puppy training

How can I connect with my dog’s mind?

How can I connect with my dog’s mind - without losing my own! There are many ways to help your worrisome dog, and we can support you through it all | FREE COURSE! | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Teaching people how to understand their dog. This is my aim!

I aim to improve the lot of the dog while employing my particular talents and abilities. I can’t do it all, and there are aspects of dog-help that are quite outside my character. Rescue, for instance. I couldn’t do it. I’d be in a permanent state of meltdown! More power to those who can cover those areas.

So to reach our friend the dog in a meaningful and impactful way, I had to narrow down what I’m good at. And that means teaching people how to get the results they want by showing them a new way to reach their dog’s mind.

Does it work - Yes! 

Do people get good results - OH YES!

 

My course students are rocking it!

Have a look at a few very recent student comments. Some are from emails to me, but a lot of these come from the vibrant communities set up for the courses. These are a source of continual help and support (and fun!) for the students, who no longer feel isolated or insufficient!

“I think the biggest change is in myself as I feel so much calmer and more confident.” Growly Course

“Me and George always had a special bond but it has just got stronger since starting this course, thankyou thankyou.” Growly Course

“I used to dread taking him out and now I can enjoy it! Thanks Beverley, your training has really made a difference.” Growly Course

“Beverley Courtney, YES, has given us tools to use and I'm forever grateful.” Growly Course

“To be honest, our growly girl is MUCH less growly now!! … my theory is her impulse control is tons better, and also her focusing (on me) when we are out, plus we are BOTH much more relaxed.” Challenging Dog Course

“Hello all, my dog and I continue our slow and comfortable progress, by far improved is our happiness and relaxation together when out and about, I see a shift in his attention … NO has left our vocabulary.” Growly Course

“Your emails and advice are awesome and our 8 month old Lab has grown so beautifully. Your course has taught us so much and training our puppy has been one of the best experiences of my life.”  Free email course

“Thank goodness I found this course and this group. I cannot thank you enough Beverley, I've got lots to learn. It's almost as if my dog already knows it, he has just been waiting for me to catch on hahaha.” Growly Course

Is your dog ready to learn? And do you know how best to teach him, in a dog-friendly way? Find out in this post! | FREE COURSE! | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

“Your focus on self-improvement for the human and choices for the dog chimes very much with me. Your approach and content has helped me a lot as I was feeling a little low and worried that I couldn’t help Dougie overcome his fears. In 5 days I have seen some big improvements for us both …”  Free Growly Workshop

“I cannot believe, in such a short space of time, how well my Working Cocker Spaniel has responded to lead training. I thought calming this little lady would be impossible to achieve. She's 4 years of age and walking out is completely new to her, hence my doubting I could cope. Now I know I CAN cope!! This new confident feeling propels me to want to do more and more to help her. She's so responsive to your methods - no stress, no hard work, 'simplicity in action'. Thank you!”  Growly Course

“I am really enjoying the 5 day course and have loved the enjoyable time with my young dog with no tricky walks, and more understanding. I have learned a lot and realise how much tension I must have unwittingly passed on to my dog. Thank you for everything so far. You’ve given us a new start.” Free Growly Workshop

“I wanted you all to know how much your support has helped my relationship with my beautifully amazing puppy. Xxx” Wild Puppy Course

“Thank you for sending me such useful materials. You are a breath of fresh air!” free email course

Looking forward to your classes - that non-professionals can understand!” Growly Course

“Think you are a great teacher and loving everything so far” Free Dog/Puppy Workshop

“I love your methods of teaching us humans and our dogs.” Email course

“Thank you so much. Hunter and I have both really enjoyed the training. I really can’t believe what a difference it has made in such a short time and I really feel like I have a connection with him now.Free Dog/Puppy Workshop

“I've really enjoyed the five days of videos, it’s given me so much to work with. I'm seeing results already and I can see what you teach makes so much sense.” Free Dog/Puppy Workshop

 

We can’t do it all alone. We need help - we need guidance and we need people who will help us along the path.

◦   When we’re down we need scooping up and setting going again.

◦   When we’re delighted we need someone to share our joy.

◦   And when we doubt ourselves, we need someone we trust to guide us.

 

I want to change the world - one dog at a time!

 

Will you join me?

 

Resources

Growly Dog Course

Challenging Dog Course

Wild Puppy Course

Free Growly Dog Workshop

Free email course? Right here:

Plenty of ideas in this free 8-lesson email course for changing your life with your dog!

