Friday, 23 May 2014

Puppy Primer... Start as you mean to go on, right?

I am inspired to write this as a good friend of mine (waves!) is on the brink of getting a puppy (squee), so here is the first in a series of 'puppy primers', top tips and explanations for how to do things RIGHT, the first time!

Day 1... you arrive home with your puppy, yay!

The first thing to do is see if puppy needs to pee or poo outside - yes, outside! No puppy pads, no newspaper, outside.

Puppies can learn, in fact your puppy has already begun learning, a preference for which surface they want to toilet on.

They are MUCH more concerned about the surface, than they are about WHERE that surface is - and this is why puppy pads and newspapers are a crappy (haha!) idea.

Puppy pads very closely resemble carpet... newspapers, well, they resemble paper... neither of these is a surface you want your adult dog, or even your slightly older puppy to go on, so lets skip that stage entirely and NEVER allow them to go on any surface other than the outdoor surface you'll want them to use as an adult.

So that means outside, on grass ideally or sand/dirt whatever you have out there. Note, a lot of pups dislike going on a hard surface, the reason is... splash back! No one likes splash back!

If for some reason you absolutely HAVE to have an indoor toilet area for your pup, then get a nice big flat tray and some turf, and use that. You will need several so that you can rotate them, some outside, some inside so that the grass does not die, and yes you will need to water them for the same reason.

Most people do not need to allow a pup to toilet indoors, and so the big bad world outside is fine - take your pup out there initially every half an hour the first day, every hour the second day and each day until you learn your pups schedule, and your pups signs for 'I need to go'.

Yep, thats right, you will need to learn these things because puppies don't come with a manual! The signs are likely that your pup will sniff about, circle, try and find a quiet spot... orrrrrr your puppy may just 'drop trou' and go with next to no warning at all!

This is not because your puppy is a complete arsehole, this is because at 8 weeks old your puppy has almost NO bladder and bowel control at all, there is very little time between the sensation 'I gotta go' and those muscles relaxing and pup GOING, and there is NO ability to 'hold on'.

So, get used to popping out a lot! And you must GO out with your puppy, no standing indoors watching through a window, no loitering in the doorway, OUT you go and be ready with a nice tasty treat to reward your pup the second they finish their toilet duties.

This praise and reward teaches your puppy that going outside is a GREAT thing to do, and also that toileting in front of you is a GREAT thing to do - you need this, because eventually you want him to wait and to ask you, something he is not going to do if he thinks toileting in front of you is a BAAAAAAD thing!

After the first week you should have a pretty good idea of when your pup will need to go, and this frees you up a little to do more stuff without watching him like a hawk - but do keep in mind it is going to be around another SIX MONTHS before your puppy is actually toilet trained.

What about if he goes indoors?

Ooopsy, say nothing and clean it up with a suitable cleaning product (not bleach!) like biological washing powder.

Punishing your pup for making a mistake here will NOT teach him that he should not go in the house, it will only teach him he should not go in front of you.... and thats not a lesson you want him to learn at all!

Be more vigilant in future - when he is done with his house training, he will have a hard-wired habit of ONLY toileting on the grass outside (or whatever surface you provided him with) and he will not WANT to go indoors. If you think this doesnt sound like 'enough' and you think perhaps he needs to learn that it is BAD to go indoors just stop and think for a second...

Conditioning like this is SO strong, just ask yourself, how hard would YOU find it to pee in your pants, on purpose?

I would bet that even if you were pretty desperate for a wee, you would physically struggle to pee in your pants - thats because you are conditioned over many years to  pee only in a toilet, for this reason a great many (women anyway!) are even unable to pee outdoors somewhere quiet, even when they really need to!

So conditioning is VERY strong and VERY effective - there is never a need to try and teach a dog that he is bad for peeing in the wrong place, its only going to harm your relationship with him!

Nighttime - Day 1.... where does my puppy sleep.

Forget all the rubbish you heard in the past about not having dogs sleep in your room - put puppy in a box or crate beside your bed.

The reasons for this are much the same as the reason why your baby sleeps in the same room as you - you need to hear in the night if they need you. In the puppies case, if he needs to pee in the night (and at first he probably will) then he needs to wake you OR, he must wet his bed,  yuck, thats not a habit we want him to learn!

He will likely feel anxious and lonely, having him in your room means you can reassure him, and build a good strong bond with him, increasing his confidence.

People often don't want the dog to sleep in their room with them as an adult - that is fine, but right now you have a puppy, not an adult. A puppy needs to feel safe and secure to build their confidence, and leaving them in a room alone at night is not going to achieve that - the chances are it is going to achieve a pup who cries him or herself to sleep at night, which means they are distressed and this affects their ability to learn (plus, its just plain not nice!)

It is VERY easy to teach a happy confident adult dog to sleep somewhere else - it is VERY difficult to teach an underconfident, stressed dog, to do practically anything.

A major problem caused by trying to insist the pup sleeps alone at night, is separation anxiety - they are naturally anxious at being left, so they cry - you could ignore that, but practically speaking most people can't (plus how do you differentiate 'I am lonely' from 'I have my leg stuck behind the radiator' from ' I need a wee' and 'I have my collar caught on some piping and I am strangling myself, I'll be dead by morning' (sadly true story).... the answer is, you can't!

IF you return to the crying puppy, and given he has to wake you and you have to come downstairs to him this takes time, you are teaching him 'if you cry I will come back' - and when it comes to leaving him alone to go to WORK or the shops... what does he try.. oh yes, crying, that makes people come back!

The answer is to introduce separation in TINY doses, build a happy confident pup who is NEVER anxious, and start out by leaving them for 10 seconds when they doze off in one room , building this up 30 seconds at a time if necessary, until being left alone is nothing to worry about!

This is quite easy in a confident pup, you will know when to start building up the time more when they start to be independent and choose to go into another room away from you (or choose NOT to follow you when you leave the room).

Of course if you want pup to sleep in your room forever more, thats also fine - it is a myth that this is a problem!

......... to be continued!

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