If you’re anything like me, you love to plan and be in control of most things in your life!
I remember when I first chose my very own puppy, I bought every puppy book going and spent a fortune trying to buy all the right beds, toys, cleaning products etc. I researched which vet to use, what food to feed, how to be prepared for toilet training, what training methods I should use as well as those I shouldn’t. I was so paranoid about “getting it right” and really didn’t want to end up with a crazy, aggressive dog like our first family dog had been.
However, all I succeeded in was getting myself stressed, confused and totally overwhelmed. Fearing I’d do something wrong, I did nothing at all. Sound familiar?
Today I have the beauty of hindsight, and many success stories from helping other puppy owners just like you. So let me share with you a few things to keep you sane!
Firstly, you can be prepared for the early weeks of living with your puppy – yes. But you also need to be aware that the minute you get your new puppy, he is learning!
Puppies are like little sponges, soaking up experiences, processing them, discovering the outcome, and learning whether what they just did had a good or bad outcome. So whether you like it or not your puppy is learning every moment he’s awake, and processing that learning while he’s asleep.
But don’t panic!
Ok, so admittedly you haven’t got the luxury of time here; and you do need to grab this opportunity and teach your puppy as much as possible while he’s in this absorbent state. After all, once he hits adolescence he’ll be developing ideas of his own, and these may not be the same as what you’d like in your family dog.
Everything in life is good!
Your focus right now should be on teaching your puppy that being around you is good, being in your home is good, and being with your family is good.
And you do this by simply rewarding everything he does which you like! That’s it, as simple as that. Phew! There isn’t any need for you to keep shouting “No!” or “Stop that” or “Get down” or any of the other things that new puppy owners think they must do.
Without sounding all woolly, all your puppy needs in these early stages is kindness and patience while he works out what has a good outcome and what has no outcome worth pursuing. I like to call this my “Zen method of dog training.”
Write this simple mantra out and stick it on your kitchen cupboards for everyone to remember:
Reward what you like
Ignore what you don’t like
Manage what you can’t ignore
Rewards are anything your puppy finds rewarding – play, tasty treats, usual everyday meals, toys, running, chews, sniffing in the garden etc. All you have to do is ensure that every action your puppy does that you like, is rewarded. Your puppy will soon learn to repeat the things that earn him a reward and not bother with the things that don’t.
That’s right, no need to get yourself flustered and angry shouting “no!” all the time. Encouragement works every time. Picture here your happy Zen yoga pose.
To ensure your Zen like composure, here are a few things to consider:
- Prevention is key
To ensure you aren’t chasing round after a puppy trying to divert his attention from your mobile phone and your favourite heels, you need to set up a safe environment for your puppy.
This is where dog crates or baby-gates are the best thing you’ll ever buy! Use these to make a safe area for your puppy with plenty of chew toys. You want to have your puppy always in the same room as you so you can monitor what he’s up to. Then when you’re busy you can pop him in his crate for some much needed sleep and processing time while you get on with the rest of your life without having to worry about what the pup is doing. And when he’s with you, loose, you can watch him exploring his environment without having to do any “No” or “Ah-ah” because you’re there to divert him if a sniff looks as though it’s going to turn into a nibble.
- Let your puppy explore
Don’t curb your puppy’s enthusiasm for the world he now lives in. While we explore our surroundings largely with our eyes, and babies with their hands and mouth, puppies work largely with their nose and mouth. So let him!
You can intervene and distract if necessary, but people are often surprised how little it is necessary if they can simply pay attention to their roving puppy and provide him with plenty of chewables in his crate or play area.
- Meet all puppy’s physical needs
If you cater for all your puppy’s physical needs – shelter, security, food, sleep, exercise, warmth – you’ll then be free to work on his higher needs – companionship, love, self-confidence, and self-fulfilment. Everyone knows that continually nagging and chiding a child will destroy his self-confidence, and we naturally tend to encourage children in their efforts.
Puppies are the same! Continual nagging and telling off will damage your puppy’s confidence in his coping abilities, which will seriously affect his ability to learn without second-guessing, fear, and anxiety.
- Ensure appropriate socialisation
This does not mean thrusting your puppy into the face of every dog you see, or handing him round to strangers to touch. What it does mean is slowly and gently exposing your puppy to all the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells, of our world, and ensuring that all experiences are good ones.
If you prepare well, supervise your puppy at all times – inside and outside the house – and work with rewards and patience, you’ll set yourself up for a life of harmony with a dog who knows how to please you, knows your house rules, and is happy to learn whatever you ask him to.
We want our puppies to grow up confident and ready to learn, able to manage new things and new experiences. You’re going to be a fabulous puppy owner!