So... You are thinking of getting a puppy
No training is instant and it all requires hard work, repetition and consistency to take effect.
Even those of us who have had dogs all our lives are shell shocked by the care a puppy will need, the nights we spend awake trying to train them into sleeping patterns, the countless mistakes we make costing us a new pair of shoes or sofa, and the new routine of toilet every hour or accidents on the kitchen floor. By bringing a puppy home you are adding to your family and many will liken this to bringing home a baby except this baby wont cry to let us know they want something, and already knows how to walk. Their development is much faster than a toddlers so while this is a blessing in some ways, I could understand why so many people struggle to keep up with a furry baby that doesn’t know English and is already able to do as it pleases.
This blog is designed for guidance purposes only and aimed at puppy owners intending to get a head start or who have already been shell shocked by their new puppy arriving home. If you don’t know what to do you are already doing the right thing by looking at this blog. These training methods are what I like to call the common sense methods. Have you ever asked a question and the answer seemed so simple you thought why didn’t I know that already…? Well that’s what often happens with dog training, we don’t use magic or sorcery, there are lots of styles and techniques out there, and it’s about finding what’s right for you but they should all boil down to the same thing…. Praise! Praise! Praise! Positive reinforcement is how humans and dogs learn best.
Most people believe they will bring a dog home and it will know how to play fetch, walk on a lead or sit on command…. For those people I have some very shocking news for you… dogs can benefit from being shown everything and skills such as these take lots of time and practice to master. You will need to learn how your puppy learns best and perhaps even need to change some things yourself before your puppy will start to show improvement & learning.
I have a cockapoo, she’s 4 years old and was breed with a working cocker spaniel and miniature poodle, she would make a fantastic gun dog! but not so great in the park and I let my guard down for just a second then she’s off chasing birds and anything that moves close to the ground…. Come to think of it… or up a tree or in the air. She is often compared to a cocker spaniel on speed and has taught me so much about patience, technique, thinking outside the box and love! She is hard work but I wouldn’t trade her for anything. I have had German shepherds and other mixed breeds in the past, and have taught countless people in obedience from puppy level all the way to problem solving what you might call severe cases, after completing my behaviourist and trainer status qualifications. While demonstrating with my dog playing in a field or even just walking around the park, If I had a pound for every time someone said ‘I wish I could get my dog to do that’ or ‘my dog won’t do that’ I wouldn’t be writing this blog and you would find me on a boat in the Bahamas feeding liver to my dog while my husband swims with the pigs in the sea. So to cover a couple of fundamentals lets set a couple of things straight…
1. Dogs don’t understand English until you show them what a word means.
2. An old dog can learn new tricks.
3. You can achieve any behaviour such as bringing a ball back even from the most stubborn, distracted or lazy dogs.
4. If they are not getting it, look at what you are doing wrong and change your tactic
5. And lastly dogs can look up…
Before you pick a puppy
So you want a puppy and you have an idea on the breed… perhaps you like the way it looks or you aim to work with your dog in shows, agility, shooting or perhaps you just want a great companion for you and/or the whole family. These thoughts are the foundations to picking the right dog for you. For instance you perhaps wouldn’t pair a Great Dane with gun dog training due to their size or a German Shepherd for agility due to their hip dysplasia risks. To pick the right breed of dog for you, you must first consider how you would like your new family to interact and how much time you can offer your puppy. Active and working breeds including some popular cross breeds will need lots of walks and play to ensure they don’t have too much energy and their minds are challenged every day or they become mischievous.
To avoid behaviour problems later on you can help yourself now by choosing a breed that will fit in with your life style. For example if you choose a Cockapoo because they look completely adorable, you might need to consider the behaviours of both the Cocker Spaniel and Poodle, and was it bred with a working Cocker Spaniel?.... you could end up with a dog that loves cuddles and nothing more than to sleep all day or you could have something so active it’s compared to a child with ADHD on fruit pastels and fizzy pop with a brain that learns faster than yours, are you prepared for both and anything in between?... have you done your research?
