Your first important step to beginning training is to be and build trust. Remember dogs need instant reward, Even 30 seconds later they will have no idea what you are rewarding them for. That is why clicker training is so effective you make a click the instant the dog does the desired behaviour and then you praise and treat. If you don’t want to use a clicker use your tongue to make a clicking sound. Your dog will associate that sound with I did something right and I treat will be coming.
Havanese are motivated by positive reinforcement. If they do something and you like that behaviour and reward it they will learn the behaviour has a positive outcome. They are not capable of logical complex thought such as I want to do this because my owner wants me to, or I won’t do this because I want to show my owner I’m not happy with them. Dogs are completely motivated and trainable by what makes them happy and only repetition will enforce this into standard repeatable behaviour.
Negative or disciplinary reinforcement does absolutely nothing to train desired behaviour. At best it gives you relief when you are ticked off because fluffy peed on your bed but at worst it diminishes trust, causes confusion, makes a dog hide that behavior, and can cause fear anxiety or aggression. Understand they have no capacity to understand disciplinary training, they literally have no idea what they have done wrong. Coming home and seeing a accident on your rug and yelling at your dog, or putting their nose in the pee does not compute to your dogs brain that the pee on the carpet is not what you wanted and since you are angry they will never do it again. I know many will disagree and make comments like, they knew they did something wrong, they looked guilty, but believe me they are picking up on your body language, tone of voice and responding to that. Dogs can NOT take an incident that happened when you were not there and connect the dots to you being angry about that even 5 minutes after it happened. They don’t think that way.
This is not a bad thing you just have to accept and realize that they can be easily trained by gaining approval and attention when they do something right. Best thing for a Havanese attention by family, worse thing withdrawal of attention. That is how we train and reinforce behavioral change. This is why clicker training has such quick results, it focuses both on human attention and the Havanese’s natural sense of food motivation. Clicker training rewards behaviour instantly with a signal as soon as the behaviour happens (click) then praise and a treat.
Before talking about potty training, which does require dedication, consistency and planning on your part lets start with some easy basics to get you to visiably see how positive attention and reinforcement works. I should also point out that corrections are perfectly acceptable but just like rewards they need to be immediate. Just like yelling at your dog when you come home and they have torn up your couch cushings has no connection to the dog, it is the same as coming home and giving your dog a cookie has no connection that you might think you are rewarding him for having no accidents. Think about it you coming home and giving you dog a cookie is actually reinforcing something entirely different, it is telling your dog that when you are out and then come home your arrival is rewarded. One of the most common mistakes that can lead to separation anxiety.
This is a fairly similar exercise as leave it, a mix of positive reinforcement for positive behaviour and a withdrawal of attention for negative behaviour.
Puppies bite and sometimes play rough. Puppies sometimes even growl. This is all very normal. Remember dogs are pack animals with a hierarchy and it is natural to them to challenge that hierarchy throughout phases in their life. When they come to your home, they don’t have their pack, you are their pack and they will need to establish their place in it. We definitely need to teach puppies that biting, growling or any show of alpha behaviour is not acceptable.
So if you have purchased an alpha in the pack puppie, good for you. They are generally the smartest and make great puppies in confidence and independence but you will need to make sure you positivity reinforce you are the pack leader.
Keep in mind puppies are teething and they interact through their mouths with each other. A puppy that nibbles fingers, toes and ears is not being alpha its being a puppy . For example I can not walk into my kitchen when I have my puppies there without shoes on, it would be torture.
So you are going to teach your puppy that it might have been fine to mouth and bite your siblings and your mother but humans don’t really love it. You will do this by positive reinforcement and withdrawal of attention.
I like to do this by deliberately making a nipping situation happen. I sit on the floor and play with the puppy and get them riled up and playful so they will likely nip. When they nip I plant my hands flat on the floor, say no bite in my deep training voice and stop all play and interaction until they stop nipping. They I reward them with play and affection until they nip again and I ignore them again with the same command. They associate very quickly your deep training voice with the total lack of attention and very quickly stop nipping as soon as they hear the command. With repetition they stop nipping altogether.
I go through this with children who come to pick up their puppies with their parents. I ask them how tough are you, can you handle a few nibbles and pawing for a few minutes. It’s not a test some can some can’t and age is a huge factor. Some children who are new to dogs or even a bit tentative on how this is all going to work will panic when a puppy gets over excited and begins pawing jumping an nipping, they will wave their hands around, they may even drop or hit out at the puppy, this of course makes everything worse. Parents need to help their children cope, be comfortable and keep both them and the puppy safe. Children also will almost never be the pack leader and because their voices are naturally high. For older children teach them the difference between a positive voice and a corrective voice. When people ask me if Havanese get along with children I say definitely its not the child I’d worry about its the dog. Young children under the age of 8 should never be unsupervised with any dog.
Growling, biting as a reaction to something you are doing, such as grooming, moving the puppy or something you do that the puppy perceives as something he would rather you not. This is not puppy play this is bossy alpha behaviour. An attempt for the puppy to establish pack hierarchy in his new house. This needs to be nipped in the bud immediately. Again you never get aggressive with Havanese, it can actually cause fear aggression and worse behaviour you just need to establish boundaries. With a child who challenges you and misbehaves you can communicate and say something like in our family that lack of respect is not how we act. Maybe go into your room and think about that. They will get the message, with a dog sorry no such luck. Again its positive vs withdrawal but in this case also some correction.
