I have raised dozens and dozens of puppies – some with moms, and many other underage orphaned litters or singletons. I’ve been writing about puppies. helping students with puppies and getting little doses of puppy fever lately so when I sat down to think about a topic for my blog here this month puppies sprang to my mind!
These are my personal guidelines for puppy raising … perhaps they’ll give you some ideas, some assurance, or a bit of relief.
Provide the essentials: Food, Water, Shelter and Love. Unconditionally and always. If infants are secure in the knowledge of these things all the rest really will come in the fullness of time. Really, true – no matter the species. Positive is not permissive so providing a structure and framework to live in helps too.
Make sure rewards are rewarding for the puppy not for you. Just one example: lots of people swear by tugging but if that isn’t rewarding to the puppy there is NO POINT in using it as a reward. (a skill to learn? Sure!) I love a mix of rewards – personal play, toy play and mixed bag of food – but each animal I play with has their own preference too – so I respect that and give them what THEY want. Not what I want them to want. They are the one who earned it after all. If your puppy doesn’t like the same reward as another puppy or the thing your trainer wants them to – don’t panic. Take the opportunity to ask why that particular matters and explore ways to increase it’s value.
Give them time to be a puppy. They have attention spans typical of any small infant … do one or two repetitions of something for you – then take a break. For example – recalls. Lots of great games to play to make recalls FABULOUS – but if you overdo them you risk poisoning your cue as they will eventually get distracted. Let them explore new things at their pace. They will have days when you think they are the smartest puppy EVEH but they’ll balance that with sessions where you wonder where their brain went. Totally normal. Honest!
Avoid poisoning any cue. Don’t rush to put formal cues in place. The longer you can make sure the behaviour is solid the more responsive to the cue the dog will be. All the puppies we have had, as adults in their permanent homes, run to pup pup pup with great reliability. “Here” comes much later around here.
Address stuff or ignore it – depending on what it is. Often there is value in just carrying on. . Aim for normalcy. If I notice something causing a little more concern than I think is normal I ignore it at the time then do a gradual set up to help them deal with it. One of our puppies was very afraid of banging pots and pans … rather than making a huge deal of it if a pot banged I would get cookies for the dogs who wanted to be in the kitchen afterwards. She would sit on the couch and shake and stare at us at first. Now if a pot bangs she runs to see what the hand out will be
Your baby is a baby. Seriously. They don’t need to jump, do a teeter, weave have any stress on their body that is forced. Playing rock around the house, or learning to scramble up over and through things is plenty of body stress. They need long periods of down time to grow up. Resting or sleeping is so important for healthy development across species. They need time to play – not play training games but play for sheer joy and learning about the world around them. . Play laid down at this stage will result in happy play forever. I often confuse the words play/work in my personal blog. It’s the way we strive to see things at home – what’s what? Fuzzy lines around work and play are a GOOD thing.
Stop comparing. Love the one you live with. Other people’s experiences can be guide posts but don’t let them be your measuring stick. Your experience is your own. Your relationship with your puppy is unique, special and precious. Do not be disappointed if your puppy is a little slower at times than another puppy. Celebrate it! You are becoming a better trainer and observer with every puppy you raise. Don’t let comparison be a theft of your joy!
Have Fun! Your dog is only a puppy once. If going to seminars and workshops far from home and spending lots of money learning stuff together makes you happy that’s awesome – do it. If instead it causes you stress (either financial or emotional) do a simple local puppy class or explore online learning and don’t sweat it. Do your socialization thing but do the bits that make you happy and are doable. You do not need to tick 300 items off a great checklist to raise a wonderful puppy. If planning and checklists help you – work through all the lists you want – as long as you and puppy get value from it! . Celebrate the zoomie fits, and occasional mistake. Plan some time to just enjoy your new friend. Build your memory bank for that day – far off we all hope- when all the memories become precious to us.
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