Puppy behaviour and training - Putting the best paw forward
No symphony orchestra ever played music like a two-year-old girl laughing with a puppy.
What to expect - Excitement, joy, happiness, confusion and frustration are just some of the feelings we usually experience in the early stages of bringing a new puppy into our homes and lives. When it comes to learning, think of your new friend as a sponge that will soak up all your feelings, nuances and general attitude, eventually demonstrating behaviour that reflects their understanding of the environment, the family and their place amongst it.
Thus if you are relaxed, clear, happy and easy going there is a very good chance your dog will grow to be similar.
Toilet training - Accidents can and will happen but it's important not to project our frustration onto our pup. To increase the likelihood of success it is best to take the pup outside immediately after waking, eating or drinking. Take them to a grassed area where they can sniff around, stimulating the desired response. When the pup does wee or poo don't make a huge fuss just a simple acknowledgement or connection to the action such as "do wee" or "do poo" will suffice. Similarly you cannot use punishment to teach the pup where not to go. For example if you return home to find a wee on the rug and yell at the pup, there is simply no connection for the dog between that action and your response. Instead of stopping the pup from doing the undesired behaviour again you will more than likely make them tense.
Biting/Chewing - This is reasonably common in pups and young dogs but can lead to potential problems and dangerous situations. Some pups bite to explore their environment, especially when teething. What we want is to distinguish between the acceptable chewing, say of a rubber toy and the unacceptable such as your hands and feet. If your pup nips you or your child a light bump with the hand (not a push) will generally be enough to get him to stop. After disagreeing you can redirect to an appropriate item/toy to chew. Never strike a pup or dog as this may lead to insecurity/reactiveness. There is a vast difference between a quick and gentle bump with the finger tips to the chest/side area and actually hitting a dog. Prevention is always the best method in terms of avoiding the destruction of possessions. Remember, if you give your pup rubber toys he may go for thongs, shoes etc. If you give him teddies or rope bones he may chew cushions and rugs. If he chews sticks then he may chew wooden furniture. Toys which squeak can create an overstimulated mind and resemble the sound of an animal in distress. The same sound and stimulation can be created with small animals that move quickly and even children running and playing., so generally speaking these are best to avoid.
Digging - Dogs will dig for a variety of reasons and in pups it is more often exploratory. If the focus is one particular area you can collect his poop, place it in the hole, cover with dirt and wet the area morning and evening. This will prevent the poop from drying out, keeping the scent (don't worry you won't smell it) thus preventing the desire to dig.
Sleeping - An important factor to consider when bringing home a new pup is where do you place the bed. Look for an area that is warm, relatively small/enclosed and comfortable is ideal. A puppy pen can be a good idea in the early stages to prevent damage to property as well as keeping him safe. Make sure there is fresh water available, a place to go to the toilet ideally with puppy pads/newspaper and a separate area for a bed/small enclosure/dog house. Pups will feel more comfortable initially in an area that closely resembles something like a den.
Separation - Although not an entirely natural practice, separation can be demonstrated as a normal daily activity by following some simple steps to prevent anxiety.
When leaving and returning home try not to make a fuss as this will likely lead your pup to believe something is wrong. Even though it is natural to be excited to see your pup, it is important to remember that your attitude will directly effect his, Therefore if you are stimulating, your pup will find it difficult to relax.
When you are home, spend time in the general area where your pup is without him needing to be right next to you or on top of you.
Avoid obvious cues in your routine like putting on shoes, picking up keys, brushing teeth etc. Change the order and when it is time to leave you want to disappear like the wind.
Give affection in a calm manner as though you're trying to put the pup to sleep, if he pushes for more when you stop gently disagree by bumping him away before starting again if you choose.
Socialisation - One of most common things people do when socialising their pup is take them to puppy pre school. Although there may be some small benefit in terms of interacting with other dogs, the reality is it's unlikely to have a positive impact on overall behaviour if the focus is on over stimulation and performing tricks such as sit, stay, wait, drop. Alternatively, if you wish to socialise with other dogs in a safe and beneficial way, it is best to focus on aiming for interactions with other calm dogs. Be careful that the pup doesn't overwhelm the other dog with over excitement as this may result in discipline and potentially injury. Taking your pup to the park to learn is similar to taking a small child to a playground to learn. It will be beneficial if the experiences are predominantly positive and generally low key relaxed type encounters.
What's the best age - Our recommendation is for around the 10 - 12 week mark. Most breeders will prefer the pups to go around 8 weeks, however, the pup will have no better teacher than their own mother and her interactions during this critical phase have the potential to shape a dog with good understanding of respectful behaviour and boundaries. If you do take home a pup before 10 weeks of age it is important to establish clear boundaries both physically and mentally to avoid problems later in life.
The above is a general guide only, some dogs may require adjustments in approach to create a successful fulfilling relationship. For specialist advice regarding your puppies behaviour please call Elliot.
Once each month we have a puppy preschool which runs for 2 hours on a Sunday.
Please see our news section for full details or call Elliot on 0475 427 070
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