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Puppies Puppies

The early days

The first time your pup is brought though your front door is a moment you'll probably treasure forever! Those first weeks aren't the easiest though, and they'll set the tone for your dog's behaviour for years to come.
This is most likely the first time your pup has been separated from his mom, and he usually forms a particularly close relationship with one family member, whom he will value as a source of food, comfort and warmth.

Hierarchy and your puppy

In their natural environment, dogs live in groups with complex hierarchical social rules.
The first few weeks of life are crucial in terms of development and at this age will form attachments to their mother and their littermates, which give them a secure social basis from which to learn how to control their own behaviour and to interact successfully with their environment.
While dogs are able to adapt to new homes and new families, it is important to remember that your new family member can only react in canine terms. Your puppy's reaction will be as unique as your puppy is. Its behaviour will have been moulded by factors like genes, early environmental influences and early social interaction with its own and other species.

Letting go a little...

Although a strong bond between puppy and owner is beneficial in the early stages there comes a time when the newcomer needs to learn to stand on his own four paws. Loosening the bond may be difficult for both pup and owner at first, but you need to remember that this is a vital part of your puppy's development.

Decreasing the level of attachment does not involve ceasing all affectionate interaction and you can still have a great relationship with your puppy as long as it is on your terms.

From now on you need to ensure that the initiative for social interaction comes from you and not from the puppy. The lesson your puppy needs to learn here, is that social interaction is not always "on tap", as it were. This will help him to cope with the inevitable periods of solitude (holidays, trips, kennels, etc.) that are associated with being a domestic pet.

Separation anxiety

The puppy needs to understand that you, the owner, initiate social interaction. and play time should be on your terms. This will help him/her come to terms with the times of solitude associated with being a domestic pet. Failure to do this will result in behavioural problems like destructiveness and howling. While problems may be fixed, it's better to avoid them completely. Incidentally, this is a very common condition that dogs develop, and can only be prevented through our actions as pet owners, early on in the puppy's life.

House training

Very few puppies are fully house-trained when they enter their new homes and most owners are prepared for a period of extra cleaning when they take on a young pup. However in many cases the process of house training is unnecessarily long and drawn out and there is considerable tension between pet and owner as a result.
Here are some simple rules for stress-free training and optimal success!

Being at the "right place" at the "right time"

It is important for your puppy to be in the right place when it feels the need to relieve itself. Take your puppy outside when it is most likely to want to go to the toilet (after every meal, when it wakes up, after drinking and after play). In this way you'll increase the chances of forming a positive connection being outside and relieving itself. Initially, we suggest taking the puppy out as often as possible, regardless of whether it needs to relieve itself or not. The more often it is outside at the time that nature calls, the sooner it will form the correct positive association, and the happier everyone will be! Every time your puppy makes a mistake and goes to the toilet in the house, it learns an inappropriate association and the process of house training is slowed down. The fastest way to house-train a puppy is to set an alarm at two-hour intervals, day and night, and to take your puppy outside (hard work initially, but an absolute pleasure later!).

Rewards are way more effective than punishments!

Coincide your pup's outside toilet session with an immediate reward. He'll learn that garden toileting is a good thing to do, in no time at all! Remember, giving him the reward once you're back in the house defeats the whole purpose of encouraging positive behaviour. Rewards must be in your pocket, ready to be dispensed the minute the positive act has taken place!

Never punish your puppy if you haven't caught it "on the job."

Going to the toilet is a natural behaviour. Any form of punishment in house training will lead to confusion. Rather than associate the punishment with the act of going to the toilet, the puppy gets the message that its owner is displeased when it sees urine and faeces and will soon avoid toileting in front of them as a result. Consequently, owners will spend hours in the garden waiting for their puppy to relieve itself, only to find that it runs back into the house to toilet on the lounge carpet. The puppy has learned that toileting in private is safer! When you return to find the mess and punish the pup it will react by cowering but this does not mean that the punishment is working. Rather than expressing guilt the puppy is showing submission in an attempt to deflect your anger and its behaviour has no association with the act of toileting, which occurred some time before. Rolled up newspapers, pushing puppies' noses in excreta and screaming at them for being naughty are all inappropriate responses and ones that you should avoid at all costs.

