New Puppy? New Rescue Dog?
Have you just got your new puppy?
Or have you given a home to a dog from a shelter?
Have you had dogs for years but this newcomer is throwing up problems for you?
Or are you brand spanking new and shiny, and overwhelmed by this new creature who’s taken over your home?
You’re in good company!
You may have been getting prepared by reading books and watching tv programs, but as any parent will tell you about the practicalities of child-rearing versus the theory - it’s not so easy when your new dog arrives and turns out to have a mind of her own!
• Your puppy is biting you all the time
• Your rescue dog is pulling on the leash
• Both of them are digging holes as if to escape from Alcatraz
• Housetraining is a nightmare
• Everything you value is being chewed to bits
• .. and they never settle down!
So your carefully-laid plans aren’t working.
The most common cries for help I hear from new puppy-owners are:
• “How can I stop my puppy jumping up?”
• “How can I stop my puppy nipping?”
• “How can I stop my puppy peeing indoors?”
• “How can I stop my puppy pulling on leash?”
• “How can I stop my puppy chewing the furniture?”
There’s one thing in common with all these questions:
They all say “STOP”
I picture these new owners spending all day shouting NO at their confused little puppy, who has no idea why they’re so cross and equally no idea what will please them.
How about working together on this and redirecting your pup to what you do want rather than focussing on what you don’t want?
So for each of those requests above, let’s reframe them:
• “How can I teach my puppy how to greet politely?”
• “How can I teach my puppy how to play nicely?”
• “How can I teach my puppy where I’d like her to pee?”
• “How can I teach my puppy how I’d like her to walk on leash?”
• “How can I teach my puppy what she’s allowed to chew?”
Now we’ve got something we can do!
Once we have a direction we want to go, it’s just a case of bringing the puppy along with us. She’ll be happy to oblige, happy to find a way to please you, happy to leave confusion behind.
Oh, and you’ll find answers to all those questions above here.
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You lead, your dog will follow
The common thread in these revised questions is “TEACH".
When you have a new baby in your home, you don’t spend your time telling him to stop. You spend your time teaching him. You know instinctively that that is the way to educate your child and bring out the best in him. Your aim is to rear your children to become independent of you - to be able to make good decisions on their own. You don’t want to be telling your 20-year-old to brush his teeth! Your whole process is centred on getting him to be able to do things for himself, using your principles as guiding lights.
So how does all this affect your new puppy?
It may surprise you to learn that you can adopt the exact same methods for your dog.
Realise that your puppy is so new - she’s only been on the planet a matter of weeks - and yet you are expecting her to understand another species, with another language, and their hopes, their desires, and their very strange habits. Forget any nonsense you may have heard about dominance. Your puppy has no wish to rule the world - all she wants is a comfy billet, regular food, and freedom to be a dog.
What’s In A Word?
Dogs don’t have verbal language as we do. They do learn words, certainly, and a well-taught dog can have a vocabulary of as many as 200 words. But they don’t learn them in the same way we do. They learn words by pairing the sound with the action or object that word describes. Hence “Sit” should be said as she lowers her bum to the floor: you are labelling that action as “sit”. It’s pointless yelling SITSITSIT at her when she has no idea what you want!
Let’s look at an example of how this can go wrong. Your housetraining program is a bit haphazard, so your puppy is peeing on the carpet. You yell “No! Stop!” and look cross and dangerous to your little scrap. What has your puppy just learnt? Has she learnt that she should ask to go outside when she needs a wee?
She’s learnt that if you catch her in the act of peeing you get very cross, noisy, and unpredictable.
So where’s she going to do it next?
Somewhere where you can’t see her!
Maybe behind the sofa, in another room, or when your back is turned …
What you need to do instead is
a. Have a proper Errorless Housetraining Program running.
b. Realise that you are in charge of the doors and make sure you take your puppy out every half hour.
c. Praise her lavishly for performing in your chosen place, reward her, have a game with her, and demonstrate unbridled joy and admiration.
d. If you get distracted and forget to take her out and she wees on the floor, say nothing. Clear it up calmly and resolve to pay closer attention in future.
Peace and Harmony Rule the Day
And yes - peace and harmony are possible. Ditch the adversarial methods that people are telling you to use with your new dog. She’s not the enemy!
Separate the doer from the deed in your mind. Your dog is not bad, obstinate, stubborn, difficult, “dominant” - all those things people imagine about their 8-week-old puppy. She just hasn’t learnt yet. She may do something you don’t like, but that doesn’t make her bad - just mistaken.
This is your new mantra, and it will lead to the peace and harmony you envisaged when you decided to get a dog:
Reward what you like
Ignore what you don’t like
Manage what you can’t ignore
Keep it Super Simple!
It’s pretty simple when it comes down to it. Life is too short to focus on all the things we don’t want. And remember that what you focus on is what you get!
So spend your time looking for little things you can reward in your puppy or new adult dog - eye contact, happy interaction, peeing outside (when you take her there). Ignore entirely anything you don’t want to see repeated - whether it’s jumping up, peeing inside, playing too roughly (just stop the game).
And manage things so that what you like is more likely to happen, and what you don’t like can’t happen.
You don’t tell your toddler off for picking up a sharp knife. You don’t let it happen, by putting the knives safely out of reach and supervising your baby when he’s awake.
So don’t tell your puppy off for chewing a chair leg: don’t let it happen, by ensuring that if you can’t be watching your puppy and distracting her, she’s safe inside her crate with something she can chew.
There’s so much I want to tell you about how to get the best relationship possible with your new family pet! And none of it will include harsh corrections, nasty pain-inflicting gadgets, intimidation, or force. So no throwing things, jabbing with fingers, aversive dog-gear, lead-yanking, shouting, pushing or pulling. You wouldn’t want a relationship with your partner, or with your children, based on those things. Now you can include your dog in a humane and scientifically-proven program of learning where you both win.
For lots more help with your dog, get your free e-course from www.brilliantfamilydog.com and learn how to change some of those nagging problems you may have - especially the daily irritations you thought you had to put up with - and start turning your wild puppy into your Brilliant Family Dog! You’ll be reading the first lesson in a couple of minutes.