Karen Wild: Start as you mean to go on with a puppy
Our new puppy classes started this week, with lots of enthusiastic owners! As well as the excitement of a new puppy, it is not without worry, so lots of questions arise about how to best care for this new family member.
Not forgetting that a puppy is likely to be with you as an adolescent and then an adult dog, hopefully for at least ten to fifteen years or more, this is a huge responsibility and one that is long-term, too.
This can be easy to forget when your puppy is small and adorable (they all are). The time when the puppy decides to chew your remote control, grab your trousers and swing on them, or pee on the new rug, are the times where the love story can break down.
The key is to start as you mean to go on. Enrol the help of an expert. Not just someone who has 'always owned dogs'. Their experience cannot match that of someone who has seen 20 dogs a week for 20 years, continually studying and updating their knowledge. This is not to discount what other people know, and a great deal of common sense is spoken from people familiar with dogs. However, this is your dog and therefore they will be different to every other dog.
Next, make sure your dog meets and greets kind, patient adult dogs. They will know how to interact with a young dog, allowing a certain amount of hanging off ears and nipping but being prepared to grumble a bit when things get too much. Note that the adult dog who knows puppies will not attack a puppy. They should only do just enough to deter the puppy.
Your pup also needs to meet people. All shapes and sizes, all types of personality. They do not need to just meet them, however, they need to have FUN! If they are scared, accompany their meeting with a nice treat. People need to come to your house, be met in the street, move around and sit still, all the things that everyday life bring. Sounds odd? Some dogs cannot cope with a person walking past them or suddenly standing up!
How about vehicles and noises? Not only in the car, but outside in the street. Start by teaching your puppy that this is fun, too, by giving them a bit of sit training, with treats and cuddles all along the street.
Surely everyone knows this, some of you may be asking. Not so. There is a huge amount of dogs I see in behaviour practice that have not had this good start.
'But... we have the internet'! There is a lot of incorrect information on the internet, as we learn to our cost. Old fashioned ideas about dominance and harsh sprays or electric shock collars do not help, they hinder. They often make a bad situation worse.
Be gentle, be clear, teach your puppy the rules through training, and keep them in the social world. If you start like this, your puppy will be ready for anything.