New Cockerpoo puppy, Merlot, is just eight weeks old. A tiny bundle of fluff, not much larger than a guinea pig.
When I arrived yesterday evening he had only been in his new home for two hours.
He had not enjoyed the car journey and was sleepy.
New Cockerpoo puppy, Merlot, is just eight weeks old. A tiny bundle of fluff, not much larger than a guinea pig.
When I arrived yesterday evening he had only been in his new home for two hours.
He had not enjoyed the car journey and was sleepy.
I have had a lovely day.
This morning I was with fifteen-week-old Cocker Spaniel, Teddy. This evening I was with Bella, a nine-week-old Cockerpoo.
Both puppies have lady owners. Each lady called me because she wants to get off to the right start with her puppy. Continue reading…
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The young couple have had eight-week-old Springer Spaniel puppy for just four days. His flying at them and grabbing legs and clothes as they walk about has reached such a level that they are wearing their wellies in the house now!
Actually this is sensible. So many people with puppies walk about in bare feet, socks or even fluffy sllppers with pom-poms and suffer. Puppies instinctively chase and play with moving things.
Until a few days ago Piper was with her litter mates, all eight of them. She would chase, grab and bite. They would let her know, as would her mother, if she was too rough and she would understand.
Unfortunately, we humans are speaking an entirely different language. We think, with NO, whisking the hand away and perhaps grabbing her that we are telling her to stop. To her the play-kill game is simply intensifying.
Piper has now had four days honing her ‘grabbing clothes, chasing feet and biting hands’ skills!
In my first visit we dealt with the biting in exactly the same way as I did with Henry a few days ago.
We used food. We used food, not to reward biting but to reward behaviours that involved not biting.
They will also get a pen so she has a small area in which good things happen and in which she has plenty to chew and destroy when she gets over-excited! A sancturary, too, where she can fall asleep with nobody, children in particular, disturbing her.
I am always amazed how quickly such a young puppy catches on to what a clicker is all about.
I use it simply to say ‘Yes!’. If there is no clicker to hand the word can be used. It’s always followed by food. In a few minutes the puppy is looking for ways in effect to please us – looking for ways to make us say ‘Yes’ with that click. Every small wanted behaviour gets a ‘Yes!’ – like walking beside me without flying at my trousers. Very quickly she realised that she earned attention (and food) for sitting or being still.
The food she needs to eat anyway can be used for something useful. It can be used not only to teach her that the best things happen when she keeps her teeth for her toys and chews, but also to help introduce her to the outside world.
The earlier the better.
Cars, lorries, wheelie bins, people with hats, other dogs big and small, bangs, smells – the list is endless. What better than to take her tea out in a pouch and with every new thing she encounters give her a bit of her food. She is small and light. She can be carried.
This way she will develop a happy curiosity and confidence in encountering new things – before the fear period hits at about thirteen weeks. Like a baby at a certain age may suddenly start to cry when a stranger says hello, a puppy can suddenly experience wariness. Unfortunately three months of age coincides with when most puppies venture out for the first time after their injections and it can be too late.
I shall visit again next week to see how they are doing. There are lots of things Puppy Parenting entails, including making sure from the beginning that puppy can be left alone for short periods happily, toilet training and walking beside them around house and garden without a lead initally.
The young couple should soon be able to save their boots for the country walks they will be taking with their wonderful Springer in a few months’ time.
As part of our puppy parenting plan we had already discussed on the phone where Monty would sleep on his first night and what they would do if he was distressed by being alone. I don’t believe in a puppy ‘crying it out’. Each puppy of mine has had company during the night if he or she needed it and none developed over-attachment because of it. To the contrary.
Last night they put Monty in his little crate in the kitchen – the breeder already had him used to a crate. He cried briefly and then was quiet all night – and clean. What a great start!
My puppy parenting plan supports owners right through puppyhood to adolescence, starting by putting in place things that will pre-empt future problems and dealing with anything that does crop up as it happens.
Over the weeks we cover all basic training cues – sit, down, stay, and much more. We teach puppy to enjoy walking on a loose lead and to come when called. We build up his confidence where needed. We teach him impulse control.
We examine the puppy’s ‘dog’ needs and teach the humans how to fulfill them.
Already, within the first few hours, Monty’s family had learnt one lesson – not to do too much too soon. They had tried to put a collar on the little puppy and he was scared – possibly because of the rattling disc which they removed. Now they will slowly introduce him to it. If he looks away or shows signs of unease, they will pause and wait. They will do it a bit at a time and let him choose how far they can go. He will associate the collar with food.
