This week the puppies will be leaving to go to their new homes and I am starting to get the usual question from my puppy buyers regarding puppy training so in today's Puppy Nuggets I would like to focus on what happens when you get your puppy home. The first few days are going to set the tone for your puppy on what is considered acceptable behaviour and how he will interact with you. Puppies bite, puppies chew, puppies jump, puppies bark and puppies get into all kinds of trouble just by doing what comes naturally to them. If you have a well thought out plan that covers what your daily routines will be and what your behaviour expectations and goals for the puppy are going to be you will be setting your puppy up for success. Puppies do not come pre-programmed; they need to be taught in an appropriate manner. Now when I say taught I do not mean given a correction for bad behaviour. The puppy does not know what bad behaviour is so it is not fair to correct him for doing something he has not yet learned or has not yet been taught is undesirable. You would not teach a child that 1 + 1 = 2 by presenting the problem then slapping his hands for giving the wrong answer until he stumbled on the right one. You would instead first introduce the concept of math in an age appropriate and enjoyable manner that encourages a desire to learn. In this regard puppies are very much like children. The more you teach and socialize the puppy during the critical learning period the more that puppy will be capable of learning.
For puppies the critical learning period is from birth to 14 weeks, where every new learning experience is soaked up like a sponge. Although it is still possible for older puppies and dogs to accept new situations and to learn different concepts, it does not come as easily or as quickly for them.
The first behaviours a puppy learns are the ones that will become more ingrained and will become their "default" behaviour. In other words the first behaviours learned will be the behaviours the puppy will fall back on when he is unsure of what to do. I have started the process during the first 8 weeks but you will be responsible for the rest of his life. Building your training and socialization plan now will set you up for a lifetime of success.
A word of caution, keep training fun! Over training and improper socialization is as equally damaging as is under training and little socialization. It has been proven that a puppy will learn quicker and retain more of what you are teaching if the training is done in short 3 to 6 minute bursts several times a day. Long gone are the days of training for an hour each day where both you and the puppy are left exhausted and wondering if you are ever going to see the results you wanted.
You want to tailor your sessions and expectations for the puppy in front of you. Not too much, not too little, but just the right amount for that puppy, on that day. Often, less is more. If you or your puppy are not having fun then stop what you are doing and try again another time. If your puppy is eager to train with you and gives you his full attention then you know you are doing it right!
Proper socialization is done by introducing the puppy to a variety of different people and animals in a controlled situation and in manner that is safe and enjoyable for the puppy. If the puppy's first introduction to a child is one in which the child unintentionally steps on the puppy he may believe that all children are not safe and develop a fear of them for the rest of his life.
Single event learning situations are generally ones that involve strong negative reactions and can leave a lasting impression that is difficult to overcome. If you make sure your puppies leaves every social encounter feeling braver than he did going in then you are on the right track. This is especially important to keep in mind during fear periods. If your puppy is being reactive to a social situation do not force the issue, just immediately leave and try again at a later date. This will give you an opportunity to reflect on the matter to see what could have been done differently and your puppy time to move past his negative feelings in that moment. Time and space are your friends, don't be afraid to take a step back in order to move forward.
Sometimes we just can not put off having the puppy go through questionable experiences such as bath time or vet visits so sometimes we just need to get it done while trying to make it as pleasant as possible.