Of puppy rearing, life, and responsabilities (oh, and crates)

Let’s face it : the first days of a new puppy’s life in any family is a big organisation makeover.

ColtJan13-10There is crate training, potty training, walking on leash, recall, basic obedience, good manners etc… Everything is new, everything has to be taught, every bit is crucial.

Puppies are sponges. They absord every bit of information, process it, and use it to their advantage. You have to get it right from Day 1. With pets it’s OUR responsability to break things down into bits small enough that they can understand, integrate, and comply. Force and coercition do very little to train young animals, and are detrimental to bonding with the new owners.

MarlaColtJan13-14All members of the household are involved in the adapting process, especially kids. As an only child, Marla has seen her little world as turned upside down as it would have been by the arrival of another human child.

So how does all this relate to responsability, and life in general ? Animals shelters are crammed with unwanted and discarded pets. Simply because people want animals, are ready to pay to acquire them, but don’t want to make any further effort to give them proper education and training. Sadly enough, it’s reminiscent of the situation of many broken teens and youngsters that got a bad start in life and have trouble settling in society.

ColtJan13-11Training a puppy demands an enormous amount of time, energy, effort, self investment. It also requires that you do the proper research, and go out of your way to do things right. It doesn’t fall from the sky. A well educated dog is made. You have to work for it. Hard.

When I started owning and training dogs over 20 years ago, and doing it the “American way” (crate training, namely), I got poo-pooed a lot, criticized for “putting them in prison”, “training them too hard”, etc. I was just trying to give my dogs proper education while ensuring they were not thoroughly destroying my home at any occasion. (Basically a crate does three things : it helps house breaking the dog who will not wet where it sleeps. It protects your interior from ANY destruction, whatsoever. It keeps the dog at an inferior social rank in your family pecking order by showing it you have constant and total control of its life). The last part is VERY important. By reminding the dog of its social rank on a daily basis, it keeps it from getting any fancy idea about becoming the boss, hence, ever being a threat to any family members (I have little kids in mind here).

If you love dogs (as I do) you HAVE to accept their deep nature. Dogs are PROFOUNDLY social animals with a STRONG hierarchy structure. People wanting one to one, equal partnership with their dogs are WRONG. You just have to be your dog’s leader, whether you like it or not. If you don’t, your dog WILL take the leadership from you, because from its point of view, there HAS to be a boss in the pack.

Dogs, like small children, need rules, a frame, someone solid to rely and lean on. If you don’t give them that strong and secure anchor to rely on, they’ll grown insecure and get themselves in trouble. Sure, it’d be easier for me not to spend the two coming weeks getting up in the middle of every night to allow my crated pup to go out for potty. It’d also be MUCH easier not to crate him and have to ignore -or physically correct- the hollering he tried to put out the first two nights. He’d be so much more comfortable to let it roam in my living room, pissing on my floorboards and chewing on my leather couch, then get mad and beat the shit out of him in the morning, while all his antics are entirely MY fault. Instead of which, I did make the effort to learn him to accept to stay quietly crated, I try watching him 100% of the time he’s not crated to bring him outside at the slightest hint that he needs to go potty, I play with him when he feels like chewing on something, I go for a long walk every morning in the rainy and cold weather to teach him to walk on a line and heel, etc… Within a year I’ll have a very well behaved and obedient teenage dog that will respect all members of the family, including a child less than half his weight, because he’s been dealt with the proper way from Day 1.

MarlaJan13-14My husband says he finds it hard to tell the pup No all time. He says “I feel like all I’m telling him all day is No”. And I kindly remind him on how we had the same impression when our daughter was younger.. Today saying No has become a much rarer occurrence because we don’t need to anymore.

You just have to draw lines and keep them clearly marked, and that means a lot of No. No is good though, because it allows you to put a lot of emphasis on the Yes parts of life. Pooping outside, Yes ! Being quiet in your crate, Yes !! Playing tug with appropriate toys, Yes !, Cuddling, Yes. Puppies (and people) learn through contrast between being ignored or blamed for wrong doing, and being praised for acting well. All the quality of your education depends on how subtle and fine your timing is to deliver both blame or praise (since dogs learn almost exclusively by association of thought).

MarlaColtJan13-15If you plan on getting a pet, especially a dog, please, pretty please make sure you make the effort to rear it properly from Day 1. It does mean a lot if self investment, but you’ll both win in the long run.

About marla2008

Shutterbug. Shallow DOF nut. Mother of Child. Student of the Horse.
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