They have a boy age 8 and a girl, 12, great kids who understand that puppy needs space. They are so excited but they are controlling themselves! They already know that they must not go to puppy when he’s in his crate so he has a peaceful bolthole. I have suggested that as a matter of habit, they should call Monty to them when they want to play with him or cuddle him and not pursue him, so that he has a choice.
I showed them about exchanging things and not simply taking something off him – again it’s about choice so he learns to willingly choose to give it up.
We discussed what to do about nipping and the importance of giving puppy plenty of things to chew.
Monty may be a little nervous of sudden movements or noises. The collar incident shows he may be sensitive. We will show him that big human hands coming from above bring him good things – food. In the garden with the little girl I pointed to the roof next door. That’s how tall you look to Monty, I said.
It is so important that they use some of his food to reinforce and encourage him for doing the things they like instead of just leaving it down for him to graze on. For toileting outside. For coming when called. For letting go of something. For building positive connections with things he may be uneasy about.
People are often surprised when I say, particularly if they have a puppy, that they should carry food on them all the time. If the puppy needs to be told ‘good’, there’s not time to go across the room, open a tub and then feed him. The moment has passed. When puppy is called and happily runs to us, tail wagging, and all he gets is a stroke (does he even like that big hand stroking him?) is that not a bit disappointing for him? I don’t know. He would certain feel a small bit of chicken was worth coming for!
Puppies are inclined to come when called. Adolescents aren’t! It’s good to build up a near-automatic response early on.
i shall be going again in a week. Until then they are just going to let Monty settle in. The children will resist fussing him too much or getting too excited around him and they will keep an eye on any guests to the house. They will work on his toilet training.
Habituating and socialising to real life is so important in the first few weeks that there is no time to be lost. It’s no good waiting until he has had his injections. If all puppies were acclimatised to real life sufficiently early, people like me could be out of a job.
Before he’s finished his injections they can carry Monty around town and introduce him to people with hats, babies, umbrellas, shops, traffic, wheelie-bins, bikes, skateboards and so on whilst looking for any signs of fear. It’s vital he feels comfortable.
I suggested the little girl makes a list of all the new things Monty sees or encounters before he is twelve weeks old.
Next week we will be looking at getting puppy used to wearing a soft harness. He can learn to walk around the garden beside someone, off lead – the lead can be hooked onto the harness later. We will start clicker training.
I have just been to a divine ten-week-old Sprocker puppy. The picture doesn’t show how little Digby is.
They have had him for five days now and have signed up for my Puppy Parenting plan, wanting to get things right from the start with their new puppy, pre-empting as far as is possible any future problems and starting on basic training.
This was my first visit, to set things up.
Already he is nearly house trained with just the occasional accident. They are carrying him outside each time having read somewhere that that’s what they should do. This seems strange to me. If the puppy walks then he will learn the route and routine a lot more quickly and to stand at that door if it’s shut and he wants to go out.
We went through each area of his life to make sure things go off to the best start.
They have chosen to crate train him and he is quite happy to be left alone for short periods, so separation issues later on are unlikely.
Having spoken to me on the phone, they are now upping their socialisation of Digby and acclimatisation to things such as traffic, noises, people of all sorts and ages, other dogs, the car and so on – within the restrictions of being unable to put him down until his injections are finished. He seems a stable and fearless pup.
One thing people do find hard is not to over-excite a puppy when they come home or when friends first meet him. Another thing that can seem unnatural to people is to constantly be carrying food around with them! Teaching a puppy the behaviours we want using food is so much more effective that trying to teach a puppy what we don’t want using ‘No’ – and a lot kinder too.
Environmental adjustments need to be made for a while – chewable or eatable things removed and maybe people wearing shoes rather than just socks – there is nothing more fun to chase and chew than a socked foot attached to a human who gets excited or shouts ‘No’ when they feel his little teeth!
Most puppies have a ‘bonkers half hour’ and Digby’s seems to be in the morning. I find evening more usual. A puppy may suddenly start to race around like a little tornado, and as he or she gets bigger things can go flying and people may be nipped! The bottled up energy or maybe stress needs to vent somehow and I suggest a carton containing rubbish that he can wreck and things he can chew along with bits of food to forage for.