Don't clean up its business in front of it!

Avoid cleaning up your puppy's mistakes in front of it, especially if you are feeling annoyed or frustrated. Your puppy is very aware of your body language and will be sensitive to your displeasure. Better to clean up out of the puppy's sight to avoid any misinterpretation.

Teach a dog a trick or two...

While teaching complicated tricks are not everyone's cup of tea, certain basic commands should be taught, as basic obedience makes owning a dog a real pleasure.

Training should begin as soon as the puppy arrives home (at home!).

The family should agree on using the same, simple word for the same required action.

Walking on a lead

This isn't a natural activity, and it's important to introduce your puppy to the collar and lead as soon as possible. Put them on without restraining the puppy at first in order for it to get familiar with them. (Let them drag the lead on the floor and learn, in a fun way, that the two should be together).
When you pull on the lead, do so gently and get your dog's attention by clicking your tongue. As soon as it follows the direction of the lead, reward it with a small food reward and verbal praise. Don't worry if it only takes a few steps the first few times.
Once the puppy is happy to walk alongside you on its lead you should encourage it to make regular eye contact with you by making interesting little noises and grabbing its attention. In this way, the dog is encouraged to be in communication with you during its walks and a vocal "lead" backs up the physical lead.
Training should be fun, and sessions should be short. For a three-month-old puppy, training lessons of 5 minutes are long enough. Try again after a few hours and some rest.
Remember that reward is always more effective than punishment and work to enforce what the pup is doing right, rather than what it has done wrong. Disobedience is very often due to misunderstanding.
Vocal signals can take a long time to learn and it is helpful to reinforce their meaning by using clear accompanying hand gestures, which the puppy can interpret more easily.
When teaching a new command do not keep repeating it when the puppy is not listening or reacting - all you are teaching him/her is that your voice can be ignored.

The recall

The most important command in terms of control is the recall. It may save your dog from accidents in the future. Never punish your dog for not coming back when he is called.
Always reward your dog when he comes to you, however long it takes!
Make your recall command friendly, exciting and unpredictable. Make yourself as welcoming as possible by adopting a crouched body posture. Do not grab at your dog as he runs past you. Give yourself the best possible chance of success. To have a dog with good recall you need to be the most important and wonderful thing in his life. He should come to you because he wants to be with you and because he finds you exciting, rewarding and fun to be with. After all, isn't that what owning a dog is all about?

Feeding

It goes without saying that food plays a vital role in our puppies' well-being. Dogs' nutritional needs vary depending on the stage of life they're in, among other things. There's a variety of high quality puppy food on the market.
It is important to weigh your puppy regularly and to adhere to the feeding schedule and amounts prescribed by the brand you've chosen, as amounts have been calculated to meet your puppy's needs. Larger-breed dogs will obviously require more food per feed.

Dogs don't need variety at mealtime

Unlike humans, dogs may quite happily eat one type of food all their lives. Not only that, but sudden changes in diet can cause digestive upsets. An adult dog generally has 1 or 2 meals a day. Puppies usually start with 4 meals a day. These are gradually reduced over time. Ideally, dogs should have 2 meals a day, as this encourages owners to interact with their pets at least twice a day. We have diseases in this country that can cause serious illnesses in less than twelve hours!

About sweet treats...

Ideally, your puppy should only ever get his or her own meals. But it is sometimes hard not to give additional "treats". If so, no sweets, "doggy treats" are better for your puppy. Also, your puppy should not be allowed to "beg" at the table. This is not only for nutritional reasons but also behavioural, as sharing a meal is a sign of dominance in a dog pack. Dogs should eat separately from their owners and never get food during meals. Feed after you've had your meal!

Magic Moments

Fun, food and love are what makes a puppy's world go round! Rawhide 'chewies' are worth investing in ... not only do they give your pup a 'legal' substance to chew on (rather than your new slippers!), they help to keep teeth clean too! Remember - bored dogs are usually the diggers and chewers... keep a number of toys and rotate them every few days to keep the pup entertained!