Especially for New Puppy Parents

< Updated 05JUL21 >

< >

If you have a new puppy that is 8 to 16 weeks of age, this is the article you want. If you have a dog older than 12 weeks of age, you may also wish to check out this article –

A puppy does not come with a user’s manual; at least none that are complete and accurate. This article and series of links to other articles and podcasts are meant to get you started on learning what you need to know about caring for your puppy.  However, it does not take the place of enrolling yourself, and your puppy in a puppy headstart or kindergarten class that is under the direction of a professional dog trainer, accredited by an independent certification body and that is committed to pain-free, force-free, and pain-free training. If you prefer to absorb information by listening, rather than reading, you may want to listen to these three podcasts.

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 1

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 2

Podcast – Especially for New Puppy Parents – Part 3

A new puppy can be a great addition to your family, but they will also require some work on your part. You will very likely have questions about; housetraining, socialization, play biting and nipping, chewing, training methods, wellness exams, nutrition, vaccinations, babies and dogs, kids and dogs and more. This post includes links to articles and podcasts that address the most common questions people ask me when they are thinking of getting a new puppy or that have just added one to their home. While we strongly encourage everyone to attend a Puppy Headstart class while the puppy is between 8 and 16 weeks of age, these materials will provide you with some additional information. You can read or listen to them in any order you choose; however, I believe you will get the most benefit if you go through them in the order that they are listed.

My first word of advice; “patience.” It is very easy to want the ideal puppy immediately, but just as “Rome was not built in a day,” Your puppy will not be the perfect companion in a week, nor in all likelihood in a month. Training is a process, and as such it takes time. Yes, there will times you may become frustrated, but when you look back in a year you will realize it was a precious time for you and your pup, one filled with learning and fun!

I encourage you to read the following shared blog post, all about patience, by dog trainer Nancy Tanner. Read it, print it, and then post it on your refrigerator, or somewhere in your home where it is close at hand anytime you are feeling frustrated with your puppy. –

Shared Blog Post – the misunderstanding of time by Nancy Tanner OR

Enrolling yourself and your puppy in a reward-based dog training class designed by a Certified Professional Dog Trainer is the best thing you can do for you and your dog. Not all trainers and dog training classes are equal. Because dog training is currently a non-regulated and non-licensed profession the quality of instruction and practices used can vary widely, sometimes into the inhumane. The following article will provide you with information on what to look for in a dog trainer and dog training facility.

FMI – How to Choose a Dog Trainer OR

What You Need to Know BEFORE You Start Training –

Do not try to teach your puppy everything at once. In class, we will teach you certain behaviors, in a specific order, for a reason; to make training easier.

During the critical socialization period, between 8 and 16 weeks of age, it is far more important to work on planning and appropriately socializing and habituating your dog than it is to teach them to shake or any other behavior. This is a limited period, and you want to make the most of it. Inadequate or inappropriate socialization is a common reason dogs develop behavioral problems such as aggression and anxiety.

FMI – Puppy Socialization and Habituation

If you are already having problems with your dog guarding food and other items, stealing things, or growling, make an appointment with us for a Help Now! session as soon as possible. Punishment in any form will likely make these behaviors worse and could result in someone being bitten.

FMI – What Should I Dog When My Dog Does Not Let Me Take Something They Have Stolen and Snaps or Tries to Bite Me?

FMI – What Should I Do When My Dog Growls? 

Dogs and children both need training and supervision to learn how to appropriately and safely interact with one another. Dogs and children will not automatically get along. If you do not have children, your dog will still need to be socialized with children and learn how to interact with them. If you have children and a dog, you will need to spend time working with both. I highly recommend the book A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudge. You will discover some things that you probably did not know about dogs while learning how to teach your children about interacting with your dog and any other dog they may meet.

FMI – Book Review – A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudge

Think carefully about what you teach your puppy; intentionally or unintentionally. Un-training a behavior takes a whole lot more time and energy than training a behavior. A trick like “shake” is cute, but think long and hard if you want a dog that will always be trying to get every person they see to shake, even when they have muddy paws.

If there are multiple people that will be interacting with your dog, discuss what cues, visual and verbal, that you will use for specific behaviors so that you are all being consistent. Do not be in a hurry to add a visual (hand signal) or a verbal cue to a behavior. We do not start using a cue until we are confident that the dog understands the behavior in multiple contexts and environments. If you start using the cue to soon, you may need to change it. We will talk about that more in class.

If you have questions that just will not wait until class starts, contact us and make an appointment for a Help Now! session.

Blog Posts

Words-woofs-Meows-High Res with TM 755x800The blog posts listed below will all be very useful for anyone thinking about getting a new puppy or for those of you that just added a puppy to your family.

How to Choose a Dog Trainer – OR

Themes in Puppy Training

Themes in Puppy Training – What You Need to Know BEFORE You Start Training –

Puppy Socialization and Habituation

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 – WWM-JAN2019

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 – WWM-FEB2019 –

Dog Behavior – Dominance: Reality or Myth –  OR

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars

Canine Communication & Stress

Introduction to Canine Communication

Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress

Essential Handouts On Body Language, and Canine and Human Behavior from Dr. Sophia Yin

Jaws & Paws

Play Biting – Biting and Bite Thresholds –

Play Biting – Help! My Puppy’s A Land Shark!