   

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Why should I pay for training my dog?

Man teaching puppy.png

Well, this is a question I hear a LOT!

And it’s a bit puzzling to me. I’m sure that many of those who query a cost on dog training are happy to pay their dentist or their doctor, their pharmacist or hairdresser. They buy clothes and food from shops …

Imagine if they stood at the supermarket checkout saying “I can’t afford this at the moment, so either give it to me free or we won’t eat till next month”!

It’s a question of priorities really. You got yourself a dog. And you’re expecting it to train itself. All those things that annoy you about your dog are not figuring in your list of priorities to fix.

But is this a short-term thought?

The sooner you get to grips with your new puppy, or any newly-developed thing your dog is doing that you don’t like - the faster you can fix it. For a puppy and a new rescue you have to invest a lot of time in the early months. And your older resident dog? You’ll have to pick up on any new thing he’s doing and decide straight away what to do about it.

I know there are a lot of expenses with a new puppy. But people happily cough up large sums at the vet, possibly paying for a monthly program. The purchase price of the dog (especially if it’s one of the popular breeds or a “designer” crossbreed) can be very high. They pay loads for insurance, more for kennelling for holidays, they buy expensive beds and toys, get good food … but for some reason I can’t fathom, think that while their puppy won’t vaccinate himself, shop for himself, or pay his own insurance - he can train himself!

The hidden costs of failing to train your dog

Perhaps if people could see what they’re risking by missing out on this, they may move puppy training from “maybe” to “essential and urgent”.

It’s not just a question of having a dog who is a good citizen, doesn’t upset neighbours or other dogs, can be trusted round your food and belongings, and is not under your feet all day annoying you. There are real costs involved in abdicating your responsibility in this.

Hear what Laura had to say:

“As the manager of a busy veterinary practice, I’ve seen countless examples of how training can mean life or death to a dog. The most obvious examples are the dogs hit by cars because they haven’t been taught a reliable recall. It’s always heartbreaking, and especially traumatic for the owners who watch in horror as their beloved pet is hit by a car.”

She lists lots of examples of occasions where simple training could have saved the pet’s life - and saved possibly thousands in vet care.

“I remember Jake, the young Golden Retriever who got out of the yard when one of the kids left the gate open, and was hit by car. We did all we could to try to save him, but his injuries were too severe, and the owner ultimately had to make the decision to end his suffering. We all cried as we put him to sleep.”

“Then there are the euthanasias after a bite. These often involve children, and are gut-wrenching because of how preventable they usually are. In almost every case, the owner says that the bite “came with no warning”, but we know that actually there’s always signs that weren’t recognized. The body language that says clearly, “I don’t like what this child is doing to me,” or the averted gaze that says, “I’m anxious and feel threatened”.  Often the owners tell a story of escalating aggressive behavior that was unrecognized or excused until something tragic happened. Behavior that could have been much more easily handled had it been addressed at the start.”

Want to know how I teach my own puppies?

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She is so right!

It can be simple to deal with what people perceive as aggression if we trainers are invited in to help. But we can’t do it by thought transference! We have to show you.

Here’s a great story from Laura that had a happy ending:

“We treated a young Lhasa Apso who growled when his owner tried to get him off the bed, or when anyone came near his food or water bowl. The vet tried to convince the owner that Jack needed training to address these behaviors. The owner would say, ‘Jack is a good boy. He just doesn’t like some things’. Unfortunately the owner’s grandchild tried to lie down on the sofa near him one day, and Jack bit her on the lip. She required sutures, and Jack was brought in to our hospital the next day to be put to sleep for aggression. He was adopted by our lead vet and after a few months of training, he became the favorite “example” dog at the puppy training classes. Unfortunately, they don’t all have happy endings like this one.“

It just shows that a bit of knowledge of how to train a dog can turn even the most serious cases round. But why wait till your child is bitten? Why not teach your dog AND your children how to behave round each other from the start?

Bites cost money

And you should know that if your dog does bite someone, it could end up costing you a massive amount of money in legal fees and fines. In UK law a dog doesn’t even have to bite! It’s enough for them just to frighten someone. Your dog could be taken away from you and killed because you didn’t understand him and his motivation.

This sort of expense far outweighs the costs of some simple training! Not to mention the distress all round.

