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There is a reason that puppies are cute – it’s so that we can put up with their incessant demands and constant need for attention and supervision without wanting to wring their necks! I am sure that that’s why babies are so cute too! Seriously though, a new puppy needs constant attention in order to teach the young pup what is required of him when he is at such a impressionable age.

The key to teaching a puppy the rules and regulations are :

By sticking to these rules one effectively conditions the puppy to perform the wanted behaviour. It sounds very simple and it is, but it does require round the clock supervision. I’ll go through a couple of common puppy problems and how to address them using the above guidelines.

Toilet Training

A puppy will need to go to the toilet after eating, sleeping, playing and periods of inactivity. By making sure that the puppy is on grass (or where ever you choose) at these times and by rewarding when the puppy does toilet, you’ll effectively condition the puppy to only "go" on these areas. Now of course, if you don’t supervise the puppy at these times and it happens to be inside it will "go" on the carpet and you’ve created a "bad" impression in the puppy’s mind i.e. "Oh, so this funny grass is also good for weeing on." It is amazing the effect that this conditioning has – I myself have a dog that, before coming to me was kept for the first five months of her life in a concrete run. She would not even walk on grass, let alone wee on it! She would go out of her way to find a surface similar to concrete to eliminate on as she had been conditioned to this. Ironically the only surface in my home which is similar to concrete is the tiling in my husband’s pub. She would literally hold everything in and at the first chance make a dash to this room. As you can imagine, this created quite a dispute in the household! The key to overcoming this was to block her access to the "chosen" area and to plot schemes to get her on the grass when she was about to do her thing. It did take a couple of days, but it worked.

Chewing

Puppies should be given free access to numerous allowable chew toys. I have found the best option to be hooves as they are cheap and long lasting (just make sure to throw them away when they get too small as dogs have been known to swallow them). Buy a good number of hooves – twenty or so – and scatter them around the garden, house etc. This way the puppy will have the option to chew the hoof where ever they may be. By the hoof (or whatever you choose) also being the common chew toy it conditions this behaviour. Obviously the puppy will also chew any soft toys or clothing left lying around, so these should be out of reach initially. Should the puppy get hold of an illegal object the best way to handle this is to get the puppy to come over to you (preferably with the item still in its mouth), praise the puppy and then swap the item for a proper chew toy. This may sound nuts – why on earth should the puppy be praised?!? It’s quite simple – by conditioning the puppy to bring the item to you, you get the puppy to think : "If I find something unusual and bring it to my owner then I get rewarded." By getting the puppy to bring you the item straight away, you condition a "return and reward" instead of a "run away, hide and chew!". The added benefit is that your dog may find items that you though you’d lost or toys that the children may have left in the garden – now that’s handy isn’t it!

Tip of the week :

If your dog is a veteran wall jumper, construct a meter high wire line about 75cm away from the wall. This stops the dog’s run-up and he will not be able to clear the wall from either side of the wire line.

Biting

Puppies have needle sharp teeth and while this may seem useless there are two very good reasons for this. Firstly the sharp teeth aid in the weaning of the puppies from their mother. By the mother experiencing painful nips from her growing puppies she becomes more and more reluctant to feed the puppies – this is nature’s way of ensuring that the puppies go onto solid food. The second reason is so that puppies can learn to have "soft mouths". This may seem like a contradiction, but when the puppies play with one another and a nip becomes a little strong the other puppy will yelp and the nipping pup will stop. This extremely valuable lesson lets puppies know how hard to "bite" when playing.

As humans we have really pathetically soft skin which can’t stand the same nips that puppies give one another, but by applying the same rules that puppies apply to one another we can let the pup know when a nip is too hard. If your puppy nips you, say "Ouch" in quite a high pitched voice. The puppy should withdraw immediately and look at you with a strange expression. Don’t praise the puppy as we do not want him learning that if he bites you and then stops, he gets praised (what a fun game). What we do want him to learn is that even a mild bite is painful and by doing this consistently the puppy becomes discouraged with mouthing games on humans as there is no fun to it!

It is imperative that all family members do this. Dogs are not good generalisers and what may apply to one person does not necessarily apply to another person in a dog’s mind.

Should your puppy ignore your "Ouch" and carry on or get worse, then discipline should be carried out in the canine format. The puppy should be taken firmly by the skin on the scruff of the neck and given a quick and sharp shake. The puppy should yelp and this signifies that the puppy is submitting and is giving up. As soon as the puppy yelps, stop shaking! This doesn’t however mean that you carry on shaking until the puppy yelps, as some puppies will stop nipping but may not yelp. By using this technique your puppy will learn to have a soft mouth with humans. Smacking and shouting at a nipping puppy will produce exactly the opposite result as this can be interpreted as a game (particularly in bull breeds) and will encourage this behaviour instead of stopping it.


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