Springtime is right around the corner and it’s my favorite time to get a new puppy. A lot of the things we do or don’t do with the new pup will affect it’s training later on.
The bonding process with your pup is so important at this early age. The pup will be so much more receptive to training if it feels safe, comfortable and that you like him or her. So, take the time, hold, hug, play, talk to the pup, let them fall asleep on your lap. It will make a difference in your pup’s disposition towards you and future training. In my new pups I want to be the biggest deal in his or her world. If the pup is bonded to you it is more likely going to want to please you.
The word No, is the first thing I teach a pup just out of plain necessity. You know your new pup is going to chew on almost everything. When that happens, I firmly tell the pup, No, and either remove the pup form the thing they are chewing on or remove the pup from the area. I then replace it with something I have deemed appropriate for the pup to chew. I’m replacing an undesired behavior with a desired behavior. You will then repeat this process 5 million more times.
As for appropriate chew toys, I don’t give my pups anything soft or anything that Squeaks. Soft toys, squeaky toys entice a pup to chew and squeeze to hear the squeak. This behavior can become a habit and carry over to the pup’s treatment of birds later on in training. I also don’t recommend empty water bottles or tennis balls for free play as they can have the same effects. I do use tennis balls for supervised training but not for free play as pups like squeeze them. I give my dogs hard chew toys such as buffalo horns, deer antlers, bones with filling and hard kong toys.
I put a lot of my energy on teaching my new pup here very early on. It saves me a lot of time and energy from chasing that pup around the house and yard. If I can condition the pup to come when called early in their life It saves a lot of frustration later on. I put my pup on a short check cord a couple days after getting it and keep it on most of the time. Every time I call the pup, I grab the check cord and reel the pup in to me. Once the pup is to me, I give the pup a treat and tons of verbal praise. It’s that easy, it just takes time. A note: Never give your dog a command you can’t enforce. If you call your dog and it doesn’t come to you, you are then conditioning it not to come to you. Hence, the check cord.
My favorite thing to work on with a new pup is retrieving. An early start, if done correctly will save time later in training. I use a dead-end hallway, that way the pup only has one way back and it’s through me. Sit on the floor with legs spread out in the shape of a V. Throw an appropriate size bumper down the hall, once the pup gets the bumper call the pup to you. The pup may come right to you or may try running past you. Once I have the pup in my lap, I leave the pup hold the bumper and let the pup know what a wonderful pup they are. For a baby pup, I give them only 2 or 3 retrieves as they get older, I increase the duration. Note: 2 or 3 good retrieves are better than 10 bad ones.
During this age, I find it necessary to introduce the pup to as many new things as possible. I take my pups for walks daily, introducing the pup to the training fields, a pond, the bird pens anything new and different. I drop a dead pigeon on our walks to give the pup the experience of it and I love to watch how the pup reacts. These experiences will strengthen the dogs confidence and the pup won’t be freaked out when you go to the training field or use a bird the first time in training.
At this age socialization is so important. We have all seen that scared pup, which generally grows up to be a scared dog or at the very least a very reserved dog. Training a fearful or reserved dog is a much harder process than training a bold dog. That is exactly why my new pup goes everywhere I go. I want my pup to go to as many different places and meet as many people and other dogs as possible. Again, we are trying to build confidence.
How you start your new pup out can determine how well that pup will turn out. Take the time, be patient, be positive and plan ahead to get your pup the start it deserves. You won’t regret it!
This article was originally written for Boykin Spaniel magazine