Raising a puppy should be a fun and rewarding experience the whole family will enjoy. You can help ensure the process is smooth and successful by avoiding a few common mistakes.
Not socialising the puppy properly
Imagine a situation where a child is isolated from everything and everyone until one day, perhaps around school age, they suddenly free to explore the outside world and meet other kids. Can you imagine their confusion and fear? They wouldn’t know how to interact with other children, how to share toys and they’d probably be frightened by anything large, loud or scary. Just like kids, it’s important for all puppies gain social skills.
- Socialisation is simply the process of exposing a puppy to lots of different and positive experiences. Socialisation helps puppies to grow into confident and friendly adult dogs that behave appropriately in a wide range of situations.
- The optimum period for socialisation is up to eighteen weeks of age. Many owners worry that their puppy will be at risk of disease if they start socialising before the pup is fully vaccinated. In reality, the number of dogs euthenased because of behavioural problems far exceeds the number that contract viral diseases, and you can manage the risks. Once a puppy’s vaccination program is underway it’s possible to introduce them to older, friendly vaccinated dogs under supervision. Puppies can also be introduced to similarly aged puppies that have commenced a vaccination program.
- Puppy Classes are run by many vet clinics and dog trainers. They are a great way for puppies to learn to socialise with each other in a controlled and supervised environment. Puppy classes also help to provide owners with information about the care and management of their new pet as well as basic obedience training skills. Learn more about The Pet Lovers Puppy Club, Australia’s first interactive online training program for puppies and young dogs. The Pet Lovers Puppy Club is great for those who can’t find the time to get to puppy classes but is also of real benefit for older puppies, as this is the time when problem behaviours such as separation anxiety, chewing and digging can start to emerge.
- Socialisation should include exposure to a variety of other animals and people of all ages as well as loud objects like trucks, lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners and motor bikes. Slippery floors, skateboards and veterinarians can all seem scary to young puppies, so be sure to introduce your pup to these and other potentially frightening experiences while they are young. Make everything a positive experience by rewarding calm and confident behavior with lots of praise and treats. Never force your puppy to approach anything they are fearful of. Instead, take time and allow the pup to understand they are not in danger.
- Handle your puppy as much as possible and have other people from all walks of life gently handle the puppy. Reward them with a yummy treat when they allow you to touch and stroke their ears, feet and tail. This type of positive reinforcement will help your pup to always be relaxed when being handled and groomed.
- It’s very important to expose puppies to enjoyable experiences around children. Always supervise any interaction between puppies and children as a negative experience at this age may affect both puppies and kids for life.
Letting the puppy follow you around or be picked up constantly
Puppies and dogs are highly social creatures that benefit from the companionship of humans and other animals. Whilst it’s important to interact with your new four-legged friend and make them an important member of your family, it is possible to overdo it.
- Puppies are so cute and cuddly, there’s a temptation to pick them up and carry them around everywhere or let them follow you from room to room all day and night. Children can be obsessed with their new puppy and may want to carry them around constantly. This is particularly common with some of the smaller breeds. It is essential that all puppies learn to be comfortable spending time on their own.
- You need to ensure your puppy understands from the outset that there will be times when they will be left alone. Dogs that become over-attached to their owners can develop a profound fear of being alone which can result in anxious, noisy and destructive behavior.
- Whilst dogs certainly enjoy human company, they can also be very content on their own. Dogs spend up to 14 hours per day sleeping, so make sure your puppy has somewhere they can go where they feel safe and secure when they’re home alone.
Allowing free access to the house when unsupervised
It’s natural for puppies to want to chew and play but unfortunately they don’t understand the difference between dog toys and their owner’s treasured belongings. So it doesn’t make sense to allow a puppy unsupervised time in the house before they have learned what they’re allowed to chew and where to toilet.
- A play pen or crate will create a safe place where your puppy can be secured when you can’t supervise them. In the past people have generally locked puppies in the laundry or outdoors when they can’t be unsupervised. A playpen in the main living area of your home will secure your pup but still allow them to feel involved in household activities.
- Whether you’re at work or cooking dinner, sleeping or watching TV, a playpen can provide a safe and secure place to leave your puppy. It will help to remove the temptation of chewing inappropriate items and will focus the puppy on chewing objects and toys you’ve provided, as there are no other options.
- Playpens and crates are great for helping you maintain toilet training protocols. They also allow puppies some respite from small children. Dogs that are used to being confined are less likely to be stressed when confinement is required at other times; during travel or at the vet or boarding kennels.
- A playpen teaches your puppy to settle in the house. It should never be used as a form of punishment. You can help create a positive association by rewarding calm and quiet behavior in the playpen and by providing pleasurable activities associated with the playpen.
Not having consistent rules for all family members
Consistent parenting is an expression we’ve all heard, and it can also be useful for puppies. It’s important that all members of the family agree to important things relating to care of the puppy and the puppy’s behavior. Your puppy will learn desirable behaviours more quickly if they not confused by mixed messages.
- All members of household should follow agreed rules around where the puppy will sleep and eat, whether the pup is allowed on the furniture, appropriate times for play and appropriate play behaviour. Be sure that everyone understands they’re responsible for helping set the puppy up for success.
- Children that are old enough can be encouraged to help manage the puppy in an agreed manner. For instance, older children can be taught to recognise the signs that the puppy needs to go to the toilet, to take the puppy outside and then praise and reward the puppy for toileting in the correct place.
- Behaviour that might seem cute and manageable in a small puppy such as nipping, playing chasings and loud play, doesn’t work well with older, larger dogs. Such behaviour can be hard to change, so it’s important to be clear about desired and acceptable behaviour from the start.
- The puppy will become confused if some members of the family play more roughly than others. Puppies should only ever be encouraged to engage in safe play. Rough or aggressive puppy play may amuse adults, but can be frightening to a younger child, so it’s important for the puppy and all members of the family to understand that rushing and biting are not acceptable.
- Younger children should always be supervised around puppies and dogs. No if or buts. Always. If you can’t supervise then separate. This isn’t only for the child’s benefit; puppies can be quite small and kids can be quite rough. Young children should only be allowed to hold the puppy when they are sitting down. Puppies can be hurt if they wriggle free or are dropped from a child’s arms.
In many ways raising a puppy is like raising children. You should reward the behaviours you like and ignore the behaviours you don’t like. Be loving, firm and consistent and you’ll end up with a fantastic four-legged family member.
If you are considering puppy training, The Pet Lovers Puppy Club is a great way to go! And, for a limited time, get $20 off the 4 week program and receive a free copy of of Dr Katrina’s training book – Wonderdogs Tricks and Training and a bottle of Oakwood Puppy and Kitten shampoo when you sign up.
**Offer Valid November course only. International Puppy Clubbers are welcome and encouraged but please note that gifts only ship to Australian addresses.
Designed for puppies and dogs of all ages, the next course starts this Sunday, November 16.