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.
It’s a kind of vicious circle. A constantly challenging, easily aroused puppy can get us down. Our resulting loss of patience makes puppy worse.
Their days with sixteen-week-old Luna start badly as the easily aroused puppy fights against having her harness put on. The exasperated lady admits being driven to shouting and tears by the wriggling, biting animal.
Luna’s life with the first-time dog owners started badly. As soon as she arrived they found she had Giardia. Then, she broke her paw after falling awkwardly and was hospitalised for a week at twelve weeks old.
The couple are extremely conscientious with her training, aware that she is a working dog. They are doing all they can to fill Luna’s life.
I have a more relaxed take on what a young puppy needs.
At this age life should be discovering what works and what doesn’t, with perhaps less human direction. They do all they can to try to keep her occupied but she quickly loses interest. She now needs to start keeping herself occupied for a little longer.
In a way I feel they are trying too hard. It’s not often I would say that!
They listed for me the problems they are having with their easily aroused sixteen-week-old gun dog Labrador puppy.
The list of difficulties are all extreme for the same reason – over-arousal/excitement/stress with lack of self-control:
Jumping up at the work tops and table. Leaping at guests or people that want to say hello to her outdoors – she drew blood from someone. Jumping up, nipping arms and ripping at their clothes when excited. Biting when they try to put on or take off her lead or harness. Grabbing her lead and pulling when walking. Chewing on things they would rather she didn’t despite having plenty of toys – she doesn’t play with toys – just chews and tears them.
They are all normal puppy things but, with Luna, excessive.
She was very quickly and easily aroused all the time I was there. She became temporarily responsive to clicking for calm and feet back on the floor. It’s important to reinforce those times when she is simply being calm and still.
I gave her a yak chew which gave short-term respite before she started again.
Easily aroused dogs have a big need to chew which is one of the most effective ways they can relieve their stress.
We will start by prioritising things most directly associated with Luna getting easily aroused, concentrating on lowering that ‘stress bucket‘.
The couple feel unable to leave her alone which is not helping. They interrupt their night to take her out in the early hours of the morning and are tired.
During the day the lady is constantly in Luna’s company, dealing with the behaviour.
I suggested they start to get their lives back. Firstly to try leaving her all night and see what happens.
They should get into a routine of shutting her in her pen after her morning walk with a stuffed Kong for half an hour. They then can go into the other room and relax! From what they tell me, she may bark briefly to come out so they should ignore that. Over time they can extend the time they leave her to two hours.
The lady can then have some freedom.
I suggested changing to better food. Diet can also affect the behaviour of an easily aroused dog.
We have a plan for putting the harness on without drama. Why not simply leave it on for now, eliminating that from the morning’s bad start?
Happier owners will make for a happier puppy, and visa versa.
“….I love my puppy so much and don’t know what to do. She bites, jumps up and snaps at me. I can’t eat in front of her. I could go on.
Skye likes to watch the dogs on television. I watch Victoria Stilwell’s programme. That’s how I found out about you.”
It’s very easy to get into a spiral of despair when everything we do seems to make a puppy more wild or rough. All the time we are trying to stop the puppy doing things she gets worse.
The most dangerous is being underfoot and liable to trip the lady over which, due to her age, could be particularly disastrous.
The lady is now completely changing her perspective. She is looking at her puppy through different eyes. Instead of trying to counter unwanted behaviours with scolding and discipline, saying ‘no’ and getting cross, she will constantly look for and reinforce those behaviours that she does want. She already no longer feels desperate.
How does a dog or puppy know what we DO want? Ted Talk.
The clever puppy soon learnt that a click meant ‘Yes!’ Each time she jumped up, instead of reacting we waited. When she was back on the floor she earned a click – and food. This ‘brain’ work is exactly the kind of stimulation she needs.
We are also teaching Skye alternative behaviours that are incompatible with those things she now does that the lady doesn’t want her to do.
Where circling feet and grabbing trousers is concerned, she will be taught ‘Away’, running after a rolling piece of food. This way the lady can keep safe. She just has to make sure she has food on her for now.
We ask ourselves, what is it that drives the puppy to wildly jump up, bark at the lady, snap in her face when she bends over her, scratch her legs till she gets attention and so on? What is it that is causing the lady to feel so desperate?
Puppy over-arousal is at the bottom of it. Cutting back activities that stir her up and replacing with activities that use her brain and natural instincts like chewing and sniffing will help.
It’s totally natural for a puppy to be excitable and have bouts of wild behaviour where she’s like a little tornado. Pressure has built up in her that has to explode somewhere! If she was with her siblings they would riot together and it would soon be over.
