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Puppies 9-12 Weeks
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Nine Weeks to Three Months – “The Toddler”
As your puppy approaches nine weeks, you will find that he is awake more, physically more coordinated, and can see more clearly. He is becoming more inquisitive, bold, and courageous. Whereas your puppy may have followed you closely, this slightly older puppy will start to run off and feel the need to check out all that he hears and sees. Just as you would “child proof” your home if you had a toddler, you should puppy proof your home against an inquisitive puppy. Don’t leave your shoes where he can find them. Put the trash in a cabinet and encourage your children to keep their toys off the floor.

Your goal remains to have an adult dog that:
  1. Comes when he is called;
  2. Stays where he is put;
  3. Walks well on a leash;
  4. Only jumps on people or furniture when invited;
  5. Plays with his toys, and leaves your stuff alone; and
  6. Can be confined away from the family when necessary.
The biggest mistake owners make at this stage is failing to realize that they are still dealing with a very young dog. He is not yet old enough to be responsible for letting you know that he needs to go out. He does not understand which objects are his to play with and which objects are yours and off limits to him.

Continue to use a crate to confine him when you cannot keep an eye on him. When you are with him, keep your puppy in the room you are in. He is not trustworthy from a housebreaking standpoint, and you need to get him outside every time he changes activities. Furthermore, even more so than during the seven to nine-week stage, everything is going to start going in his mouth. This is the reason that he should be where you can keep an eye on him. Fortunately, he is old enough to be introduced to some of the obedience commands that you ultimately hope to teach him. So, have fun getting started!
Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 1: I follow Cinda as she explores the yard on her leash.

Obedience Commands -Walking on a Leash

This is a great age to let your puppy drag a light leash or longer line (10-15 feet) around the house or yard, or when you are in a situation where he might not allow you to catch him. First, this will allow him to become accustomed to being on a leash, and will also afford you the ability to catch him if he starts to run from you.

Pick up the leash or line the puppy is dragging and follow him. This will allow your puppy to become accustomed to having someone holding on to his leash. It will give him an opportunity to learn what it is like when the two of you move together (Photo 1). At this point, it’s not necessary to insist that your puppy move in the direction that you want. Most breeds of puppies are still small enough for you to carry when they resist moving in the direction you want them to. If necessary, feel free to pick them up at this age.

Teaching “Sit”
“Sit” is an easy command to teach your puppy. Start with the treat in front of his nose and gradually tilt his head up and back toward his tail until he falls into a sitting position. As he does, tell him to sit, praise him and then give him the treat. If you lift the treat too high in the air, he will jump up for it. Your treat should be just high enough for him to reach up for it, but not so high that it makes him jump up.

Rewarding Your Puppy
To begin training your puppy to respond to simple commands, appeal to what makes your puppy happy. Most puppies are very motivated by bits of food. This is a good age for you to carry a pocket full of treats to reward him for behaviors that interest you.
Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 2: Cinda sits for the treat. 
Training is easier if you give them soft treats they can swallow easily without having to take a lot of time to chew. If your puppy is finicky, try small bits of cheese or meat to motivate him. Consult your veterinarian if you have questions about the type of treats you should be giving to your puppy. Most people reward their puppies with much larger treats than are necessary. Find a treat you can break into very small pieces so that you don’t fill him up too quickly.

Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 3: Cinda learns to lie down for a treat.
Teaching “Down”
When your puppy has mastered “Sit,” it’s time to try “Down.” Begin with him in a sit, and hold your treat in front of his nose. Slowly lower the treat to the ground. As his head lowers, stretch the treat out in front of him so that he walks his front legs into a down position. You may need to put your free hand on his back to keep him from standing up and walking toward the treat, but avoid the temptation to push him into a down position. Tell your puppy “Down” as he goes down, praise him, and then give him the treat for doing so.

Teaching “Come”

Start teaching your puppy to come, by calling his name and saying “Come” as you run from him. Most puppies love this game of chase and will run after you. When your puppy catches up with you, give him a treat and praise him. You may want to play this game with your puppy on a long line so that if he is distracted, you can call his name and say “Come,” and then give a tug on the line to get his attention before you start to run from him.
Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 4: I’m practicing the “Come” command with Cinda on a long rope. I get her to come quickly by moving away from her as she comes to me.

Teaching “Kennel”

If you have been feeding your puppy in his crate, you may see him start to run ahead of you toward his crate as you prepare his meal. Tell him to “Kennel” as he jumps in to get him familiar with the “Kennel” command.

Teaching “Off”

This is an age when large breed puppies get big enough to start jumping up on things. When you sit in a chair and your puppy jumps on you, tell him “Off” and gently put your foot on his back foot. When he realizes that his foot is “trapped,” he will leap off you and you can praise him and pet him for having all four feet on the ground.

Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 5: Cinda jumps up on me, and I gently put my foot on her back foot as I tell her “Off.”
Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 6: Feeling the pressure on her foot, she put all four feet back on the ground!

If you have children, you should expect that when they run and play, your puppy will chase and jump on them. Your puppy played “chase” with his littermates and will be thrilled that there is someone in your home that knows the game!

A friend and her young daughter was coming to visit shortly after I brought my 12-week-old puppy home. I showed the little girl how to get the puppy to sit and down and encouraged her to play tug-o-war. However, every time she tried to move through the house, the puppy was right behind her trying to play by jumping on her and biting at her feet. I gave the child a squirt bottle of water set to administer a jet stream of water if she pulled the trigger. I took the child and puppy into the yard and told her to run from the puppy, and then instructed her that if the puppy touched her at all when chasing her, that she had my permission to stop running, tell him “Off,” and squirt him with the water. It was no time at all before the puppy would chase her and run with her, but would not get close enough to touch her. The rest of the visit was quite peaceful as she continued to practice her sit, down, and drop commands.

