Hello! In the next few entries the topic we will cover is something fun! Puppies… How can you not love the topic? They are the cover for many calendars, many people’s conversation piece on social media, and just damn cute. In this week’s blog I will cover the mindset new puppy owners should have, and a great way to eliminate undesired behaviors.
A positive, forgiving, and patient mindset is essential in your dog’s development. It will eliminate needless worry, curb undesired behaviors, and be the foundation for a strong bond forged between you and your new pet. Your puppy is like a new blank canvas. Your love and affection is your paintbrush. You just need the right application to make your masterpiece.
When I go into homes with new puppy owners, I am normally asked these questions: How can I stop my puppy from nipping? How do I stop the bathroom accidents in the house? How can I start crate training when my puppy hates their crate? Should I start crate training? How can I help my puppy sleep through the night? The new holes in my couch make it look very sheik, but how can I save my furniture? How much, when and where should I feed my puppy? Normally to be followed by these statements: My puppy hates the leash. My puppy is making growling sounds and playing rough, I’m concerned. My puppy will not stop whining and above all help!!!!!!! Don’t worry over the next few weeks I will address each of these concerns.
If you are one of the many that have asked yourself these same questions please don’t worry, relax. You obviously care and as long as you have good intentions don’t worry. You will not do anything so wrong that you will ruin your puppy for the rest of their life; it will just be a matter of how long you have to deal with the undesired behaviors. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that some epic power struggle is about to occur and you have to make your new furry butter ball respect his or her place in your home. Your puppy is an immature being whose only social norm to this point is a litter setting with multiple brothers and sisters in a confined space. To get anything your puppy has had to whine, nip, push, flop, and do many other undesired behaviors to get attention, it’s all they know. Oh yeah, they have also more than likely urinated and defecated wherever they wanted to as well. So please keep this in mind, they are now in a completely foreign environment absent the only things they know to this point. It can be traumatic for them.
Calm is the name of the game. Calm tones, calm movements, calm everything. Puppies quickly realize if they can get a loud animated response from their behavior they will continue it (any attention is fine with them). For application of everything on your part think repetition not overbearing. So doing something calmly ten times consistently will be more productive and meaningful than one time with overbearing demeanor, save that for the serious running away from you towards a busy roadway. That’s also a fundamental point I like to stress to my new puppy owners. If you are relaxed and calm with the nipping, excessive barking, etc… Your serious tone will actually mean something when it’s used and a safety issue.
One major thing most people forget is focusing on the right behavior. Most people like to refer to this as positive reinforcement. We can call it that for right now but later on when we go deeper into animal behavior I will talk about how that word is grossly overused, misunderstood, and wrongly applied. If for example your puppy has a history of nipping on your hand, instead of quietly waiting for them to do that negative behavior, focus on the behavior before and the time immediately after they stop that behavior. You will be surprised but observe someone else in your family when this occurs. Most of us are engaged with some other human activity and do not realize that we fail to address the positive, pre negative behavior. If your puppy is circling you, even if you know they are about to nip you, give a calm verbal “good boy/girl.” This will start to let them know what you actually want them to do (be near you and not nip). Your puppy nips, calmly place your puppy on their side, actual side not normal down position (feet away from you). Speak just like you were to a small child. I like “you know better, we don’t do that.” Hold your puppy down for approx. 5-10 seconds, if they squirm and whine, wait patiently until they stop and remove your hands, followed up immediately with a calm verbal only “good boy/girl.” We are going for association. Your puppy was born with a sense of association. You want them to associate the good near you non- nipping behavior with good and the nipping behavior with an uncomfortable I can’t move and I’m stuck on my side association. Life for them until this point has been I can do what I want when I want. By removing those options for them you are creating a sense of loss of control. This whole process is NOT dominance; do not use loud and heavy handedness. Use only enough pressure to be able to keep them on their side (two hands), 5 to 10 seconds and that’s it. Trust me they hate the feeling of being on their side. Remember repetitive over meaningful. I promise those nips will turn to licks in no time.
You can use the association of positive and negative method for any type of behavior. However do not use the negative for every single little thing. If your puppy feels you are being overbearing they will act out just because they feel they can’t do anything. Just use it for the daily needs to leave now behavior, not the things that occur infrequently. A helpful tip to remember during this process DO NOT do anything that your puppy will remember as good while teaching a negative moment. If you are calmly stroking your puppy with one hand while holding them on their side they might associate the negative behavior with attention and the petting. Just make sure to separate the two.
Not looking at everything as a behavior problem can also relieve stress. Being preemptive can also greatly reduce the occurrences of negative behavior. For nipping helping with their teething is also a great way to greatly reduce their want to use those razors. I recommend gel toys that you can throw in the freezer or a damp washcloth (frozen) to help relieve any discomfort they feel with their adult teeth coming in.
Have a great week and be on the lookout for the next installment of the puppy series. As always I will be happy to field any direct questions you have in between blog posts.