We looked at the best way to teach Digby ‘Sit’ for starters, more things when he’s fully settled. I don’t like the word ‘command’. I prefer ‘cue’. I showed the lady how to do a little walking around the house with Digby beside her, off lead to start with.
Amongst other things we can pre-empt are any resource guarding behaviours by always doing an exchange and teaching Give from the start. Then the rewarding fun doesn’t come from the chase and eventual scariness of being cornered as the item is forced from the puppy’s mouth.
The gentleman, like many people, may find it a challenge to avoid telling the puppy ‘No’. How else will he learn what’s wrong? There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to a puppy of course. There are things that make him feel good, things that are boring, and things that make him feel bad. Digby will be exploring his new environment, licking this, chewing that, running about, and then suddenly a loud male human loudly says NO. He may stop in his tracks but I doubt he will know what he’s done that has made his human bark at him.
Some things he can chew, some things he can’t?
It’s so much better to call him away and give him something that he is allowed to chew instead.
Too much ‘No’ can result in a new puppy becoming confused or defiant – or maybe frightened. Digby seems a well-rounded little character and his family are determined to do everything right for him, so thankfully that won’t happen in his case.
About a month ago I had been to see the grandparents who live next door and the puppy lives with the young boy who was bitten by Asha and who has been doing so well in learning to understand her. He has even been training his friends.
My job is to help them to make sure all goes well from the start with little Oakley and the boys, and to help with the tricky situation of introducing the two Shitzus next door to the new puppy. One little dog, Gizzy, should be fine. Asha, however, is not at all good with other dogs and it’s important she doesn’t frighten the new puppy.
There is a gate between the two properties which both dogs and children freely go through. For now the gaps have been blocked although there is still a space underneath – a space large enough for little noses and for barking.
Although not house trained by the breeder, Oakley is taking to it naturally, and will even go to the door when he needs to toilet. When I was there, however, this coincided with the two Shitzus being out in their garden. Asha barked and little Oakley barked and came dashing back into the safety of the kitchen. The younger boy sat on the swing while the puppy was outside and this scared him too.
It’s important that nothing frightens him outside else he won’t be so willing to go out to toilet. We don’t want him having to run the gauntlet past that gate which may have an aggressive-sounding Asha barking underneath it.
When little Oakley has settled I shall go back and work out a plan for integrating the new puppy with the other two dogs. We can start with the more relaxed and dog-friendly Gizzy first. Meanwhile, they should block the gap under the gate and both sides should be ready to start throwing tasty bits of food on the ground when dogs and puppy are aware of each other – far enough away from the gate and fence that they are not so aroused they won’t eat.
We looked at the other basic ‘puppy parenting’ aspects such as gradually teaching Oakley that being all alone is fine (he had a good first night fortunately) in order to pre-empt separation problems, teaching the boys how to deal with puppy nipping, not to over-excite him and to give him space.
We looked at what is good food and what is not so good. I showed them how to lure him into sitting but suggested leaving any more training for now and allow him to settle in before putting any pressure on him. I stressed, as I always do, the importance of appropriate and non-scary acclimatisation to people, other dogs, appliances, traffic and everyday life outside the home.
One boy took a feather off him that he had found in the garden. This was a good opportunity to explain the importance of never just ‘taking’ something – but to exchange (and also not to remove things that don’t matter!). This then pre-empts any resource guarding behaviour.
I am really looking forward to my next visit when Oakley is properly settled. One boy is keen to learn to clicker train Oakley. We will then look at the best way to work on getting that gate between the gardens open again.
I had a real treat yesterday. I went to fourteen-week-old Petite Brabancon Griffon siblings, Jack and Coco.They were absolutely adorable. Apparently there are only about seventy-five of the breed in the country.
There were no problems to address but the couple had missed out on their choice of local puppy classes this time round and wanted to make sure they were going in the right direction meanwhile.
But what actually is puppy training? Is it ‘commands and tricks’ or is it about the puppy learning for himself what works and what doesn’t work? Parenting puppies is about more than just training tricks so we will be giving them a really stable home base from which to learn and these particular excellent classes will continue where I left off – being totally force-free and reward-based.
We looked at ways to make sure that the puppies didn’t become so attached to one another (one of the common problems when adopting siblings) that they would one day take no notice of their humans and could become vulnerable should they need to be separated. Short periods apart and some walking individually will be built into their days.
