A NEW PUPPY – THE BEGINNING OF A RELATIONSHIP
by Martin Deeley
There are so many articles written on selecting the right pup that I am going to presume that you, as owners of a new pup, have done a lot of homework already and selected the right breed, the right sex, and gone to a reputable breeder of true working dog who has had the parents of their pups checked and certified for physical health. And, very important, a breeder who has already started socialising the pup to people and some of the experiences he or she will have during its life.
Many books and trainers give the impression that you do not start training until the pup is six months old. Although we may not start formal gun dog training, your pup is learning and developing habits the moment you pick him up. This misconception came from the fact that if a pup is sent to professional trainer they really cannot start get solid progress in training until the pup has some maturity under his collar. However, most professional trainers will tell you that their life is easy if the owner has done some very good basic puppy training, socialisation and habituation.
From the moment you pick up your pup you are beginning to form a relationship which will be the basis of your life together. The bedrock of that relationship is respect, an affection for each other and understanding leadership from you. Your pup may become your shooting companion, friend and member of the family but it will always be a dog and although we may anthropomorphise with our dogs we must always recognise that very important fact – it is a dog.
Your pup is learning and being trained every minute of the day even when you are not formally ‘training’. Habits and behaviour patterns are being formed all the time and these first months of ownership are the formative ones. Lessons taught now will last a lifetime. It is easy for pup to learn good habits if we think about what we are doing but so often we owners teach bad habits without even realising.
For example – owners and visitors encourage a pup to jump up to be petted, and they think it is fun. They rub, pat and pet his head vigorously, wrestle and over excite the pup, tease it with an old sock or special toy, and play tug of war. They grab and catch him as it is running away or even coming towards them. If the young pup has an accident and urinates indoors (usually because the owner has not been watching closely enough or doing ‘puppy management’ correctly), often they shout at him, chase him down and take him outside telling him what a bad dog it has been in a very stern voice. They may even rub its nose in the urine to ‘show it’ what a bad pup he has been and ‘teach him a lesson’, thinking someone somewhere said that was the thing to do. As pup grows up and ‘learns’ from these experiences he learns that people enjoy them jumping up, that hands grab him when he doesn’t want them to, and he learns that hands and people sometimes must be avoided. He also learns that it is not pleasant to urinate when people are around (even in the yard!) or when he does need to urinate, to hide so they cannot see him doing it. As I am sure you will realise, none of these behaviours help you train the perfect shooting companion
These are just a few examples of how a pup learns and is taught the wrong behaviour without owners even recognising it. Most owners want their dogs to be clean in the house, to come every time they are called, to walk nicely on a leash and to have good manners around guests and other dogs and then of course want them to become good shooting companions
For some reason dog training is considered something that every owner can do. Some owners claim the dog will learn as he grows or in many cases he will grow out of the bad habits he has learned. Not always so. The dog will often learn and keep a behaviour that you develop. Some of his behaviour will come from natural instincts and inherited behaviour but there is no doubt that what the owner does during the first four weeks of ownership shapes and builds permanent behaviour. Behaviour which can be very difficult to change.
There are two primary rules to dog training, Do not ask or tell your pup to do something he does not understand or can evade and Reward your dog for the correct behaviour. Do not reward (even inadvertently) for the incorrect behaviour. Putting the pup in a position where he can always do right and be rewarded, and the timing of rewards and correction are important skills in bringing up and training a good shooting companion.
In the early days you and your puppy are getting to know each other, so make sure that he associates you with pleasurable times, moments of enjoyment and interest. Your pup will need lots of sleep time and what better way to do it where there is less likely chance of disturbance such as in a kennel or a dog crate such as a Lintran, Port-a-Pet or even Airline Kennel box. It is not a good idea to have the pup running free throughout the house with all it’s dangers. Confinement to it’s own ‘room’ when you want pup to rest or you cannot give it any attention will help with housebreaking and avoiding damage in your home. A pup’s attention span is short. So have him out of the ‘kennel’ for brief periods and then put him back for a nap. The short periods out can be quality time where you can concentrate on pup and teach the right behaviour. Generally ten to twenty minutes is enough, although the body may still be going the brain of the pup soon becomes tired and that is when problems occur. During these short periods with your pup you can enjoy not only training but also watching pup and learning yourself what makes pup ‘tick’. By observing your pup you will be able to know a lot more about how he is thinking and can anticipate his actions and reactions. You will find that getting to know your dog and his behaviour is a fascinating hobby in itself. Learn to ‘read’ your pup and you can then develop the right training approach to bring on the partner you are looking for.
Generally a dog is a family member but children must realise that pup is not a new toy and that they have to treat him correctly. Let them know what they can and cannot do with the pup. You cannot be around all the time, therefore it is a good idea to spend a little time educating and training your family to ensure that pup is handled correctly and consistently and learn good habits. That does not mean there has to be a strict regime but the pup has to be respected and treated correctly and games which could create problems for you in the future avoided. And when a pup is a member of a family it is essential that there is consistency of commands and actions to avoid confusion in the pups mind.
If anything creates problems with a new pup in the home it is housebreaking. Too often the pup is corrected because of fouling the home when it has not been taught to go outside or it cannot control it’s natural functions yet. To develop a clean pup requires training and good management by the owner. Pup will usually need to eliminate immediately upon waking, before putting to bed for the evening, within ten to twenty minutes of feeding, within ten to twenty minutes of drinking water, and within ten to twenty minutes of running and playing. Some pups become clean very quickly but an owner can help this process. Teach pup to head for the door and go outside by encouraging the pup to follow you and as you go through the door give the command ‘Outside’. Once outside, go with the pup and as you watch, the moment he starts to look as though he is going to urinate or defecate give a command for this (I use ‘Look Sharp!’). As pup is going about his business very quietly tell him ‘Good’ and then a little louder when he steps away. Do not be too excited in this praise during the action or it may interrupt the important ‘job’. Always remember also that the pup may need to do two jobs. By watching your pup you will quickly learn from the time of the day and the body action of the pup when it is going to do what. If pup consistently needs to go out during the night or you have accidents in the night then it is a good idea to remove all water from 8.00pm onwards, provided pup was allowed a drink at that time and dinner was given before this time.
These early days are important and will help create a lasting relationship. If they are traumatic for you as well as the pup, you may never create the relationship which is so essential between a dog and it’s owner. The important thing is that you and the whole of your family are consistent. So think through what you are going to do in the early days, it all starts the moment you pick pup up and builds from there