For many people the coronavirus lockdown has meant more time at home. During this period we have seen unprecedented levels of new puppy ownership. The logic is very sound – we are going to be home more, so it’s a great time to get a new puppy. However, anyone with a puppy will tell you that they require a lot of work and training in the first few years of life and can be naughty AF!
Here are some handy hints for new puppy owners. There are definitely ways to navigate the naughty puppy and adolescent stages of a dog’s life. Training, predictability and consistency are very important! You must:
1) Set clear rules.
2) Communicate the rules by rewarding correct behaviour either as it happens or within 1 second.
3) Consistently reward the desired behaviours and remove the reward for undesirable behaviours until the puppy develops good habits.
Dogs are the same as humans in that applying force is more likely to result in fear or resistance. Instead of using force we recommend that you be a leader, not a dominator. A successful way to achieve this is to control all of the resources in your household and immediate environment and use them as motivation for good.
What is a resource? Toys, dinner, treats, games, people, time, fun places, activities, affection, attention. For puppies that need to run and expend a lot of energy we recommend a special ball like this one http://k9pro.com.au/swing-n-fling-chew-ball/ which you can produce as a reward or motivator to do good (rather than giving your dog access to the ball at all times).
If you are using treats it can be a challenge to treat your dog either at the same time as the desired behaviour or within 1 second. We recommend cutting up liver treats into small (5 cent coin size) pieces that your puppy can eat quickly and having them handy in a bum bag or treat pouch like this one http://k9pro.com.au/dog-treat-pouch/.
What is a motivator for your dog? Praise, affection, food, attention, freedom, being social, having jobs to do, feeling valued and important, being remembered.
Communicate. It is ALL about your voice, your body language, and reward. Using motivators as a reward is great, but not convenient when training. For training think treats and clicker training as reward, and if the task is difficult use something irresistibly yummy. Have a long term game plan of “loading up” the clicker or your squeaky voice using treats so that the clicker or squeaky voice in itself becomes the reward. Here is an example of a clicker http://k9pro.com.au/star-mark-clicker/ but squeaky voice works just as well.
In order to “load up” the clicker or your voice sit down with approx 20-50 small treats and put a treat in your pup’s mouth each time you click or say the chosen squeaky praise. Do this multiple time per day. Over time you can reduce/remove the treats and you will have created a Pavlovian response in which the dog believes something great is happening when they hear the click or the squeaky praise. This makes it easy to reward without delay, since reward should always be given simultaneously with the desired behaviour or within 1 second.
Don’t forget that – no matter what anyone tells you – you should forget dominance theory and packs of wolves. Dogs aren’t wolves, and domestic dogs are not even wild dogs. Domestic dogs don’t learn to be obedient and develop a great relationship with their owner by being dominated.
If you are concerned about your pet’s behaviour or need help with your new puppy contact one of the team at Ready Vet who will be happy to help you.