It Takes A Village To Raise a Puppy

January 26th 2015

By Dr. Dirk Denkens

Everybody loves puppies

What’s not to love about puppies? I for one cannot resist to smile looking at these little bundles of joy and fur begging to be cuddled and snuggled. Puppies definitely redefine the term irresistible!

My wife and I recently decided to get a new addition to our family. He is a male Papillon puppy we named Chai. Despite his calm sedate demeanour, when we first picked him up from the breeder he quickly made himself at home.

A month later we are completely immersed in what can only be called puppy pandemonium. Chai makes a nice addition to our 11-year-old Yorkie and four-year-old adopted Papillon canine family. As much as we love and adore the little rascal, he still challenges us daily with his seemingly unlimited exuberance and constantly gets into trouble. Not to mention, the difficulties we still have staying on top of his housetraining.

We take comfort in the fact that he will, one day, no longer be a puppy, and many of the issues we are currently struggling with will be a thing of the past. In the meantime we persevere and carry on!

So how do we go about transforming our puppy from the little rascal he is into the well-adjusted canine citizen we want him to become? Well here are some ideas to get you started.

Puppy proof your home

Here’s the deal. Before your puppy sets his first footsteps in your pristine home it is imperative that you puppy proof your home.

Start by systematically touring your home, room by room, and look for things that could potentially be harmful to your puppy.

Examples are exposed electrical wires (puppies explore by putting everything they can in their mouths and chew on it), valuable items left on the floor (think books, important papers, your shoes or those precious slippers you got for Valentines day), Christmas ornaments that can be easily reached, toxic plants… I think you get the picture.

Pretend to be a dog, crawl on your hands and knees on the floor and pretend you are a puppy, it will give you an entirely different perspective from what you are used to!

Create a safe puppy haven within your home

Allowing your puppy to roam freely in your home unsupervised is asking for trouble. Puppies are constantly exploring their surroundings. They are super-fast and they will chew their way through your pocket book in no time flat.

To avoid this hardship create a confined area to safely keep your puppy when you are not there to closely monitor the little munchkin. Setting up a puppy pen or using baby gates to create a small living space containing an appropriately sized crate (enough space to comfortably stand, turn around and lay in), a small water bowl, a few chew or mentally stimulating toys and maybe a puppy pee pad for any unforeseen accidents are all that is required.

Crating your puppy

A crate is a wonderful tool to help keep our puppy safe when we are busy attending to our daily activities.

The crate also offers a comfortable and secure “den like” safe haven for our puppy where it can rest and unwind. Covering up the crate with a towel or blanket will offer an even stronger sense of security.

In addition, crate training can be very helpful in the housetraining department. Most dogs do not like to soil in their crate, a trait we can use to our benefit.

Toys, toys, toys

Your puppy does require an outlet for his or her chewing urges. It is far better (and cheaper) to have your puppy destroy a doggie chew toy than your recently bought Italian shoes or wallet. Chew toys do not need to be expensive or even new to be enjoyed by your puppy as long as they are safe and cannot be swallowed or cause injury. Routinely check the toys for damage, if so, they need to be discarded. Get some Kong or similar toys so you can hide treats inside them offering a bit of a challenge. Chewies are another great “toy” to use as they too have a calming effect. Chewing tends to relax and tire out a puppy. Remember the saying “a tired dog is a good dog” – same can be said for a puppy!

Housetraining your puppy

As a general rule larger breed dogs tend to housetrain easier and faster than small breeds (sorry small breed owners).

The younger the puppy the shorter the ability to hold his or her bladder and bowels. Hence it is very important to be diligent about housetraining.

Punishing your puppy when having an accident will create a fearful response towards the punisher and is counterproductive. Instead ramp up your efforts and frequency in taking your puppy to the desired elimination location.

Times to take your puppy to that location: every time puppy wakes up, after every meal, every time puppy has been playing for a bit.

Reward for any success in this department, no matter how small.

The good news is that the vast majority of puppies, as they get older, are able to hold their bladder for longer periods of time, making the housetraining process a lot easier!

Here is a formula to help you: allow one hour of time plus the number of months of age of your puppy to determine how many hours your puppy should be able to hold his or her bladder.

Socializing your puppy

Socialization may be the most important aspect of your job as a puppy parent.

It is generally accepted that the bulk of puppy socialization ought to happen before puppy reaches 16 weeks of age, a tall order indeed!

As soon as puppy has received the first set of vaccinations socialization needs to go into high gear. Puppy should be exposed in a positive manner to many different creatures… other puppies (think puppy play time), adult dogs that are proven to be safe with puppies, other adults, babies, children (boys and girls of various ages), teenagers, people wearing hats or sun glasses, skate boarders, etc...

So take your puppies in the car, go for a ride, stop at a school, grocery store, bus stop, stroll around the neighbourhood, get used to car and other street noise.

I would say, given that your puppy has only received one set of vaccinations initially stay away from busy off leash dog parks and discourage your puppy from having contact with sick dogs or their excrements (I hope you are not having supper right now).

Puppy socialization classes

Not only do well structured and organized puppy classes (also sometimes referred to as puppy schools) help tremendously with the whole socialization process, but they also offer an invaluable resource to you as the puppy owner to help you with various puppy issues such as chewing, mouthing and jumping up.

Being surrounded by various other puppies and their owners does help put one’s own challenges faced with their puppies into perspective. Puppy classes are a lot of fun and well worth the expense and time commitment. Look for a puppy school that uses reward-based training methods. After all you want your puppy to grow up with a strong bond with you as his or her guardian, not a relationship based on fear and intimidation but rather grounded in respect and mutual cooperation.

Someone once said “It takes a village to raise a child.” Not only do we want our children to learn and grow up in a world that is safe so they can enjoy an enriched life experience, we also owe it to those whom we consider ourselves the guardians of.

I do believe in the saying, “It takes a village to raise a puppy.”

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