Raising a puppy is no easy feat, it requires an abundance of patience, understanding, compassion and compromise. The good news is that, at the end of all of this you have a loyal member of the family that will provide love and lots of laughs.
I spend most days with new puppy owners, guiding them through the process of helping their puppy to become a well behaved member of society and the same issues crop up time after time. The internet can be full of conflicting information and advice from friends and family changes with each person’s experiences. In this blog I am going to run through the top 5 challenges most new puppy owners are faced with to give you an idea on what to expect. They are all simplified and condensed.
I strongly recommend seeing a dog trainer to get you and your puppy starting off on the right foot! This early training makes such a big difference as your puppy matures. I run weekend classes but also 121 training tailored to your puppy, your lifestyle and your experience. If you’re having issues that are not addressed in this blog or are proving tricky to deal with, please contact me so that I can help you. The best place to do so is my email: firstname.lastname@example.org If you’re not local to me visit: https://www.imdt.uk.com/find-a-qualified-imdt-trainerto find a local qualified trainer.
Ah yes, you all knew it was coming! The sleepless nights, the crying, the question of ‘can I let my dog sleep upstairs?’ It’s not an easy question and it’s not an easy answer. Your dog can sleep wherever you want it to sleep! As long as the area is safe, secure and comfortable, if that’s on your bed then that’s ok with me, as long as it’s ok with your other half… In the beginning your puppy is going to be scared, unsettled and confused so I always recommend you are close to your puppy at night, whether this means having their area in your bedroom or setting yourself up a camp bed near them (until you can quietly sneak upstairs one night). If they wake you up crying, please do not ignore this; your puppy may be scared and need reassurance or they might need the toilet and don’t want to soil their own sleeping area. If you hear crying or barking go to your puppy and calmly take them to the toilet, avoid playing, using lots of treats or being exciting. Once your puppy has been given the chance to relieve themselves take them back to their sleeping area and stay with them until they settle back down, offering nothing but your presence and soft words. In the beginning you may find this happens a few times a night, this will get less and less often. If your puppy naps during the day, hoorah! Please do not wake them up, they will still be tired at night if you allow them to nap during the day and if you prevent your puppy from getting regular naps you’ll create a monster, trust me, ever met a toddler?
2. TOILET TRAINING
Your puppy is a baby, they are not yet able to hold their bladder and they will be going to the toilet OFTEN. Honestly, I do not advise covering all flooring in puppy pads, I only use these in puppy pens and crates when I am not around i.e in the shower, in bed or on a work call. Instead I suggest setting an alarm for every hour and taking your puppy out each time to the appropriate area that you wish them to toilet, make sure you take the treats with you. Use a word such as ‘weewee’ as soon as they start to toilet and the EXACT moment (not after they’ve already come in from the garden) that they’ve finished I say ‘YES’ and give them a tasty treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
If they do have an accident in the home (which is likely to happen, we make mistakes) just ignore your puppy and clean it up, ensuring that you’re using an enzymatic cleaner.
3. NIPPING AND MOUTHING
This is the top issue that causes puppy owners to reach out to me and unfortunately it is TOTALLY normal. Puppies bite. It is not aggression, it is not an attack, it is simply how a puppy learns, communicates and expresses emotions. There is no magic wand that you can wave to stop puppy biting, the only fix is age. You can however appropriately manage it and teach your puppy that there are better options. There is a misconception that a puppy bites because they want to play; although that’s not wrong, it’s far more complex than that. Puppy biting is like trying to figure out why the new born baby is crying, they could be: hungry, tired, overwhelmed, excited, frustrated, bored, playing, needing the toilet or needing attention. Your first step is to go through the above list and decide which is the most likely.
Redirecting puppy mouthing is far more successful than trying to quash the urge through punishment techniques. Get your puppies mouth busy with an appropriate item (having in mind the above list of possible nipping causes) this could be a toy, a chew or a food item e.g Kong. Try not to flap around and push your puppy away when they do nip as this often intensifies the behaviour. Instead remove your hands and move away, ignoring them until you are able to redirect their mouths.
My best advice is to ensure your puppy is having LOTS of sleep and time out. An overtired puppy is a terror.
4. JUMPING UP
Just like nipping, puppies will jump up and although this seems less problematic because well, they are puppies; that tiny bundle of fun and cute might be 30kg in a few months’ time and you know what’s not cute? Gran being knocked over by an over exuberant 7 month old Doberman that just wants to say hi. Puppies have brains like little sponges and they are learning all day every day, it is your job to ensure that the correct learning is happening. If your puppy jumps up at you do not give them what they want for this behaviour, this could be your attention, the toy you’re playing with or the tasty treat you’ve got. Instead, take a step away and turn your back on puppy, silently. The moment your puppies paws all hit the ground you can them the attention they desire. Sometimes they might try and jump whilst you do just that, in which case back up you get and ignore and move away again until those paws are all on the ground. I also recommend teaching a good strong sit behaviour so that when they are in a situation where they may jump up you can ask them to sit instead. This will take practice and everyone needs to be on board! It only takes one person giving ear scratches whilst paws are on their chest for your training to take a big step back.
5. DIGGING & CHEWING
Ok so I know this is technically two separate issues but they overlap a lot in their nature and management. Both behaviours are very normal and, especially in the case of chewing, very important behaviour outlets for both puppies and adult dogs. It is likely that all dogs at some point will do both behaviours but many dogs do grow out of it after puppyhood, however I believe chews should always be available to your dog, at any age. The difficulty is that puppies are likely to want to perform these behaviours more and have not yet learned how to do so appropriately. This is where you come in. In the context of both digging and chewing step one is always prevention! Puppy proof your house and garden as much as you can: gate off areas with children’s toys and pick up shoes, don’t leave puppy unattended, tidy away anything that can be chewed, secure wiring, fence off your flower beds and keep an eye on what puppy is up to in the garden. It all sounds like common sense but you’ll thank me later. You simply cannot expect a puppy to understand that the cow teddy bears is theirs but the tiger teddy is your daughters, that’s rather unfair.
If you catch your dog chewing something that is an illegal item, like your slipper, swap is for a legal item such as their teddy bear. You might want to restrict the toys/chews to a rotation system so that some of them are more exciting because they haven’t seen the moo cow IN AN ENTIRE WEEK OH MY GOD GIVE IT! I suggest trying to texture match as well; if they are chewing a soft item, swap it for one of their soft items, if they are giving the table leg what for then use a hard chew like a Nylabone or split antler. There’s no such thing as too many chews!
If you catch your dog digging I recommend my INTERUPPT-REDIRECT-REINFORCE method. This simply means I interrupt them with the recall word, name or ‘ahem?’ As soon as I have their attention I will guide them to a more appropriate task, this could be something different such as a scatter feed, chew, or nap etc but I personally like to have a designated digging area. Mine is just a large plastic tub filled with bark that I bury toys and treats in now and then and I encourage them to spend time there. Eventually puppy will learn to go straight to the designated area as I have made it inevitable that if he digs anywhere else I am going to come and stop him anyway.
So there you have it, a quick summary of the top issues, there is of course always more too it as each puppy is different and has their own quirks and needs. Enjoy your journey! It won’t always be easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it.
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