Puppy Parenting Little Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise puppy under coffee tableEven the little black pads on fourteen-week-old Scooby’s feet are cute!

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’.

fourteen week old Bichon Frise

Scooby with a favourite ‘toy’

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).

Puppy Parenting. Avoiding Future Problems

When I go to a family who simply want to bring their puppies up right with my Puppy Parenting programme, I feel truly blessed in my job.Benfield

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).

Dogue de Bordeaux Puppy

Boris2It’s hard to believe delightful Dogue de Bordeaux puppy Boris is only fourteen weeks old because he’s so big!

The household has a range of ages including two little children, therefore it’s vital Boris grows to be a stable and gentle family dog. I do so love helping people to get things right early on.

Already the lady has been socialising him. His toilet training is going great. Circumstances mean they have to take him out down the road on lead to toilet, so already he is learning to walk nicely and not to get too excited about going out. They have to deal with the usual things like nipping and grabbing kids’ clothes when they run about and I advised that for now puppy and little children should be separated as soon as there is any excitement.

The most important area needing work is changing away from scolding and harsh ‘uh-uh’ and ‘no’ which apart from teaching Boris very little can cause him frustration, to showing Boris what he should do instead, using food rewards and praise – positive things – along with distraction. If he picks up something he shouldn’t have, chasing him, shouting at him or forcing it off him encourages defiance. Teaching him to exchange it for something better means he’ll be a willing and cooperative puppy.

Preempting (catching him when he’s just about to do something they don’t want him to do and calling him away or diverting him) is the very best tactic.

It’s important that every member of the family is on board otherwise mixed messages could cause a problem. A puppy is most likely to grow into a gentle, trustworthy and kind adult dog if the people around him treat him in a gentle and kind fashion. Little children must be taught to respect a dog and learn the kind of touching dogs like and don’t like. Just as it is important for a puppy to avoid contact with dogs whose behaviour could later make him fearful of dogs, it’s important for a puppy to be protected from people whose behaviour could later make him fearful or aggressive with people. We need to pick our puppy’s friends just as we would our child’s!

Boris is a clever boy. He catches on really fast. HIs lady owner is really switched on and she has done really well already. This first couple of weeks with me is about getting the basics right. I am sure that when I visit next time everyone will have worked hard at finding ways to reinforce good behaviour and to drop any scolding, and we will move forward to other interesting and fun things.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Boris, which is why I don’t go into 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).



A Puppy Needs Active Toilet Training

Bichone Frise Lucky Bichon Frise in crateBichon Frise Lola is now nearly 5 months old and an exceptionally easy puppy. Isn’t she delightful!

She never nips and she’s not demanding. This is fortunate because the family has five young children.

They have another dog also, a gorgeous and rather reserved fifteen-month-old Goldendoodle called Sam. Both dogs get on famously when they are together.

Lola spends long periods of time in her crate in the dining room, mainly because she may otherwise toilet all over the place but also because she may run around the house and they don’t want the dogs loose anywhere but in the utility room.

Toilet training doesn’t work like that.

With the five little children life is a bit of a juggling act.

It is Lola’s toileting training regime I was asked to help address, but this leads on to other things. Unfortunately, this toilet training can’t be done without changing her entire lifestyle. At the moment she is seldom taken outside so has, in effect, been taught that the puppy pad in her crate is the place to go.

She is always carried, so would not have learnt that if she wants to go to the toilet, it starts with walking towards and then out of the garden door.

It is a little concerning also that, because she doesn’t go out to meet new people and dogs, the window for effective socialisation and getting her exposed to things that may later frighten her is now closing. As she’s such an easy-going character, they may still have time.

Another thing is that she doesn’t seem to understand coming when called, which is unusual for a puppy. This will be because she is pulled, not called, out of her crate and then carried everywhere (to discourage the toileting or running off into other parts of the house).

I have suggested an intensive fortnight of working with Lola’s recall and toilet training, and then I shall go and see them again. No more carrying her about all the time!

At present she is crated from 7pm to 7am without a break as well as for much of the day. I have suggested a smaller crate – no bigger than her bed – which she should only be shut in at night-time or when they are out and at other times she can be in the utility room with Sam. It would, however, not be fair to put her in a bed-sized crate without giving her plenty of opportunities to toilet outside so she isn’t forced to mess her bed.

Last thing at night before being shut in her new little crate she needs to be walked outside (not carried). She needs to be accompanied (even in the cold and rain) and rewarded when she performs.  First thing in the morning, instead of leaving her in the crate until they have done some other jobs, they need to take her outside the moment they come downstairs.

I suggest the family draws up a rota so that Lola is taken out every half hour she is awake, immediately she has woken up, immediately they come home and any time she starts to sniff and prowl. She needs to go out after each meal. She needs praise and reward for going outside, whereas accidents indoors should get no reaction at all.