Accidents in the home

Your puppy is waiting for you to guide him! Avoid dramas and expensive accidents with a bit of training | MINI-COURSE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #doghealth, #dogbehavior, #dogimpulsecontrol | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

You don’t even have to venture out to find that a little training could save a lot of upset and sadness for your family and your dog - and even save your dog’s life.

Debbie the animal first aid trainer told me of:

“A Jack Russell who was a window barker - he got caught in the blinds and hanged himself.”

What a thing to come home to …

Then there was the bin-raider Debbie came across who ate a cooked chicken carcase and got a blockage - this is a life-or-death issue, and the vet treatment will be urgent and costly.

What training would have saved all these dogs?

  • Recall is an obvious one. It’s not just a question of yelling the dog’s name and expecting a result - it has to be taught methodically!

•    Correct socialisation with children, management, and education about this new species in your home for the whole family.

  •    Resource Guarding: can easily be made worse by the owner if they plump for a method they saw on the internet that involves challenging the dog and coercion. It’s a simple issue when you know how!

  •    Window-barking can be quickly solved by a bit of in-home management and Impulse Control training for the dog.

•    And stealing, countersurfing, hoovering - all can be fixed with teaching Impulse Control, and the owner learning to read their dog and manage situations safely.

Should I push dog training up my to-do list?

From all this you should be able to see that there is a real material value to training your dog! Not only will she become more amenable in the house and on walks, more fun, more rewarding, more entertaining for the children, but you should avoid the catastrophes listed above.

You don’t hesitate to get schooling for your child. Why should your dog not get the same courtesy and privilege?

A quick Google search will reveal that the costs of employing a professional force-free dog trainer - whether in group classes, 1-1 consultations, or online courses - is a lot less than you may expect. In most cases it’s much less than what you pay to have your car or your teeth serviced, much less than the purchase price of your dog, and sometimes cheaper than the fancy bed you bought!

So have sense and include dog training in your list of outgoings, before your dog makes your life an emotional and financial misery. And do keep in mind that dog trainers - like plumbers, mechanics, and doctors - need to eat and pay rent, and deserve a decent return for all the training and study they’ve put in.

If you like playing Russian Roulette, carry on saying you can’t afford training

But when you can remove all the petty annoyances so easily - not to mention the major disasters - resulting from lack of training, you’ll all enjoy a much better life with your dog.

New dog? Resident dog creating difficulties? 

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Helping your young dog understand our world

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I was standing in our local high street with my puppy, just watching the world go by.

We saw people, children, dogs, wheelchairs, cars, vans, and a very interesting pigeon on the pavement a few yards from us. Coco studied this for a while and I gave him plenty of time to look at it, ensuring his lead was slack. Whenever he seemed more than curious, I’d feed him for not reacting. We were taking everything in our stride …

UNTIL this pleasant episode was interrupted by shouting. A woman was walking down the wide pavement, yanking the lead of her dog. She shouted “LEAVE IT!!” and yanked again. As far as I could see the dog was quite surprised by this.

She marched on, towards us and the pigeon. The friendly-looking young dog looked towards my pup - YANK! “LEAVE IT!!”

Then he made the mistake of glancing towards the pigeon YANKYANK SHAKE “LEAVE IT!!!”

By now the poor dog was straining on his lead to get as far away from his owner as possible. She stopped, gave the lead an almighty yank and hoisted the dog off his feet, once more yelling “LEAVE IT!!”

I wonder if that dog had any idea what “Leave it” meant?

Img_Molly.png

What I do know is that a naturally curious young dog was being abused and punished for … what? Showing interest in his surroundings. 

This is exactly what I had brought my young dog out to do!

•  It’s very sad that anyone should treat another creature in this way.

•  It’s more sad that the dog was doing nothing wrong.

•  Sadder still that his owner seems to think this is the way to teach.

•  And saddest of all? He is stuck with this short-tempered, unenlightened owner.

We can’t reach everyone, but by our example we can hope to change attitudes, one dog at a time

 

To get a flying start at this, get our free 8-part email course which gives you “training recipes” for changing things you don’t like, and encouraging the things you do like in your dog

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My dog won’t take no for an answer

Are you speaking to your dog in a language she can understand? You have to teach your dog your way of communication before you can expect her to understand and “obey” you! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbodylanguage, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

“My dog has many good points but does not take no for an answer and is very disobedient when he appears to be totally deaf.”

So wrote a reader of her “challenging” dog.

