Puppy Training: It’s Best to ‘Start Small’

Eight week old Chocolate Labrador puppy

Oscar

Sometimes my job just isn’t work at all!

Oscar is 8 weeks old – a gorgeous Chocolate Labrador puppy. He has been living with his family for just three days. I shall be helping them not only to start his life with them in the very best way possible, but also helping them as he grows bigger with walking nicely and training.

Getting things right from the outset is so much better than later having to remedy a situation that has got out of hand. Puppy training is about a lot more than learning tricks.

To start off we cover everything from the food he eats, where he sleeps, how to toilet train him, how to make sure he never develops separation problems, how to make sure he is confident and polite with visitors, get him used to wearing a collar and harness, to have a lead attached and walking beside them off lead initially. In this way he should be comfortable with the equipment when they are able to take him out in a couple of weeks’ time.

We ‘start small’ and work our way out. A puppy that is crated from the start quickly learns to love his ‘safe den’. It helps with the toilet training as he won’t mess his bed area unless he is really desparate. It gives him a peaceful hidey-hole when there are too many people about. He can be safely left in there when they go out. In a while he can be given the freedom of the ktichen for short periods. Puppies with too much freedom initially can end up toileting everywhere, stealing things from bedrooms and can generally feel insecure.

The family in their excitement with this glorious puppy may be using rather loud voices and clapping loudly to call him to them. I suggested they ‘start soft’. If they speak quietly and he will learn to listen. Reserve a loud clap for occasions when it’s important to get his attention to save him damaging something or himself. It’s the same with play – ‘start gentle’. Rough and tumble with huge humans can be scary to a sensitive little puppy.

My own Chocolate Labrador, Marmite, as a puppy

Marmite

There is one area Oscar’s humans need discipline – and that is with playing hand games. Teaching Oscar to chase and grab hands may be fun now, but it will hurt more as he gets bigger. He will move on to grabbing clothes. Right from the start he should find no mileage in biting hands or clothes – and I show them how to achieve this without scolding. They can collect loads of legitimate things he can chew – that he can put in his mouth instead of human flesh!

The one area of slight concern is his wariness of people coming in the house. It’s unusual for a puppy so young that has come from a normal home environment to be wary of people at this age. When someone comes in the front door he hangs back and may pee a little.  The ‘fear period’ in a puppy really starts at about fourteen weeks – the age when usually puppies start to feel cautious of things. Up until this time as many different people, friendly dogs and positive experiences as possible need to be introduced.

With Oscar, because of his slight wariness they will need to go carefully, watching for signs of unease so that they don’t push him out of his comfort zone. It’s important at this very formative time he doesn’t associate anything with bad stuff. It may be a delicate balance between exposing him to things and avoiding frightening him.

The picture on the left is my own beloved Chocolate Labrador, Marmite, now unfortunately dead from a heart condition. She came from the same area as Oscar but nine years ago, and to look at Oscar I believe they may well be related.

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