Puddles & Piles


Alone Training – Preventing separation anxiety – Teaching your dog to cope with being alone

Grabs & Nabs


The Power of Food3

Teaching the ATTENTION or LOOK Behavior

Health & Safety

Tobacco Smoke, Vaping, Nicotine, and The Risk They Pose to Our Pets

Summer Pet Care Tips

Cold Weather and Holiday Tips for Pets

Canine Nutrition

GAKS Philosophy on Pet Nutrition

Pet Foods We Offer At Green Acres Kennel Shop

Pet Nutrition – Which Companies Are Behind Your Pet’s Food?  –

What I Feed My Dog and Why I Feed What I Do

Podcast – What We Feed Our Pets and Why, with – Don Hanson, Kate Dutra, and Linda Case

Which Are the Best Treats for Dogs?

Pet Nutrition Facts – Do You Want Optimal Nutrition, Low Cost, or Convenience? You CANNOT Have It All, a four-part series –

Podcasts-Two Conversations with Animal Nutritionist Dr. Richard Patton

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus – Maine Dog Magazine – Winter 2017

Pet Nutrition – The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton with link to 1-hour video

Podcast – Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry with Kohl Harrington

Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry – The Video

Pet Nutrition – The Wisdom of Rotating Your Pets Diet – Part 1

Pet Nutrition – The Wisdom of Rotating Your Pets Diet – Part 2

Podcast – DCM, the FDA, and Dog Food-the Science and the Hype with Canine Nutritionist Linda Case

Shared News Story – An Exposé on Prescription Diets from WJLA ABC7 News

The Scientific Benefits of Feeding Raw, All in One Place-Dr. Karen Becker interviews Dr. Conor Brady, author of  Feeding Dogs: The Science Behind The Dry Versus Raw Debate

Pet Food Myths & Facts – No. 1 – MYTH – Only a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist is qualified to formulate pet food

WSAVA Body Condition Score for Canines

WSAVA Body Condition Score for Felines

An Intro to the Recall Behavior & Walking Politely

Teaching Your Puppy to Come When Called – Starting Points –

How Do I Get My Dog to Walk Politely Instead of Pulling on the Leash? –

Dogs and Children

Recommended Resources on Kids & Dogs

Book Review – A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudge

Book Review – Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind: A Parent’s Guide to Controlling the Chaos by Colleen Pelar

©05JUL21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Dog Training – Teaching the ATTENTION or LOOK Behavior

< Updated 19APR19 >

OBJECTIVE: To teach your dog to look at you and make eye contact when given a single visual or verbal cue.

We teach this behavior for three reasons; 1) to get our dogs to focus on us so that we can more easily teach them, 2) to get our dogs to focus on us and to remain focused when distracted, and 3) to show our dogs that eye contact with us is safe and results in being rewarded.

Remember, for most dogs, direct eye contact is seen as being confrontational and something to be avoided. If your dog appears to be reluctant to make eye contact, please be patient while introducing this behavior. We also teach this behavior because it helps to train you the value of focusing on your dog. Lastly, I have found that a dog that has mastered the Attention behavior is quicker to learn the Heel and Leave It behaviors.

The best way to establish a solid foundation for the ATTENTION behavior is with the hand-feeding program outlined below. The more distractible your dog is, the more you will benefit from taking the time to go through the hand-feeding process.

Our Cairn Terrier, Gus, had always been very distracted by vehicles, especially large trucks. I used the hand-feeding program to improve his attention. By the 14th day, we were able to sit on our front porch, which is on a very busy street, and Gus would remain focused on me rather than pay attention to all the vehicles whizzing by.  To his last day, attention remained one of his strongest behaviors.

Building Attention through Hand Feeding

If you have a dog which has a hard time remaining focused on you, try hand feeding him for a few weeks. Instead of placing your dog’s bowl on the floor, you are going to sit down on the floor with the bowl in your lap. At least twenty pieces of kibble will come from your hands instead of the bowl. Follow this protocol:


  1. Select a quiet place with as few distractions as possible (no other pets, children, noises, ),
  2. Take a handful of kibble and offer it to your dog, allowing him to eat out of your hand. Do this for his entire ration of kibble.

DAYS 2 & 3

  1. Go to your quiet place. Take a handful of kibble and hold it in a closed fist in front of your dog, waiting for him to make eye contact. When he does so, allow him to eat out of your hand. Do this for his entire ration of kibble.

DAYS 4 through 7

  1. Go to your quiet place. Take a handful of kibble and hold it in a closed fist in front of your dog, waiting for him to make and maintain eye contact for at least 3 seconds. When he does so, say “Take It” and then allow him to eat out of your hand. Slowly increase the duration of eye contact required, but no more than 5 to 8 seconds. Do this for his entire ration of kibble.

