You love dogs. You’ve found “the perfect pup” from an online rescue or a breeder. You anxiously await your first meeting.
Your furry bundle of love arrives outgoing, confident, attentive, and curious (read: easy to train).
But what if that new pup arrives shy, anxious, highly distractible, uber-energetic, or exhibiting some level of fear (read: training challenge)?
Dog trainers often present techniques like recipes. Do this, then this, then this. Add the ingredients in this order. Stir just so. Bake for X time at X degrees. Your dog is finished! They make training sound so easy. Then why don’t the recipes work for your pup? You feel like a failure.
Put the recipe stress aside for the moment. No matter which training scenario your pup presents, there are some basic training GOALS — think of them as mindsets rather than recipe ingredients for specific behaviors — that can help build a great relationship with that new pup in your life:
G O SLOWLY. There is no specific timetable for how long it should take for your pup to learn something new. It may seem that way if you’re following a particular training book or are in a puppy class that promises to teach how you can go from a wild puppy to a dog that will sit, lie down, stay, and come in six weeks. Note the nuances. The trainers are showing YOU the moves that, if applied consistently, will result in a dog with reliable basic skills. They are training you to train your dog.
Don’t get frustrated if your dog isn’t doing all the things a civilized dog is expected to do reliably at the end of six weeks. You’re both learning together. Even if you have had dogs in your life forever, life has a way of putting one in front of you that will stretch the boundaries of whatever you already have figured out. Go easy on yourself. Go easy on your pup. Learn to laugh.
ORDER. Daily order and predictability help pups learn. Go about your puppy training in an orderly fashion. Establish reliable routines for feeding, napping, potty trips, and exercise. Crate your pup for regular naps in a place he can sleep in peace without being bothered by children or other family pets (puppies need a lot of sleep). Fit training sessions into the puppy’s day in short increments so they’re always fun and not too tiring. Before meals when the puppy is hungry and happy to work to earn training treats can be a perfect time.
Routines not only help your pup learn but also build your pup’s confidence. The world around him is predictable so he feels safe. The same goes for predictable behavior. If you wake up happy to see and play with him but an hour later loudly scold some puppy indiscretion, the puppy doesn’t understand that switch in vocal tones as good dog/bad dog. To your pup, you have just become unpredictable, therefore not a safe person to be around.
ACTIVITY. Yes! Lots of activity. Puppies are more than cuddly couch decorations available to pose for Facebook feeds in funny costumes. Puppies burst with energy that screams for a suitable outlet.
Beware the consequences if you don’t invest enough time in walks, tug games, endless rounds of fetch, or whatever activity the pup loves. You may leave a room and return to find shoes chewed beyond wearing, disemboweled pillows, or chair legs carved by puppy teeth.
Put in the time it takes for multiple short training sessions and daily walks to engage your pup’s brain and burn off that puppy energy and curiosity. Sniffing counts as great exercise for dogs. Give your pup lots of opportunities to explore the world with his nose when you go for walks.
If you invite a puppy into your life, plan lots of time for lots of exercise.
LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS. Some pups arrive as budding Lassies. Others may lean more toward the Marley type. Every pup comes at birth with a unique personality installed.
Border collies love to herd things — birds, kids, anything that moves. Saint Bernards will drool. Don’t expect a pointer or a terrier to be happy indoors all day.
People sometimes hope a new dog will be like the dog they recently lost. Don’t fall into the comparison trap. Let your pup be whatever his nature intends him to be. What you see is what you get. Embrace it. Love it. And the pup will love you back.
SOCIALIZE. This one is a biggie. Particularly if your pup is a rescue. Especially if your pup was born on the streets somewhere. Lack of socialization before a dog is four or five months old can lead to a lifetime of dog anxieties and annoying behaviors that require careful management. A dog lacking socialization can become fearful and limit what you can do and where you can go with your dog. Retraining a fear reactive dog is not for sissies.
Check with your vet to be sure your puppy has all needed vaccinations in order before setting up meet-and-greets with other puppies and friendly, sociable adults. Skip dog parks. They can potentially overwhelm a puppy’s existing social skills or its immune system. Look for puppy socialization classes near you to introduce your new pup to others while a pro-trainer stands by to monitor things. Ideally, the brain maturity and confidence level of the other pups in the group will match or exceed your pup’s to provide good socialization experiences.
Remember why you wanted a dog in the first place. People invite dogs into their lives for companionship even if they want to end up with a dog that competes in agility, hunting, tracking, or other canine contests. Dial back the training pressure on yourself and your pup if training sessions stress her. Keep sniffing around until you find the communication system that’s just right for you and your new buddy.
Focus on the five goals above and the ingredients you need to follow the training recipes will start to fall into place.
Train That Bonkers Pup Into a Canine Good Citizen
More Training GOALS for that Wild and Crazy New Pup
© Bonnie Kreitler 2020. All rights reserved.
Writer Bonnie Kreitler creates content to help fellow animal addicts build rewarding relationships with the critters in their lives. See more at www.ramblingdog.com