That feeling you get when you’re on your way home with a new puppy is an exciting one. You’re now the proud new mum or dad to a wiggly, beautiful bundle of joy, how much fun is that?! However most new owners fall into the same traps over and over, and this can even go as far back to the choosing of what puppy to bring into your home. For example, if you like running and want an exercise companion, then a Bulldog isn’t the one for you. If you like to lounge around the house all day and aren’t particularly active, maybe steer clear of Springer Spaniels. If you don’t want to spend every waking hour you have walking your dog, then don’t get a Husky! With the vast number of different breeds that are around now (over 450!) there is something to suit every lifestyle but picking the right one is much more important than it may seem.
Many people allow their hearts to rule their head, myself being one of these people, and I learnt that the very hard way what the consequences of doing that were. Hopefully I can share some information over the next few weeks to help arm you with the skills you’ll need for those first 6 months at home. Picking the right breed is very important, picking the correct temperament is even more important. There are several things you can look for when talking to a breeder or viewing puppies for the first time. It’s a hugely exciting experience going to see a litter of puppies, an emotions can and do take over! Try and keep level headed, this is a big decision that needs careful consideration, there are some unscrupulous breeders out there and you don’t want to get caught out.
Things To Think About
Remember, DO NOT RUSH!! This is a HUGE decision, you will be sending the next 10-15 years with this animal as your companion. Unfortunately picking the wrong type of dog is one of the main reasons dog end up in shelters. Think, what was the dogs original purpose? Dachshunds like to hunt, Corgis like to herd and nip, these behaviours WILL come out in your pup as it gets older and need to be satisfied one way or another, is that something you are willing to take on? Ask the breeder questions; which puppy appears to be the most confident? Which one appears to be the most reserved? What are the temperaments of the parents like? Think about what energy level you would like in your new puppy, do you want a slow, calm and relaxed dog or do you want an individual with a bit more drive? You MUST always see the dam, the sire may not be anywhere near, but a good breeder should be able to provide you with details, puppies must be with their litter mates and mother until at least 7 weeks of age. What health tests have the parents had – can you see certificates? Where will they be housed when whelping? If you arrive and things aren’t quite right for whatever reason – leave! Never feel pressured into the sale of a puppy, a good breeder would happily offer a contract at the point of sale, along with being the first port of call if you unfortunately end up needing to rehome.
If you’ve done all your research and feel confident in your decision, then it’s time to bring that puppy home! Now the fun stuff starts…or does it?! You obviously need to make sure you have everything in place, beds and blankets, bowls and food, a crate and some toys along with puppy pads if you’re going to use them Personally, I am around 6 weeks in to owning my new female puppy Rhodesian Ridgeback. It has been…tiring to say the least! There have a been a few cuddles here and there, but my focus at the moment is habituating her to our home, my other animals, my work place, and the outside world. It’s a lot to ask of a little puppy and takes a lot (A LOT!) of time and patience. Her first day home was quite overwhelming for everyone involved!
Start As You Mean To Go On
One of the biggest mistakes new owners make is allowing a puppy to display behaviours that are cute whilst they are small, but that are hugely undesirable when they turn into adults. Things like jumping up at people, mouthing and biting, begging for food, jumping on furniture uninvited, chasing cats, chasing cars, the list goes on and on. All these things can come across as funny or cute, but when your dog weighs 40kg and is chasing off after a bicycle pulling you along with it, things become a lot less funny! Start as you mean to go on, I really can’t stress this enough, the sooner you can block, correct and redirect these behaviours the easier it will be as your puppy gets older. You need to arm yourself with every bit of help you can before getting to that dreaded teenager phase (more on that another day!) Try and be aware of what or how you may be reinforcing such behaviours – every time you talk to, touch or make eye contact with a dog they will believe they are doing to right thing for you, and will do it more often! If your dog is jumping up at you when you come home, ignore them until they are calm, only then give them the attention they are looking for once they are in a calmer state of mind. After time this will mean that they get affection for behaving in a calm manner, who wouldn’t want that? This goes for guests as well, as hard as it may seem ignoring your dog for 5 to 10 minutes every time you or anyone else comes into your home is a good practice to start off with. This is called relaxation training and it can be applied to many different aspects of a dogs life. Only feed when they are calm, not hopping around your feet like a frog, give them 5 minutes to calm down before feeding them if they are in an excited state (this can be hard for pups as they can be so, so hungry!) Before you head out of the door to go for a walk give it 5 minutes of waiting at the door before leaving, watch you pup and see how they calm down when given the time to. Walking out of the door with a pup that is at excitement level 5 instead of excitement level 10 will make such a difference to the way they behave out on that walk. Relaxation training just means being patient and giving your dog time to enter a calmer state of mind before continuing with whatever task you need to get on with. As humans we tend to RUSH EVERYTHING! If you don’t give a dog time to calm down it will learn to tackle every task as 100mph (sound familiar?). These are learnt behaviours taught to them by us. Remember, if you don’t want your pup to behave in a certain way, don’t allow it to, take the steps necessary to control and calm the situation. If that means having your dog on lead to guide them to their dinner slower, then that’s what you can do until they learn to approach in a sensible way. If it means keeping your dog on lead out on walks until you know it will ignore other dogs, people and bikes that you pass, then so be it. Try not to get caught up in always allowing your dog to do whatever it wants to. You are the owner/parent, you are the one who should be making these decisions on how to proceed and in what state of mind your puppy should be in, not your puppy!
So, the general rule is, if you don’t like the behaviour, don’t encourage it! It is a simple rule but one that can and does get forgotten easily, stay as consistent as you possibly can be, consistency is everything with dogs and the more the whole household can get on board the quicker your puppy will learn the do’s and don’t around the house. People, including strangers you’ll meet like an excited dog, people believe they are ‘happy’. Keep in mind dog are at their happiest when they are calm and relaxed, not hyper and excited, the two energies are very, very different. The calmer your dog is the easier it will accept the things that are going on around them, good and bad, an excited dog is much more likely to react one way or another. Good luck with your puppy journey! I will be sharing more thoughts and ideas on puppy training and socialisation as an ongoing thing, thanks for reading!