YOUR NEW PUPPY
The mindset of a puppy is different from that of an adult dog. We all know how energetic and playful such young pups can be. However, just like human children, their behavior is also complicated, which is why they need so much proper guidance. Let's look at some of the common situations you may find yourself in.
You can almost always expect to run into some kind of behavioral problem with a new puppy, and the key is knowing how to properly handle the situation when it arises. Below is a list of some of the most common behavioral problems that we run into in regard to puppies:
Jumping up on people.
Pulling on the leash.
Barking at the front door.
Relieving themselves in the house.
Barking or whining in their crate.
Barking at dogs or people while on a walk.
Begging for food.
Getting on counters or furniture.
And various other situations.
A lot of times, dealing with these situations can be a lot easier than people think. Often, what we must remember when working with a dog is to make them aware of the behavior that you don't like, showing them what you'd prefer them to do, and then rewarding them for the correct behavior. This means communicating with the pup in a way that's very clear, very easy to understand--resulting in an improved relationship with your puppy as he or she grows.
What many dog owners want is a well-behaved dog. Often, they see older dogs with excellent obedience skills, but may not realize that it often requires training from when the dog was a puppy to reach that level.
Therefore, from the very beginning, we want to start shaping the puppy's behavior, to help the puppy realize that his behavior has an effect on his environment (operant conditioning).
Below is a list of some basic obedience commands that will help you to have an easier, more pleasant life with your puppy.
Sit / Sit Stay
Down / Down Stay
Come When Called
Loose-Leash Walking (Heel Commands)
Climb Command (Go To Your Bed / Stay)
Even though these commands seem basic, the challenging part is achieving reliability. For instance, ensuring that your puppy will perform these commands in spite of distractions or new environments, or whether or not you're holding a treat in your hand.
In actuality, such reliability is not difficult to teach once you're equipped with the right tools and knowledge.
Among a puppy's behavioral issues, aggression issues are often the most concerning for a new owner. A new owner may even fear that the aggressive behaviors are a sign of bad breeding or a dog with psychological issues.
However, this is not necessarily the case. Often, owners are teaching or reinforcing aggressive behavior without even realizing it. It's imperative to be aware that a puppy may be using aggressive behaviors as a way to get the desired outcome (by manipulating the owners).
An example of accidentally reinforcing an aggressive behavior could be: your puppy is on your couch, you try to get the puppy off the sofa and the puppy growls, and so you leave the puppy there.
What should be done in such a situation is to act like you are not even acknowledging the growl, and then simply getting the puppy off the couch. This way the puppy learns that growling doesn't work.
Keep in mind that most puppies out there are either trying to get some result from their aggression, or they have fear-aggression. You will very rarely encounter a puppy (or an adult dog) that is dominant-aggressive.
Below is a list of some of the common ways a puppy may appear to be aggressive:
Biting at your hand when trying to take a toy.
Biting or growling when taking away food.
Biting at your hand when putting on a collar or leash.
Aggressively rushing at house guests who enter.
Acting aggressive inside the crate.
Growling, barking or snapping if given a command.
Aggression toward other dogs.
Often a puppy will go through a period of fearful behavior, sometimes known as the fear period. During this time, the dog may appear to be easily startled, worrisome, and seemingly losing confidence.
There are some important considerations. Firstly, it's not good to reinforce the behavior (soothing, petting, etc.), yet at the same time, it would not be good to correct the dog as a punishment.
Instead, it's best to help the dog work through this period by slowly exposing them to the things they're afraid of until they gradually regain confidence.
One of the first things people want to teach their puppy is how to be properly house-trained. Below is a simple step-by-step process, involving a crate that's just big enough for the dog to stand up, spin around, and lay down (and not any larger). This will allow the dog to learn to hold their bladder.
Depending on the age of the dog, we have to consider how long they can hold their bladders. A young pup at a couple of months old should stay crated for a couple of hours. This time frame can become longer the older the dog is.
After the time in the crate, the puppy is taken out and given a chance to go potty.
If they successfully go potty, the dog should be rewarded, perhaps taken on a walk. We try to reinforce that the bathroom break leads to more fun activities.
If the puppy doesn't go, then he or she is brought back to the crate. We wait 20 minutes, then repeat the process.
The important factor is to make the dog associate going outside with going potty, and that it's something to look forward to.
If the puppy happens to go inside the house, you don't need to rush at it with punishment behavior. You simply say "no," take the pup outside, and reward with positive reinforcement after they go potty correctly.
If the puppy has gone potty in the house, but you did not catch them in the act, then do NOT correct them. You must catch them immediately or else they won't understand.
Note: if your puppy goes potty inside their potty-training crate, then it's your fault. Dogs do not go potty where they sleep or eat unless they simply can't hold it.
Most people think that socializing means allowing your puppy to play with every other doggie in the area. That's not necessarily true. The important concept is to expose your dog to new environments, people, and situations. This allows the dog to become well-adjusted and balanced.
But it's important to control the situation. As an example, we wouldn't want your new puppy to be exposed to aggressive dogs in a dog park, thus associating the park with the confrontation. The same can be said for humans with poor skills around animals.
Therefore, socializing your dog is a process that involves creating situations to help your dog learn in a positive way. An example could be exposing your dog to a friend who's a knowledgeable dog owner, who won't reward your dog for jumping on them, but will instead reward the dog for sitting--reinforcing the positive obedience training that you desire.
Contrary to popular belief, we do not want a calm, submissive dog. In a dog's mind, submission means "Look how small I am, please don't hurt me." Why would we want our dogs to think that way?
Rather, our aim is to have a confident dog. Such a dog is much easier to teach new behaviors too. A dog that is willing to try new things is much easier to train than a dog with fearful characteristics.
There are a few things that can be done with a puppy to increase their confidence immediately. Similar to the Disney character "Bolt the Superdog", we can build a puppy's confidence by making them believe they are a "super dog". This can be done through confidence-building activities.
The idea is to be on the same team as your dog, rather than having a relationship based on fear, or the belief that the owner needs to be the "alpha".
Author: Nathan Schoemer
Editor: Cyrus Kirkpatrick