The Weekly Q&A: Ask Way of Life™ Dog Training
A Case of Selective Listening: Dog Training a Cockapoo Puppy

A Case of Selective Hearing

Q: Please provide me more details on your approach. I have a cockapoo puppy going onto 12 weeks. I want a good bond with him. He is a smart dog just has selective listening. Happy to discuss more on a call.

A: Thanks very much for reaching out about your puppy. While I tend to focus on acute behavioral issues in young and adult dogs, I also welcome the opportunity to work with a puppy. This is our chance to get set up on healthy foundations from the beginning, so that not only are we avoiding a scenario of behavioral issues but we’re also rearing a sound, strong, and spirited dog that is a joy to live with.

In this response to your inquiry, I will comment on your diagnosis of “selective listening,” wanting a good bond with your dog, and share a few of the basics that I impart when working with puppies as young as yours. Let’s talk first about the label of “selective listening” applied to a 12-week old pup. This label assumes that you expect a puppy this young to be well behaved and listen. This reflects a very sad expectation in the culture that it’s never too soon to start training a puppy and teaching it manners and “skills.”

In the Way of Life method, I focus first on a dog or puppy’s way of life and apply labels of any kind later. Of course, descriptions of behavior help us wrap our heads around a situation and describe and discuss what could be going on, but what’s really going in are dynamics beneath the surface, aspects of our way of life we might not even be aware that are affecting our pups’ behavior.

Like I said, it is too soon for your pup to be well behaved or to be trained to have manners. He’s not only a few weeks old and immature but also new in his relationship with you. So your desire to have a bond with your pup is somewhat premature because a “bond” as you would enjoy with an adult dog is too soon to expect from a puppy. The pup’s needs are extremely basic right now and while he is already more attached to you than you realize, the bond that we ultimately want with our dogs takes time to nurture.

Your priorities at this point are building up your pup’s confidence so that he can learn things easily and quickly. He will feel awesome about being with you because you’re the reason he feels so good about himself. By establishing a daily routine, which includes sessions for exercise and lots of time crated so that he can sleep and develop, you instill in your pup a sense of safety – the most basic of all needs. By keeping his experiences varied but at the same time simple, you instill a sense of success which will grow your pup’s confidence. With a sense of safety and confidence, and a little more maturity and rapport between the two of you, you can start training your pup in the more traditional sense, expanding his world, and expecting greater responsiveness.

To find out more about our approach to raising sound, strong, and spirited dogs, check out the Way of Life Puppy Primer.

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