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.