Puppy Problems? Don’t Scold it – School it!

Is there anything more loveable than that little bundle of puppyness you chose to make a part of your family? Even the coldest heart would melt after a look from those sorrowful puppy eyes, while even the grumpiest amongst us cannot fail to be cheered up by that constantly wagging tail. Children will cuddle a puppy for hours and breathe in that wonderful puppy smell, with copious face-licking causing giggles of delight rather than shrieks of revulsion.

So why are puppies blessed with so many adorable qualities? Simply put, because when they aren’t being adorable, they are the living embodiment of evil! Our puppy could win the World Eating Contest, especially if the food group was shoes; it could be cross-bred with a bat, because it sleeps all day and lives for the night; or a piranha, because those “playful” bites can be anything but. Every puppy seems to know that a hand is the best squeezy toy available.

There is an old English expression that “a watched kettle never boils.” For dogs, the expression translates into “a watched puppy never pees.” However, turn away for just a minute and by thetime you look back, there’s a present for you on the floor, or even worse, the more absorbent carpet. The puppy will just look at you like a magician after his latest trick – How did that happen?

If you have the patience of a saint, you may just walk away in an effort to stay calm. This will be greeted by your puppy weaving in-and-out of your feet like an excited Morris Dancer, doing its best to trip you up, or down the stairs. 

The temptation to shout at your new pet is hard to resist. Many neighbours wonder why we chose to call our new pet “Bastard” or then some. Another popular option is to lock the puppy away somewhere for a while, probably in its cage, just to get some peace and quiet and attend to open flesh wounds.

However, neither of these “solutions” will help and more likely, will actually prolong the training process. Most puppies seek attention, and even being shouted at qualifies as such. They are left confused as to what they should, or should not be doing, so will not learn the correct behavior.

Giving them a time-out in their crate/cage/box simply associates what was a safe place with a punishment. Now sleep patterns are likely to be broken, with much nocturnal whining as a sign of their dissatisfaction.

Canine expertssay the secret to puppy training is the 3 Ps – Persistence, Patience and Praise – But there is a fourth vital element – PRE-SCHOOL.

Pre-School is predominantly a socialization class for your puppy, rather than obedience training, which comes later.  Dogs are inherently pack animals and learn about hierarchy and pecking order as soon as theyare part of a litter. Oftenwithout even knowing it, we have conceded the “Alpha Dog” status to our new puppy by continually giving in to it and back-sliding on discipline.

Puppies live to please their owner, so a pre-school will focus on rewards to endorse positive behavior, rather than punishing bad. It is very much a case of carrot over stick.  The emphasis is on housetraining, playing (rather than just biting and chewing) and socializing with both humans and other dogs. Teaching it popular commands like Sit, Stay and Heel, can wait.

Pre-School is also an important place for us – the owner – to learn. The early months go a long way to determining the character of your dog, so the less time you spend enforcing bad habits, the easier it will be. If a puppy fails to learn, it is because we have failed to teach. Humbling, but no less true because of it.

Many of us think that we can spare yet another expense of owning a puppy by doing the training ourselves. And we can. Although a lot of people end up having to take time off work, or at least devoting weekends to puppy duty. Even then, fail to put away your new Nikes just once, and you’ve lost more than the cost of a pre-school course, which shouldn’t exceed $150.

So now that you’ve brought this adorable puppy into your home, do your best to ensure it remains adorable and keeps its satanic tendencies to a minimum. In short – Take it to school. If nothing else, you will be pleased to discover that everyone else is having as much trouble with their “Angel” as you are!