That’s why you want to have picked a puppy that shows more interest in you than toys, boys, or noise!
There’s a window of heavy, fast development before 16 wks old. So laying a solid foundation of attentiveness can be nearly set in stone during that time.
But there is a window within that window: the first few days after a puppy has come to live with you.
As you allow them a few days to “settle in”, they are missing their littermates, their dams, and their former home. They are looking for some comfort in addition to exploring the new diggs.
That’s the time to really take advantage of their desire to be with you and interact. They don’t even need to have learned their new names yet to start encouraging attention. As they are “trained” to know and look when their name is called, there are even more opportunities to shape them into highly attentive pups.
I break this attentiveness training into 2 main headings: things I am doing and things the puppy likes doing.
Things I am doing:
The idea is to make being near you constantly rewarding. Not just with treats, as that makes the treats the reward. It’s ME that must be the reward: my affection, my attention, my ‘making room’ for them in my world.
It’s dunderhead easy too! If they come to you when you’re busy, take a moment for a pat. Show them what you are doing, let them nose around your computer mouse, encourage them to touch you, and the like. Danes are terrifyingly smart, and don’t be surprised if they start learning words like computer, or cooking, or dusting in short order!
If they get tired of a bone and come to see you, for heavens sake stop and smooch ‘em! The more they want to be with you the more they will learn future tasks by watching you and being a part of what you were doing.
My personal schedule is in chronically low gear. That’s unavoidable due to my disabilities. But I will have to fight the oblivious-to-everything fibro brain fog with unrelenting will–even resting, or watching what little tv I watch will have times when a little tots will look at me.
Looking at me needs rewarding too! It’s attentiveness. Following me is attentiveness. Touching me when I lay down is attentiveness. Sticking their nose into what I’m doing is attentiveness. The more I watch dogs and puppies, the inattentive I realize we humans are!
What They Like To Do:
Exploring, playing, snoozing, cuddling…pups are wonderful! But one of the biggest lessons I learned from Kenai was if I let him go off and do his thing without me, he did. I had unknowingly taught him inattention! Which given his already rather inattentive personality…oops.
So playing toys with a brand new puppy makes me integral to their fun as well, and I become a reward again by being more enjoyable than chewing a bone by themselves. Games like tug, hide n seek, and even keep away can be shaped later into tasks, yes, but it’s just FUN for me too!
Running outside? I play chase me-chase you as much as I can. I can tug with the jolly ball whether standing or sitting. If they bring a toy to me, I can throw it (fetch, yes, glorious, adaptable into any task, fetch!)
What’s this and that games I love too. Investigate, learn the name of it with all its smells and textures and noises may be used later for task work. But right now, I am the “momma” showing them what’s in their world and what to do with it.
The snooze together (at least while touching them) is the best part for me: if you’ve never had a full grown Dane do a total body lean and snore, you don’t know what you’re missing! My scent transfers to them and goes right into that little brain. My heartbeat, and emotions are totally, entirely shared without a word spoken.
A puppy that learns to snooze with me, associates me also with relaxing, which comes in handy if they have a fright out in public sometime. None of these things require them to know their name, though it’s easily taught to them while doing these activities. Puppies communicate perfectly well without words.