Ten Week Old Puppy. Clever Puppy. Nipping Feet.

They have had ten week old puppy Cavapoochon, Isla, for less than two weeks.

Already she takes herself out to toilet. She sleeps through the night, no mess. A dream of a puppy.

A ten week old puppy and socialisation

Ten week old puppy‘Puppy Parenting’ isn’t only about changing things she’s doing now, it’s also about avoiding certain things happening in the future.

The main and most important thing that should start, ideally even before puppy leaves the breeder, is socialisation.

People can assume socialisation to mean meeting some other dogs but it’s a lot broader than that. It also involves meeting people of all different sizes and ages, traffic, noises and so on.

It’s important that these encounters don’t frighten a ten week old puppy. People she meets should be gentle and quiet with her. Over-boisterous dogs or bullying puppies avoided. They should pair anything slightly scary with food – at a comfortable distance – before attempting to get closer.

This leads me to something many people are resistant to.

Carrying food

Rewarding the puppy with food is proved to be the fastest way to motivate and teach her. Rewarding with food shows the puppy what you DO want rather than what you DON’T want.

The delivery has to be instant – no time to walk across the room and open a tub.

They can cut up tiny bits of something nourishing, soft and nutritious and wear a treat pouch or similar. I recently discovered Feelwells grain free treats. They can be broken up tiny and Isla loved them. 

Every time they ask Isla to do anything, they will reward her. Every time she happens to be doing something they like they reinforce it.

The power of food and motivation was demonstrated while I was there. Early on, the teenage daughter wanted Isla outside for a toilet break. She called her, but it was more fun indoors with us and Isla ignored her.

A little later, after we had been working with food on something else, the daughter called her outside. She went out with her immediately.

Nipping feet.

The only thing the ten week old puppy does that the family would like to change is nipping – particularly feet.

Isla only becomes nippy when people come home or when they have visitors. She then goes for feet. They are a household who take their shoes off indoors and Isla loves toes and socks!

They are already, a couple of days later, resolving this by dealing with the excitement that causes it. When anyone comes in they tone down their welcomes and avoid stirring her up. At the same time they have something ready that she can chew instead.

A puppy tornado!

A ten week old puppy may suddenly race around through the house and garden like a little tornado. For some reason this often happens in the evening.

When she’s all fired up with excitement, they will give her something she can attack or destroy! I suggest a ‘rummage box’ – a cardboard cartoon containing rubbish like water bottles, cardboard tubes and bits of food so that she can chew, rummage and wreck.

Clever puppy Isla caught on to clicker training straight away, like she was born with it! She was soon lying down and even learning ‘touch’, touching a hand for click and reward. Isla found this fun. There should be no pressure on a ten week old puppy to learn tricks. There is plenty of time later to teach ‘commands’ (which I prefer to call ‘cues’).

Being left alone

Preempting future separation problems is very important. She needs to get used to being happily left alone for short periods without pining. They are already achieving this, particularly at night.

Walking

Isla has finished her injections now and can walk outside.

Like many people, they started by attaching a lead. This will feel very odd to a ten week old puppy and Isla plays tuggy with it.

To my mind, putting the lead on first is the wrong way round to do things. First they should be walking around the house and garden with Isla beside them – off lead. This is achieved with kissy noises, calling her, patting legs and food.

Soon she will learn that walking near to somebody is fun. She won’t need coaxing unless she wanders off to do something else. Only now is the time to introduce the lead – carrying on exactly the same way as before.

I demonstrated and the daughter copied. Isla quickly caught on.

Heel work is pointless and unnecessary for a ten week old puppy. Walking happily near to someone on a longish lead will make walking a happy experience. Later on she can be taught to walk to heel for when it’s important, near traffic for example.

Twelve week old puppy

When I next visit the ten week old puppy she will be about twelve weeks old.

We will do more work on her lead walking, paying attention, coming when called – and clicker training.

What fun!

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. Click here for help.

Cocker Spaniel a Naughty Dog?

Yesterday I visited a 9-month-old Cocker Spaniel called Willow.  Wonderful!  My own irrepressible Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, has given me some good practice.