For the purpose of this blog let’s assume you had done your research but all is not lost if you weren’t prepared for the dog personality your dog has. Anything can be accomplished with the three P’s.
The puppy safe set up
Once you know you will be bringing a new puppy home there are some things you will need to do to ensure they have access to essentials from arrival and no access to things that I’m sure you don’t want them to get to, like your shoes… to help them make good choices and integrate without negativity in our homes we must first set down some ground rules.
Rule 1 – if it’s on the floor... it belongs to them. This is sometimes difficult for households with babies or small children who are perhaps just learning to put their shoes away and pick up their coats. You can make sure your house is puppy ready by first walking around and trying to ‘puppy proof’ as much as you can and educating the whole family on this new rule, it will be like having a toddler that has just learnt to walk unaided. Do you have lots of shoes on the floor by the door? A coffee table with a bowl of sweets on it? Have you got a front gate with large holes they could escape out of? Has your garden been fenced in with a high fence? Does it have any plants poisonous to dogs if eaten? By asking yourself these questions and making small changes now you can hopefully help your puppy to make good choices and stay safe. Sometimes we can’t change the hazard and sometimes we couldn’t foresee the hazard our puppy has found, it’s how we handle these situations that determine if they learn to become good K9 citizens or examples of funny horror stories, like the time our puppy quietly done the rounds at a party and finished off everyones wine and to be fast asleep in the middle of the floor… I bet she was having very fun dreams that night.
Rule 2 – the house is yours, and theirs now as well, but much like we wouldn’t jump up and down on the sofa each day or wee up the wall, it’s down to you as new parents to teach your puppy right from wrong. Contrary to popular belief it is ok to tell your dog off, this never needs to involve physical contact or even much negativity at all, if done in the correct manor your dog will respond quickly and respect you, their home and the family, they will learn far more from this then yelling at your dog to make yourself feel better. If ever you feel frustrated or angry it might be best to walk away and come back with a calmer mind set. Its best to get angry before you actually feel angry…. By that I mean it’s a good idea to act the part in complete control before you reach a point where you act in a way that becomes unproductive and are not in control of your actions and demeanour.
Dogs understand a lot from our body language and tone of voice, in order to portray the correct combination its easier if we use the word ‘NOOO’ or make the ‘AHHH’ noise. You could say ‘doughnuts’ or ‘banana’ for all I care but I bet your voice and body language changes meaning you are sending mixed messages. The soul purpose of the word you use here is to get your pups attention on you, thus stopping what they were doing that you didn’t like. It is only now the learning begins because without praise your dog won’t learn a thing and will perhaps start ignoring your ‘NOOO’ all together. Let’s say they were chewing on your sofa, you see it, get a little closer and calmly but firmly say ‘NOOO…’ pick up a chew or toy and convince them to chew that instead. Your rewarding your puppy with your attention and assuming we are happy about this our body language and tone changes to be positive and rewarding when they get it right, they also get to play with a toy or chew on a tasty treat. If you were to do this every time your puppy starts to chew on your sofa eventually they will think ‘I want to chew on something, my mummy doesn’t like it when I chew on that sofa but she loves it when I chew on this and I feel good chewing this chew because my mummy is happy with me….’ and hay presto…. As if by magic (and over many weeks) your puppy has learnt it’s good to chew some things and not others, you can do the same if they begin to chew your children or the grandparents… Distract, Change and praise… repeat this process and ensure the whole family are on board and you might not encounter many more teething issues later on (pun intended).
Below is a puppy starter pack based on some essentials you should ensure your puppy has from their arrival.
· Food bowl & Food
· Water bowl
· A dog bed or blanket
· Puppy toys
· Poo bags
· Name tag
· Local vet and trainers information accessible
· A space to use as a toilet
· Dog insurance (optional)
Get the whole family involved with their daily routine, feeding, grooming, walking and training. in the first few weeks focus on your bond and let your pup explore its new home and the world outside as soon as their vaccinations are complete, and most importantly have fun with your puppy :)