One great idea is a ‘box of tricks’ that Skye can go to town on and wreck. Biscuits are hidden in screwed up paper, food cartons, milk containers, loo roll tubes, old towels etc. The cardboard carton itself can be attacked.
If we want our puppy to be gentle and calm with us, then that is how we need to be with her. Friends and family need also to treat her calmly – no wild greetings and pumping her up.
Having a motivated puppy leads to good behaviour.
The lady should always reward her when she asks her to come to her.
It’s much better to call Skye away from something she shouldn’t be doing or chewing, rewarding her and giving her something acceptable to do. Much better than saying ‘No’ and scolding – trying to stop her.
This means having food in a pouch or pocket all the time for now.
No more feeling desperate.
We get a new puppy with the belief that it must fit in with our family life. He must learn what is acceptable right from the start.
What most people do is to try to teach the puppy what is NOT acceptable instead.
Cocker Spaniel Cookie is nine weeks old, and they have had him for just two days.
They have three very young children too. There are toys everywhere. The children have furry animal slippers. They run about and they make lots of exciting noise.
Imagine what a huge adjustment this is for a puppy, away from the only world he’s known.
Cookie gets excited and bites a child’s foot. Screams from a very upset child.
Cookie chews the carpet. ‘No No!’ A loud sound from a human. Or ‘Uh-Uh!’ It temporarily stops him. It’s possible he doesn’t even know the barking noise is aimed at him, but it’s very loud.
The most important message I can give this family in my first visit is to be creative. To find all sorts of ways of showing Cookie what he can do instead.
I showed them how to teach the puppy to come when called – for food. ‘Cookie-COME’ in a kind and bright voice. This then puts him on some sort of remote control unless, of course, he’s too aroused. Instead of ‘No No!’, they can call him away from what he’s doing and reward him for coming.
Then they can give him something else to do instead. It’s hard work and constant while puppy is awake.
The second important message is, when Cookie uses his teeth on something inappropriate, to keep showing him what he can chew. This means they need many more small and chewable objects to hand.
They also need pockets full of tiny tasty rewards – to reinforce everything he does right and to reward him.
Cookie has run of the downstairs and the quite big garden. He charges around, chasing the children as he would other puppies. With space comes uncontrolled wildness.
Parents are continually having to rescue their children from a puppy hanging onto their clothes.
So, the third most important thing in this very first visit was to lend them a puppy pen. Having had complete freedom for a couple of days Cookie may object for a while of course. They can make the pen into a kind of wonderland with, for instance, lots of stuff from their recycle bin for him to chew and wreck.
This will be Cookie’s safe place. Children don’t go in there.
Even outside the pen, they should let sleeping dogs lie. This is hard with youngest not yet two years of old. Cookie needs protecting too. I suggested the little girl imagines Cookie, when asleep, is in a bubble. If she bursts it a horrid smell comes out. She drew me a picture.
I shall be going again in a few days when Cookie has had time to settle in. There is a lot to cover to make sure a puppy gets off to the very best start. We will be pre-empting possible future issues like resource guarding or separation problems.
They should be ‘socialising’ him to life outside – other dogs, cars, bicycles, people of all ages, shops and so on. This even before he has finished his injections because the earlier they do this the better. He’s so tiny they can carry him.
‘No No!’ is confusing. Correction and crossness can at best result in a puppy that is unmotivated to do what we want, scared of us even. At worst it can lead to confrontation or aggression. Focussing on trying to stop puppy doing puppy behaviours means everyone will be frustrated.
‘Yes Yes!’ is motivating. The puppy will want to please. Focussing on and reinforcing what puppy does right means everyone will be happy.
Puppy pug Frankie is now twelve weeks old.
It’s vital that the adorable Frankie stops jumping up and nipping because the lady is a childminder. As it’s so important, they have been trying extra hard to stop her jumping up and nipping for the sake of the little children. This has resulted in a lot of No and Get Down and pushing off.
Term starts this week and the four little children will be coming back. If Frankie jumps or nips they will scream and wave their arms about, making her worse.
The young son and daughter play games that may encourage Frankie to be over-excited, rough and to use her teeth. If we don’t want to be nipped by a puppy, we don’t play hand games. We don’t play contact sports but use an item like a tug toy or a ball. We avoid getting her too excited.
In a way, the very importance of Frankie not jumping up and nipping has actually made the problem worse. She’s learnt that it always gets attention of some sort as they try to stop her.
Jumping up and nipping now has to get no attention whatsoever. With myself she learnt really fast that feet on the floor was the way to get a fuss.
