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Training and Exercise

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Puppy behaviour and training

A well-trained puppy is a happy puppy. Not many people know it, but more young dogs can die from behaviour-related problems than from accident or illness. A well-socialised dog is less likely to bite, is easier to treat in emergencies, and less likely to chomp on something dangerous. Here is some helpful advice for getting started in the right direction.

Socialising

It is worth getting your pup used to being around, and being handled by, different people (and your vet will love you for it). Try to introduce your pup to new situations and new people in an unthreatening, relaxed manner. Some new owners carry their pup around in a ‘papoose’ where the pup can experience car journey, crowds and traffic noise while still feeling very secure. Touch your pups ears and check its teeth when the pup is relaxed, to allow it to become used to those actions. Gradually introduce some grooming in the same way. Let it meet new people by having them offer a treat. If it acts frightened, simply retreat until it has become relaxed again. It if takes food too roughly, overreact, say ‘ouch’ loudly and ignore the puppy for a few seconds.

Housetraining

The key to housetraining your puppy is to identify the place where you want your pup to go, and take it there frequently, rewarding success with praise and treats. Take your pup out frequently: after feeding, play, exercise, entertainment, first thing in the morning, last thing at night and at least once every hour.

It is important to stay outside with your dog, so you can reward on the spot. Use a command when the dog gets it right, like ‘get busy’. The exact words don’t matter, as long as you use the same ones each time. If your pup just sniffs at the grass and shows no inclination to do anything, wait a couple of minutes, then bring it inside and try again in an hour’s time.

Use walks as a reward for good behaviour. Many dog walkers terminate a walk as soon as a dog has done its business, a conditioning which leads the dog to hold on as long as possible so as to get a decent amount of exercise.

Accept that accidents will happen. Puppies often have trouble getting through an entire night without mishap. If you catch yours in the act, interrupt the behaviour and lead your puppy outside to the designated place and reward it there. Punishment may only encourage the pup to use the loo when you’re not around to notice it.

If an accident happens when you are out or away, punishment confuses the dog: too much time has elapsed between the accident and the response for the dog to understand what it has done wrong. If you have to leave your puppy unsupervised, it’s a good idea to line your kitchen floor with polyurethane and then newspapers. That way, you can get rid of urine smells quickly: lingering urine smells encourage a puppy to return to the same spot.

A newer strategy for helping puppies to control their bladders when you’re away or can’t directly supervise them is crate training. In this you confine the pup in a cozy den with clean bedding and its favourite toys for short periods of time – no more than an hour. Dogs don’t like messing their bedding – if you make the crate a special place and locate it where you spend lots of time (so the dog doesn’t feel isolated or punished), the dog will keep it clean.

Chewing

Puppies need to chew while they are teething. You can’t stop it. What you can do is direct their energies to more appropriate, and safe, objects than your slippers or your television cable. Give your dog plenty of chew toys. There are many varieties available, including popular ones which you can stuff with food or treats. The puppy then has to work hard and chew around to get at the treats. Such interactive toys promote learning and problem-solving skills in dogs as well – a wide range of these toys are available in PetPlanet’s shop.

Dog proof your house

Just as you would remove dangerous objects from the reach of toddlers, you need to make sure that your puppy can’t access any dangerous items in your house. Crawl around for a puppy-eye view and look for things like trailing wires, unstable racks or shelves, or bottles of cleaning products and bleach (remember that ordinary kitchen cupboards are easy to access by a determined doggy). Seemingly harmless items such as paracetamol, coffee and chocolate are fatal to dogs, as are some common houseplants.

Extend your examination to your garden: hedges and fences might have puppy-sized escape routes at ground level. Read the small print on the pesticides that you commonly use outside, and make sure they are pet-friendly.

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