Puppy Basic Coping Skills

Every puppy and every pup owner should complete a basic course of training so that the ten to sixteen year relationship is based on mutual understanding, meaningful communication and the animal has the required life skills to render it a socially acceptable companion.

If puppy owners are not informed about socialization, obedience and the correct methods for managing their pup then one must question the quality of the human-canine interaction and the repercussions of social instability, insecurity, confusion and non-existent pack leadership. Pet owners need to be an authoritative figure without being aggressive. This has to be taught because very few people today possess or wish to express assertive behaviour. Every puppy owner has to focus on what is in the best interests of their pup that is craving for mentorship.

It is not difficult to train puppies. It requires quality time, consistency, effectiveness and a mind-set of applying the methods taught by reputable canine obedience instructors. It is not an approach limited to the one-hour training lesson per week; rather, an application that has to be implemented correctly during the young animal’s most impressionable socialization period allocated by nature – from three to twenty weeks of age. As most pups are acquired from six to eight weeks of age one has the limited window period of about three months to have an impact which will lay the foundation for the rest of the dog’s life.

Some people fear training without knowing the content of the curriculum. Puppies are not being taught attack work. Puppies are not taught harsh methods. Puppies and their owners are taught how to communicate with each other. Every pup from a “teacup” Chihuahua to a giant Irish Wolfhound should be given the opportunity of learning the basic skills of life. Some people fear for their toy breed puppies at puppy socialization classes – the owners are often apprehensive about potential injury from the larger pups; at puppy kindergarten the young tykes are all within the same age group, the smaller breeds do have more attitude, maybe it is “small man syndrome” and the reverse usually occurs – the small aggressive ones tend to bully the bigger pups – this illogical thought process is similar to not allowing children to go to school because the kid happens to be small in relation to the rest of the class-mates.

What is your pup meant to be equipped with in order to qualify as having good citizenship?

Every pup must be house-trained as soon as possible after acquisition. If the pup has been bred and raised outdoors on grass and sand the imprinting of its preferred substrate for toileting will be strong enough to scratch on the door to go outside. This is important in puppy selection. If the breeder has raised the pup indoors it will only know carpets and tiles as their toilet surface. This is not the puppy’s fault. One should then initiate an immediate strict house-training counter-conditioning method so that the puppy not only messes outdoors but also in the correct place in the garden. Many puppy owners are lazy and too weak to reinforce this important life skill and put up with the dog using the interior of the house as its toilet for the rest of its life – often with a multitude of pathetic excuses that they could never leave their pup outside and using the feeble rationale that its just a phase the dog is going through. A lifetime of an unacceptable behaviour disorder is not a phase in my books.

The second very important skill every pup should learn is to learn to be calm. This may be easier to do in certain individuals in some breeds. If the pup is taught to sit, lie down or wait many problems can be controlled or prevented. This is difficult for most humans who cannot control their emotions and body language when they encounter their cute puppies. Learning calm signals is therapeutic for people as well. Every dog should associate a positive reward with being relaxed and not being inappropriately hyperactive, jumping up on people and furniture, yapping its head off and being a downright nuisance. After all, the dog’s behaviour is a mirror reflection of the functionality of the home and its people.

What is more important than a pup knowing its name? It is anthropomorphic to believe that any animal knows that it has a name. The name given to any pet is purely for our sentiment, emotion and benefit. The puppy’s name is nothing more than a word or command used to come when called. In order for the pup to respond reliably and speedily at every recall is based on how attractive and beneficial the owner is. Every pup should respond immediately and effectively which creates a great impression regarding owner status and the methods of training used to ensure they respond accordingly. Any dog that comes when called is a reflection of good communication and safety. Although the use of its name can only be applied for positive reasons and never punishment, it is an invaluable tool to be able to call your pup off anything you may find to be of potential danger. If the pup is sitting at an open front gate, a recall will prevent it from running in to the traffic. You can use this to relinquish objects. If a pup is sniffing at something strange in the garden, a recall will prevent it from ingesting the foreign object or poison. If the pup is mutilating your slipper, a recall will allow it to drop what its doing and then you can replace it with an appropriate toy. The owner has to be rewarding and pleasant with every recall until the pup is conditioned to come every time. Initially one uses food treats to reinforce this behaviour. If pups do not listen to their name it proves the ineffectiveness of its owners and that the pup’s name has been used in a reprimand e.g. “Duke! Get out!”

Another life skill required from every pup is socialization tolerance with other dogs, other animals and humans. Once again, this has to be impressed during the sensitive imprinting period. Every pup must be taught to cope in a calm manner in the presence of all animal species. One needs to avoid long-term issues such as dog chasing cat, dog killing ducks, dog snapping at children and dog hurting the elderly. This has to be a complete lifestyle change for the entire family. You cannot socialize when you feel like it – it has to be an ongoing supervised approach to all interactions. You also need to be vigilant as to whether situations are positive or negative regarding socialization e.g. exposing a puppy to an aggressive adult dog can result in trauma which may instill permanent deleterious effects or will take ages to rehabilitate and recover.

Every puppy has to learn the skill of bite inhibition. The pup needs to learn at the outset the limitations it may exert with its mouth on objects and people. In essence a puppy should never chew on people’s hands, fingers, feet and objects causing pain and injury. A puppy needs to be taught that placing its teeth on humans is met with an aversive response. If the pup starts chewing on your hand shove a finger into its mouth so that it reaches the back of the tongue and induces a gag response. The pup will immediately associate the smell, feel and taste of your hand as being unpleasant. It is irresponsible to train dogs to grab the hands and fingers of people – it is highly irritating and sometimes frightening for visitors who do not expect the reaction. A sudden threatening reaction can turn the intentional hand grab into a serious bite. Another method of teaching pups not to bite people during play is to scream as they nip and then reward for releasing the mouth. Constant attention to this detail is vitally important for its life skills with people.

Every pup should be lead-trained. This is not a restraint just for walking outside the property; it is a means of control and discipline. The puppy has to walk alongside you, not in front of you – otherwise, who then will have pack leader status?!  There should be no tugging, dragging, pulling or lunging – the pup should walk alongside you with a slack lead. This understanding of cooperation between human and dog is one of the ultimate proofs of the human being in charge of the animal that is dependent upon that person for everything.

Repetitively reinforcing all these skills maintains trustworthiness and the pleasures of owning a socially acceptable pup.

Having all these basic skills in any puppy will prevent the dog, as an adult, from having a host of behaviour problems.

How many coping life skills does your pup have? What have you done for your pup?

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