When a puppy deliberty snaps at your or growls you immediate say No. Your voice will be deep but this time it will also have a tone of correction and reprimand. You will then continue with the behaviour that made the puppy growl in the first place, you will also escalate that a bit and handle the puppy in a dominant manner pick him up and hold him upside down. Check his ears, check his bite, brush him or comb him, trim his nails. If he repeats the behaviour you will again say no but this time you will add some corrective discipline. You will hold him under his head by his neck fur and look him in the eye and say NO that is not acceptable. You will then repeat handling him and praise him when the behavior does not repeat. Don’t forget to reward him a lot when the behaviour stops. The next escalation if it occurs again is to hold him by the chin hair, look him in the eye and give his head a shake as you say NO that is not acceptable. That is pretty much all you ever have to do with havanese because they are known to be a highly alpha breed and they do want to please. If the behaviour continues call me, there are other techniques you will need to use.
Havanese are not aggressive by breed type but there are factors that can make them so. Over discipline (fear) alpha behaviour they have gotten away with as puppies, high protection instincts, separation anxiety. All of these are correctable by owners. The myth about being the boss or showing the dog who is boss does not work, you do have to be confident, consistent and in charge. Pack animals will follow their leader. The good news is with a puppy even if they are really spunky and alpha and bite you, they are not really going to do damage, but you do not want them biting a child or visitors.
One of the worst breeds for aggressive protective behavior are Lhasa Apso’s. Breed type is that they were bred to be imperial watch palace dogs in Tibet. They may look like a Havanese but they are completely different in temperament. They are teritoria, they tend to be one person protective dogs and if not properly training can be tyrants. It was my first breed and I could not trust my dog to be around people, he was only good with me. I also had a friend who had two and they actually said they could not get out of bed until the Lhasas allowed it.
The important thing here to remember is stay calm. The dog is not deliberting trying to annoy you. They are not even trying to hurt you and they really don’t love you any less. They are dogs, the motivation is solely hey you brushed me and pulled on a matt so I’m going to let you know that. It is easily and very quickly corrected if you accept the behaviour and calmly work with positive and unwanted motivation.
Not to panic you this is not frequent, and usually if your breeder sees it by the time they are 8 weeks they have already corrected it. I’ve had puppies growl a few times but its also been corrected in one encounter. I’ve had maybe 4 puppies in 18 years guve give me a warning snap, also unacceptable, and corrected it in one to 3 sessions. This has almost always happened when grooming. You should be able to do anything with a havanese, pull its tail, pinch its paws, clean ears, cut nails, hold it on back and it should never respond aggressively, this is the breed type.
If you purchase a Havanese that is aggressive and you can’t correct in one to three times, or feel that the puppy is still unpredictable talk to your breeder immediately. If they won’t help you call me.
Recall or Come
Teaching your dog to come on command is a very important command and one that can be life saving. Also great for off leash areas when you want to go home and your dog does not it is frustrating.
Remember Hav’s may love you to death but they are also very smart and they also love to play. They will test you so if you want them to do something for you consistently, find the what’s in it for them.
OK very important you need a recall word that is NOT their name. When you want your dog to come it always needs to be associated with something positive. It can never be negative or corrective. So if your dog is running across a busy street because he slipped his lead and you call FLUFFY you are likely going to yell it and say it in a very excited panicky tone. Your dog will not be sure of what the outcome is if he comes. I use the word cooking for my recall and I always make sure the command and correct behaviour have a positive outcome. I learns a long time ago when I go and pick up my dog to come inside and then promptly put him in his crate he learns its better to stay out a bit longer. Always make the outcome a reward and positive. It is very hard to say cooking in a harsh tone. Practice and reward just like the name game and Fluffy will learn it quickly. If Fluffy also learns that when she comes she not only gets a cookie but a big belly rub or a walk with you or some ball throwing. This is all positive reinforcement never a touch of negative or discipline. If your dog does not come it could be because it is scared to cross the street, or there is a very appealing squill in the field. Yelling and getting angry will not help, try another command like sit or stay. Saying sit in a firm voice while you go and retrieve him often works. I have farm dogs, they are guardian dogs and when I call them to come in they sometimes do require 2 or 3 calls and my voice may drop into the training zone on the third call. Sometimes they don’t hear me, sometimes they are far away and sometimes they have not completed their job of a perimeter guard around the property. They still get rewarded when they come. Again think like a dog. Your dog won’t come because you are asking him to, he will come because when he does your are pleased and give him a pleasant experience. I’ve known some potty training to fail or be frustrating, one error people make is taking their dog to potty and the minute they do they go back in the house. They love to play, sniff walk and you have just made the association that potty means that’s the end of outdoor play. I always make sure I play and romp with my dogs after potty. It does two things, once you potty you get to play and it breaks the connection of pottying be a let down. Very similar to anxiety and car sickness which can happen if your dog is only in the car for boarding, vet, or to sit and wait for you alone. Make sure you start right away with short trips that are all about fun.