Educational Games - Tug of War

Much that has been written about the horrors of playing tug-o-war with your puppy is simply not true. The only negative to playing tug-o-war is that, if you always allow him to win the game, you could create a dog that is possessive of objects.

However, playing tug-o-war gives you an opportunity to teach your puppy what “Drop” means. After you have tugged and played, stop tugging and tell your puppy to “Drop.” When he does not drop the object, blow on his face. Most puppies will spit the object out and jump back from you. If blowing on his face does not cause him to spit the object out, try squeezing his front foot with your free hand. As he realizes that his foot is trapped, he will open his mouth and look down to see what’s happening (Photos 7 & 8).

Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 7: Cinda and I are enjoying a game of
tug-o-war, but she refuses to give up the toy
when I say drop, so I reach for her front foot.
Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 8: She opens her mouth immediately
when I squeeze her foot, and I praise her for
dropping on Command!
Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 9: Cinda is very willing to run back to me with her toy.
It’s such fun to have a dog that will retrieve for you. It’s also great exercise and a fun way to wear out your energetic puppy. Begin with two identical toys. Throw one down a hallway or stand in a doorway and throw the toy into a room. Your hope is your puppy will chase the object and then want to come back down the hallway or out of the room. Take hold of your puppy as he comes past you. Resist the urge to reach for the object. If you are in a hurry to grab the toy, he will quickly learn to stay out of your reach. However, if you take hold of him, pet and praise him, then get him interested in the toy that you are holding, he will willingly come to you as he will not fear that you will take his “prize.” He will also learn to drop the object in anticipation that you will throw another object for him (Photos 9 & 10).

Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 10: Cinda knows I won’t be in a hurry to grab the toy from her. Instead I pet her and praise her for coming. When I’m ready to throw it again, I take the identical object from my pocket and tease her with it so that she willingly gives up the one she has.
Resist the temptation to throw balls for your puppy. A rolling ball can discourage a puppy that doesn’t believe he can catch up with it. Also, resist the temptation to throw the toy more than three or four times. Playing the game until your puppy is exhausted is the quickest way to discourage him and cause him to become disinterested in the game.

As you take your game out into the yard, it may be more beneficial to let your puppy play this game while dragging his rope. As he runs after the object, follow him, pick up the end of the rope, and call him while running from him to get him interested in coming back to you.

Picking up Unwanted Objects

It is inevitable; your puppy is going to start picking up objects that you would prefer he left alone. You can try to keep an eye on him and try to tell him “No” every time he disturbs something that is not his. However, this is usually quite frustrating for both the owner and the puppy, and furthermore, it is common for a puppy to discover that if he grabs the forbidden object and runs, members of his new pack will chase him. This can turn into a fun game for the puppy that is equally annoying for the owner.

Another option is to be nonchalant when he picks up an unwanted object, and then calmly call him to you. If you run from him, there is a good chance that he will chase after you, sometimes with the object, and sometimes after dropping it. You can reward him for coming, and simply exchange the unwanted object for a toy of his own. This may not discourage your puppy from picking objects up, but what it will do is encourage him to come to you whenever he has something in his mouth. Not drawing any attention to his picking up unwanted objects may well have the desired result. He may lose interest because you don’t chase him, and it never becomes a play toy or something to chew up.

Puppy Training at 9 12 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 11: Dinah, an adult Shih-Tzu, barks, and lunges at Cinda when she runs up to meet her. Cinda, appropriately backs away.
Introducing your Puppy to Older Dogs
At this age, it is important to introduce your puppy to small dogs or cats that you own. It is a good time for your older pet to teach your puppy to respect him (Photo 11). However, remain cautious and protective of your puppy around bigger, older dogs. Your puppy is small enough that a larger dog could inadvertently hurt him, either in play or to correct him for being a pest. A crushed skull or lost eye is not worth the risk of letting your small puppy interact with older, larger dogs in your family. If your larger, older dog seems curious and tolerant, consider having your puppy on a leash when they are together. If your older dog growls or tries to warn your puppy that he’s had enough, you want to be able to pull the puppy away if your puppy ignores the warning.

Grooming your Puppy
Start getting your puppy used to being groomed. Teaching your puppy to be still while you brush him is easier if you place him on a table. If you don’t have a grooming table, stand him on your picnic table, or place a towel or other non-skid material on top of your washer or dryer.

Being elevated is often just intimidating enough for your puppy to be willing to stand still! Hold your puppy by the collar with one hand while you practice brushing him with your other hand. Keep it short. It is more important that the puppy hold still than that you effectively brush his whole body. While he’s on the table, lift each foot and look at his toenails.

Also, get him used to having you look in his ears. If you decide you need to give your puppy a bath, leave his leash and collar on him so that you can hold him still. Being still is more important than a first-class bath. You may not accomplish much more than rinsing him and toweling him dry on your first attempt. That’s okay; each time you try he’ll become more familiar with the routine and be more apt to cooperate.

Your puppy is now three months old, and you have already begun to establish habits that will help you achieve much more than the six goals stated at the beginning of the article. You should be getting excited about all that your puppy is learning, but don’t relax just yet. You’ve got a few more tough months ahead. You are certainly off to a great start but keep in mind, you’re still dealing with a youngster, but you are certainly off to a great start!

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