Puppy Training Part 2

1. Teach your puppy what to chew

Puppies need to chew not only because it is good for their teeth and gums but because without hands, it is their way to investigate their environment – “ah, this smells interesting, I wonder what sort of texture it has and whether it’s good to eat?”. Most owners do buy toys for their puppies and leave them lying around the home, but once your dog has checked out the plastic hamburger and ‘killed’ the squeaky inside it’s probably not very interesting – not nearly as interesting as that wonderfully aromatic shoe of yours!” Now is the time to develop an appropriate chew-toy habit.

By keeping your puppy in his confined area, you have removed the opportunity to make mistakes. Instead provide your puppy with irresistible, long-acting chew toys such as ‘Kong’s’ , treat balls and hollow bones which can be stuffed with a variety of foods (including much of puppy’s regular meal) to keep them eternally interesting. Rotate the toys and add a few different titbits each time. These toys can be stuffed loosely at first but as your puppy progresses they can be packed tighter and tighter to challenge any dog’s perseverance – keeping them entertained for ages.* Confinement teaches your puppy to focus his ‘destructive chewing’ on appropriate objects (as no other are available) and allow him to develop a habit which will continue as your puppy matures.

2. Teach your puppy ‘it’s ok to be alone’

Dogs probably spend more hours alone today then ever before. Many will develop bad habits when their owners are away because :
• daily needs for social interaction, exercise and/or play have not been met and the dog is bored.
• there is no one to stop them from entertaining themselves with normal doggy pursuits such as reactive barking, digging and chewing. The worst behaviour is often seen in puppies whose training is based on punishment for wrong behaviour rather than setting puppy up to ‘get it right’ through good management.
• they have never learned how to occupy themselves with appropriate chew and ‘home alone’ toys.
• they have never learned to ‘settle’ quietly and wait.
• they have not developed the confidence to be separated from their owners.

Leaving your puppy in his special confinement area as you work around the house, will teach him that there is no need to ‘shadow’ you everywhere. You come and you go, there is play time and there is quiet time. By all means take your puppy out and play with him as often as you wish, but when he can’t be supervised return him to his area. He will learn that he has everything he needs there and is safe until you come to play with him again. When you leave, prepare a yummy chew toy but don’t let him have it until just before you go. Pass it to him and walk out quietly with as little fuss as possible. When you arrive home say hello to puppy and take him outside but don’t make a huge fuss. It is always best to keep ‘greeting rituals’ low key so as not to over excite your dog.

3. Teach your puppy to play and to ‘settle’

It is fun to play with your puppy, but it is easy for puppy play to get out of hand. Consistently standing still and taking away your attention when games start to escalate is the most effective way to teach your puppy self-control. Make sure you and your children spend lots of quiet time with your puppy as well as play time. Mix up active and passive activities such as chasing a ball with ‘sit’ or ‘drop’. This should develop a lifetime habit of using play as a reward for settled behaviour and gives you excellent control of your dog and the games you play together.

4. Teach your puppy to like being handled and hugged.

It is important that your puppy allows you to hold and restrain him for short periods of time. Right from the beginning, only put your puppy down when he is not struggling. If he is going to be a large dog, continue practicing restraint on the ground. Acceptance of handling will make all health care issues such as nail trimming, grooming, and veterinary check-ups so much easier and will help to develop your puppies self control. Pay particular attention to sensitive areas such as ears, mouth, paws , rear end and around the collar. In cases of emergency or even just to clip your dog on lead , you are likely to reach out and grab the collar. This is actually a very threatening gesture in dog language so you need to desensitize your puppy to this action now. Take the collar and treat your puppy. Gradually reach out and grab with a little more force. Repeat and treat hundreds of times with kids and adults. You are actually ‘classically conditioning’ your puppy to enjoy being grabbed and handled.

5. Teach your puppy to swap and share

Lots of puppies learn that if they play with their own toys no one takes an interest but if they play with something of yours, a great game of ‘catch me if you can’ can be initiated. This is a mild version of ‘resource guarding’ when a dog won’t allow you to have what he has. While ‘stealing’ is not usually a serious behaviour problem, some puppies will also learn to growl and bite to protect their food bowl or bones. Do lots of ‘swaps’ with your puppy right from the first day. Take away things he has including toys and food, look at them and either give them back or give him something even better. This is more effective than expecting your pup to give things up simply because you are the ‘boss’. Being dominant over your dog may persuade him to give you a bone (reluctantly) but it will do nothing to safeguard your children or visiting children who may approach your dog when eating or chewing. Far better to change your puppies opinion about the whole situation – ‘the approach of any human – big or small – is good news for me!’

Article courtesy of Karin Larsen Bridge, partner of Get S.M.A.R.T. Dog Training, Sydney.
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