10 tips for a good start with a puppy
Spring time is puppie-time, and thru the summer 1000's of hopefull people pick up the exact pup, that they have been waiting for. As a new dog owner, one is bombarded with information about what to do and not to do with the new "family member". Friends, family, neighbours and the breeder all have advice they like to give. Some of this advice is really good, other is inherited from past times, where the understanding of the needs of the dog, and learning-psykology wasn't a priority.|
Here follows 10 tips, which will give You and Your pup a good start on Your life together.
1. The first days and nights.
The pup will gain a secure and safe feeling fastest, if You allow it to be close to You the first couple of days and nights. Remember that the puppy comes from safe and known surroundings, where it has had company by it's sibblings and mother. Now, all of a sudden, it is alone, in a strange place. So allow the puppy to sleep next to Your bed, or sleep on a mattress Yourself, where You want it to be sleeping in the future. When the pup after while has settled with that, gradually move it's bed or box out of the bedroom, to where You want it to be. This method works every time, and is not stressing for neither You, nor the puppy.
Myth: It is an old myth, that the only way the pup will learn how to sleep alone is to let it cry and howl itself to sleep behind a closed door. The method is stressing to both pup and owner. So start out, as descibed above.
2. Safety and common sence.
If You haven't started thinking about the pups safety inside and outside Your home, You better get started. The owner's lack of consideration, combined with steep stairways, exposed electrical cords, misc. chemicals, holes in the fence and swimmingpools with tall edges, causes lots of deaths to dogs every year.
So go thru Your home in those places where Your pup potentially can get hurt. Close doors to "messy rooms" and other rooms You don't need access to.This will make it easier to keep an eye on the pup. Also remove knick-knacks, expensive italian leather shoes, inherited pieces, collectibles and other items, that You will not be able to forgive Your puppy for tewing.
3. The puppy's new World.
When the Puppy arrives in it's new home, it's world is in a certain sence expanded. This practically means, that the puppy has to learn, that friendly strange people, other dogs and animals also is a part it's world picture. This important training should start at the breeder,, and must continue, when You get the puppy home. The secret behind a successful socialization of the puppy, is to try to see the surroundings with the puppy's eyes! Start with short, positive meetings with people and animals,and trips out to the surrounding outdoors. The puppy's curiousity makes it want to check out the surroundings, and You must support it in this. As it has more positive experiences, it's self-confidence will increase, and soon the pup will follow You with trust, where ever You go.
Myth: It's a myth, that the pup can't be brought out untill it has had all it's shots (at around 16 weeks of age), because the pup then will get sick. If the pup in general is healthy, and has started a vaccination program, You can safely bring it out after the age of 8 weeks. The positive experiences the puppy will have with people and surrounding environment are irreplaceable, and far superseeds the tiny risk of the puppy getting sick.
4. Straight forward about house breaking.
It is really quite simple: What goes in, must come out! By remembering a few simple rules, You can help Your puppy become house broken in no time. You must know, that the pup needs to "go", when it has slept (immidiately when it wakes up), shortly after it has eaten and been drinking, and when it has played and been moving more than a few minutes. When visitors come thru the door, when it gets excited, and aproximately once an hour in the daytime. From the start, do not expect or wait for, that the puppy will signal to You, that it needs to go. It will simply move away from sleeping- and living area, and do it's business.
A home is often so big, that a separate room is mistaken by the puppy, as being "outside of the cave".It is our responsibility to bring the puppy outside at the above mentioned times. Bring the puppy out, and stay out, untill it has done it's business. Praise the pup, when it happens (and maybe use a werbal signal i.e. "pee pee"). In this manner the pup is not having success peeing inside, and it will quickly learn, that it is praised, when going outside. Very soon the pup will start whining, and go towards the door, when it has to go. If an accident happens, make sure to clean the area well, and go back to the first step, making sure the pup gets out, when You expect it to go. If the puppy has had an accident during the night, then feed it a little earlier than You usually do at night, and set the alarm ½ hour earlier than normal. In that way You can wake up the puppyand make sure it gets out in time (and then You can always go back to bed afterwards).
Myth: It is a myth that it helps punishing the puppy for accidents inside - even when You see it do it. Punishment will only make the pup become insecure with you, and possibly teach it not to go, when You are near, not even when outside!
5. Rest and good activity.
When You observe Your puppy, You will notice that it switches between activity and rest. Both are important for the pup's development. If You have children in the house, they need to learn to respect, that the puppy needs rest and quiet, when it's tired. During the first time the pup doesn't have a tremendeous need for exersice, but rather a need for experiences which strengthen it's mental development. You should stimulate the puppy to use all it's sences, including it's smelling sence. When we, polite as we are, serve the dog's food in it's bowl, we take away the joy and challenge of using the nose. In nature the dog/wolf, would have to search for prey, follow a scent for perhaps many miles, and finally catch the prey. The pet dog doesn't need to do that, but it still needs to use it's nose, and work it's sences. By letting the dog search for it's food on the lawn, and looking for hidden toys inside and outside, we can again allow the dog to use it's sences, and become mentally tired in a natural way.
