Monday, December 7, 2009
Happy and confident adult dogs don't just "happen". They are the product of good decisions and correct treatment of the puppy from birth right up until the juvenile period (around 6 months of age). This is a time when primary social relationships and emotional attachments develop between dogs and people, and between dogs and other dogs.
How to raise a good puppy has been discussed almost ad nauseam by numerous authorities, though the message has still not penetrated to all new puppy owners. In essence, for training a new puppy, new owners need to concentrate on being patient and considerate while using primarily positive reinforcement with, if necessary, negative punishment (withholding benefits) as a consequence for any deliberate, unacceptable behavior. But even informed owners sometimes fail to appreciate the absolute no-no's of puppy raising.
ABSOLUTE NO-NO's OF PUPPY RAISING
Don't Expect Your Pup To Understand Sentences. It's okay to babble along to your pup as you care for it, just don't expect it to understand anything you're saying. It will only understand the tone of your address. Dogs can learn a number of word cues ("commands") - even hundreds of them - but they are just that, word cues. A pup can and should be taught at least a few words of human language. In English, "Sit!" and "Dinner!" are a couple that might be useful on occasion. But if you tell the dog, "Sit in your Dinner", the meaning is lost. Dogs do not have a language center in their brains like humans do, and they cannot fathom syntax. Use one-word commands when communicating. Say the word clearly. Say it only once. And say it with importance. Reward the desired response immediately. Do not use the pup's name when addressing it (unless the pup is at a distance). Do not repeat commands. Dogs hear even better than we do. Their "deafness" is usually not attributable to poor hearing. It is selective - they choose not to obey. Remember that if a dog does not respond to a verbal cue it should not be punished. The opposite of reward is not punishment - it is no reward.
Don't Allow Young Children (Under 6 Years Old) To Interact With Your Pup Unsupervised. It comes as a surprise to many people to learn that children and puppies, though both cute, cannot be trusted alone together. Bad things can happen. Children are naturally curious. Often a child will do "something bad" to the pup by way of experimentation. If accidents are to be avoided, complete supervision is necessary. It's not usually the dog that starts the trouble, it's the child. If you can child-proof your dog, there should be no cause for concern.
Do Not Feed It Human Food: Do Not Feed It From The Table. Puppy food is best for pups. Adding an assortment of human foods in who-knows-what quantities will not only detract from the optimal (proprietary) food but will encourage fussiness. Also, if the human food is fed from the table, you will wind up with a dog that mooches around the table at mealtimes, always begging for food. Start out the way you intend to continue. Set limits and be firm about them. Make sure that you feed your pup a good quality food. This is essential to his good health.
Do Not Expect Love And Attention To Substitute For Good Puppy Parenting. Young pups are so adorable that it is very tempting to always give them all of the love and attention you possible can. But it is also important to set limits of acceptable behavior. This is especially important as they go through the canine equivalent of "the terrible twos" at about 4-5 months of age. Bad behavior, like excessive or hard nipping, should be punished by immediate withdrawal of attention (following sharp exclamation of a word like "Ouch" or "No-bite"). This is how puppies communicate their likes and dislikes to each other. Spare the "Ouch" and spoil the dog!
DO NOT SUPPLY ALL THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE FOR FREE. One simple rule is to make the pup work for food and treats. "What's work?" you ask. It's having the pup "Sit" or "Down" in order to receive food and treats. This will make sure that the pup always views you as its true (resource rich) provider and, therefore, leader. Problems of owner-directed aggression downstream can be all but completely addressed by this simple measure. Don't give everything away. Insist on good puppy manners: Manners maketh the pup.
DO NOT EVER GET ANGRY WITH YOUR PUP. Work hard to remind yourself, whatever happens, that this is a baby you are dealing with. If you lose your cool, you will act incorrectly, your puppy will think you have gone crazy, and you will lose its respect and trust. Be a good puppy parent. Think cool.
Following these simple rules of what NOT to do can help create the dog of your dreams as opposed to a canine nightmare. The basics are the same as in child raising. Be fun, be fair, but be firm (the 3 F's) and set limits. Children are happier when their parents are obviously at the helm, and so are dogs. Dogs need strong leaders if they are to be model canine citizens.
The moral of this story is, "As you reap, so shall you sow." Pay attention at the beginning and the rewards will be unimaginable.