By Elizabeth Abraham
Owners expect heaven and earth from their puppies. They expect the pup to train itself and grow into a perfect dog who behaves perfectly at all times.
Puppies bite, chew, dig, bark and leave urine and faeces on the floor. All of this is completely normal, natural and necessary doggy behaviours. So, don’t be surprised or taken aback when your puppy displays all of these behaviours. Dogs don’t train themselves. People do. Every puppy needs an education to fit into a human lifestyle. So plan ahead about the puppy’s new life and training in your house. Your puppy’s behaviour and temperament depends entirely on how you bring him up. You need to be educated about what education to give your puppy.
From a behaviour and temperament point of view, there are two very important priorities that need to be taken care of.
The most urgent priority is to socialise your puppy to a wide variety of people, especially children, strangers and other dogs. When socialisation is not done at 8-12 week s of age, puppies grow up to be either fearful and shy or aggressive around strangers and other dogs. Well-socialised puppies grow up to be wonderful companions whereas anti-social dogs are difficult and potentially dangerous. The two most common excuses given for not socialising puppies are, firstly, owners say they want their dogs to be guard dogs and therefore should not mingle with strangers. The decision of whom to protect, when to protect and from what to protect should not left up to the dog. That would be a disaster waiting to happen, leading to unnecessary dog bites and injuries and eventually the dog either losing his home or being euthanized. Even the professionally trained Attack Dogs are heavily socialised and are taught to attack on command and to back off on command. The second reason has to do with health. The period of socialisation coincides with the time when pups have not yet completed their vaccinations and are at risk of contracting diseases. But this concern can also be taken care of if proper precautions are taken: the puppies are carried in arms, socialised in clean and disinfected surroundings, allowed to mingle only with puppies who are fully vaccinated and not allowed to smell other dogs’ faeces and urine. Your puppy needs to learn to enjoy the company of all people and to enjoy being handled by all people, especially children and strangers.
The second priority is teaching adequate bite inhibition to the puppy before 18 weeks of age. Bite inhibition means the ability of a dog to control the pressure exerted by his jaws in such a way that he can put his mouth on a person or another dog and leave behind only saliva, not bite marks. Some dogs cause skin and/or flesh damage when they bite, but others don’t leave any mark at all. The difference is because of adequate bite inhibition. Whenever a dog bites a person or fights with another dog, the seriousness of the problem depends on the seriousness of the bite injury. Your dog's bite inhibition ability will determine whether you have a minor problem which can be easily corrected with a little training, or whether you have a serious and potentially dangerous problem which is going to be extremely difficult to resolve.
When a dog has well-established bite inhibition, it is unlikely his teeth will even touch the skin. Or if there is skin contact, it is unlikely that the teeth will break the skin. Therefore, the dog will cause no damage. On the other hand, if the dog has inadequate bite inhibition and his teeth puncture the skin, then you have a serious situation which may be difficult and time-consuming to resolve. Bite inhibition must be established in puppyhood, before eighteen weeks of age, since it is difficult to teach bite inhibition to an older dog. And the best teacher to impart bite inhibition to your puppy is another puppy or a young dog. Your puppy, therefore absolutely, needs to play with other puppies.
The next thing that needs to be done is to set up a space in your house so that the puppy’s potty-training can be done properly. If the puppy gets off to a good start, then the chances of mistakes are reduced.
Shopping list for things to have before the puppy gets home:
Dog crate -for potty-training purposes
Puppy toilet – you can construct your own by putting mud or sand in a litter pan – for potty training purposes
Food bowl and water bowl
Nylon collar and a leash
Food treats, like chewsticks and other chewies. Chewsticks are not toys, they are meant to be eaten.
Chew toys of at least 4 different kinds to satisfy the puppy’s natural chewing urges.
(Elizabeth Abraham is a Canine Behaviour Consultant and Trainer based in South Goa. She’s a member of APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), USA. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)