Well, I’m glad the poor dog’s owner recognises he has good points! But the rest of her statement means that she doesn’t understand her dog or his motivation one bit.

Get your free email course to sort out lots of puppy and new dog communication problems

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Disobedient. The dictionary tells us this means “refusing to obey rules or someone in authority”. Now if you’re to obey rules, you have to know what those rules are. And I’m willing to bet this dog has NO idea what the rules are that he’s meant to “obey”!

A common misconception

There seems to be an extraordinary misunderstanding rife amongst dog-owners. They think their dog arrives pre-programmed with English (or Spanish, or Turkish, or whatever they speak themselves). They think that the dog will have a perfect understanding of the meaning of words enunciated loudly and with clarity. So “SIT!” should immediately have the dog sitting.

Furthermore, they think that all their physical expressions and vocal tones will be instantly understood. So “NOOOOOO!” said in a menacing way with finger wagging will clearly mean “Take your paws off the table and go to your basket.”

How is your non-verbal, non-human, dog meant to know this?

Teach first

In the first place, your dog needs to be taught what it is that’s wanted - not left to guess, take pot-luck and hope he gets it right.

You have to give the dog information about what it is you want, not just what you don’t want.

Think of a toddler in your home. You’d be showing her what you wanted, kindly and patiently, naming objects and actions in that motherly chatty way that comes naturally to loving parents. Requests would come as suggestions, (Do you think your teddy bear would like to have tea now?) You wouldn’t bark orders at her! You wouldn’t expect her to understand language before she is verbal herself!

You may treat your dog the exact same way. And it’ll help if you think of how you get your wishes known and followed with your human family.

Cues not commands

It’s easier to say YES to your dog than NOOOOOO! And your dog will| respond fast, once you are both on the same page | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #puppytraining, #dogbodylanguage, #dogbehavior | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Do you order, or “command” your partner or family?

Or do you perhaps ask them?

Perhaps you drop hints, without even saying anything at all! For instance, you may come home exhausted and throw yourself into an armchair. A sensitive family member may say “I’ll put the shopping away for you - would you like a cup of tea?” Or even, “You make us a cup of tea and I’ll deal with all these groceries.”

We give and take. We assess a person’s mood and act accordingly. We adapt our requirements to the situation. We are kind and patient (if we want to keep the peace!).

In enlightened dog training, we call these communications - not “commands” but “cues”. They can be vocal cues (“Would you like to sit?”), or they could be environmental cues (I’m holding your lead - if you want me to put it on you for a walk you need to sit). And no, they don’t understand every word - neither does your toddler. But they can get the drift.

So if you take the word “command” right out of your vocabulary you may find that straight away you get on better with your dog. Really!

You have asked your dog to Sit and she doesn’t. Instead of shouting SIT ever louder and more urgently, you may ask yourself why she doesn’t sit:

• Is it because she’s in pain?

• Is it because the floor is slippery so she’s unable to prop herself up?

• Is it because it’s wet and muddy and she’s a comfort-lover? (My whippet wouldn’t dream of sitting on wet grass - and I’d never ask her to!)

• Is it because she’s distracted by the dog over the road/the postman/children screaming/the shopping bags on the floor/[insert your dog’s fear or fancy here]?

• … or is it perhaps because you never taught her?

“Disobedient” and other such words

The dictionary gives us related words for disobedient:

unruly, wayward, errant, disorderly, delinquent, disruptive, troublesome, rebellious, defiant, mutinous, recalcitrant, uncooperative, non-compliant, wilful, unbiddable, intractable, obstreperous, awkward, difficult, perverse, contrary, naughty, mischievous …

I’ve heard almost all of those words applied to a dog’s behaviour by a frustrated and thwarted owner! Often it’s new dog-owners talking about their first puppy. They clearly are labouring under the misapprehension I outlined above, and are expecting miraculous perception from this baby of another species.

Usually I suggest they substitute the word they’ve used (often stubborn, difficult, disobedient) with a word which better fits the situation: try fearful, shy, overexcited, hungry, overtired … perhaps the sort of words you may use to describe that little toddler who is not doing what you’d like.

We all have reasons for doing things

Of one thing you may be sure - dogs don’t do things for no reason.

You may not be able to see or understand the reason - but there is a reason! And as we’re meant to be the ones with the bigger brains, and we chose to have this dog live with us, it’s up to us to work out what that reason is.