Using food they can teach her to follow them into the garden; they can teach her to come in again without having to chase her, they can teach her to go in and out of her crate without any man-handling.

I hope they have made some good progress in a fortnight’s time, because then I shall be teaching one of the children how to clicker train her puppy to sit, and also how to walk nicely beside them.

Giving Lola more attention and freedom may ‘unleash the puppy’ within her to the extent that she may become more lively and ‘naughty’, but that is what puppyhood should all be about, isn’t it.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for Lola whose situation is fairly unique, 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 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 parenting strategies specific to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).


Frustrated Puppy

Cavalier puppy and his big toy dogWhat do normal puppies do?

They toilet indoors, they have manic sessions tearing around the place, they may fly at you and nip, they chew the carpet, they bite you with their sharp little teeth, they get over-excited and they may even get cross when they are told off.

What usually happens? “No, No, No, No, STOP”.

“How otherwise can I teach my dog NOT to do these things,” people ask?

It’s not that I don’t take it seriously, but I say that the unwanted behaviours are unimportant.

“You teachAfter manic sessions of tearing around the place, Cavalier King Charles puppy sleeps him to do other things instead”. If you just keep telling him off, you create a frustrated puppy that either gets worse and worse or becomes fearful.

Here is adorable eleven-week-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Hassle. Hassle (self-named like my Cocker Spaniel Pickle!) plays nicely until he gets over-excited and then he flies at them. Too much hand play and touching simply encourages him to go for hands. He may bite, nip feet and grab socks; he tugs at the lady’s hair. When they try to stop him firmly, Hassle gets cross. They feel he’s becoming aggressive.

The problem with all ‘don’t’ and no ‘do’ is that a dog can become bewildered and frustrated.

Puppy does one thing and the humans react in a way which causes puppy to try harder. Human reaction escalates all the problems until they have a battle of wills on their hands.

It can be so hard but they need a new mindset, one of: “Do do do do YES”.

They will keep half of his food back to ‘mark’ quiet moments. When he gets over-excited they can scatter some in his large crate and, shut in there, he can then be busy ‘hunting’ which will calm him down. He can learn how to take food gently from hands. They can show him what he can chew and make sure there are plenty of options. They will remove temptation.

One big problem is that Hassle toilets all over the place, day and night. They live in an upstairs flat with no garden so he is expected to go on puppy pads. At the moment he ignores them.

Hassle has too much space. From the start the puppy’s environment should start small and gradually increase in size as he becomes trained. His environment needs to be controlled so that initially, unless he is closely watched, he has two just choices for toileting – in his bed or on pads.  It’s very unlikely he would go in his bed so he will be choosing to go on pads. Gradually, one sheet at a time, they can be lifted until there is just one left – and that will become his necessary indoor toilet place until he realises that walks are for toileting.

Of course – Hassle loves destroying puppy pads, so what should they do? Scold? No (it only makes him worse). They should ‘mark’ the moment he stops with a piece of food and offer him something he can chew!

So far he has learnt that he’s let of his crate out as soon as he cries, so now he can learn how to be quiet before he is let out of his crate. How? By rewarding just a moment of quietness and then letting him out – and building up from there.

Until he can stay happily in his crate at night-time and when they aren’t watching him, they may have little success with the toilet training.

The quality we need above all others with a puppy, is patience.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for Hassle, 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 dog 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 puppy parenting strategies specific to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).

Hungarian Viszla – Another Puppy Off to a Good Start

Viszla2 Viszla puppy taking a breakFrom my iPhone photo you really get no sense of the silky smoothness of Zoli’s coat and the loose skin waiting to be grown into! He is a ten-week-old Hungarian Viszla who now lives with people who’ve not had a dog before.

This is the message I received last week: ‘I really just want to start off on the right foot with him. He is biting, which I know puppies do but I would like to know an effective way to stop this. There are so many things and I think I am getting anxious and possibly making him the same? I would really appreciate some sensible help and advice’.

This is perfect. It is so much easier to teach a puppy from the start not to jump up, not to fly all over chairs, not to mouth and nip and to walk nicely on lead, than it is to convince an adolescent dog who has become out of control. They need to know things like just what to do when they have people for dinner, as they did last week, and Zoli flies all over them, nipping and getting out of control excited, and then creates a noisy fuss when put out of the way into his pen!

Rescue centres are full of misunderstood six to nine-month-old dogs. Humans, being human, think that being ‘firm’ and saying ‘no’ and ‘scolding’ is effective training and discipline, but that’s simply not the case. Imposing control rarely works and invites defiance later on and even sometimes aggression. A dog with self-control is happy and trustworthy.

It is important not to over-burden him with commands, play and especially exercise. A puppy needs plenty of rest and walks should be very short to allow his soft bones and joints to strengthen and grow healthily.

