It Takes Two

A woman sits on a man's lap while he tries to explain something. The woman is looking away from him with a disappointed facial expression. A puppy is sitting in the foreground with his head tipped to one side as though he is trying to understand what is going on.

When it comes to couples rearing a puppy it’s not uncommon to have different views. We see it all the time. People come with their own history from childhood on how to raise a dog. Our own experience with discipline also affects our training approach. Puppy rearing and training have moved on over the last decade and for most people, “positive reinforcement” (using reward based training) is now the obvious choice. Here, we look at the top four decisions that couples will face in bringing a pup home. We hope that the dialogue will help you and your partner form a consensus on these key issues.

Decision #1.

What style of training will you use?

There are two main types. You need to choose between puppy-friendly positive reinforcement and the use of punitive techniques.

Dog training is unregulated so this key decision is left up to you. Reward based training has been scientifically proven to work. It’s the most forgiving approach and it’s fun and easy to do. Using harsh methods is no fun and unfair to the dog. It can also create dangerous behavioral problems.

No matter the approach, one thing is certain, you must reach a consensus on your training approach, it’s very confusing for a dog to be trained using both techniques and its unlikely to be successful.

We hope the humane approach wins.

Decision #2

Another big decision is whether or not to socialize your pup (with other dogs and our urban environment) before the puppy is completely vaccinated.

You need to know that … the number one killer of young dogs is not disease; it’s a lack of early socialization. Taking a calculated, well-informed risk and socializing your puppy before he is fully vaccinated is the best approach, as explained by the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour. Be cautious of ill-informed professionals, read what the Experts say and get to a Socialization class.

Decision #3

Crate Training

These days most people crate train over night. This is excellent, but daytime Crate Training is often overlooked. A puppy with too much unsupervised freedom is at high risk and will develop annoying behaviors. Nipping, biting, housetraining issues and a lack of focus are a few problems that are likely to occur. Structure and boundaries with supervised “play” and training when out of the crate is the healthiest approach.

You and your partner need to decide that you can put up with some puppy peeping until he settles down in the crate. Don’t worry, it’s natural, your pup will soon settle into the routine of being in his crate and you’ll be happy that he’s not underfoot. Take him out regularly, do some training and put him back in the crate while you are both still successful. He’ll tire quickly at which point, he doesn’t learn well, so keep time spent out of the crate short and successful.

Decision #4

What to prioritize first? House Training, Puppy Junior Obedience, Preventive Training or Socialization?

We think it’s important that you and your partner understand that Socialization and Preventative Exercises should be your priority.

House Training is what most people focus on. In the big picture, it’s the easiest thing to do and a no-brainer when you get some help and stick to a game plan. This is why we put House Training at the bottom of the list.

However for your puppy to be successful, it’s really important that you understand that there’s a small window of opportunity between birth and sixteen weeks when your puppy is highly adaptable and must learn to socialize with other dogs, meet new people and become comfortable in a complex environment. To be successful, you must both work hard to socialize him during this very short period of time.

Along with Socialization comes the idea of Preventative Exercises, these are games and training exercises that prevent the development of problem behaviors like food (or toy) guarding, biting and nipping and separation anxiety. The need for early-socialization is increasingly well understood and it’s likely to be recommended to you by your vet or trainer. However, the need to do training exercises with your pup to pro-actively stop the development of undesirable behaviors is a relatively new concept. So, please read up on this and incorporate preventative exercises in your game plan.

You may be surprised that we don’t give Puppy Junior Obedience training top billing. Manners are important, but understand that like house training, obedience training is not time-sensitive, so focus on Socialization and Preventative Exercises.

From our own experience, we all know couples that wait until they have a child before discussing their values. It’s not surprising that the same thing happens when people get a dog. Bringing a puppy into your life together should be something that brings you together, so discuss the big four issues and do a little reading before you start on what will be a great experience.

 

An Important Step

 

Smiling young woman facing the camera holding her border collie.

April 2017 Syd and her 9 month pup Fen

 

Sydney has recently graduated from and become certified with the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy.

Dog training is an unregulated business with highly variable levels of education and training ability. Professional certification from schools like the Karen Pryor Academy and the work of associations like the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and the Society of Veterinary Behaviour Technicians are moving our industry closer to becoming a self regulating profession. Sydney has taken a big step in continuing education that will benefit her clients and people using Ultimate Puppy.

Congratulations Syd!

Victorious Vet Visits

Veterinarian listening to puppy's heartbeat

The veterinarian we choose should be considered a ‘partner’ in care. We’re responsible for making sure that clinic staff can safely handle our dog without risk of being bitten. It’s up to us to ensure our dog is comfortable at the vet and can tolerate routine check-ups.

The stress surrounding a waiting room can be reduced by some simple work. A robust socialisation and handling strategy is key with a puppy. This should start with the breeder or foster family and carry on with you. Doing this gives your dog a sizable life-long advantage.

Be sure that you have plenty of delicious treats for your puppy when visiting the clinic. You puppy should be getting treats throughout the visit. Starting when you enter the clinic. Then carry on during the exam. On the table and once off the table. Try tossing some treats onto the scale for fun. You want a dog that is happy to climb on for weigh-in time.

Non-Treatment Social Visits

To prevent negative associations with the vet be sure and get into the clinic for strictly social visits with your puppy.  Non treatment visits will help when done a handful of times as your dog matures. Let your dog receive treats from the reception staff. Play a quick game of tug and then off you go. Keep it short and fun.

Fear-Free Vet Visit is an excellent initiative that was created by Doctor Marty Becker.  For some tips on fear free vet visits you can watch this short video by Doctor Becker.

Thank you to Dr. Paul McCutcheon and his staff of East York Animal Clinic & Holistic Centre in allowing us to photograph Fen’s vet clinic visit. Dr. McCutcheon was operating a Fear-Free clinic long before it became popular to do so.

3 easy steps to use our website

illustration of a young girl holding her smartphone, with her index finger on her lips while her puppy looks up at her.

What’s the best way to use the website? We get asked this question more and more often so here are 3 easy steps to get you started.

Step 1: Your Puppy’s Development

To get up and running look up your puppy’s age on the Your Puppy’s Development. This will allow you to see what stage of development your puppy is at and what you need to be working on pronto.

The Development Chart has been designed to take you into the key areas using links. So for instance if someone has an 8-week-old puppy the link in the chart will take you to Socialization and Handling exercises.

Step 2: Daily Email Support – The Puppy Bytes

Sign up for Puppy Bytes to get daily training tips via email. These bite-sized tips provide you with time sensitive puppy training information, exercises and games. Each tip is linked back to the web site and the specific exercise or game related to the tip.

Step 3: Step by Step Weekly Training Guide

If you are looking for something a bit more structured then our weekly Step by Step Training Guide is a good option. Whether you have just brought home a puppy or you are a puppy school professional this guide is intended as a lesson plan. We have placed what we believe are the most important aspects of puppy training at the beginning. Each lesson plan links back into the specific exercise.

Resources for Professionals: Vet Clinics, Shelters, Breeders and Working Dog organizations. Please help yourself to the following interactive PDF downloads. They were designed specifically for your use.

Ultimate Puppy FAQ

If you have a specific issue you are dealing with then go to our Puppy Training FAQ. Listed are eleven of the most common puppy problems and where to find answers on our site. This resource is particularly useful to busy vet clinics.

Ultimate Puppy Brochure

A resource you can distribute to clients as a printout or email that includes all the training basics.