Raising A Puppy

Raising Your Puppy
Wayne Silver / CC BY-ND 2.0 / Flickr: Wayne Silver

Are you bewildered by your puppy’s antics? Wonder why he prefers to chew your shoe than the expensive chew toy you bought him? Amazed at your puppy’s ability to eat things that come out of other animals and really shouldn’t be going in?

A puppy’s behaviour can be utterly baffling and can sometimes be hugely frustrating to even the most patient of owners. Bringing a cute ball of wriggly fur home is an amazing experience, but there is a lot of responsibility involved in raising a puppy right.

A puppy needs to be set firm boundaries and trained from the moment they arrive on your doorstep and piddle up your skirting board to ensure that they grow into happy, healthy dogs that are safe and enjoyable to be around.

Your puppy must swiftly learn to obey your commands, how to behave around other people and animals, what items are ok for chewing into little bits and what constitutes a toilet area in your world.

A lot to learn, right? Well, yes, but a little hard work, patience and consistency early on means that you will be well set to avoid more hard work in the long run with health and behavioural issues.

Who’s The Boss?

You may have heard the term ‘alpha’ when researching about dog training. This concept dates back years and years before dogs were domesticated and roamed around in wild packs. These packs had a strict hierarchy with a leader, known as the alpha dog, right the way down to cute little Neanderthal puppies!

When your domesticated puppy arrives home, he or she will still understand the pack mentality of their ancestors. You and your family are now puppy’s pack, and if you don’t become the leader of the pack, guess who will? Who wants a piddling, pooping, yipping ball of zoomies being boss of their household? Letting a puppy be leader of your pack could lead to aggressive behaviour, and ultimately an unruly and dangerous dog.

Dogs are usually very happy to have a leader who can set the rules of behaviour. They feel secure and gain confidence as they learn.

This way of thinking however is now starting to be widely challenged by modern day dog behaviourists who believe the best way of training and raising a puppy or dog is via positive reinforcement.

The second way is a much kinder and gentler way, and is one that the majority of vets, trainers and loving dog owners recommend. It’s also a lot easier to maintain and involves 2 simple activities.

  1. Correcting bad behaviour through calmness, consistency and firmness
  2. Rewarding good behaviour and ignore the bad

Basic Puppy Obedience Training

Obedience training is critical for puppy as it allows both her and you and everyone else you meet to stay safe. Teaching the sit and lie down commands first is a great move, as these are submissive postures for a dog and helps reinforce your dominance. Follow this up with wait and stay and your dog will know that you know what you are doing!

If you find yourself having difficulty teaching these basic commands, contact your vet or an animal behaviourist for additional advice and support.

Puppy Socialisation

Socialisation is an incredibly important aspect of raising your puppy, as it lays the foundations for behaviour in the future.

Puppies are super smart and quick to learn when they are young. The doorbell means someone new is here and the sound of a cupboard door opening can mean dinnertime! This learning happens almost by osmosis, but the socialisation process requires some intervention on your part.

It is your responsibility to teach your puppy how to behave around other people and animals. Although some socialisation will have occurred before she left her mother and littermates, it’s imperative that you continue with the learning process. This means enabling your puppy to experience new sounds, smells, sights and situations with people and animals. The more relaxed she is with different environments and circumstances, the less likely your puppy is to display defensive behaviour and potentially attack due to fear.

The period between bringing your puppy home (usually around the 8 week mark) and 12 weeks is absolutely critical in the socialisation process, Use this time to expose your puppy to lots of new situations, including:

  • You and your family – establish a bond and get puppy used to the hustle and bustle of family life. Spend lots of time with puppy, playing, grooming, feeding and petting and teach her that she can rely on you for food, security and affection
  • Introduce puppy to the wider world – once your puppy has her vaccinations, take her outside to the park, shops, restaurants and family and friend’s houses to give her the opportunity to meet people of all shapes, sizes and colours and friendly, well socialised dogs
  • Take your puppy for walks – in parks, residential and more built up areas. Make sure she experiences the sound of traffic, bicycles, pushchairs, joggers and other furry critters!
  • Take puppy to the vet – for vaccinations and check-ups. Make sure you make a big fuss of her so that she learns that the vet is not necessarily a bad place. Let her interact with children in this controlled environment, always ensuring any contact is supervised

If any of these experiences spook your dog, don’t tell her off or comfort her – this can cause further tension or lead your puppy to learn she gets cuddles when she is defensive or aggressive. Instead, try to distract her with a toy or game. Once she is immersed in the distraction, heap some praise onto her. This teaches puppy that new situations can be fun, rather than scary.

Positive Training For Puppies

It’s easy to focus on the negatives of puppy training. No one wants a puppy that pees in the plant pots, chews the sofa legs or jumps on visitors. However, it’s important to remember that puppy can only learn what is good or bad from you and any training needs to occur in the here and now. Coming in the front door and yelling at your puppy because your slipper has been devoured earlier in the day will make no sense to your favourite fuzz ball.

The easiest way to prevent unwanted behaviour is by offering an alternative to the behaviour. If your puppy starts sniffing around the plant pot and circles around in the international semaphore for “I need a pee”, immediately take her outside and as soon as she eliminates, shower her with praise. Let her know that a good girl pees outside.

Puppy chewing on your umbrella? Pick it up, move it out of reach and give her a chew toy instead. Give her a reward as she gnaws on her Kong or Stag bone.

Positive reinforcement and rewarding good behaviour is an effective training tool. You can reward with treats, playtime or praise, whichever works best for you and your dog.

Training takes a while to get right and doesn’t happen overnight, the same way in which it took you a while to be potty trained and not chew on things you shouldn’t when you were a toddler! To promote success in training, make sure the whole household is on board and consistent in the messages being sent to your puppy. Be persistent and patient and you will find yourself raising a well behaved, confident and friendly dog. Isn’t it amazing what love, guidance and attention can do?

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