When I train young puppies in my home, my goal is to introduce them to as many new sights, sounds, textures, experiences, surfaces, places, people, smells and things as possible. To help socialize them, I built a puppy jungle gym. These are easy to put together with a few supplies from your local hardware store and creativity is key when choosing items to hang from the bars. My kids helped me pick out fun items from the dollar store - things that make noise, are bright colors, have soft bristles, are different shapes, sizes, etc.
Once the jungle gym was built, I lure puppies in and around it, giving treats when they explore each different item on their own. I use free-shaping techniques to get puppies to touch items I am thinking of or put their mouth on others. Pick a task you want your puppy to achieve, then free-shape him until he figures it out. These jungle gyms are great for that! We practice “COME” going from one side through the middle to the other side several times as well. It helps puppies feel more comfortable around startling noises and objects. Want to make one of your own? Here’s how:
1” PVC pipe - 12 pieces cut to 30”
1” PVC 3-Way Elbow - 8 total
16 feet of plastic chain
Zip ties to attach items to chain and chain to the box
16-20 items to hang around the gym - BE CREATIVE!
Make a square from (4) PVC 30” pieces and (4) PVC 3-Way Elbows. This is your base square.
Put (4) more PVC 30” pieces upright in each of the four corners.
Attach (4) PVC 3-Way Elbows to each upright piece, then complete the top square by adding the last (4) PVC 30” pieces. You now have a box.
Attach plastic chain to the box using a zip tie. Cut the chain to the length needed per toy you are attaching. Some will be longer, some will be shorter.
Move around the box, attaching plastic chain to both the box and item until the jungle gym is full! Clip off zip tie ends at the base.
Introduce your puppy to the jungle gym. Do NOT force your puppy to go through it. Rather, use treats and praise to encourage him to explore. Reward him for sniffing it. Then reward him for playing with an item. Reward him for walking into the middle. Reward him for walking through it.
Use the jungle gym to practice commands. Try calling him to “COME” from the other side. You may need someone to help hold him on one side while you excitedly call him through from the other.
Try getting him to “SIT” in the middle. What other commands can you think to try? Have fun!
If you aren’t up to making one of these, that’s OK too, but make it a goal this week to introduce your new puppy to at least 20 new things! Make each interaction as positive as possible.