It’s a few hours later and the lady has just emailed to say that the jumping up and nipping is now worse since she has stopped saying NO and pushing Frankie off. This is typical of how things get worse before they get better. Because she has said No in the past and given the puppy a lot of attention for jumping up and nipping, it has temporarily made things worse now that she’s stopped.
Frankie wants her to say No just as she always has done because in a funny way it is rewarding to her.
Now Frankie is not getting the attention she usually gets so she is simply getting frustrated and trying harder.
To get all technical, this is called the ‘extinction burst’. Here is a nice explanation from GreenMountanDaily.com: An extinction burst is a concept from behavioral psychology. It involves the concept of elimination of a behavior by refusing to reinforce it. The best example of this is a child’s tantrum. Parents react to tantrums, which is why they often work, but the point of the tantrum is primarily attention.
The family need to stand firm and it’s not easy. For the first couple of days the lady should wear jeans rather than thin floaty trousers (tempting to grab in those little sharp teeth) in order to protect her legs. Having tried immediately to give her something else to put in her mouth or another member of the family calling her away, if neither of these things do the trick she should simply lift her up in silence, put her the other side of the gate with something to chew and walk
away. Actions speak a lot louder than words.
I imagine that this intensified behaviour was during Frankie’s ‘silly time’, the wild half hour so many puppies have in the evening.
They should have that a bit more under control in a day or two. As soon as they see her getting excited and wild they will react immediately by giving her something else to do, something to attack and wreck like a carton full of safe rubbish – before she gets to jumping up and nipping trousers and legs.
Pre-empting whenever possible is the best advice.
It’s understandable why Frankie wants to jump up, as dogs greet one another face to face. A lot of communication is done at face level. You can’t do much communicating with a human ankle! For this reason it’s helpful if people kneel down.
In this first visit we covered all aspect of puppy life making sure everything is in place. The whole family did some lovely loose lead walking in the garden. She has been to a couple of vet’s puppy parties with, I feel, too many puppies off lead all at once in a small space, most a lot bigger than tiny Frankie and she may be intimidated. I hope they will stop going now. This is the kind of socialisation that a puppy doesn’t need. We don’t want her to fear other dogs as she gets older.
We are off to a good start and will pick things up where we left off when I next visit. We discussed putting up a barrier between Frankie and the little children so that she can be kept separate from them whilst not being shut out, just until she grows out of her jumping up and nipping.
With consistency from all the family as regards ignoring jumping up whilst teaching her that feet on the floor or sitting gives her what she wants, helping each other out by calling her away if she’s getting rough or popping her straight away behind a gate with something to do or chew, things should improve fairly fast.
In order to get past this ‘extinction burst’ of frustration and not to prolong it, everyone must be doing the same thing. A tantrum must not work in terms of attention!
Their success also depends upon visitors cooperating (always a challenge) and with the children teaching their friends what to do. If they are unable to keep calm thus discouraging the jumping up and nipping, then Frankie will need to be on lead or behind a barrier.
Here is a useful little article from Victoria Stilwell about stopping puppy nipping.
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.
They brought their two beautiful cream-coloured German Shepherd brothers home a couple of months ago at eight weeks old, believing they would be great company for one another thus making life easier and not realising it could actually be a lot more work.
They soon were given information that littermates could well become overly reliant upon one another, even to the extent of not bonding as fully with their humans as they might. One puppy can become overshadowed by the other and not reach his full potential. Puppy play can, as the pups mature, turn into full-blown fighting. This isn’t inevitable – I have been to siblings who are the best of friends – but it is possible that things could turn out not so well unless fairly special measures are taken. They called me in for professional guidance.
Already they have Samson and Buster, now sixteen weeks old, sleeping in separate crates. They walk them separately and they feed them separately. They will need individual training sessions. They have been having more one-on-one time with their humans than they have with each other which is perfect.
When I was there and for my benefit the two puppies were together more than they usually would be. We were in the conservatory watching them playing in the garden. It wasn’t long before play became unequal – even at four months old. Samson was becoming a bit too rough and Buster was getting scared. Their relative personalities are already very clear with Samson more nervous, more excitable and more bossy.
I was quite amazed actually at just how well-behaved the two dogs were for such young puppies and the hard work is paying off already. They are fully house trained and they don’t do chewing damage anywhere. There is a bit of jumping up from just Samson and they have already discovered that ‘get down’ doesn’t work. Their owners have, from the start, gradually weaned the two puppies into being left apart and all alone for reasonable periods of time.
There are a couple of ‘flags’ I feel they need to be aware of that could develop into problems. Prevention is a lot better than cure. Already Samson is barking in a scared fashion at people and other dogs when out, and Buster barks at dogs. Possibly, because they are currently held tight on short leads to try to stop them pulling, they feel trapped and uncomfortable.