You’ll find some study of Dog Body Language will repay you well (see Resources below). Your dog will heave a huge sigh of relief when at last you seem to understand his clear messages! And no, they’re not obvious to most of us dumb humans till they’re explained to us.

Once you know whether your dog is just distracted or - perhaps - afraid, you’ll be able to deal accordingly with the situation. Keep in mind that you cannot train an emotion-based behaviour out of a dog. They’re not operating on a rational basis at that moment, any more than your shrieking toddler who wants something she can’t get.

So, as I replied to the reader I quoted at the top of this piece, assess the situation carefully before you apportion blame. Your dog needs your help and understanding, not condemnation.

Want to know how I teach my own puppies?

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I'm too busy to train my dog

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Gone are the days when you had to march round a hall for what seemed like hours on end to train your dog. Those bad ole days when we were instructed to practice only whole exercises instead of breaking them down into tiny component steps.

No longer do you have to prepare a training session like a military campaign, getting everything in place before you fetch your controlled and manipulated dog from the white room he’d been placed in so that he didn’t get too excited/bored/whatever. 

You don’t have to take copious notes on what you do in every session. Note-taking certainly has a place, and if you’re a professional animal trainer, working with a host of different animals every day, it’s a must. But for the average dog-owner, with just one dog to work with, you should know what you last did and how to progress it next. 

Most of my training is done on the fly, as part of my everyday life with my dogs.

A delightful morning greeting! | All-Day Training, force-free training | #dogtraining, #puppytraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

First thing in the morning, for instance, my dogs are released from their beds to give a delightful morning greeting. Here’s Lacy’s morning smile to me, leaning over my pillow … What could be nicer?

Straight downstairs and they all sit at the garden door waiting for it to open and to be let out by name, individually. 

So already we’ve used matwork, impulse control, turn-taking, and waiting for - and acting on - a personal release cue. These all have their own intrinsic rewards - no need for treats or toys. 

While the others do their business, Rollo will be too busy watching the hens emerging from their house for another day of clucking and scratching. His “Hurry up” cue sends him straight to the pee-side of the garden for some action. Back inside again, they are free to greet the cat, keep me company getting ready for the day, to chew bones, lie on their beds - generally amuse themselves. So that takes more impulse control, self-confidence, feeling comfortable in their own skins. 

And so it goes on, through the day. While I work they can do what they like. An off-switch is an essential here! Preparing for a walk or van-journey incorporates impulse control and patterning. 

Coco waits quietly on his mat at the coffee shop | FREE EMAIL COURSE | dog training, matwork, dog impulse control | #dogtraining, #dogimpulsecontrol, #dogrelaxation | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

A visit to the shops or cafe brings in more of their everyday training. Here’s Coco on his mat at the coffee shop, waiting for victims to come through the door to greet him (so he thinks). More matwork, more impulse control, polite greetings. 

Once we’re out we either have an exploring walk, or play with toys (each dog has their own toy so that there aren’t any mid-air collisions or spats), and the two that have difficulty with things suddenly happening - strange dogs, people, children, bikes, plastic bags, or hot air balloons - get to work on their reactivity with carefully-designed strategies for them to adopt instead of barking, lunging, and shrieking. I help them cope with the hazard, then on we go again. Here we’ll have used a number of reactivity-geared techniques, counter-conditioning, recall, loose lead walking, retrieve, stop mid-hurtle, down, sit, and any other tricks I fancy asking for. 

I’ll walk one, two, three, or four, dogs as the fancy takes me, and as the need arises. Multiple dogs in a home can soon turn into a gang of hoodlums if their individual needs aren’t catered for.  


William Henry Davies had it, when he penned his well-known poem Leisure. He knew the value of living in the moment:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.


Breaking down what you end up with into tiny steps

Those recalls, for instance, aren’t something you teach by telling your dog to sit, marching away, facing him like a statue, then barking out a command for him to come to this imposing figure, and sit. Life is not an army camp! And your wayward dog is not going to learn by you just yelling at him when he’s a couple of hundred yards away, hoping that somehow, miraculously, he’ll understand what’s wanted. 

When I call my dog I want him to respond to me with a “Hey! That’s my name!”, a head-turn towards me (a stop and turn if they’re racing away), whole-body turn - then a race towards me where they’ll be greeted not with a stony face, but with joy. No requirement to sit - just to race back. So each of those parts is taught entirely separately, and only occasionally put together as a whole. And each of those parts is practiced in isolation, regularly. 

