The excitement of a new puppy arriving in your home is and should be the adventure of cooperative learning. Give me the puppy to six months and I will give you an adult well behaved dog.
Puppy Arrival & House Plan
When the puppy is about to arrive make sure he has a room, play pen or large indoor cage with bedding and already in place. Puppies take a few days to settle in. In the first 7 days establish all routines of where the puppy can & cannot venture. My main rule is that until it is fully house trained – the rest of the house is out of bounds. This prevents inappropriate chewing, defecating, swallowing dangerous objects and the like. All his toys are in his room which in most households will be the kitchen area.
This is probably the most important part of early puppy development and is critical to forming a balanced well behaved adult dog. Despite all the advice in the dog media tens of thousands of dogs each year are not adequately socialised causing many serious behaviour problems and which are most difficult to fix later on if at all. Thousands of these dogs end up in rescue because they never developed a balanced temperament and are not at peace with their environment.
Puppy Temperament Development
The most impressionable age for a puppy is between 5 and 13 weeks of age and where the temperament is mainly formed. Unless you local veterinarian states otherwise and because of the area you live in, take your puppy out straight away pre vaccination in the car. Park your vehicle in busy areas and let the puppy use all its senses. Ensconce your puppy in a travel cage so it can see the hustle and bustle but not physically touch dogs you don’t know. The puppy listens and watches the traffic, people walking by, children playing in the park, other dogs passing nearby. This critical conditioning is everything to a dog that we expect to fit into a most unnatural landscape – human made.
Puppy Mouthing or Biting & Children & Adults
All puppies mouth as a natural investigative behaviour, children’s natural reactions is sometimes to screech or run when nipped in play which causes the puppy to become more excited and the focus of the puppies fun time and chase for the wrong reasons. Children need to learn to use toys and present them to the puppy so the toy become the focus fun and not their fingers and hands. Children or adults ceasing play immediately if mouthing takes place teaches the puppy that the rough game stops on cue and with the sharp word “No”. Puppies quickly learn what they can and can’t do.
Puppy Obedience Training – Sit, Down and Stay
I have recently just trained my GSD puppy. At seven weeks he learnt via food, voice, toy rewards and attention. He learnt the Sit & Down positions, the Stay and Come commands. Most important the word “No” and the reward command “good dog”.
Simply holding the tiny treat maybe a small piece of ham or chicken above his nose sufficient to sniff but not expose so he can grab it, is the magic-wand guide of puppy attention gathering. As you hold it above his head he naturally falls into a sit. Lowering the treat to the floor is normally followed by the puppy going down. Deliver the commands Sit or Down crisply, don’t use its name at this stage just ONE word. Only release the food on completion of the position by the puppy. Repeat each exercise three times in one lesson and at least 3 sessions daily. With a bold bumptious puppy you can use a collar and lead for more control. All the family should join in and ALWAYS should using identical commands and rewards.
The Stay follows on from the Sit and Down. When the puppy sits and lays down consistently on command give the treat. Next show a second treat say, command Stay move about one foot away for only a second then back and reward. The puppy doesn’t even realise you moved away and back its so quick. In time extend the time to 5, 10 and 15 seconds before returning before rewarding the puppy. Use a lead for the stays at all times.
Within a few weeks you will have a puppy that is inculcated with the basics by association and reward training. Always praise the puppy in a light soft tone as you food reward. Eventually only food reward occasionally the verbal reward will and should suffice.
Recall – Come on Command
The recall is easy as puppies have a natural instinct to stay near you. This may not last long so rapid puppy recall training is essential. Use the Puppies name followed by “Come”. If the puppy runs to you reward it with a treat and ALWAYS remember to run backwards as the puppy begins to run at you. This makes it more fun, puts life into the exercise and is less overbearing. Again, repetition in short 3 minutes bursts of training in and about the garden, house, public parks is what cements the exercise for life.
Once a puppy loves chasing toys we can use them to teach the puppy that if they obeys a command the reward is a toy being thrown. You can add this to any of the aforementioned exercises. That’s exactly how many Police drugs dogs are motivated to work. Your puppy makes the same associative link except instead of finding drugs he will Sit, Down, Stay or Come on command exercise.
Socialisation & Puppy Classes
As soon as you dog is fully vaccinated socialise with as many good tempered dogs as possible.
If you choose a puppy class it has to be well run, many are not but simply chaotic which can damage a sensitive temperament. Always visit the class before you get you puppy, observe the training and then make your mind up. If a puppy class is taking place and you can see its working well then that’s a good sign. The class is a small part of your dogs weekly psychosocial development it still needs to mix with mild tempered pleasant dogs in public places. You to will make friendships with other dog owners and they will help you with which dogs locally are pleasant in nature for you puppy top meet and play with.
Don’t forget to practise the recall and training on every excursion into the park or your own garden and house. Get it right in the first days and you will have a well mannered and best behaved dog for a life long friendship.
Colin Tennant – Expert Dog Behaviourist – MA Canine Behaviour & Psychology