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. 

First Rule: 

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.

Second Rule: 

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. 


Even if you keep the name your breeder gave the puppy you are going to play the Name Game. 

One of the easiest and most fun activities is to teach your dog its name.  It’s also a great way to get your children involved.  One important point is your dogs name is NOT your recall or come command, that needs to be different, which I’ll explain later.

The Name game is totally all about positive reinforcement and is a great first bonding activity for the whole family.  When you take your puppy home, and after you have seen him potty place him in your family area and sit on the floor.  Have some small treats in your hand or pocket.  Call the dogs name, let’s say it is Fluffy.  Use an uplifting cheerful voice, the puppy will not know its name but it will respond to a happy fun voice.  As soon as the puppy looks at you give it a treat and say good fluffy.  Repeat this a few times.  You will be amazed at how quickly the puppy will be at your side looking at you consistently.  Now you want to move farther away and this time the puppy needs to come to you, repeat the calling of name, but let the puppy come to you and then good Fluffy and treat.  It takes very little time and you can play hide and seek with the puppy and it will track you down. The puppy does not say to itself, oh my owner wants me to learn that this is my name, the puppy is learning trust, and that when you say fluffy in that tone if it comes to you its a very positive experience.  

Use high sing song voices for training and praise and lower deep voices for correction.

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Myth Busters on Training and Dogs

Many people need to rethink dog behaviors and training.  Also different breeds do require different training techniques.  I’m going to start with some of the myths.  The most important training technique I learnt and the one that has helped me the most in my life with dogs is you have to think like a dog.  Do not prescribe human attributes to your dog, its false, it does not work that way and you will either have expectations that are too high or you will reinforce behaviours that you would rather not live with.

  • You have to be alpha – show your dog who is boss
  • Dogs are like children and behave like we expect humans too
  • Discipline is important
  • Some dogs are stubborn
  • Some dogs do bad things when they are angry or annoyed with you
  • Some dogs are bad or have bad temperments
  • Some dogs don’t like people
  • Some dogs don’t like other dogs
  • Some dogs are protective and do not bond with people other than me
  • Some dogs get high anxiety when I leave
  • Some dogs can’t be trained
  • Some dogs are fussy eaters
  • Some dogs are neurotic and need to be medicated

OK let’s talk first about thinking like a Havanese.  This is true for all dogs but there are differences, some breeds have high prey drive so their motivation and needs are different.  Some breeds are working dogs, so their needs and rewards are around having a job.  You are lucky if you have picked the Havanese breed as their needs are to be a companion.  They do not have a prey instinct, they do not need a job, they love people above all else.  So lets think like a havanese.  They have slave mentality, they live to please, but they are also very intelligent, love to play, ideally would like to do what they want to do all day long.  So you are a havanese, you want your people at home all the time, you don’t want to go out and get your feet wet to potty, you love walks and other dogs.  You would like yummy treats, human food all day long, and you really have no boundaries, sleep on the bed, humans wake up when I want you up, heck climb up on the table and eat your dinner. Go everywhere with you always.  Dogs don’t care about manners, what is socially expectable, being judged, they just want to be happy. You want to roam the house, have access to every room, potty whenever you have to, where ever you want, bark if you are unhappy, growl at people or dogs that are taking your attention and eat what you want, when you want.

Sorry that is the reality they are dogs, they don’t understand your logic, they don’t understand your desires they don’t think like that. Most often when people say my dog is so smart they were so easy to train it is because the owner took the time and the patience required to reinforce good behaviours.

I always tell owners, particularly with potty training that successes are the MOST important.  The more successes the more reinforcement  and repetition of learning.  Failures have to be ignored so ultimately we want to avoid them.