The two dogs need as much socialising as possible. I know from personal experience that too many German Shepherds can be reactive and aggressive towards callers to their homes if the don’t regularly meet people from an early age. Plenty of people coming through the door would be good if they can find volunteers, and they should be associated with food or play.
With one dog at a time and the other shut away, we did very successful loose lead walking around the garden and the front of the house. We used a longer lead and using my technique the puppy simply walks around beside or following the person holding the lead. One of the puppies even had a pee when on lead, something they never do, and I suggest this is because he felt sufficiently comfortable and relaxed.
Samson likes to play tug of war with the lead, but reacting with reward when he stops rather than reacting with scolding or tension while he’s tugging will soon cure this.
The play between the two dogs needs careful monitoring, and terminating as soon as it ‘turns’.
With two soon-to-be large dogs, the owners need some sort of ‘remote control’, particularly in public, so the dogs will learn to respond instantly to their own names, to ‘come’ and to other cues like ‘sit’, ‘down’ and ‘stay’ requested gently and just the once. Over the next few weeks and months we will have a lot of fun!
My advice to them is to treat their puppies like one lives next door – for the forseeable future. They can meet frequently and be friends, but ‘live’ apart. Fortunately the couple has a good-sized house and the gentleman works from home, so logistically it’s possible. The couple have already researched and are well prepared to do whatever it takes.
This ten-week-old puppy has a big name to live up to. Thor, the God of Thunder. Fortunately he doesn’t yet seem to be to suited to his name! As the day Thursday is named after Thor, perhaps it was appropriate that the day I met him yesterday it was a Thursday.
I soon found that, despite Thor being only ten weeks old, in their determination to get things right the first time puppy owners had taken him to a puppy class where they were instructed to use a ‘firm voice’ when they wanted him to do something. He came home with a scratch on his nose. This trainer was their only role-model so far.
Thinking on down this route, where could using the ‘firm voice’ technique ultimately lead? If the dog doesn’t obey then no doubt the voice becomes firmer still and the command repeated. Soon the dog is being shouted at. What then?
We all know if something happens too much we become accustomed to it or we learn to switch off and it will be no different for dogs. Quiet people have other people listening to them! Do we ultimately then have to move on to some sort of physical force or intimidation to get the dog to comply? What choices then does the dog then have? A confrontational approach with an adolescent dog could possibly result in defiance leading to aggression, or instead in intimidation and submission. Either way this is not a healthy relationship to have with our dog.
Fortunately these things won’t happen with Thor. The lady in just a few days had already, with great patience and kindness, taught little Thor to sit in an open doorway and not follow through it which demonstrates just how teachable he is. The gentleman was already teaching him to walk nicely beside him around the house.
For first-time dog owners they had started off brilliantly, so it was unfortunate they temporarily got themselves ‘tarnished’ by this dog trainer’s archaic methods. With the right approach and the family’s level of commitment I reckon they will be quickly back on track, so long as each family member ‘drinks out of the same water bowl’ so to speak.
My first and most important task was to win them around to the basic principles of good puppy parenting using the modern, reward-based approach. It didn’t take many minutes to demonstrate with the wonderfully biddable puppy how I could get him to come to me immediately by just saying ‘Thor – COME’, once, in a kind voice. I asked him to sit, speaking gently (they had taught him this already but with a firm ‘command’ and by pushing his bum down). I waited. Thor sat – reward. I then showed them how to teach him to lie down voluntarily with no repeated commands or firm voice – or pushing him, and then how to take food gently from my hand.
It is so good to be able to demonstrate the power of gentle words and motivation. Anyone who is still in the dark ages and ‘doesn’t believe in food rewards’ is suggesting they regard a dog as some sort of slave.
The teenage son will be alone with Thor during the day for the next couple of months until he goes off to uni and while the parents are at work. A big responsibility rests on his shoulders because how he behaves with the puppy could shape the Akita’s future. No more ‘firm’ commands. No more rough play involving Thor using his mouth because the puppy then understandably thinks it’s okay to be rough with the young daughter also and she gets scared.
They should bear in mind that Thor will grow up to be a large dog!
Using force-free methods doesn’t mean the puppy has no discipline or boundaries. In fact it’s the opposite. Thor’s environment needs more boundaries. He needs to learn that it’s fine to be left alone for short periods of time. There should be rules around food and rules around the front door.
I shall be reminding them all the time to think in terms of teaching their adorable puppy those things they do want him to do, replacing ‘correcting’ those puppy behaviours that they don’t want – and to make these alternatives so rewarding that he wants to keep doing them.
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).