Puppy Resources

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The Best Start for Your Puppy

Get it right from the start by attending a good quality puppy school*, ideally before your dog turns 10 weeks old. Do not wait until your dog is fully vaccinated before you socialise them. The risk of developing behaviour problems due to insufficient socialisation far outweighs the risk of disease. Read more here.

Raising a happy and confident dog - and that means a well socialised dog - will be invaluable for your dog's welfare and the safety of your family and community.


*A good puppy preschool includes supervised off-leash play, so that the dogs can practise their communication skills with a variety of other dogs. Shy puppies must be allowed to hide and explore at their own pace, whenever they are ready. Under no circumstances should a puppy be forced to interact, i.e. pushed towards other dogs or people or restrained so another dog or person can approach them. Handling and training dogs should follow fear-free, reward-based principles which are free from force, coercion and threats, both physically and emotionally. The use of food for training should be strongly encouraged.

Puppy Behaviour

Puppies engage in behaviours which we usually regard as problems, such as:

  • Eliminating wherever and whenever they feel the urge
  • Chewing on whatever is in their range
  • Swallowing things, no matter if edible or not
  • Jumping all over the place
  • Whining, crying and barking, especially when alone
  • Biting and scratching

All of these behaviours are perfectly normal

The path to successfully modify your dog's behaviour is through management and training.

It requires patience and understanding.

Socialisation

What your puppy experiences during their first three to four months of their life will have an enormous impact on their future behaviour and well-being.
You will never get this time back, so make the most of it!


What is socialisation?

Puppy socialisation is a confidence building process that has its biggest impact on your puppy under around 10 - 12 weeks of age (although continued socialisation after this period is still important). The goal is that your dog forms positive associations with a large variety of people, other animals, objects, situations, environments, sights, sounds and smells - generally anything that they might encounter in their future life.

Why is it important?

If you want a well-behaved and healthy dog, you best make sure your puppy grows into a happy and confident adult. Socialisation greatly helps to prevent behaviour problems by making sure your dog feels safe in our world. Fear is the enemy as it is by far the most common reason behind behaviour problems including aggression. By teaching your dog that they have nothing to fear in the human world, you do your dog - and yourself - a great favour.

How do I do it?

Expose your puppy to lots of new things (find a checklist here: Puppy Socialisation) but without forcing or scaring them. Turn encounters - especially the important or potentially scary ones (different people, other pets, noisy things) - into positive experiences for your pup by immediately following them up with tasty food and/or play. First experiences create the most memorable and lasting types of memories.

Download PDF: Puppy Socialisation

Body Handling

Learning to love being touched by humans is essential for your dog's future well-being.
Too many dogs in our society are anxious about being handled, at least in some way or involving sensitive body parts such as their paws.


Why is it important?

Our dogs have to endure a range of handling by humans throughout their lives, yet they rarely come prepared for, let alone eager to, being touched, patted, hugged, squeezed, poked, prodded, restrained and so on. This can be a major source of anxiety and can seriously affect your dog's quality of life. Puppy hood is the best time to teach your dog that being handled by humans is nothing to worry about and in fact predicts good things. That way, they feel safe around humans and are far less likely to ever feel the need to use their teeth for self-defence.

How do I do it?

Gently introduce your dog to having their head, ears, mouth, body, legs, paws and tail touched by following each handling with a tasty treat. Always make it fun and do not scare or force the puppy. If your pup is already fearful and tries to avoid you, start with an easier version that does not worry the puppy and slowly proceed from there. Also, touch your puppy casually during play, give them a nice massage in the evening and find out what type of cuddling your dog loves, e.g. behind the ears, a scratch on the rear-end or a belly rub.

Download PDF: Body Handling

House Training

Dogs do not understand why there is anything wrong with eliminating in the house. It is therefore cruel to punish your puppy for having an 'accident' in the house. Teach your puppy to use outdoors or a designated area for toileting with tight supervision and management and by rewarding them for going in the 'right' place


Management

Do not give your puppy the run of the house before they are fully house trained. Crate training your puppy greatly helps with house training. But your puppy must love their crate before you put them in. Confine your puppy to the crate or a play pen whenever you are unable to actively supervise them. Never crate your puppy for too long. Engage a helper if you are away for more than about four hours.

Supervision

Preventing accidents in the house is important so your puppy doesn't form bad habits. Watch your dog whenever they are out of the crate or play pen so you can see the signs when they may have to go, such as sniffing the ground and circling. Then quickly but gently take the puppy outside, even if they have already started to eliminate.

Reinforcement

Take your puppy outside on a leash at regular intervals (after eating, after sleeping, after playing and excitement) so they can eliminate where you want them to. Don't interact or play with the puppy until they eliminate. If they do, praise them and give them a treat and then add a little play session before you go back inside. If they haven't eliminated after about 5 minutes, go back inside, confine the pup and try again after 10 minutes.

Download PDF: House Training

Chewing

Chewing is a favourite and enjoyable past time for dogs. If you do not provide your dog with things to chew on, they will likely chew on other things, such as the furniture, carpets, shoes or the garden hose.

Management

Do not give your puppy access to anything you do not want them to chew. This means confinement in a play pen, crate or puppy-proofed room unless you can actively supervise your puppy. Remove all valuables and dangerous items from the puppy's reach.

Supervision

If your puppy does grab a forbidden item, never chase them or yell at them! Try to redirect them onto their own toys by making a toy 'come alive' and play with them. Alternatively, swap the forbidden item for a piece of nice food (and put the item somewhere safe!), then redirect your dog to one of their own toys.

Building a habit for chewing toys

Provide your puppy with plenty of legal chew toys. Find out what they love and frequently rotate the toys, i.e. put some of them away for a week and then bring them back in. Also add new toys regularly. Encourage your puppy to play with those toys. Praise your pup and play with them whenever they pick up one of their own toys.