Puppy Tales Bringing up Fido
Maybe you got a puppy over the holidays or you are looking to bring a puppy, or new young dog, into your life now. Well — Congratulations!
You will have many years of entertainment and affection ahead. However, there are some things you might want to consider to make your life (and Fido’s transition) easier!
Start Training Early!
You want to start your training program early. A pup is never too young to start reinforcing good behavior. You should always use positive reinforcement techniques, because your puppy will be more motivated and interested in participating and you will not risk poisoning the relationship with something that causes fear or pain. You have the opportunity while Fido is a puppy to build a solid foundation and a relationship based on knowledge and trust. Your dog will do better if he “learns” a behavior vs. responding in fear. No one (be it us or our canine companions) learns well while in fear or pain, we just react to our environment but do not learn.
You need to remember that your young dog has a short attention span (like a child), so the more you can repeat and reward the faster your pup will learn. You also want to reserve some special treats to use for training only (like freeze-dried liver, canned chicken or hot dogs), which will up the ante and increase motivation. Set aside a few minutes a day to practice, and don’t miss out on natural opportunities to reward (when Fido offers the appropriate behavior). You don’t always have to use food, as praise (aka attention) is a wonderful secondary reinforcement. Once your pup has learned the behavior, then you phase out food/treats but never phase out the praise.
There are several common sense solutions to things that puppies do, but we have the tendency to forget about them…….until it’s too late.
Puppy Proof Your Home
Even though puppies get their permanent teeth at around 4-6 months, they will find things to chew on up through 2 years old (and longer for some breeds). To avoid disasters with your new puppy:
• Stow away trash bins (out of reach, preferably in secure closets, pantries, or the garage), instead of out of sight out of mind, it is more like out of reach out of mouth
• Puppy-proof your home by picking up shoes, trinkets, anything small, anything of value, and secure power cords, etc., then keep it put up or out of reach until your pup is past the chewing stage (he will put everything in his mouth, like a baby growing up through the toddler stage, but is more likely to swallow it because they have teeth that can chew it up)
• If you have an item that can’t be removed, such as a large area rug where Fido keeps going after the corners of the rug — then place something heavy on each corner (i.e. a brick). For Fido, it is probably just convenient to chew it because it is there, but he probably won’t go out of his way to move the brick.
• Offer appropriate items for them to chew or to entertain them, such as Kongs® with treats or stuffing, bully sticks, Nylabones®, etc.
Supervise, Supervise, Supervise
Supervise, supervise, supervise — that is the mantra for avoiding many issues.
• Potty training is pretty simple - put your puppy on a feeding and potty schedule and then manage him at ALL other times by supervision or containment (crate or appropriate small space like a utility room, or tether him to you or within your sight), because the key to fast potty training is to reward him for the right thing and redirect him outside immediately upon witnessing him potty inappropriately — using the “outside” cue/command and as soon as he potties in the correct area reward it (with treats or praise). You must be observant, however. As he learns to go outside he will start to give you hints and you must be on the lookout for them, as they may be subtle. If he goes to the door and stands, but doesn’t bark or whine, then you may miss the opportunity to let him out. If he has an accident it is not his fault as he gave his signal — thus why supervision and observation are important parts of your tasks in the potty training effort.
• There must ALWAYS be supervision with Fido around children, even when you learn that he is friendly and playful. You never know when something, like a squeal or fast movement, might spook him and he has the right to react to someone stepping on him or pulling his tail. It is the adult’s responsibility to make sure everyone plays safe.
Socialization is the key to having a well-mannered and well-rounded pup.
• Lack of socialization (or exposure) to other dogs, people, or other types of animals is what makes dogs fearful or reactive, and it is because they just don’t know what to expect or how to act. Again, because puppies have a short attention span, it is important to give them “controlled”, frequent small doses to the world around them. Take your pup to safe places and use a harness (which provides more influence over directing him when needed). It is a good idea to take your puppy to a puppy class, where he can not only learn social interaction but manners training at the same time.
Many of these tips are just as good for the young dog that you have adopted, as you don’t know what he has already learned that he may need to be reminded of, refined for your home environment, or redirected into a new behavior. There are very few behaviors that cannot be modified with just a little time, consistency, “repetition and reward.”
Congratulations on your new canine companion! If you keep life positive and fun you will have few frustrations, many days of joy, and a lot of love.