DAYS 8 through 10

  1. Go to a place with a low level of distractions and repeat steps 1 through 4.

DAYS 11 through 13

  1. Go to a place with a moderate level of distractions and repeat steps 1 through 4.

DAYS 14 through 16

  1. Go to a place with a high level of distractions (park, an area near a busy street, a schoolyard, ) and repeat steps 1 through 4.

Hopefully, by now, you have significantly increased your dog’s attention and willingness to focus on you, and you have learned the importance of giving your dog 100% of your attention while training.

Putting ATTENTION on Cue

The ATTENTION behavior becomes even more useful when you can get your dog to offer the behavior when you request it.

When you start working on attention, do NOT concern yourself with your dog’s position (sit, down, stand, etc.) or where your dog is in relation to your location. Start in a room with no distractions and concentrate all of your efforts on the specific behavior of getting the dog to look at your face and make eye contact. If your dog tends to wander off, stand on your dog’s leash to keep them in place.

We do not use a verbal cue for this behavior until the dog is reliably responding to the visual cue in a wide variety of scenarios.

  1. Touch a treat to the dog’s nose and slowly move the treat so that it is right between your eyes. Hold the treat there and immediately click the instant your dog makes eye contact and then immediately give them the treat you had in your hand. Do this for about three repetitions. Note: Please do NOT taunt the dog by moving the treat back and forth.
  2. Without having a treat in your hand, bring your index finger up between your eyes and hold it in place, the treats are in your treat bag.  Immediately click when your dog makes eye contact, and then reach into your treat bag and give your dog a treat. Do this for about 3 to 5 repetitions.
  3. Move your body slightly so that you are in a different position relative to your dog, repeat step 3, clicking and treating the instant your dog makes eye contact. Remember, we are no longer luring the behavior with a treat at this point. Instead, we are cueing the action with a visual cue of the index finger between your eyes. We are still however clicking and treating each success.
  4. Start to work towards longer times of making eye contact (2 seconds, 5 seconds, etc.). As you work towards longer duration’s, move back and forth between shorter and longer times. It is essential to vary the amount of time to keep the dog interested and to make sure the dog will succeed. Note: Do not attempt to hold contact for longer than 8-10 seconds as this is a may make some dogs uncomfortable and cause them to look away.
  5. Continue to work on the behavior in different environments. Situate yourself so that at times the dog has to turn their head around to you to make eye contact.
  6. When your dog makes eye contact with you in a wide variety of environments, it is time to begin to work on getting and maintaining attention in the presence of distractions. We want to set our dog up for success so we will start with a low-level distraction at a distance where the dog is only minimally distracted. For purposes of providing an example, let’s say that your dog is distracted by people. Every time your dog sees a person they start to wag their tail and want to greet that person.
    1. Find a person that your dog will be happy to see and that will follow your instructions without improvising. If they cannot follow your instructions, find another person. You do not need the assistance of someone who will untrain your dog or teach them the wrong behavior.
    2. Arrange to meet that person in an area where you have successfully practiced attention with your dog without the presence of distractions. This might be at your home or could be somewhere else where you have had success with your dog.
    3. Arrive in the area and be standing in a predetermined location with your dog practicing attention as your friend arrives. Have them work with you at a distance where you will be able to maintain your dog’s attention. For some dogs, this meet be as little as 10 feet away, for others it may need to be fifty feet away. If your dog gets all worked up and will not focus you, have worked at too close of a distance. Go home and try again in a couple of days. If the dog will give you attention and maintain focus, work for about 5 minutes and then have your friend leave. Afterwards, do something fun that your dog enjoys as an extra reward.
    4. The next time you work with your dog, do the same as noted above but have your friend stand one foot closer. As long as you continue to have success, have your friend stand a foot closer each time you practice this behavior, as long as your dog does not get so distracted you cannot get them to focus on you.
    5. When your dog will give you attention and hold it with another person five feet away, it’s time to practice this with another person. The number of people you practice with is entirely up to you; however, the more you work on this behavior, the more you will benefit.
    6. Another way to work on teaching attention while your dog is being distracted by people is to find a large parking lot with a store, office or school where distraction will be present. Start working with your dog when the least amount of distractions are likely to be present. For example, when the facility with the parking lot is closed. Work as far away from the facilities entry as you can, rewarding your dog for giving and maintaining attention. As long as you and your dog are being successful, gradually change the time you are practicing to one when more people are present.
    7. It seems to be human nature to be patient and to want to like “one giant leap for mankind.” Unfortunately, that often causes our training plan to blow-up in our face. You are much more likely to succeed in training attention if you take baby steps to ensure your success.
  7. When your dog reliably offers the attention behavior in several different environments, while in the presence of distractions, you can start to add a verbal cue to the behavior. As with all cues, we want something short, typically no more than one syllable, and a verbal cue that does not sound anything like any of your other cues. I prefer the word “Look.”
  8. To introduce the verbal cue, say the word “LOOK” right before offering the visual cue. When your dog makes eye contact with you click and treat. Practice presenting the verbal cue in a wide variety of environments, eventually slowly adding higher levels of distraction.

©2018, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved < Click for Copyright and Use Policy >