This may be used as a guide for anyone wanting to adopt a pup. This will also give an insight to the readers regarding their own dogs.
Let’s say I have decided I want a new puppy and have decided to own a female Labrador Retriever. Before I actually want the pup I will begin searching for reputable breeders. I don’t need them to have litters ready yet as at this point I want to know the knowledge of the breeder, their experience and the parents who are going to ‘make’ the litter! I need to have a few options so will source more than one breeder.
Why a particular ‘BREED’?
Well in my example – Labradors are usually beautiful characters so long as properly raised. They are gun dogs so bred to be sociable, gregarious, non aggressive, like to interact and pleasant to pet parent. Of course, we must choose a breed we desire but always consider what the breed was originally bred for, what his job was. This will give you a huge idea as to how the adult dog is likely to behave and what his requirements will be.
I want a puppy ready to come home with me in the spring time (bear in mind I reside in the UK, so I’m considering the weather), so she will need to be eight weeks old at this time. Younger and she’s too young in my opinion to leave her mother and siblings. Much older and I’m losing time to bond appropriately with the puppy so it looks to me rather than other dogs.
When I go to see the puppies I must see the mother and if possible the father because my puppy is the product of both these dogs. She is their DNA. The mother has been her first role model and will have been instrumental in shaping my puppy’s behaviour so far. I want to see that the puppies were raised in a clean environment with an area for them to defecate. If she has had to defecate in areas her bedding, food and toys are situated she may be hard to house train.
Her journey to my home must be free of anything frightening or unpleasant. I want her to enjoy the car journey. Bear in mind I am taking her away from her home, and all she knows and understands. When I get her home I will encourage her to defecate in a spot in my garden. I will use a leash so she will use an area I prefer. As she toilets I will say good girl, empty. This is what I will say every time so she will learn this is the signal to empty out when trained. This spot will be her toilet area from now until I start walking her out.
She needs to be crate trained so that she will always be happy to go into a crate later in life. This being the case we will go indoors, the family will gently meet her and then once she is settled I will place her in her crate on a soft bed with interactive toys, water and feed. She will sleep. When she begins to wake I will take her out to the area selected as her toilet and stand with her on a leash and wait for her to empty. As she does I will use the signal – good girl, empty.
The breeder will have given us a feed guide and I will follow this for the next few months. We need to arrange with the vet to see the puppy. I like to take a puppy to the vet well before she needs her inoculations. This is so the first visit is none frightening. The staff can talk to the puppy and give her treats. In this way she will learn the vet clinic is a great place to be. If we drive her there in the car she will not associate the car with taking her to a frightening place but rather a great place!
For her first couple of nights I will sleep downstairs in the same room as she is but she will sleep in her crate. I will take her out to her spot in the garden every few hours to empty. In this way she will be a clean dog indoors except for the odd accident. We need to arrange for her to see plenty of different sights and sounds, smells, anything really. All non-frightening and as much as we can before she is 12 weeks of age. If we don’t see to this she will be apprehensive of new environments and experiences when she grows up. We must be guided by the vet with this as she needs her inoculations so that she is not vulnerable to diseases, but this socialisation is vital for her mental state as an adult. This doesn’t mean a puppy who has missed this is beyond hope, but it may well be much harder to train and work with.
I want my dog to be reliable and trustworthy so for this to happen she must see me and her human family as being all important. If I encourage her to run and play with other young dogs at this stage rather than have fun with humans, then she will become overly interested in other dogs and not enough in humans. This will mean she will be difficult to manage when walking her later in life if dogs are about. She therefore needs to spend time with humans learning useful things in a fun way; she needs to be in the presence of suitable older dogs who behave appropriately. What I want is for my puppy to think other people and other dogs are ok, nothing to be afraid of, but actually not as fun as Dad (me) because he is fun and is the key to all I need and desire.
I will take my puppy/young dog to as many places as I reasonably can with me using a leash for safety and to show my dog how to behave. That said every day starting with for a few minutes and building in time I will leave my puppy totally alone so she learns to accept this. Her Mom will have begun this process when the litter were a few weeks of age. If this isn’t done the pup will develop insecurity issues when left alone.
Basic training can be started in the home and garden. Calling her to me and getting down on my knees to interact with her when she comes to me and feeding her some tasty treats. Taking a fun toy from my pocket and playing with her using this for a short time and then placing it back in my pocket. This is my toy to interact with her using, NOT hers! She can have some toys of her own that dispense food, etc so that she can self amuse with these. But I need to be fun; I need to provide her with her needs for her to see she needs me later when she is grown up. All this is taught when the dog is young.
As she grows it is my job to see she learns to do appropriate things. We need to provide activity on a daily basis. This needs to be satisfying for the mental and physical needs of the dog. She needs quiet times with us so she learns to be still and quiet when we desire this. By being there for her and providing her with fun useful activities the bond between the family and the puppy will be strong. If she does her own thing she will be independent and find her own amusement and not need us in her own mind.
Her diet is important. We must see she gets good food. This can be used to help the bond or relationship between us. Make food times a great event; use some of the food to reinforce training. As she develops it is my job and that of immediate family members to make sure we all teach her in the same way, otherwise we will confuse her. We have to be her guides in life and show her how to behave. She doesn’t understand right from wrong, good from evil. All she knows is when she does something it either results in a good experience or not so good. So, if we want her to do something, show her and reward her for doing it. If we don’t want her to do something, make it difficult for her to do because if she can’t practice it she can’t learn to do it! However, this isn’t always possible, so in this case distract her by some means and get her to do something else more preferable and reward her for doing this.
Notice their innocence
No wrong I am always astounded that humans will punish a puppy for something like chewing or stealing. If we don’t leave things lying around the puppy can’t do it. If the puppy is found doing this, distract her and redirect her onto a suitable alternative. If my dogs steal something of mine I just get them to retrieve it to me and reward them for helping me!
Please above all things, remember a dog does not know she has done anything wrong! The cringing behaviour a dog displays when we find her chewing or has messed indoors is nothing to do with knowing she has done wrong. The dog has observed we are unhappy and is now displaying a submissive body position because of the humans’ emotional state, NOT because the dog realises she has done anything wrong.
A dog, especially one we have pet parented from around eight weeks of age, will only behave like a dog. It is up to us to show her how to behave. The behaviour we then have is either because we have trained the dog to perform this way, or we have allowed her to behave in this way. It is down to us, the pet parent.
Happy pet parenting!
(David Davies is director, David Davies Dog Training (www.daviddaviesdogtraining.com) and CFBA (practitioner)-GoDT (master trainer)-BIPDT–DTIA-BPSCA).