6. The road to good leader-ship.
Good leadership is important for the dog to thrive in the family. The dog is a pack animal, which needs a good social structure to be happy. When the dog knows it's place in the pack, it will be secure and happy. This will also prevent that the dog constantly challenges the leaders (us). Positive leadership will not be obtained by a hard hand, but instead by showing, that we humans are the most suited leaders. We do this by showing the dog, that we make good decisions, that we are the dog's "key" to fun experiences, and that we always are trust-worthy. Remember, respect is not something You take, it's something You are given by others - also the dog.
7. Good habits make good friends.
To bark, jump up, dig, bite, run away, beg for food, tew stuff etc. is all a part of natural dog behavior, in other words things all dogs do more or less. When the dog moves in with us, it becomes our job, to teach the dog where, when and how much, we want of these various behaviors.
A few basic rules apply:
1. It's easier to give the puppy good habits, than to make it quit the bad habits.
Praise it for wanted behavior, and say "NO" and ignore the dog, or detour the dog's attention, when it does something You don't want it to do. Many people make the mistake of only correcting and punishing the things they DON'T want the dog to do. In other words scold it, when it jumps up, bite, bark etc. It is a hard and stress-full way of learning for the puppy. Often the dog will repeat these things because it did obtain something, namely Your attention! All dogs will naturally try to repeat things, which result in something postive - attention, contact, praise. In all practicality it means, that You, instead of using a lot of energy on correcting the dog all the time, should give it that attention and praise, when it does, what You want it to do. Here it's also a matter of noticing the little things: Is the dog laying down calmly?, does it greet without jumping up? Is there people walking by the fence, without it barking?, does it follow You on a loose leash, when You walk it? Does it play nice, without biting? Etc. etc.
2. Start this training with the puppy, as soon as You get it home.
Often we forget to start this process, when the puppy is little. Small paws are most definitely more charming to feel on the body, than the paws of a grown up, and dirty dog, jumping up on Your visitors. So even if You don't find that the behavior is a problem for a cute puppy, You need to have the set of rules, and enforce it, from the puppy is small.
8. Home alone training.
When the puppy, after a few days, has settled in well in it's new surroundings, it is time to start the home alone training. The dog is a pack animal, so it is not natural for it, to be left alone. Start the training, when the puppy is tired and has been outside and done it's business. It is important that You place the puppy with it's bed and it's toys in a place it is confident about, and used to be. Distract it's attention with a little tew-bone, and disappear out of sight for a few minutes. It's ok to let the radio play, and leave some light on, as if You were still there. Do not say goodbye to the dog, but simply walk away. Ideally You should return before the dog becomes restless. If the puppy cries, don't return untill the dog has been settled down and quiet for about 2 minutes. Ignore the puppy, when You re-unite (it is hard, but it helps not dramatize the experience for the dog). Repeat the home alone training for a few minutes several times a day. Expand the time-periods gradually, but don't move too fast.
You can with great affect buy a kid's gate (should be in any dog home). The gate can be placed, so the puppy can't directly get in touch with You, but still once in a while maybe see or hear You, and know, that You are close. In this way separation can slowly and gradually be tought and practiced, and is made more comfortable for the dog.
The gate can also separate the puppy from dangerous stairs, keep it away from a busy kitchen, or keep it out of the bucket, when mopping the floor.
9. The joy in working together.
If you train the dog with motivation, and reward wanted behavior, You can do small "working together exersices" as soon as You bring the puppy home. When the puppy is finished getting it's shots, You should partcipate in a puppy-class, also even if You have had a dog before. In a puppy class, You and the puppy learn the joy of working together and the puppy learns good behavior around other people and dogs. The willing-ness based learning and training process strengthens the trust in You as a leader. And with trust and leadership comes the capability to work together, an in-expendable ground stone, regardless if You have bought a puppy as a family- and/or working dog.
Myth: Some claim, that a dog can't receive training untill it's 1 year old. The training, that this is in regards to, is hard handed and rough training, not based on motivation and reward. This kind of training doesn't encourrage the trust between dog and owner, and should at any cost be avoided. Use the above mentioned training methods instead, and You can start, as soon as Your puppy arrives.
10. The inheritage from the wolf.
Regardless of, for which reason, we have aquired the dog, wheather it's for a family dog, a working dog, a new best friend or instead of children, we owe to the dog to keep in mind, what it is, we have, namely a dog. We often apply human behavior and capabilities to our dogs, and treat them as humans. We say that we "spoil the dog", and do things for the dog, that we like, and consider as pivileges; BUT it is a misunderstood goodness, and often not at all in the interest of the dog. If You want to do good for Your dog, You need to learn to understand it, it's great inheritage from the wolf, and the accompanying needs. You should try to understand how the dog sees the world, and understand it's moves and body language.If You do this, and spend lots of time with Your dog, You will not only get a "mans best friend", but You will also become the dog's best friend!