Here is a list of things Willow does: Jumping up on people, excessive licking of people’s faces, jumping at the table and sides, barking (answering) back when told off, too much noise generally, steaCocker Spaniel Willow's white tailling any items she can get hold of and running off with them, leading the lady a merry dance and getting cross when cornered, humping people, fixating and barking at certain objects, jumping over people and furniture, racing at speed round and round the room and growling when eventually caught and restrained, shoving toys at her people to make them play with her, pulling on lead and, finally, chasing the cat. Oh – and running back to the car on walks.

All this may sound amusing to read, but it can be exasperating and has reduced the poor lady to tears and it’s no wonder she thinks Willow is just a naughty dog.Bored Cocker Willow does everything she can think of to get attention

Willow really is adorable as you can see – and see the white tail? She is a soft, affectionate little girl, However, two or three walks where she’s encouraged to keep moving and not sniff too much, just isn’t sufficient for her. She is not a naughty dog. She is a BORED dog.

The family is on the back foot, trying to ‘field’ the things that Willow throws at them rather than themselves being proactive. She is a clever, working dog with insufficient appropriate stimulation so she is constantly finding ways to fulfil herself. She spends quite bit of time in the ‘naughty’ room.

‘No’ is a much used word.  In the three hours I was there we consistently looked for ways of saying ‘Yes’, and rewarding her with food. The lady was becoming really good at looking for the good rather than the bad and Willow was getting the message, becoming really focussed.

It is only fair on a dog to let her know what you don’t want in a language she really understands. ‘No’ and ‘Get Down’ or pushing are very confusing messages when the dog wants attention, because they ARE attention.

If a dog is jumping all over me I consider how another dog would make his feeling clear to a bouncy adolescent. Would not a stable dog look away, turn away, maybe tip her off and walk away? The other dog would probably signal when he saw her coming, making his feelings clear from the start. Showing the behaviour isn’t wanted is only part of the exercise. Just as importantly we then need to follow-up by showing her just what we do want. If it’s ‘feet on the floor’ we want, then that is when she gets the attention.

Giving Willow a more fulfilled life requires being creative and offering alternative incompatible behaviours instead of scolding or ‘no’, and constantly reinforcing the desired behaviours. They will need to go cold turkey on the barking for attention whilst scheduling into the day the sort of activities that satisfy her canine Spaniel instincts – mostly nose-based. She needs plenty to keep her busy. When the family want to watch TV in peace, they need to instigate short bursts of activity themselves – during the advert breaks perhaps. She could have a hunting game, training games, a short ‘sniff’ walk around the block or a toy or chew kept aside especially.

Gradually, over time and with the help of food rewards, Willow will be looking for ways to get attention by pleasing them.  A different mindset for owners – looking for the good instead of the bad – can really help.

It’s the next day and I have just received this email: ‘We found all you said made absolute sense and we are now looking at interacting with Willow with fresh eyes.  Some things are so obvious it is almost embarrassing to have not realised it! Today we went for a couple of walks and it was so much more relaxed letting Willow do as much sniffing as she wanted rather than thinking she shouldn’t be doing it and trying to get her to walk on.  Also, I did as advised re meal times and she ate the meals!  Amazing! We have bought her a Stagbar and some other toys for playing with in the evening.  At the moment she is lying quieting asleep – perhaps dreaming of the fun day she’s had today! There is obviously a lot of work to do and reinforce but I feel much more confident and relaxed’!
And four weeks after my visit: ‘The advice you gave us has been invaluable and has changed so many things we were doing with Willow and have already seen some good improvement’.
Here is a message eighteen months after I met Willow: I now know we go for ‘smells’ rather than ‘walks’! What I have discovered in the last two years, is what an amazingly intelligent and quick learner she is! She is still challenging sometimes, but we try to preempt her e.g. Making sure we don’t leave dining chairs pulled out otherwise she gets up on the dining table too! Willow and I are still ‘learning’ but it’s been so much fun!

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Willow, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Airedale Puppy Starting Off Right

Ten week old Airdale puppy sleeping Airedale puppyOh joy! Today I met Henry. Henry is a ten-week-old Airedale puppy and he’s going to grow BIG.

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.