I was called because the couple couldn’t stop him mouthing and nipping them and because they want to make sure they start of right. I expected jumping up when I arrived, but he was really quite calm for a puppy. In the two weeks since they have had him they have worked hard and he has learnt a lot.
It soon became apparent that, like most people I go to with puppies, they aren’t communicating with him efficiently – in a way that he easily understands. There is an automatic assumptions that dogs understand English! Another automatic assumption is that to train a dog not to do something it should be scolded with ‘no’.
Both are wrong. Actions speak a lot louder than words and the best way to stop a puppy doing something you don’t want is to get it to come away and do something else instead. People also underestimate a puppy’s need to chew – to help teething, exercise his jaw and to release endomoprhins to calm himself down, so he needs a good supply of alternatives that are more attractive than the corner of the coffee table.
All the time while Henry was awake during the three hours I was there – and he had three naps – it was like a dance while I showed him by my own reactions what I would like him to do and what I would like him not to do. He was very attentive and obviously enjoyed it. He used his mouth – I withdrew my attention. He used teeth, I squealed softly and withdrew my attention. He sat calmly on the floor, I gave him attention. He put his feet up on me, I gently tipped him off whilst looking away. His feet back on the floor, I gave him attention. He started to chew the table, I clapped my hands gently or said ‘uh-uh’ and then gave him something he could chew. I called him and he came running. All the time that I was talking with his owners, this dance went on. Soon he was walking beside me around the room with no lead, and then on a long loose lead.
I use only positive reinforcement – rewards – attention and food.
They have already taught him several commands and he’s a quick learner, but they now need to get him to understand good manners and to come to them whenever they call him. At the moment he just looks at them when they call him!
I shall be going again soon to take things to the next stage. They have a challenge getting him not to chase their cat – and for the cat not to run which turns it into prey. Before we can do any more they need to be happy in proximity but safely separated by a gate.
When he has finished his injections Henry will need plenty of socialising – encounters with gentle and friendly dogs and acclimatisation to traffic, children, crowds and so on. The earlier this is established the better, while he still has his puppy fearlessness.
He was delightful. I can’t wait for my next visit. They have their ‘Puppy Plan’ to start them off, and in a few weeks Henry will have reached the next stage.