When a family takes on the raising of a puppy it is not a simple process.
Puppies are complex, highly impressionable creatures with a very short window period wherein the best possible effects can be engendered in their minds by interactions with all members of the household.
Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying that it takes a village to raise a child; it definitely takes a pack to successfully raise a pup; it takes a committed functional family to positively raise a young dog. This is no easy task.
By the time the pup reaches 7 weeks of age nature has prepared the puppy to form deep bonds and associations with the environment, objects, animals, technology and people.
From 2-3 months of age the puppy is highly impressionable and open to relationships with almost anyone who will allow it. It is at this stage that the pups of guardian and herding breeds are placed with the sheep, cattle etc.; the need to instill a positive feeling towards livestock while young prevents them from killing those creatures they are required to protect.
At this tender age serious problems could germinate because the puppy is not born with a vocabulary, agenda or understanding; only instincts are predetermined by the inherited genetics of the particular breed and individual. As the alpha bitch in the pack would be assertive in guiding the young dogs through the rules of life so should the family substitute set the role model example of applying the same principles and consistencies towards the puppies. During this period of learning people must avoid confusion e.g. the children allowing the pup on the bed when the father chases it off the couch.
Pups will also “test” their boundaries; the ability to recognize this subtle move towards other dogs and humans is very important. Unfortunately, the average person is not prepared for or aware how quickly pups grow up and too often they miss the boat in being a meaningful mentor. Most pet owners lack the character and determination in controlling their pets so that they can be afforded confidence, respect and security. This is supported and confirmed by observing the undisciplined dysfunctional children in the home. This is not a suitable environment for any dog.
It is instinctive for the sociable canine to challenge everyone and every animal in its environment to determine where they are placed in the scale of power. The hierarchial challenge is exerted at every available chance, in case there is a moment of weakness which will allow for a takeover or increased ranking in the system. Pups thrive under leadership but if it is lacking it may have to take charge as he/she matures. Like all gregarious creatures the pup prefers that the leader be calm, consistent and clear while also being benevolent, protective and aware. In order to be a successful family/pack leader the task is a 24/7 role. Though dog leader/puppy raiser/trainer may only be a part-time job for most pet owners, it does not alter the fact that the pup is a puppy 24 hours a day. Gaps in the leadership people provide for the young dog will impact on the long-term relationship between pet owner and canine companion.
Depending on the individual dog, the breed and situation, a lack of good leadership can lead to annoying and bratty behaviours, or it can result in very serious consequences with the dog on a one-way trip to the Big Kennel in the Sky.
Loving a puppy is not enough. What does it mean to the animal if it is kissed and patted all day? Do they understand it as kindness? No! Do they find it irritating? Sometimes! Do they regard the “Shlupping” as being subservient? Yes! People are doing to dogs what they perceive as affection without a clue about the realities of dog behaviour, culture and genetic needs. Would a Border Collie prefer to round up sheep or lie cuddled up on a couch in a townhouse? Would A Jack Russell Terrier prefer chasing rats or being kissed and petted on the bed? For dogs not to do what they are designed to do is just another form of cruelty.
Without a canine pack system in place, without the matriarch and without littermates, the family has to fulfill these functions of guidance, companionship and endless play. Are they qualified? No! Unless, the family subscribe to early puppy socialization classes followed by obedience training – indefinitely.
No excuses are truly satisfactory for a puppy that wants to play and interact but has no one with whom to express these desires. In a natural setting, a puppy would not have to pester anyone or eat the carpets out of boredom or bark in the backyard as a means of self-amusement. His littermates would be there, just as eager to chase, bite, wrestle, explore, etc. Although raising puppies together is not a good idea when you want a companion animal that needs to be bonded to human beings. It is humbling when one observes puppies cavorting and realising this is what people have to stand in for in the puppy’s life.
Every puppy needs to learn to inhibit its impulses – in other words, to develop self control. When dogs teach puppies to control themselves they do not make excuses for the pups e.g. “I was trying to teach him to leave my bone alone but he got so excited and I suppose it did smell pretty good, so I just let him have it”. People constantly make excuses for their dogs and their own failures. Self control is a learned skill. Puppies learn self-control from other dogs but only concerning matters that are of interest to other dogs. Dogs are incredibly tolerant of puppy behaviour up to 20 weeks of age. Pups only learn soon after this age and stage that their “puppy permit” has an expiry date and attitudes by their peers change accordingly – it will be slow and subtle; the rules reach a new dimension – behaviour that was previously acceptable and tolerated may become completely out of order requiring the appropriate intervention. These changes can be in a matter of hours.
Pet owners have to teach certain aspects of life at certain stages; the lessons have to be meaningful, effective in quality time. The only way for people to know what to do is to subscribe to a reputable dog training school. The entire family has to commit. It would be in the puppy’s best interests for the members of the household to form a puppy commitment committee. One of the resolutions on the agenda must be the combined effort of the family raising the young tyke to be functional, obedient and socially acceptable.
Smart puppy owners need to keep an eye on the calendar to make the right moves at the correct ages.
The topic of raising a puppy is enormous with a multitude of ramifications on how to be successful in this department. The greatest shock is the speed of development from 8 weeks to 20 weeks. If this window period is missed you may regret for the rest of the dog’s life.
A few pointers to remember for any human trying to be a parent to a pup:
- Tolerate puppies – they know not what they do
- Teach puppies – they know not what to do
- Be consistent with puppies – they forget things quickly
- Keep lessons short – puppies are easily distracted
- Puppies need to play – one of the conditions and expectations of being born in a litter
- Good social skills and manners are made, not born
- Puppy permits have short expiry dates
- Don’t wait until the puppy has stolen items to teach it manners
- Be careful what you do to a puppy – someday, he may have the upper hand
- Tired puppies are always good puppies
You chose the puppy; the puppy did not choose you. If puppies had the choice there would be a very restricted canine ownership populace.
As long as every member of the household, including staff, is well-informed and “on the same page” then the family should qualify to raise a puppy.