The WORST part about being a dog trainer...Puppies.
Puppies. They are awful. Small, fluffy, big eyes, innocence. I mean I do not understand what all the fuss is about...
So obviously I am kidding. Anyone with a pulse loves puppies (unless of course they are a cat person...but I won't go there...). I have been getting lots of inquiries regarding puppy training lately and that is fantastic. I LOVE seeing dog owners be proactive with training before issues arise. Whether you are interested in a high drive working dog or a family companion, taking the time to properly imprint a puppy is SOO worth the investment of time and energy.
Although having a puppy seems pretty straight forward there is actually quite an art to proper imprinting and, like any other industry, there is a field of misinformation and myths to wade through. STATEMENT #1 : 'It is not good to start training until the dog is more mature.'
Don't even know where to start with that one. Wrong on so many levels. Training starts the nanosecond a new pack member arrives (whether intentional or unintentional: pup is learning from you regardless). Training started with mom immediately after pup was born...the longer you wait to keep her training going the harder it is to teach down the road.
STATEMENT #2: 'Crate training is cruel.'
False. Crate training simulates denning. A good mom kept the den clean, cozy and secure. Puppies raised around good moms (and good breeding) naturally enjoy the closed in space of a kennel and have already been trained not to soil it. Use the crate/kennel as a tool while housebreaking new puppy.
STATEMENT #3: 'My new puppy follows me everywhere! I got this training thing down...'
This lasts for about 2 weeks at most. You are an interesting object that moves...use it with proper imprinting exercises while it lasts...but rest assured it will be short lived as the world becomes more interesting if you do take steps to keep puppy engaged during imprinting ;)
STATEMENT #4: 'I made my 9 week old puppy sit! I got this training thing down...'
This means you are luring with food and that is great! But the sit is pretty much a default move for all dogs. Important to expand and continue with luring exercises well beyond a sit. And, as stated above, engagement will wane if you become boring as the world becomes more interesting. STATEMENT #5: 'You need to introduce a puppy to as many dogs, people and places as you can.'
This is not necessarily untrue but is more of a loaded statement. You need to CAREFULLY introduce puppy to dogs, people and places with proper structure and timing. Let me explain more...
To expand on statement #5 let's see how that line is often interpreted by new puppy owners....
'OK I am going to spend the day socializing my new puppy. I am going to the dog park so he can meet new friends, I am going to my auntie's house to meet new people and kids and I am going to go shopping downtown so he can be exposed to bikes, cars and skateboards.'
To quickly illustrate how each of these locations can go poorly:
1) Pup gets rolled, assaulted, bit by out of control dogs at dog park : Now terrified of dogs.
2) Pup cowers as Auntie launches at first site of fluff ball with arms wide screaming 'OH MY GOSH I FREAKING LOVE PUPPIES' and her kids step on/shriek/mishandle puppy: Now terrified of people and kids.
3) Pup shows fear when skateboard flies by, owner picks dog up and pets with reassuring coos. Same pattern happens for bikes and cars: Now rewarded for exhibiting fear of said environments.
Now, the idea is not to close off your new puppy to other dogs, people or the world...The correct approach is to properly structure their interaction with this new world AFTER having a solid foundation of communication with their new pack leader (you) . Here is an example of that same day redone with proper structure:
'Ok I am going to spend the day socializing my new puppy. I am inviting a dog over that I trust and know the history of. I am inviting family over and having them work through exercises with the new puppy and I am going to introduce pup to a bicycle in the backyard.
1) Pup gets marked and rewarded for proper interaction with this new calm and controlled dog: Now sees dogs as interesting and fun.
2) Family is instructed to sit on the ground and minimize pressure. Pup is marked and rewarded for running up to these new people: now associates positivity with human interaction.
3) Pup is fed near bicycle that is slowly pushed back and forth: Now starts seeing that particular contraption as meaningless background noise.
This is just an example but the recurring theme is CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENTS. Notice too, that everything at this stage is being done in familiar home environment. It is absolutely imperative to slowly increase new events and stimulation in a manner that can be controlled. I am a huge stickler for who meets with my puppy and when. That goes for dogs too, unless I know the history, owner, training and behavior that dog exhibits I won't let them near my new puppy.
Taking the time to imprint your puppy is a proactive approach to training. It is fun and it builds a powerful bond between the human and canine pack member. Using that relationship of leadership and trust, your dog will learn how to appropriately react to the modern world of cars, bikes, vacuums, people, other dogs etc.
THIS IS THE PART OF THIS BLOG WHERE I SHAMELESSLY PLUG MY BUSINESS
To help navigate the waters of puppy development, Run Your Pack offers a week by week training program. We will customize an imprinting program for you and your pup and will break down how to approach each week with new exercises and experiences that build on each other to create a calm, confident and happy puppy ready to take the next steps into obedience training. Every client will get a weekly track sheet of exercises to stay on target and monitor pups progression (see example below).
In short, puppies are often the BEST part about being a dog trainer. The are small, fluffy, have big eyes and are truly innocent. They are ready to be shown what this modern world is all about - take the steps to not just be a puppy owner, but a puppy steward that will set them up for a confident life as a balanced member of the pack!
Checkout the RYP puppy imprinting program here for more info: