Raising A Puppy That You’ll Never Want to Part With
If you have a new puppy, the information contained in this page is absolutely critical for you to know. This information comes from Dog Scouts of America, an organization that seeks to teach responsible dog ownership and improve the bond between people and their dogs. We want to keep you and your puppy together, by teaching you about what kinds of behavior to expect, and how to encourage good behavior instead of allowing bad behavior and creating a dog juvenile delinquent! When you adopt a dog, it should be a commitment for the life of the dog. Sometimes there are problems that strain the relationship. We hope to help you avoid these problems before they occur, and to understand what to expect as “normal” behavior from this species of animal who is so different from us.
YOUR FIRST GOAL – SOCIALIZATION!
When you get a new puppy there are some absolute rules you must follow to insure that your puppy grows up well adjusted. Puppies that are brought up through their critical socialization period correctly are less likely to become liabilities later in life.
WHY is this so important?
Properly socialized dogs are not fearful of a particular age group, skin color, or body type. If they are not fearful, they are less likely to run away from these people, bark at them or bite them to try to make them move away. Poorly socialized dogs lack confidence. These are the dogs that might bite a child in the face if cornered. They may pull out of a collar and run away in fear of a stranger. They may bark at the sight of every strange thing that they never became accustomed to during their socialization period-people in wheelchairs, people wearing funny hats, people who walk with a limp. These biters, bolters and barkers often end up with a one-way ticket to the dog pound-all because they were never properly socialized as puppies.
HOW do I socialize my puppy?
As soon as you get your puppy, start introducing him safely to all different sights and sounds. In a controlled situation, he should meet other animals, children of all ages, vacuum cleaners, stairs, crates, automobiles, pet stores, veterinarian’s offices, and everything else you can think of. He should get to meet as many dogs as possible, as it is important to learn things from members of the dog’s own species, like communication signals and social behavior.
Between the age of 8 and 9 weeks of age, the puppy goes through a “fear imprint” period. Be extremely cautious during this time. If the puppy develops a fear during this period, it can stay with him his whole life. When I was eleven years old, and my parents brought home the new 8-week-oldpoodle puppy, she went investigating around the house. She went to visit the horses lined up in my Barbie doll’s stable. She poked one with her nose and tipped it over, causing a domino effect. As the plastic horses smashed and clattered all over the floor, the poor puppy panicked. She didn’t know where to run to. Until her dying day, she would leave the room if you even showed her a plastic horse. This kind of trauma should be avoided at all costs.
The key is to try to form neutral or positive associations with as many different sights, sounds, smells, and types of footing, around all kinds of people, places and things as you possibly can. Some people don’t want to take their puppies out at an age when they don’t have full protection from their puppy shots. My feeling is that the socialization is far more important than the fear of ill health. If I have to gamble, I’d rather gamble on my puppy not coming in contact with a serious disease, than to gamble on his whole life being messed up because he wasn’t properly socialized. That’s how important proper socialization is. His very life may depend on being well socialized as a puppy.
When I say neutral or positive, this is very important. You must control all interactions with the puppy. Don’t let some young child grope at your puppy and pull his fur. Don’t let some adolescent child “rough house” with the puppy. Don’t let anyone tease the puppy or try to frighten him. Everyone the puppy meets must be kind and gentle to the puppy. Never leave a puppy unsupervised with children of any age. Teach children who will be associating with the puppy how to properly touch, pick up, hold, stroke, and talk to the puppy. It is important for the puppy to learn that humans can be trusted.
Secondary in importance only to socialization, you must teach your puppy how to be clean in the house. This is extremely easy if done properly. Once your puppy is housebroken, it will be a lot less stressful for both of you to share your home. Many dogs lose their happy homes because their owners are unable to housebreak them. Even an older dog can learn proper toilet habits. I once was hired to housebreak a two-year old dog who was living in a shed outside instead of with her family where she belonged, because she had never been properly house trained.
The way things are…
Puppies are naturally clean. They are usually mostly potty-trained by 4-weeks of age. While still with the litter, the puppies learn to “hold it” until they are able to get out away from the nest or denning area. They will automatically try to relieve themselves in an area away from their sleeping, playing and eating quarters. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. With just a minimal amount of effort, your new puppy will transfer what he has already learned at the breeder’s home, and learn to go in the desired area at his new home.
Some facts about the “plumbing”
Puppies have very tiny bladders. They can’t hold it for very long at one time. Puppies must be taken outside many times each day, and given an opportunity to relieve themselves. Puppies also spend a great deal of time sleeping and playing. Each time a puppy wakes up, he will feel the need to empty himself immediately. Each time the puppy has had an opportunity to play, he will want to eliminate, also. And, after eating, the bowels feel the urge to move, and he’ll need to go again. What ever goes in, must come out. If it goes in on a regular schedule, it will come out on a regular schedule as well. Puppies naturally choose an absorbent surface to urinate upon, because then they will not have to slide around in it or slip on it.
Where it all goes wrong…
Knowing what you now know about the puppy’s plumbing, it is very easy to snatch him up and take him outside when he will need to relieve himself. The problem is when you don’t put forth the effort to BE THERE when the puppy wakes, plays or eats. This forces the puppy to relieve himself where ever he can, and it is no fault of his own if he chooses to use your rug. Some people can’t arrange to be with their puppy as many hours during the day as would be optimum for proper housetraining. But even this doesn’t have to mean that your puppy will learn poor housetraining habits. The big problem is when you place the responsibility on the puppy for “accidents.” If your puppy had a chance to be clean, he would, so somehow you must be falling down on the job. Please don’t blame the puppy.
If you give your puppy free range of the house, you are asking for trouble. Would you leave an undiapered infant home alone all day and expect not to find baby poop all over the place? You must confine your puppy to a small area, so his choices are limited. If he must urinate or defecate where he eats and sleeps, he will choose to hold it as long as he can rather than to soil his living space. If you are not right there to take him outside at intervals during the day, you must provide an absorbent medium, like the puppy litter made from recycled newspapers, or the housebreaking training pads you can buy commercially. If you don’t have these handy, regular newspapers will work, but often, the puppies prefer to “redecorate” their living space with the newspapers after soiling them.
Make Potty Training FUN!
Other than keeping his den area clean, what’s in it for your puppy to relieve himself outside? You have to attach some kind of positive reinforcement for the puppy using the outdoors to eliminate, instead of using your carpet. The puppy has a full adult brain at age 7 weeks. He can begin learning immediately. If you create a positive association with proper elimination, he will STRIVE to eliminate in the manner you desire to earn that reward. I highly recommend clicker training as an excellent means to teach the puppy proper elimination habits.
The clicker is a device that makes a snapping sound that sounds unlike anything else in the puppy’s environment. Paired with food, the puppy learns that this sound predicts the arrival of a treat of some sort. Once the puppy makes this association, he will make a conscious effort to repeat whatever behavior he is performing when he hears the click.
When your puppy awakens, pick him up and carry him outside. Don’t expect him to walk that far after waking up without peeing on the way to the door. If you make this mistake more than once, go get a rolled up newspaper and smack YOURSELF soundly, as you say “BAD OWNER, BAAAAAAAD OWNER!” Remember, the puppy is NEVER to be held accountable for “accidents.” Everything that comes out where it is not supposed to is YOUR fault, so don’t even THINK about punishing that sweet, innocent, helpless puppy for something you did wrong. Do the same thing each time the puppy plays, or eats.
Take the puppy, some treats and the clicker outside to where you’d like the puppy to relieve himself. Wait until the puppy squats. Get ready. You can gently give a “keep going” cue while he is going, like, “Good Potty Outside….” When the puppy is all finished going, click the clicker once to mark the behavior (the behavior you are marking is the “finishing up” of going potty), and give the puppy a treat. You don’t want to click at the beginning of the squat, as the puppy will stop eliminating and run over for the cookie. He will also learn that he doesn’t have to really go to the bathroom to get the treat, he merely has to “look” like he’s going to the bathroom, and if he’s cagey, he can get several treats out of you by “faking it” in several places. Wait until he’s finished and is just starting to straighten his legs from the squat position before you click and feed. Do this every time you take the puppy outside. Give the puppy a chance to urinate and defecate each time he goes out. Reward each.
If you keep paying off the behavior you want, the puppy will have ONE thought in his head when he gets the urge to go: “Hold on! If I do it outside, it’s worth cash and prizes!” Don’t be surprised if you find your puppy in the middle of play, suddenly running to the door. He doesn’t know how to GET outside, but he knows he has to GO outside to cash in his “chips,” so to speak. Of course, you’re going to be right on top of things, and jump up with the clicker and food so you can properly reward him for asking to go outside (after he goes). It’s important for you not to ignore this first attempt at getting outside on his own.
Remember, he won’t have a clue as to how to get the door open, or how to get you to open it, he just knows that the door is the way to the outside, and that’s where he’ll go. If you don’t catch it, you may have to clean up a puddle, you’ll have regressed on your housetraining, and you may have to smack yourself in the head with that newspaper a few more times to teach yourself a lesson! Pay attention! Your puppy doesn’t know how to communicate his wishes yet. You’ll have to teach him that. You’ll have to come up with a “signal” which means “I need to go outside.” You’ll have to teach the signal separately, whether it’s barking, scratching the door, sitting at the door, ringing a bell, or whatever. Then, when your puppy has the behavior down pat, ask for it each time the door opens. It becomes the “open sesame” for potty time door opening. Once you’ve taught it, never disregard your puppy’s signal that he has to go.
Form proper habits (YOURS) and never ever blame the puppy for accidents. Just ignore the mistakes and capitalize on the good behaviors. If you got paid $50.00 each time for parking within the lines in the mall parking lot, would you ever TRY to double park? Of course not. It doesn’t pay off. The dog would not intentionally eliminate indoors if he had a choice. Make it YOUR job to be there for him when he needs to go out.
My last puppy was raised this way, and she has always communicated to me when she has to go out. I don’t have to reward her any more, and she never has an accident. She chose “scratching” to indicate to me that she needs to go out. At 8 weeks of age, she went to the door, looked at me, and scratched the door with her paw. I jumped right up and opened the door. She thought that was very clever (so did I), and she’s been letting me know in this manner ever since. My woodwork is scratched, but my dog never makes mistakes in the house.
GOOD MANNERS-FOSTERING “POLITE” BEHAVIOR
While you’re going through the jobs of socializing and housebreaking your puppy, you need to be working on teaching him “socially acceptable” behaviors. Your puppy has no idea which behaviors are considered acceptable (by YOU) and which are not.
You Don’t Have a BAD Puppy (you have a NORMAL puppy)
Face it, most NORMAL dog behaviors have some degree of unacceptability amongst humans. After all, they greet strangers by sniffing butts. Upon greeting a family member, they are compelled to lick the other’s face. They know that the freshest, most cool water is in the toilet bowl. They insist on repeating behaviors that we humans REWARD with our attention-and the things that get the MOST attention are: Keep-away with the Rolex watch (Gucci shoes, computer disks and other personal valuables also work really well). The whole world is just “chew toys” to them, and they have no way of knowing which things were put on earth for little dogs, and which things are irreplaceable family heirlooms.
If you expect your puppy to somehow develop behaviors which are acceptable to HUMANS, then you must teach the puppy that performing these behaviors is where his advantage lies. An untrained dog is an opportunist. He will do things that reward him and avoid things that don’t. Puppies can’t reason and don’t know that a behavior is good or bad. All the puppy can figure out is that certain behaviors are followed by pleasurable consequences and certain behaviors are followed by unpleasant consequences. It is YOUR job to make sure that none of the “bad” behaviors (ones unacceptable to YOU) get rewarded. For instance, if “counter surfing” or garbage raiding is successful in gaining the dog a yummy treat, he’s going to try to repeat that behavior as often as possible. If sitting politely on the floor gets ignored by you, but jumping up gets you all excited and allows the dog to be close enough to lick your face, he’s going to choose jumping up over sitting politely every time, because that’s what you’ve selectively rewarded. Maybe not intentionally, but that doesn’t matter-he’s learned it just the same.
Remember that for every obnoxious behavior your dog can produce, you can think of an acceptable behavior to replace it with. You just have to stop rewarding the unwanted behavior and reward a more pleasing behavior in its place. Reward sitting with petting. Ignore jumping up. Reward staying away from the dinner table with treats (away from the table). Ignore begging. Don’t let the pup “pull” you into a game of “keep-away” with something he shouldn’t have. Steel yourself, and ignore him. Go pick up one of HIS toys, and act like it is the most special toy in the world. Toss it in the air and talk to it. Catch it and chase it. When he drops grandma’s false teeth, engage him in a fun game with his own toy (unless, of course, you want him to prefer grandma’s false teeth, because of all the attention it gets him).
It’s sad to report that behavior problems are listed as the reason for the surrender of 80% of the dogs that are dumped at the pounds and shelters. Dogs are sent off to the shelter when the owners can’t cope with normal dog behaviors, which they could have redirected with very little effort. Dogs are killed by the millions each year, guilty of committing various heinous crimes, which are within the range of normal dog behavior. The owner states “jumps on children,” “chases the cat,” “chews the furniture,” or “runs away” as the reason for discarding the family dog like last week’s meatloaf.
The tragedy is that people think that puppies can raise themselves to be model citizens (by human standards). Fat chance. People don’t want to put in the time to prevent unacceptable behaviors and foster good behaviors. They often wait until the bad behaviors have a nice reward history, and they are as hard to remove as rust stains on a white t-shirt. In 25 years as a dog behavior counselor, I got thousands of questions about how to “stop” the dog from doing this or that obnoxious behavior. I never once got a question from anyone asking me how to prevent themselves from teaching the dog the obnoxious behaviors in the first place. It seems no one is into prevention, but everyone wants a cure, or a quick fix. What’s worse, they never like the answer. They’re expecting me to tell them something like, “Get a tazer gun, and when he jumps up, zap a few thousand volts of electricity into his cranium…” Everyone is focusing on punishing the dog to rid themselves of the behavior. My answer is always simply to find the dog NOT exhibiting the behavior, and reward the self control resulting in the absence of the behavior.
So, now that you know all of this, and you want to keep your adorable puppy in your family his whole life long, you have vowed that you will not be in the shelter 6 months from now, trying to rid yourself of an out-of-control adolescent dog, right? You’re ready to WORK at creating a GOOD DOG, right? Ok. Here are some simple steps you can take. You can teach your dog these things starting at 7 weeks of age. You don’t have to wait to get into an obedience training class to do them. It’s a simple list of do’s and don’ts. If you catch yourself doing any of the things in the “DON’T” column, get that rolled up newspaper and swat yourself with it until you come to your senses.
Reward the Good + Ignore the Bad (a simple formula to produce a good puppy)
|· reward sitting quietly (sit for attention)
· encourage play with dogs own toys
· reward the dog for being quiet (“good quiet”)
· feed the dog when he sits politely
· reward the dog each time he comes to you
· exercise him to prevent boredom
· let him earn his treats as rewards
· reward him for waiting at doorways
· reward eye contact every time you get it
· reward loose-leash walking with forward motion
|· DON’T stroke the dog if he jumps up (turn away)
· DON’T chase the dog to get back your belongings
· DON’T yell at the dog for barking (attention = reward)
· DON’T put the bowl down while he’s jumping around
· DON’T scold if he runs off, then comes back (never scold when he comes to you)
· DON’T punish for habits developed due to boredom
· DON’T give him anything he wants because he’s cute
· DON’T let him barge through (slam the door shut)
· DON’T let him reward himself for bad behaviors
· DON’T move at all if he pulls the leash tight
A reward can be a treat, a game, a toy, attention, petting, eye contact, or access to something the puppy wants (like to go through a door, or to continue a walk). Even yelling can be a reward to a dog who never gets any kind of attention. Be careful what you reward
A punishment is withholding a reward. You never have to get more nasty than that. The most powerful punisher is to ignore the dog. This means no reaction at all, not even eye contact, which could be perceived by the dog as successfully getting your attention.
Off to School – Obedience Classes are for Every dog
In the old days, people only signed up for an obedience training course if they planned to pursue competition obedience. Nowadays, everyone signs up for training classes, and they are called “pet dog training” classes, or “manners” classes, because they teach more than just the things you need to learn to compete in obedience trials. They teach the basics of control, and mix in some learning theory, and help with problem behaviors. Training classes, no matter what they’re called, are a MUST for every puppy, just as going to school is a must for human children.
In your obedience class, you will go beyond what you’ve taught your dog at home, and working in a class will show your dog that he must obey you even when surrounded by distractions. If you are asked to harshly correct or punish your dog with leash jerks or other punitive measures, you do not have to do so. Maybe you should look for a different class that uses positive methods, which will make learning more fun for you and your dog.
Many people quit attending classes after having gained a modicum of control over their dog and teaching him a few basic cues. Perhaps an advanced course is not for everyone, but you might check to see if your club or training school offers other classes for your dog. Many places have trick training classes, agility, flyball, scent-work, or other fun things you can do with your dog. You don’t have to have a desire to compete to enjoy these recreational activities. They’re a lot of fun.
EMPLOYMENT — Give Your Dog a Job!
The best thing you can do to keep your dog out of trouble and use up all of the energy he has in his body, is to give him a job. Most breeds were developed to perform certain tasks for their owners. Some hunt, some herd, some guard, some pull sleds, but they all need a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm for their jobs. Many people can’t just go out and buy a flock of sheep or take up sled dog racing, to allow the dog to use his natural instincts and inbred qualities. Therefore, many people find themselves with “high energy” dogs with nothing to do with all of that energy and intelligence. These dogs were not meant to sit home all day in a crate, or to be tied out in the yard. They need mental and physical stimulation.
How would you like to be kept in a room with no television, no books, no toys, and nothing to do? I’ll tell you what your dog will do-he’ll go nuts! Don’t you dare leave your dog in the back yard with nothing to do, and then complain when he digs holes in the yard and barks at the squirrels all day. Your dog needs regular exercise and play with YOU. It’s your job, and your half of the commitment to provide a safe and acceptable outlet for his energy and intelligence. If you choose a high energy dog, like a Border Collie, and don’t expect to spend at least 30 minutes each day engaged in hard running (like fetch, flyball, or sheep-herding), you are asking for behavior problems. These dogs will invent their own games if you don’t give them enough “work” to do, and these may include “redecorating the house,” chasing everything that moves (kids, joggers, cars), or excavating the yard.
Dogs need to be doing SOMETHING. They weren’t put on the earth to serve out a sentence of solitary confinement. The job you give your dog could be a very simple one. Teach your dog to fetch the paper. Teach him to play Frisbee. Let him carry the mail in from the mailbox. Take him jogging with you. Keep him busy with activities like flyball and agility, and you will not have the dog develop annoying habits to fill his empty, boring days.
THERE’S MORE YOU CAN DO!
Having properly equipped your dog for life with a good socialization, housetraining, manners, basic obedience, and productive hobbies, you may feel you’ve done all that you can to make sure this dog will have a long and happy life with you. But, there’s more! Your job is not over yet. Your dog can still get into trouble or be killed if you do not take some additional steps of responsible dog ownership.