Practice makes perfect

Yes there are little impromptu training sessions dotted about the day, one dog at a time, while the others wait their turns on their beds - or perhaps all at once to see who’s listening!

Lacy searches a car smaller.png

And when I’m teaching a completely new skill - scentwork (in the photo Lacy is searching a car for contraband), teaching them their sign to give consent when I want to handle or groom them, fun things like stacking beakers or dinner bowls, fetching and carrying things for me, formal obedience stuff, like Sendaway or dressage-style Heelwork - these will be slightly more planned, but still slotted in for a minute or two here or there. In the back of my mind I know what I want to achieve, and what small steps need to be taken to get to the desired result. Then I just peg away at it when we are all in the mood.

In short, instead of planning training times with my dogs, which would inevitably be postponed because time slid away, or I felt too tired, or I’ve timed things wrong and they are now exhausted from a long walk . . . I grab the moments I already spend with them and use those times to teach new things or practice old tricks. (It’s all tricks to them.)

We don’t line our children up in the morning and give them a ten-minute lesson on what we want them to learn, then ignore them for the rest of the day! We interact with them all day long - a word here, a story there, a little advice or teaching slid in to a conversation, appreciation for something they’ve done which pleases us. We don’t need to allocate special time for all this - it all happens as the day unfolds, during the time we are already spending with them. 

And that’s what happens with my dogs here. A frequent note to self that “What you expect is what you get,” ensures that I keep the training going at all times - although to my dogs it’s just daily life, interaction with me and each other, cuddles, food, fun.

This is what I call “All-Day Training” - just bits, slotted in here and there.

Who’s doing the training?

How many people have a dog of eight or ten years old, and say - “Oh, Harry never comes back when he’s called,” as if somehow it’s Harry’s fault that they never took the time to teach him!

It’s never too late to teach your dog skills that not only may save his life, but which make daily life so much more congenial. If you wait till the time is right, all your ducks are in a row, and you are going to “do some training”, you’ll have missed the boat. 

Full of care, you’ll have missed out on the squirrels and the stars, and the smile in the eyes.

Forget about formal sessions. Forget about sits and downs and marching about on a lead. Stick to All-Day Training and see how easy it is. 

If you want to find out how to break things down and teach one minute at a time, check out my Online Courses, and my step-by-step books. Develop the bond between you and your dog, enjoy watching him blossom as you work together, and things will all pan out very nicely.

You’ll be a family.

 


And for lots of quick ways to learn some of the things in this article - and which you can fit anywhere in your busy day - get our free email course here

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Your puppy’s first day home!

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“How do I ensure the most successful first day home? I want Finn to feel like this is home but I also want to start off on the right foot, from the moment we pick him up and the long drive home.” Maria

What an excellent question, Maria! You have obviously planned your puppy carefully, and thinking about that exciting first day you have reflected on the importance of getting it right. You’re setting the stage for your new puppy’s life.

For those just starting on this journey, first read my series on How to Choose a Puppy here

Getting things ready at home

1. The most important thing is to make a comfy den for your puppy. Somewhere he can feel at home, somewhere he is fed all his bowl-meals (you’ll be mainly feeding him by hand!), somewhere he is safe and may not be pestered by children, visitors, or other household pets. He needs to be in a quiet place to be able to switch off and sleep properly.

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I favour a robust wire crate. It need only be big enough for the size your puppy will be as an adult - big enough for him to stand up, turn round and lie down again, as lying down is mostly what he’ll be doing in there. You can half cover it with a cloth or put it in a cupboard space under the kitchen worktop to make it cosy. And you can use either a custom divider or a big cardboard box to make the space just big enough for your puppy. 

All naps will be taken in this crate, and he can sleep in it at night, in your bedroom. Now you have somewhere where you know your pup is safe and can’t be chewing the telephone wire, peeing on the carpet, or demolishing your furniture. He may protest to start with, but as long as you know he has had his needs met, regard the crate as soundproof - both ways!  He’ll quickly learn that being in the crate means rest and sleep. 

2. For travel you’ll need either the same crate if it’s small enough to move easily, or a custom car crate. Again choose a wire crate - I don’t use a soft crate till I know the dog is content in a crate and won’t chew or attack it. I’m not convinced about the safety of car harnesses and always travel mine in well-built crates with escape hatches on the inside. 

