There are lots of books and sources of advice on choosing and buying your puppy, training, house training, socialising, puppy classes and so on, but in this article I want to write about living with your puppy. I have recently acquired a young rescue dog, a puppy really and I have not lived with a puppy for over twenty years, all my dogs have been or are adult rescues, most of them with behavioural issues and I have completely forgotten how demanding having a puppy in the house can be.
Be Clear, Teach and Guide
Your puppy is an absolute baby when it comes to live with you and it has not read any of the books. All it knows about how to live is what it has learned from its mother along with its instinctive natural behaviours. So we must try to understand our puppies and take the time to teach the puppy to do things properly. We then need to give them the chance to practise doing it well. This takes considerable time and commitment and can be extremely frustrating until the puppy begins to understand what we expect of them.
And beware, Seemingly harmless behaviours in a new puppy can lead to potential problems later on such as allowing a tiny puppy mouth to chew your hand or picking up a small dog that scrabbles at your legs.
Make every thing the puppy does worth while, dogs do the right thing because they get something out of it, a treat, a game, attention from us.
Puppies chew. It is a very natural behaviour and they need to have plenty of opportunity to do this. The problems with living with a chewing puppy are firstly, destroying our things and secondly, swallowing bits which may get stuck and need surgery to remove them. We can avoid a great deal of this with one or two important rules. For us that is. Be really, really tidy. If your pup can’t get at your things it can’t chew them. Or swallow them. Make sure your pup only chews toys that it can’t destroy and break bits off. And very importantly teach your pup to give things up when you want them to. If your pup has your mobile phone in its mouth, don’t tear after it shouting expletives. Wow thinks pup, what a great game of chase this is and that phone must be really valuable it you want it so badly. So why would your pup want to give it up? Take a deep breath, go and find a piece of cheese or chicken or some really fantastic treat, calmly offer it your pup in exchange for your phone. You will be teaching your pup that it is always safe to give something to you because it will get something else in exchange. And if you have a really smart pup that learns to collect things for a reward – well it may be a bit of a pain being brought a constant supply of bits and pieces but that is preferable to damage, surgery and potentially a dog that will bite if you try and take something from it.
Many puppies have a sleep button and a mad crazy button and not much in between. These mad times often coincide with when we are busy with other things, first thing in the morning and early evening. That is the natural daily cycle for the pup and to a large extent we have to go along with this. Puppies do need to learn to switch off but they also need to play and sometimes this may not be at a time that suits us but if it is what your pup needs then a happy medium is required.
Dogs wish for nothing more than to be part of a family, enjoy daily walks, regular meals and a comfortable place to sleep. Listen to your puppy and hear what they are saying. You have chosen to have a puppy, the puppy has not chosen to live with you so the responsibility to compromise lies with you.
And finally remember – it doesn’t last for ever and all the effort you put in now will pay off when your dog is a happy adult, relaxed and easy to live with. Enjoy.