Manage your puppy to make training easy


Feeling guilty about how much time your pup is alone, confined and not out running around playing? April10Obe2013 001a

It’s true your puppy needs you, needs your time and your focus.  She needs to play and exercise and see things and do things. But it’s also true that if she is free to find her own fun, free to play with other dogs, free to chase and explore she will learn things you don’t want her to and she will bond with dogs more rapidly than she will with you. This is especially true if you have one of the smart breeds, the active breeds as opposed to a couch potato breed (but remember there is lots of variation within dog breeds). FYI if you’re not an invested dog person I suggest you avoid the smart/active breeds of dogs, they will not be a good fit for you. Smart does not mean easy, usually just the opposite.

Freedom without you means you will not be that important compared to everything else in the environment that pleases her, which then means a required leash in later life – more freedom now means less freedom in the long run. Instead of best friends you will be upset and a nag and an anchor if you’re not careful. The time to be very careful with supervision is now in these first 9 – 15 months (or much, much longer if you don’t believe in confining puppies). Rule of thumb – wait until 2 years old and reliable while you are there before leaving a young dog alone for long periods unconfined in your house.

In these first months it is more important to build your relationship and do things together, do the socialization together with your pup and not let an older dog or young kids give the fun and socialization without you. Slightly less exercise is an OK trade.

Management and prevention: Set up a potty schedule – one that makes it unlikely accidents will happen (this means frequent potty breaks outside with you to treat successes and no unmonitored household freedom). It means getting someone to give your pup potty breaks if you can’t. Use the crate and an ex-pen or gated puppy-proof room/area – if you are not interacting with the pup then they need to be confined, they do not get whole house liberty or even half-house liberty. Set up household rules – if it’s no dogs on the furniture/bed that means now and if pup is on a lap the lap needs to be sitting on the floor. Food stealing – Toddlers tend to shed food, so keep the pup confined if the toddler is eating to avoid food stealing. Garbage, keep it covered and taken out. Chewing – You don’t want non-chew toys chewed, pick things up and only have chew toys on the floor. Chasing – kids, cats or being too rough with smaller or older dogs needs to be prevented (this is not going to get better with age). Biting – redirect this to chew toys, or stop whatever movement you’re doing/child is doing, game over. Bolting out doorways/gates – doorways don’t open, or they don’t stay open if the pup moves from a sit. Very young pups can easily learn this if you’re patient and wait. Jumping up – obnoxious attention-getting behaviors are ignored, just turn away and only give attention to polite pup (sitting still), the same for attention seeking barking, whining or pawing. If attention seeking behaviors like the aforementioned are rewarded with attention (either good attention or bad attention – yelling, pushing …) they will continue and likely be more and more persistent. Pulling on leash – acclimate them to a Gentle Leader (humane but effective tool) or Easy Walker and do not go forward unless there is no tension on the lead, because no matter what the tool is they can learn to pull despite it.

Managing a puppy is work, fun work, but a lot of work. Although if you don’t manage them it can become a dog’s lifetime of trouble. If you do manage them then the cool things you want to train can be trained, otherwise you end up bogged down and upset in trying to fix the things they like to do that you don’t like them to do.

What about newly adopted adult dogs? I treat them as if they were puppies because it is unlikely they came from a well structured environment, plus I want them to know that all good things come from me. If they have too much freedom to find their own fun they will know they can find it away from and without me, which is not a lesson they need to learn, especially if liberty, advanced learning and a great dog is the goal.

What about your own unruly, poorly managed young adult dogs? Go back and manage and train. Unfortunately it will likely take at least twice as long this time around because they know how the household used to work and you likely will have trouble remembering your own new rules. Positive is not permissive, it takes much planning and thought.

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