For the journey home you may want to shroud the bottom half of the crate with plastic sheeting on the outside (that pup can't reach) so that any vomit stays inside! Or one of those airline crates that split in half would be excellent for this.

On the day!

Puppy, New puppy, Puppy training, Bringing puppy home | 12 ways to make your puppy homecoming work like a dream! | FREE PUPPY GUIDES | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #puppytraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

3. Take your puppy’s new collar and id tag with you and put it on him before you leave his old home. Better to be sure, in case of accident or drama on the journey home. And puppies are much wrigglier than you may remember - always slip a finger or thumb through his collar when you’re carrying him.

Your pup’s breeder should give you - along with any paperwork - his worming schedule, a blanket that’s been with his mother, a week’s supply of the food he’s been on, a diet sheet - maybe a toy or a bowl. Breeders who care will also give you photos and info about the parents, perhaps some pictures of your puppy when tiny, and the benefit of their experience of puppies of this breed or type. They should also tell you what the pup is used to toiletting on - grass, concrete, gravel …

4. For the journey home, park your puppy in his secure crate with lots of washable bedding or screwed-up paper to make it cosy. Ignore wails and cries, throwing up and peeing in the crate. You need to focus on the road and not get anxious yourself. The journey cannot be avoided so get it over with fast! Gentle music on the radio may help, and covering the crate so he can’t see out of the vehicle will also probably help. Placing the crate in the body of the car, not the back end, will minimise swinging and lurching and maybe prevent carsickness. 

Arriving home

5. If you have eager children at home waiting to greet the puppy, ensure they keep cool and don’t overwhelm this poor scrap. He’ll be exhausted after his journey, and is being constantly bombarded with strange sights and smells and people. 

6. If he’s in a mess from the journey just wipe him over - don’t bathe him now. He needs to keep his own scent and a bath would be too stressful. 

Puppy, New puppy, Puppy training, Bringing puppy home | 12 ways to make your puppy homecoming work like a dream! | FREE PUPPY GUIDES | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #puppytraining | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

7. You can take him out on a lead to the garden to see if he needs to relieve himself. Don’t worry if he doesn’t. If he’s scared bring him right back in again. Get my Errorless Housetraining Cheatsheet and get it right from the start.

8. Introduce him to his new den, and put his mother’s blanket in there along with some chewables. Feed him a light meal in the crate, try the garden again, and have some gentle play with him before he crashes for the night. Puppies need an astonishing amount of sleep, and a young puppy should only be awake for an hour or so at a time. 

Feeding

9. Stick to the food he’s already on for a week or so, then start to change to a better food. You can research those in advance. Breeders often get free packs of food from canny manufacturers, so you’ll want to improve on that. Here’s a good site which gives you the lowdown on dog food ingredients. It’s geared for the UK market but is very educational and would be well worth a visit wherever you live. 

For a free no-obligation trial of some excellent home-cooked food (UK readers) go to www.butternutbox.com/brilliantfamilydog They provide instructions for how to change your puppy on to a new feed.

The first week

10. By all means have some visitors to admire your new puppy, but be sensible! Give him a day or two without visitors. Then ensure your puppy wants to go forward to greet them. If he hangs back or hides, on no account force people on to him. As you’ve planned so carefully in choosing your pup, he’s likely to have been well-socialised in the litter.

You’ll probably be visiting the vet for a check-over and some jabs. Make this visit as gentle and calm as possible - don’t pass him round the waiting room of ooh-ing and aah-ing people! 

And while he can’t yet go out for “walks” you should certainly take him out and about with you on your errands. He gets used to travelling in the car on short journeys, and you get to carry him about to see new places, things, people, and dogs. He doesn’t need to meet the dogs yet, but he does need to see them. 

11. Build a routine of naps, food, garden visits, play … and more naps. This routine doesn’t have to be timebound, but the order should become predictable. He’ll be on four meals a day to start with, and most of those will be handfed by you, or in a foodtoy - not just slapped in a bowl.

Learn how to teach your new puppy

12. Lastly - and importantly! - learn how to teach your new dog. It’s important you find only a force-free trainer to work with, who will have small, calm, classes, and teach only through kindness and love. 

Stuck for a local class that fits this description? No worries! Check out this mini-course and enjoy training your puppy at home with me, with four specially-selected training videos. It’s much better value than a conventional local puppy class - you can take part for as long as you like!


I hope that helps you with your planning, Maria - and I wish more people thought ahead as you have!