Starting out with your new puppy
You’ve been planning for months, and at last your new puppy is here! Your expectations are enormous: this is going to be the perfect dog you’ve always wanted.
And maybe that’s right, and your little puppy will become your Brilliant Family Dog.
But for many of us - and for many of our puppies - we have to work hard to achieve that perfect dog. Just as you have to work at your career, or your relationship with your partner, to make the best of it, so you have to work with your new puppy to build a powerful bond where you understand each other so well. It won’t all fall into place without a good bit of effort!
Your puppy’s personality
While you can expect a certain type of personality if you choose a particular breed or type, this is by no means guaranteed! Dogs, like us, are individuals.
There are plenty of whippets, for instance who love nothing better than a rabbit chase, and there are plenty more who will watch the rabbits race past without raising an eyebrow. Some collies will herd anything, down to a blade of grass or a matchstick, while others are not even interested in toy play.
So you can’t necessarily expect the breeding to have done the work for you! You may have to spend quite some time getting your whippet pup interested in chasing, or your collie keen to play.
But if the inborn drives *are* strong, this is a good thing! Those instinctive drives will be tremendously useful to you as your training progresses. Imagine having the perfect reward you can offer your dog whenever she does something you like! While using treats is a great way to train - all dogs like food: they have to, or they’d starve to death - you should also build in alternative rewards early on.
One of your early tasks will be to figure out just what your new puppy loves best, so that you can use those things as rewards to get the results you want.
How do I get this crazy puppy to do what I want?
And how do you get the results you want, so that you can reward them? It’s pretty simple if you remember a few key points.
1. Dogs do what works
They have no wish to rule the universe - they do what will bring them what they want. This is where understanding just what it is that they want is vital!
2. Reward what you like
The stress here is on *reward*. Don’t bribe! Don’t offer food in the hope of getting what you want. The reward should always come *after* your puppy has done what you want. Sometimes they’ll be surprised, sometimes they’ll be working methodically towards their reward.
3. Reward the smallest thing you like
What I mean here is that you don’t wait for a perfect, smart, snappy, sit before dishing out your reward. As soon as your puppy makes any move whatever in the direction of a sit (a rear paw may step forwards) you reward that tiny movement. Gradually, as understanding grows, you’ll be able to reward the whole smart, snappy, sit. But don’t hold out for that at the start, or your puppy will have no idea what you want and give up!
4. All-day training
No need to have ring-fenced “training sessions” where you go on and on at your puppy till he’s bored senseless. Training is something that happens all the time, at any time, spontaneously. We don’t line up our children in the morning and run through their shoulds and shouldn’ts for the whole day! We just chip in as the day goes by, teaching them at appropriate moments. So your puppy learning to wait at the door happens because we never open the door till the pup is still - or even better, sitting. It takes an extra second or two each time, and the reward? A treat? Nope - opening that door to let the pup fly out to the garden with you!
Your Action Step for today: get yourself a suitable lead that will work *for* you, not against you! This needs to be 6-8 feet in length, and soft and comfortable in your hands. To help you get the right walking gear for your puppy you can download a free guide here.
It’s more about attitude than technique
So while a lot of your “training” will happen spontaneously, tiny bits at a time, there’s still a place for more formal methods - especially for the vital recall and for comfortably walking next to you on the lead. There are plenty of “tricks of the trade” which will help you immeasurably. And this is where going to a force-free puppy class will be an excellent experience for you and your puppy - where you’ll meet other people and dogs in a controlled and calm environment where your puppy’s individual character will be recognized and nurtured.
But some of you will be in a force-free desert where it’s impossible to find a suitable class which you’d take a dog flea to, never mind a dog. Never fear!
Take a look at my new online course which will teach you everything students at my “live” puppy classes learn, only at your own pace and in your own home. You’ll be given careful guidance on how to manage the vital socialization for your puppy, as well as techniques to give you a confident dog who is happy to fit in with you and do what you want. And you’ll get massive support from your fellow students, who will understand just what you’re up against in your little pup!
Meanwhile, the most important thing to do with your puppy is to carry him everywhere with you and - enjoy him!
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Articles from Victoria Stilwell
- Why I’m Not a Purely Positive Dog Trainer
- Becoming a Dog Trainer
- Social Bullying
- Does Your Dog Respect You?
- Differences Between Male and Female Dogs