Another sibling problem is that one can become overshadowed by the other and never really shine in her own right (Coco could potentially be the one here), another reason for sometimes treating them as individuals rather than a ‘pair’.
Both dogs are scared of traffic so we discussed how they can be desensitised. They have the perfect spot for this where they can stand well back from a road and observe passing traffic from a distance the dogs are comfortable. Working on desensitising, they can gradually work their way nearer as and when the puppies are relaxed and ready.
I demonstrated teaching Jack to sit to the point where he wouldn’t stop sitting! First I lured him, then just waited and marked and rewarded the moment he sat, then added the cue, then he was responding to the cue – and all in no more than ten minutes. Now we had taught him to beg – ‘if I sit I get fed’ – so now he will only get the food when he’s asked to sit!
We did a little off lead walking beside us and then loose-lead walking around the room.
I can’t wait to go again in a couple of weeks!
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have planned for Jack and Coco, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own puppy 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 and training tailored to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).
I love doing Puppy Parenting consultations, particularly as I am likely to keep in touch for many months – seeing them through adolescence to adulthood.
There is a lot to cover – all the usual things like toilet training and jumping up, the best sort of nutrition for the puppy and walking happily on a loose lead, but also preempting future possible problems from ever developing like guarding behaviours, fear of other dogs and running off.
Scooby has already been taught to sit and I showed them how to teach him to lie down. The next step is to work on ‘stay’.
Most importantly he needs to respond when he hears his name and come to them when he is called. They have a large open-plan house and very large enclosed garden and the lady worries that he might get into some sort of trouble when he is out of sight.
People often don’t realise that in order to get a puppy to come immediately they must not only sound exciting but also have something very rewarding to come to – food or fun. This needs a lot of repetition until coming when called becomes automatic – it can be made into a game as the puppy is called from one person to the other around the room and then house and garden. The man finds the ‘exciting voice’ impossible so I suggest he uses a whistle instead!
Scooby has been to two puppy classes where walking involves the puppy choking on his thin collar as he is ‘corrected’ and forced to walk to heel. That will now change.
He walked around the house beside me like a dream with no lead at all, with encouragement and rewards (placed on the floor where I want him to be). The next step is to simply clip his lead onto his harness and continue with the walking beside them – they will need a normal lead that hangs loose and not the retractable. Once good indoors it can be taken to the garden and then outside. There is absolutely no need at all for ‘correction’ of any sort if this is introduced correctly.
I look forward to my next Puppy Parenting visit.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have planned for Scooby, which is why I don’t go into exact detail details here of Scooby’s puppy plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own puppy may be inappropriate. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with the parenting of your own puppy (see my Get Help page).
Four month old brothers Ronnie and Teddy are a delightful mix of Bichon Frise and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Cavachon).
The only problem that impacts on their family at the moment is that the puppies haven’t learnt that outside is the place to toilet. Their chosen place to wee is inside the back door and their chosen place to poo is by the front door. The gentleman made the mistake of telling them off for doing it by the front door so they now do it on the carpet at the bottom of the stairs – perhaps, if they understood anything about it at all, thinking the scolding was about the location, not the act.
What is lacking is sufficient teaching of where they should be going. They aren’t using rewards. If the back door is open it is assumed the dogs will take themselves out. There are things to consider like why, after being accompanied out into the garden, they come straight back in and toilet indoors. When examined there are three very likely reasons. One is that they simply have learnt to go indoors. Another is that they are not rewarded going outside. If the grass is where they should go, then immediately they have been a food reward should be given on the grass. Another possibility is that the puppies will love being outside with their humans so if the job, once completed, results in their humans immediately going straight back indoors, fun finished, then isn’t this another reason for not toileting outside?
I’m sure a couple of weeks of hard work from the whole family will conquer the house training problem, as they take them out very regularly and cut down the puppies’ territory to the kitchen only unless carefully watched.
There are the seeds of a couple of future problems which should be addressed straight away. The puppies are starting to play a little too roughly resulting in recent minor injuries. As the siblings grow older we don’t want them to fight, so rough play needs to be discouraged right now. Little Teddy is already reactive and barking at other dogs on walks, so this needs working on so that he is happy to see another dog and not fearful.
Next time I go, as part of the ‘Puppy Parenting’ programme, we will be looking at more puppy training and teaching them to do a few more useful things, using either luring or clicker training or a mix of both – and rewards of course.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ronnie and Teddy, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own puppies 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 parenting strategies specific to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).