I shall now be here for them with help and practical advice for Zola until adulthood and beyond.

About three weeks later – things going well. “Thanks for the great advice so far it really does work but as you say it’s consistency. We had a lovely weekend with him. We had a trip up to the woods, just around the corner from here and he loved that…..He has ‘naughty’ days but he is only a baby and as I say on the whole he is very good. We love him to bits and want the best for him without him taking over. I think we are getting there definitely, thanks to you”.
Nearly two months after my visit – now 5 months old: “Yes things are going really well.  I have met a group of people out on our walks and all the dogs get along great so I let Zoli off his lead around them and practice recall, which he is doing so well with, in fact I have had positive comments from other owners. He is still young and easily distracted obviously but considering this he is doing brilliantly.  I am careful still around dogs he doesn’t know, keeping him on lead but he seems to be getting less over-excited with the whole thing.  I take him out and try and expose him to all sorts of experiences just to de-sensitise him to the world in general…..”
 I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

Dogue de Bordeaux Mix Puppy

Dogeu de Bordeaux cross is a large twelve week old puppy At just twelve weeks old, BlahBlah is already the size of a Cocker Spaniel! In deciding whether she should be jumping on sofas and over people, one needs to consider the size she will eventually grow to be! Look at the size of those feet!

Also, because she is already so big, it’s easy to expect too much of her. At twelve weeks old toilet training is ‘work in progress’! The seven-year-old son said something very wise: how can she know what words mean if she’s not been taught (perhaps he knows the feeling!)?

I feel there is a big difference between a ‘command or order’ and an ‘invitation or request’. If they wanted their boy to come to them, would it be a command or a request? If they wanted him to bring them something or put something down, would it be a command or request? Would they not say thank you? Puppies respond so well to gentle requests once the action has been taught, and a thank you by way of a small piece of food for doing it. BlahBlah already had learnt Sit in the week since they have had her, but she was fast learning that it was Sit Sit Sit that was the actual command! In five minutes I had taught her Down (with no pushing) and had her Come, Sit and Down all with single gentle requests, with a treat ‘thank you’ BlahBlah playing with a plastic bottleafterwards. She is a clever girl!

While I was there she was nibbling at the cane garden table.  A harsh ‘No’ sounds cross but she doesn’t understand. If shouted at she may even shout (bark) back! With a very young child one would gently say ‘no’ or ‘uh-uh’ or ‘don’t do that’ and immediately either distract or praise for stopping. She went back to nibbling three or four times, just to check, and now this is another thing she has learnt not to do in her new home. Nibbling and chewing is a natural puppy thing and also a way of exploring, so they need a lot of legitimate things to use their mouths and teeth on. The kibble in plastic bottle is always a fun and noisy distraction (see photo)!

So, we are setting everything off in the right direction for BlahBlah and her family, and I shall go again in a few weeks when BlahBlah is ready for the next stage. So far it has just been my ‘puppy visit’. I shall continue to be there for them with other visits and help as their puppy grows to maturity.

BlahBlah must be nearly 8 months old now! “Just to let you know that Blah Blah is doing very well. Everyone always remarks on what a pleasant dog she is and she is fantastic around other dogs and children. I believe that it was the time you spent with us that allowed us to get off to such a great start and for this we are very grateful”.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

Ten week old Cocker Puppy

Ten week old Cocker Spaniel puppyLook at her! How wonderful! Rosie is a ten week old Cocker Spaniel puppy and she has been in her new home for four days.

I really like it when I am called in at the beginning. Starting off right saves so many problems later on.

I have been able to give Rosie’s family a few tips on the basics – toilet training, no teeth, chewing, retrieving things from her and having her walking around next to them without a lead. Visitors should not be allowed to overwhelm her.

Having had two puppies in two years myself means I have recent personal experience and have learnt a few little tricks of my own! Pickle my own Cocker Spaniel is now fifteen months old, and Zara is my nineteen week old Golden Labrador puppy. Because of how I have been with her since she was eight weeks old, she will follow me if I wish her to, she will come to me when I click my tongue or call, she never nips and she will ‘go pee’ when I ask her to – even if it is only to squeeze out a drop!

Now is the time to discourage Rosie from jumping up. It’s so much easier if, from the start, attention is given with her feet on the floor. If she sits on laps at the kitchen table then she will learn to jump on people while they are eating, so that’s not a good idea! There won’t be indoor toileting problems later on because she will be taken out very frequently. When Zara was Rosie’s age I kept a chart for a few days – she peed on average eighteen times a day! This proves just how often a puppy needs to be taken out in her waking hours. She needs to walk and not be carried, and she needs to know which door she is going out of, so she will learn for herself where to go.

