None of us can deny that all puppies are cute, unbelievably adorable! However, when we bring our pups home they come with a whole host of puppy behaviours which are sometimes difficult, demanding, and overwhelming, and that’s on a good day! We have methods of approaching certain behaviours, many methods and many techniques to suit different breeds/ages and lifestyles, however there is one key thing that will be invaluable to you………management.
We so often find ourselves saying ‘no’ to our pups don’t we? Sometimes we seem to endlessly be saying ‘no’, every day, every behaviour your pup performs seems to be a ‘bad one’ and we end up constantly saying ‘no’ until we are blue in the face! However, is this really very effective? Does our pup actually understand ‘no’? If your pup responds to ‘no’ and it works for you, fantastic! However, in my experience of working with many owners, nine times out of ten it doesn’t work. Has the word ‘no’ been given any meaning prior to it being used? Have you taught your pup to understand what this means? Are you using negative punishment in some way? The removal of something to DECREASE a behaviour and pairing that with your ‘no’? Are you using a ‘no’ as a no reward marker? If so, what prior training have you done before hand? What exactly are we asking our pup to DO instead? If you ARE going to use the word ‘no’, at the very least follow it up with asking for what you DO want. As you can see, a simple ‘no’ turns into something quite complex, it has meaning to us, but does it really have meaning to a pup?
What can we do then? If we use ‘no’ and it has no effect whatsoever? There’s actually a lot we can do, one key thing would be to use management. What do we mean by management? We mean management of the environment around your puppy. Setting your puppy in an environment in which he will learn, and most importantly will succeed in. When we think of our pups behaviour, what do we think of? Largely, two of the most commonly problematic behaviours are biting/nipping, and toilet training. But ironically, these may well be two of the easiest behaviours to deal with appropriately.
When I say ‘management’, here’s what I mean:
To name a few! If you manage your pups environment, he can not fail. If he has no unsupervised access to furniture to chew, he will never find it reinforcing or enjoyable! It will never become a learned behaviour or a habit, and we can never inadvertently reinforce it, and it can never be a self-reinforcing behaviour which we so often find difficult to deal with. If he can not get into the shoe cupboard, he can not chew your shoes or run off with them. If he can not get into the hallway, he can not run up the hall to go to the toilet. If you pup can’t run loose in the garden, he can not ruin your favourite plant or try to eat stones! I think you see where I’m going with this.
I know many a dog trainer who do not give their dogs run of the house at all, ever. Throughout life. I’m not suggesting everybody should do this, but I do believe careful management of your pups environment can help hugely especially in those early months. With supervision and management your pup can not fail! If he is provided with appropriate activities whilst being supervised and under careful management, your pup can’t lose, he will be rewarded for all the GREAT behaviours he performs (ie. chewing on appropriate toys etc) and we will never have to face the “what shall I do when he……” problem. He will never even get the option to perform the behaviours we generally don’t like (these behaviours are largely completely natural and normal I must add, but it doesn’t mean we have to like them!).
I can not emphasise enough how important and helpful it will be to put these measures in place. Baby gates blocking access to key areas ie. stairs, office etc. House lines for your pup to wear when pottering about in the rooms he has access to, you can supervise far more easily with a house line on him! Chew toys, providing appropriate chewing activity, and plenty of 1-2-1 time with you showing him behaviours which are appropriate and rewarding.
Please don’t think for one minute think I am suggesting that your pup will have no desire to chew and miraculously know where to go to the loo by implementing these management techniques, that is not it at all. These management ideas are there purely to aid in your training, and yes, you will still need to show your pup what is the right thing to do!
Having a crate does not automatically mean your pup is going to accept it straight away, that takes some time on your part. Pups have to be trained to a certain standard to live in our society happily and safely, and these methods won’t change that, they will simply make life a little easier for you, and your pup, whilst you are going through the training process in those early months. So, have a think, could you incorporate any management techniques into your pups life to help in the training process?
Largely the management techniques we put in place will hugely depend on your individual pup and his temperament, your home layout/lifestyle, your pups energy levels and breed and your training goals. Every puppy owner wants something different from their pups, your need for management or supervision within the home will vary greatly, but it is invaluable to implement SOME kind of plan to minimise your pups opportunities to go down a ‘destructive’ or unproductive route. Set them up to do the right thing from the very beginning! A puppy will always be a puppy, but we can make it much easier for them and us.
If you’d like more information about management techniques and how to implement them effectively, just get in touch!