This is the start of my Puppy Parenting journey…
…with the delightful Richie, a Goldendoodle puppy now age 14 weeks.
I usually like to start as soon as the puppy arrives in his new home but often, as in the case of Richie, people put in fantastic work with the toilet training and other training themselves, but aren’t prepared for puppy’s teeth!
They contact me when their attempts to discipline their wayward puppy are making things worse and they are growing desperate.
This is from the message I received when they first contacted me:
‘We got him at 8 weeks. He is very excitable at home and when meeting new people and dogs. He is very aggressive with his mouth and we can’t seem to stop him using his mouth when we play with him. We have taken him to a puppy class but he just doesn’t concentrate. All he wants to do is jump all over the other puppies. He gets what we call the crazies and he zooms around the house, biting our pants, socks, shoes, shoe laces, clothes – anything he can get his mouth on. He loses interest in toys very quickly and doesn’t play happily by himself for very long.’
He’s a puppy – being a puppy.
The most immediate thing to address is Richie’s way of, when thoroughly stirred up, flying at the lady and ‘attacking’ her.
What we soon realised was that this only happens when Richie is so excited that he can’t control himself. They also soon saw that his high state of arousal was sometimes caused by themselves. It’s like he’s clockwork and they wind a key in his side until …… off he goes!
One trigger time is when the man arrives home from work. The lady will excite the puppy with ‘daddy’s home’ when she hears his car. The man walks in the gate to give the aroused puppy a huge welcome.
Richie will then fly, not at the man but at the lady, biting her arms and grabbing her clothes.
They have already taught their clever puppy to sit, to lie down and a few other things. This makes people feel, quite rightly, that they have really achieved something. At just fourteen weeks Richie is fully toilet trained.
Just as important as training tricks where his humans are directing him, is the puppy working certain things out for himself.
He does this by experimenting with what works and what doesn’t work.
If jumping up and nipping gives fun and feedback – it works. If barking while the lady prepares his food ends in his getting the meal – it works. If jumping up gets the fuss – it works. If calmly waiting, sitting down or standing gets the feedback – that will work too.
That is the beauty of clicker training. It shows the puppy just what does work. He then starts to find ways of ‘being good’. If the clicker isn’t to hand, the word ‘yes’ will do because all the clicker means, really, is ‘yes’.
Good recall is like having puppy on remote control.
Making a game of it, using food and constant repetition, Richie can soon be taught to come running when called.
He’s chewing the table leg? Instead of a loud NO, they can call him. He will come. They can then reward him and give him something better to chew.
Too much ‘No’ merely causes confusion, frustration – and wildness. ‘No’ is hard to avoid when we are pulling our hair out!
Puppies notoriously have a wild half-hour in the evening, zooming from room to room and flying all over the furniture. Dealing with the wild behaviour involves avoiding deliberately getting him stirred up, shutting doors as space encourages wildness, and redirecting this pent-up energy onto something acceptable that he can wreck or attack!
A Puppy can soon learn that ‘being good’ isn’t rewarding. Fun or gentle attention can sometimes be initiated when he’s awake but calm.
There are brain games, hunting games and there is clicker training – which to puppy should be a game. Here are some great ideas.
Our main catch phrase for now is ‘Change No to Yes’.
We have only just started. Puppy parenting is largely about pre-empting, diverting problems before they start and laying the foundations for happy walks and self-control.
Puppies can hard work!