I recommend that you have your dog “altered” (spayed or neutered), for several very important reasons. First, It will drastically reduce the chance for developing cancer in the dog, and thus will prolong his life. And, the sooner in your dog’s life that you have him or her spayed or neutered, the greater the health benefit. Secondly, it will remove the pre-programmed desire to roam in search of mates to propagate the species. Your dog doesn’t run away because he doesn’t love you, he is just compelled to search for a member of the opposite sex, to breed and reproduce. With pet overpopulation the problem that it is in this country, you definitely don’t need your dog escaping every chance he gets, to go out looking for a one-night-stand. The removal of the reproductive organs will eliminate this “urge” to roam, and could prevent him from becoming a traffic fatality while out carousing. Third, the removal of the hormones will also calm down the dog and make him less energetic. A mellow dog is less likely to get into trouble for bouncing off the children and chasing the chickens. Their hyperactivity has just been toned down several notches. The lower energy output will also cause the dog to need to eat less, so be careful not to overfeed. Another benefit of surgically altering your dog is that it can not reproduce. Some people get so upset when they find out their dog “got pregnant” that they take the dog and all the puppies straight off to the pound and dump them there, along with their responsibility. This adds callousness to carelessness. If the owner would have spayed the dog in the first place, she wouldn’t be in this condition. Spaying and neutering will give you a calm, healthy, rational (he’s not thinking with his sexual equipment any more) pet, who will want to stay at home and be with you.
SPEAKING OF “STAYING HOME…”
Your dog should not have a choice in the matter of staying home. It is your responsibility as a dog owner to keep your dog at home. There are several ways to insure that the dog is always where he should be.
Keep him in the house. That’s where your pet belongs, anyway-he’s part of your family. When he needs to go outside, you can let him out and watch him. When he’s done, call him right back in. If you have fallen down on the “obedience training” responsibility, or the neutering responsibility, your dog may decide to thumb his nose at you and run out of the yard. Reconsider investing some time and money into obedience training and a gonadectomy, which would eliminate the running away problem. Or, you can just always walk your dog on a leash outside.
Another option is to fence a portion of your yard, so that your dog can go out safely, and if the phone rings and you have to take your eyes off the dog for a moment, he will be able to amuse himself in the safety of his fenced area until you come back to let him in. There are two other outdoor containment options: tying your dog up outside and installing an electronic underground fence system.
I’ve never used the electronic fence containment systems. I’ve never had to. People who have used them tell me that they are great. My problem with them is that it might keep your dog IN, but it doesn’t keep other dangers OUT. A stray dog or wild animal could come into your yard and injure or kill your dog. A child could come into your yard and do something that would cause your dog to bite. I just don’t want the world at large having access to my dog when I’m not there to supervise and insure his safety.
Tying out would be the absolute last resort, preferable only to letting your dog roam freely. Either choice is not a good one. Dogs who are tied out develop a lot of frustration. They see things, but they can’t get at them. They experience barrier frustration. Statistics show that most of the dogs which are surrendered to humane societies for problem behavior are dogs which were tied out. These dogs are more likely to bite a child or kill another animal if it comes within reach.
Containing your dog, by any means, will keep him at home where he belongs. He will be less likely to become lost, eat something that could hurt him, chase livestock and be shot (legally), or be hit by a car. In my career, working with dogs and their people, I have seen and heard about many sad situations. I watched a person’s dog cry in pain, just sitting there, because it had ingested chicken bones from some garbage. I learned that the dog later died. I have heard many cases of lost dogs. Some have happy endings and some have tragic ones. I have heard about loose farm dogs tearing apart a baby calf, while it was standing there, helpless, and the dogs subsequently being shot. And I have experienced the horror of being in the car that killed a cute young Cattle Dog puppy of about 5 months of age. I’ll never forget that image as he appeared from nowhere, running across the road. He was running gleefully, full of the joy of life. He was on his way somewhere… He was killed instantly, and we were almost killed in the accident it caused. We were very lucky, but I was filled with anger over the owner (I use the term loosely) who failed to contain this beautiful animal, and keep him safe.
If you can follow through with the advice offered here, you will have eliminated just about every reason for ever having to part with your dog prematurely. He will be well socialized and not likely to bite someone out of fear, he will be housebroken, he will have a start on some good manners, and basic obedience training. He will be happy and healthy, having been neutered and contained safely at home and out of trouble. He will be a real member of your family that you could never and would never give up. Of course we will all have to part with our beloved pets someday, but let’s hope it is due to natural causes, after a long life of sharing a bond with a human partner who has prepared for the dog’s every need.