CHOOSING YOUR PUPPY

You don’t always have the luxury of having your pick of the litter.  Each puppy will have its own character and temperament.  This will translate into the finished dog once it has matured but its experiences up to that time will have an enormous effect on how the dog views the world around it and therefore on his behaviour.
Look at the picture at the top of this page.  Given free choice, which Dalmatian puppy would you choose?  They are all very young and of course it’s difficult to differentiate their individual characters from a single photo, isn’t it?  If you wanted an easy dog that wasn’t going to challenge you too much, I would choose the puppy that’s already lying down.  He’s the most relaxed because he has been the quickest at coming to terms with his current situation.  He’s a calm puppy.

TAKING YOUR PUPPY HOME

Taking a new puppy home has some similarities with introducing a Rescue dog to its new home.  Both are new to your family and situation and both need time to settle in and to adapt to their environment.

PREPARING FOR THE ARRIVAL OF YOUR PUPPY

Check the house for any small items that could be a choking hazard.  Check for any dangling curtain or blind cords or tablecloths.  Tuck away loose electrical cables from lamps, laptops or phones.  Ensure that no breakable items or rubbish is accessible to the puppy.  Consider making the bathroom totally out of bounds due to the many possible chemical hazards that are present such as bleach or disinfectant.
Check the garden for poisonous plants such as foxglove, larkspur, ivy, oleander, lily of the valley, daffodil, iris or tulip (especially the bulbs).  Ensure the garden is secure against possible escape.  Puppies can disappear through surprisingly small gaps.

PUPPY TRAINING TO PREVENT FUTURE PROBLEMS

There are a number of objectives when training your new puppy.  You want a puppy that responds to your commands.  You want a confident puppy that views his world calmly without fear.  You want a puppy that is part of the family.  And you want to have fun!  Puppies should be a joy, not a burden.

A lot of training is undertaken to help to ensure that future problems are prevented.  Key factors include regular handling, eye contact and proper, ongoing socialisation.  Once these are in place, this means that, when your puppy has matured into the adult dog, you can take him to the vet, to the coffee shop, anywhere.  Visitors are not going to be exposed to a growling, snarling dog.  Your dog won’t be reacting to vehicles, other dogs, cyclists, livestock, birds, and skateboarders because he won’t fear them.

The best time to start puppy training is straight away, as soon as he has settled into his new home.

SOCIALISING YOUR PUPPY

A well-trained puppy is one that has good manners and is able to interact with other animals, dogs and people calmly.  Socialisation is a crucial element in puppy training.  Refining his social skills will produce a confident dog that is naturally able to cope with a variety of situations.

The most important phase for socialisation is during the 8 to 14 week stage of a puppy’s life when they need to experience many new things, such as livestock, small animals, busy environments, other dogs and people.  He may not yet have attained a high level of confidence to cope with this, so manage the new experiences to ensure that the puppy is gaining confidence to cope with more stressful situations at this vitally important stage.  Invite friends over to meet your puppy including men, women, children, and older people.
Introduce your puppy gently to new or noisy objects such as the vacuum cleaner by initially operating it at a distance from him.  Take your puppy on short and pleasant car rides, bus journeys, trips on the train.
Ensure that the puppy feels confident – carry him if necessary but do not soothe him if he is distressed, just show him by calmly holding him that there is nothing for him to be concerned about.
Accustom him to all aspects of the grooming process with daily handling by different people.
Make sure that your puppy does not become overtired by too many activities.

TRAINING YOUR PUPPY

Training a puppy is not difficult but does take a little knowledge and a LOT of patience.

Remember to stay calm at all times and to be totally consistent when applying your training techniques.  Don’t use different words for a particular behaviour.  When you want your puppy to do something, use his name followed by the request, such as “Rover, Sit”.  Ask him nicely and enthusiastically.  Avoid being authoritarian, you will find that it doesn’t work.

Use positive reinforcement to show the puppy he is getting it right.  That is usually enthusiastic but gentle praise and food reward in the early stages.  The training principle is to praise and reward behaviour you wish to encourage and not to give any attention for any undesired behaviour – but do something about it, don’t just ignore it.

Keep training sessions short and fun.  Repeat the training often to gradually reinforce the behaviour you like.

Remember to keep it totally positive.  It’s not his fault if he doesn’t understand what you want, it’s the way you are showing him that needs reviewing.  What are you doing wrong?  Is it your timing?  Or does your approach need to change?

ATTENDING PUPPY TRAINING CLASSES

I have found that the “10 puppies in a village hall on a Sunday afternoon” scenario doesn’t generally work very well.  The puppy is in a new, noisy environment and the presence of the other puppies is a huge distraction.  There are often too many puppies to ensure that each owner gets sufficient attention and guidance.  There can be at least one disruptive puppy that is taking all the trainer’s time.  So the other owners walk their puppies around the hall for 45 of the 60 minutes.

Whatever route you decide to use to train your puppy, make sure the training basis is one that only uses positive reinforcement.  There is no place for punishment, jerking the lead, shouting or smacking.  No dog should be subjected to these out of date practices, so don’t patronise such trainers.  Your puppy deserves a lot better than that.

MY PUPPY TRAINING CLASSES

The puppy training classes I run are for individuals or for small groups and are designed to prevent problems from occurring.  The individual puppy training takes place in the owner’s home and has the advantage that it can start before any inoculations are in place in complete safety.

My training sessions can be customised to your requirements and availability.

FURTHER READING

T​here is so much to think about when preparing for the new puppy’s arrival that there are whole books devoted to the subject.  See my Publications & Products page for some further reading suggestions..