Chances are excellent that all of them had a few traits in common. A really good teacher is fair. They don’t scold you for no reason or test you on material you’ve never learned. They are fun. They cheered on good effort, shared in your successes, saw the best in you, and brought it out. They had high expectations for you. And those high expectations led them to be firm, meaning clear, focused, and unwavering. Firm is not angry or cruel. If you apply these three traits—fair, fun, firm—to yourself, you, too, can become a leader your dog looks up to, learns from, and follows.

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No matter what your intentions are, your dog will link your behavior to what she did in the last few seconds, not what she did in the last few minutes. For example, if she steals a dish towel, and you see her, tell her, “Out,” and she spits it out, and then you scold her for taking the towel, you have just unintentionally scolded dish towel-dropping behavior. Next time she will be less likely to spit out the dish towel. Instead, if she drops it on command, praise her. That way she’ll drop it faster next time.

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One of the classic city problems is the pup who drags you down the street, leaping at passing strangers, garnering you everything from an understanding smile to a nasty comment. How do you control this enthusiasm without dampening your pup’s friendliness?

When you first take your pup out, don’t worry about this. She is just getting used to things, and you don’t want to add any type of inhibition at first. Simply prevent contact through restraint or distracting the pup with a happy command, a toy, or a treat.

After your pup is confident on the street (and that may take a few days to a few weeks), you can start shaping a more appropriate greeting.

As with all training, you need to think about what it is you want to achieve before you start. A polite greeting is a good start, but you need to know exactly what you mean by that. Here are a few of the goals I set for this process:

Goal # 1 : For your pup to keep feet and mouth off of humans when greeting.

Goal # 2: For your pup to sit while being greeted.

There are several ways to reach these goals. Here’s one way:

Starting indoors, put your pup on lead and collar when a friend or family member is about to enter your home. As they enter, approach the person with your pup, then step on the lead where it touches the floor when your pup is standing.

Done properly, the pup will correct herself when she leaps up at the human. When she is attempting to leap up—become quiet and ignore her. Leaping pups get no attention. When she stops leaping, calmly tell her how smart she is and reach down to stroke her gently. If she leaps, look away and ignore her again. After just a few minutes of this canine version of “red light, green light,” your pup will probably start figuring this game out and she’ll stop popping up. Goal # 1 achieved (at least while you are standing on the lead; true self-control and understanding of what is wanted takes many, many repetitions).

On to goal #2. I’m assuming you’ve practiced “sit” with food rewards away from this situation, so your pup understands what is wanted.

Now, when she stops jumping, direct her to sit, then praise and reward. From here on, in practice sessions, she gets the attention and treats only for sitting. When a new situation is presented, she will need more practice and patience before she is reliable again.

If she doesn’t catch on quickly, no matter. Every dog learns at his or her own rate. Simply keep doing this for the next few days and she should improve steadily. If no improvement is happening—stop! Either the pup has too much slack in the lead or this method is not going to work for her.

Want to speed up her understanding? Practice playing with her by backing away and sounding very excited, then telling her to sit. The instant you say, “Sit,” freeze and become silent. When she sits, praise, pet, and/or give her a treat, then begin the game again. This teaches your dog how to listen when distracted and how to calm herself when stimulated. These skills help make a wonderful companion dog. (Besides, it’s a lot of fun to play!)

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Make the outside a fun place. Give some special treats on walks for the first week or so, and stop and fuss over your pup regularly. It is impossible to praise a pup too much, and a minute or two of petting and warm words from you can give a pup a nice mental break. If she can focus on commands, practice those. Just a few at a time followed by rest or play, whichever your pup seems to need.

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  1. Give him attention all the time, whether or not he asks for it.
  2. Don’t teach him how to please you, and for heaven’s sake, don’t practice. Just expect him to know it, then get mad at him when he doesn’t.
  3. Ask nothing of him—no self-restraint, no response, no compliance.
  4. If you do ask, don’t follow through.
  5. Don’t take him anywhere with you, keep his world small.
  6. Correct him harshly, frighten him, hurt him, teach him you are unreliable and dangerous.
  7. Work around him constantly—if he’s lying down in the hall, step around him; if he’s on the couch, sit at the other end; if he’s in bed, scrunch in so he doesn’t have to move.
  8. Stroke and soothe him when he shows confusion, fear, or aggression.
  9. Limit your praise; after all, he “knows” he did right.
  10. Skip neutering.
  11. Consider any treats as “bribes.”
  12. Refuse to consider other methods. Spout to everyone that using treats or not using treats, using collars or not using collars, is stupid. Instead of trying something new, allow your dog to fail.
  13. Get angry at other dogs (and owners) when the older dogs attempt to appropriately discipline your pup.
  14. Think of your dog as your baby.
  15. When a correction doesn’t work, do it harder.
  16. Refuse to consider medicating your dog, if recommended.
  17. Think of any boundary setting as “mean.”
  18. Ignore the behavior you want.
  19. Hit him because it “worked” on your last dog, or your parents hit you, or you watched your parents hit your dog, or you can’t “control yourself.”
  20. Be inconsistent with both your expectations and your reactions.
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Better they be too short than too long. For the first few days, walks under ten minutes are suggested. The exceptions are for extremely stressed dogs (take them in sooner) and bold, relaxed pups (hang outside for longer if you wish). Stressed dogs may pant rapidly, lie down, insist on walking next to a wall, cling to your legs, pull toward the building, leave little sweaty paw prints on the sidewalk, or start shedding madly. These dogs need to be exposed to the city slowly, at a speed they can handle.

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Don’t worry about him pulling you around to explore or trying to greet everyone he meets. These are good things. Prevent happy assaults by restraint rather than correction. You can continue to play the “stop when the lead is tight” game if you have the time, patience, and inclination to do so.

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More than one pup hates the rain. Usually, the thinner the dog’s hair, the less he likes being wet and cold. Dobermans, for all their tough reputations, are often weather wimps.

If your pup looks miserable, you must sell him on two things: He must walk in the rain, and it will be fun. Do not stop because he stops. This only rewards stopping and will create a dog who refuses to walk in the rain. Next, be happy (even if you aren’t feeling happy), bring special treats, laugh, and act silly—most pups can’t stay miserable long in the face of glee.

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Humans often behave in ways that frighten dogs. Human behaviors that can spook pups include direct eye contact, long eye contact, walking directly toward, reaching quickly toward, looming over, moving suddenly, and reaching a hand in and then pulling it away. Many of these behaviors would be rude if done to a human stranger, yet we seem to forget ourselves around animals. Fact is that their social systems share some of the same rules: Strangers stand at a distance until introduced, both parties must want interaction for it to proceed, rapid body contact is inappropriate, staring is rude . . . If we thought to follow some of our own rules of conduct when interacting with animals, it would make things easier for the dogs.

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Don’t march a dog new to the city down Fifth Avenue at lunch hour; that can be overwhelming to us humans. As with all training, set him up for success whenever you can, don’t “test” him to see what he can handle. There is nothing wrong with just sitting in a quiet area and letting your pup take in the sights. If he becomes stressed, restless, tries to hide, climbs your leg, whines, or moves in a crouched position, you’ve done too much. Go back inside and let him collect himself. (If he does show those signs, chat happily with him. Be nonchalant. Please don’t commiserate with his fear, that will only make it worse.)

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One of the great ways to condition a shy or fearful pup to accept a stressful situation is to make it a pleasant one instead. You can do this by feeding your dog treats she adores in spots she does not adore. Done often, she’ll start looking forward to these spots, as they represent an opportunity for really good treats. This is called “counter conditioning” and is an easy approach to take in situations your dog does not enjoy.

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