When she runs off with things like shoes, which she surely will, they need to know how to get them from her without chasing, cornering or being confrontational – or making it into a game. Rosie is already very happy sleeping quietly in her crate (safe comfy ‘den’) all the night, and crating is a great help with toilet training.

It is tempting to carry a little puppy everywhere – but she has legs!

Rosie seems a very calm and stable puppy. I shall visit again in a few weeks when she is in the next stage of her development. Meanwhile I shall be at the end of the phone or email for support.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Terrier Was Not Suited to Family Life

A while ago I visited a family that had adopted a terrier from Wood Green.  It soon became apparent that the little dog had traits that nobody had been told about. She had lived with and elderly gentleman and now she was with an active family. Despite their very hard work, the little dog simply was just not suited to family life. The children did all they could to cooperate, but simply could not enjoy her because of the aggression she would suddenly display.

Over the years I have been to several families who have adopted terriers that have probably entered rescue because their previous owners couldn’t cope. The rescue centres themselves have not been told the full true facts. It is massively disappointing to have to return the dog or in one case he was put to sleep because of a severe bite to one of the children. These little dogs, already disturbed, need special handling in a calm environment – preferably with a useful job to do and controlled stimulation. They are not suited to noisy family life, cuddling and playing with children.

Anyway, yesterday was a day of rejoicing.  The broken-hearted the family had had to return the terrier to Wood Green who very understandingly suggested they regarded her stay with them as ‘fostering’. In fact, due to their hard work with my help, the little dog is now a lot more adoptable and they will be able to target the right sort of home for her.

So, yesterday I visited their new eight-week-old Labrador puppy, Autumn. They decided, out of concern for their children who had tried so hard with the terrier and who were so disappointed, that they would start from scratch with the sort of dog more bred to be a family pet.  Autumn, like my own fourteen week old Labrador puppy, came from an ideal setup – a family home. Her new family are determined to start her off right so that no unwanted traits creep in later on.

The three most important areas when starting off with a new puppy, to my mind, are ‘feet on the floor’, ‘no using mouth or teeth’, and ‘toilet training’.

If all attention is only given to her while her feet are on the ground, from the word go, then she simply will never be a dog that jumps up – a favourite Labrador trait! All that is necessary is to gently put her feet back on the ground before giving her attention (saying ‘Down’ is completely wrong as it is likely to hype a puppy up and have the opposite effect – by giving her attention!).

The other trait to nip in the bud is use of teeth.  This is done by simply removing your hand immediately. If children wave hands about it will be seen as a game. If there is a small nip, then a squeal at the same time as withdrawing all attention will let the puppy know that teeth hurt. This is what her siblings will already have told her, so she will understand.

The third most important thing, of course, is toilet training. It’s important not to get too worked up about this. It will come right in the end. The more opportunities she has to go out, the faster she will learn.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

Starting Toilet Training Early

Golden Labrador and Chocolate Labrador pup lying together peacefullyI went to another toilet training issue today. It is interesting just how important are the first eight to twelve weeks in a puppy’s development – including toilet training.

Archie is a 5-month old Chocolate Labrador who lives with Lizzie, a 6-month old dark Yellow Labrador. Archie lived with all his siblings until he was ten weeks old and the puppies were left to themselves for much of the time. Now Archie toilets indoors.

I have very recent personal experience of this sort of thing. My Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, until around twelve weeks old lived in gun-dog kennels. The puppies’ toileting was done on the concrete floor of the indoor run where also their dry food was thrown. Consequently, having never been in a house with garden or yard, the pattern for toileting outside hadn’t been set. Toilet training Pickle was hard work. On the other hand, at just nine weeks old my new Yellow Labrador puppy, Zara, is nearly houstrained already. She came from a clean family home environment where each puppy was given individual time and attention.

Archie sometimes comes straight in from outside only to toilet on the kitchen floor. This can be infuriating. His owners thought when they found mess in the house that scolding him would make him learn. But it never does. Archie also may eat  his poo (not nice, I know – but very common). In this particular case I suspect it’s fearing that for some unfathomable reason his owners are angry when they find mess indoors, so he is trying to get rid of the evidence. He even sometimes hides it in his bed. Archie is only five months old and a big puppy. I suggest he now should neither be scolded nor even praised any more. It’s another case of a natural function being made into too much of an issue. How can we be sure he is not confused – praised one time and punished the next – and that he may not have connected it’s to do with where the job is done!

Whatever Archie’s reasons for doing toileting indoors, it’s not naughtiness. There are various possible reasons, but none will simply be because the dog is  naughty.

To ignore all toileting, especially indoors, is going to be hard for the owners, but they can see that their present approach hasn’t worked so they need to do something different. The only appropriate time to react is if they actually catch him in the act, and then it’s not to scold – it’s to take his collar and rush him outside immediately.

Putting in place calm leadership for young dogs is the basic requirement – and plenty of trips outside.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.