I have to admit that when I see a puppy my insides do turn to mush. There is just something about that puppy smell, big innocent eyes… Ahhhhh if only they could stay puppies forever – but they don’t and they grow up really quickly! I know this only too well as my own ‘puppy’ is no longer a puppy! I don’t know where that time went!
Speaking to as many clients and colleagues as I do and watching their puppies develop made me reflect back on how I raised my youngest dog and question myself as to if I could do it all again would I have done anything differently? As a professional trainer, it was my top priority to ‘practice what I preach’. So what did I do?
Let’s start from the beginning…..
Choices, choices, choices…. Choosing my puppy.
All my previous dogs have come from rescue and have kind of ‘fallen in my lap’ for a variety of reasons. My current dog is my first ‘intentionally sourced’ puppy. Purchasing a puppy can be a really exciting and nerve-wracking time! After all, a puppy is up to an 18-year commitment………. I needed to be certain that I found the perfect puppy for me as well as for my lifestyle and family.
The following was my checklist:
- I needed a puppy suitable to work with me as a professional trainer. This meant that I needed a certain temperament; confident and calm with a high work ethic.
- I needed a dog who could participate in my chosen dog sport of Agility. This meant that I needed a dog that was both structurally suited and was keen to play, could be energetic and willing explore and try new things.
- I have teenage children, other dogs, cats and a rabbit so the dog must be able to cope with a ‘full house’: meet the companionship needs of my children, be confident enough to fit in with my current dogs and not be stimulated by smaller fast moving animals.
- I live with a shift worker who comes and goes so the dog must be able to cope with an unpredictable routine.
- I wanted a small to medium size dog.
- Due to the genders of my current dogs, I wanted a female.
- I needed to be able to meet both parents to assess their temperaments as many behaviours are genetic.
- The puppies had to be raised in the family home and be well socialised whilst at the breeders.
After much research, I decided on the breed and breeder I wanted. The breeder was a fellow trainer who I had worked with in the past and knew the temperament of dog I needed and wanted. Together we chose the mating that was going to produce my new puppy….. however, I had to wait!
I waited for 9 months. Waiting for the perfect puppy was the best thing I ever did! Far too often purchasing a puppy is done on impulse and I see many owners who regret doing so.
I started visiting my puppies litter as soon as the breeder told me I could. I actually asked the breeder to choose my puppy for me as it was her that was spending every day with them and she had a very clear idea of what ‘temperament’ I wanted – I found this HARD as every time I visited I saw a change in the puppies behaviour and each time I was drawn to a different puppy! I maintained full faith with the breeder making the end decision as she knew her dogs and her breed.
At 6 weeks the breeder had chosen my puppy…. And she was (and still is) the perfect match for me.
To ease the transition and set my puppy up for success, I put an Adaptil collar on my pup at 6 weeks which both soothed my puppy during her departure from the litter at 8 weeks as well as helped her settle into her new home.
Let the fun begin – Coming home!
This can be an overwhelming time for any puppy, however coming into a new home with other animals and people can be quite stressful. So how did I do it?
- I set up a safe space for my new puppy; I set up a crate securely on a chair in my bedroom and another in my lounge area. The breeder had already crate trained my puppy so this was a breeze!
- I picked up my puppy in the morning so this allowed her a full day to become familiar with her new home prior to introducing her to the other animals or my children coming home from school.
- I packed Kongs for my other dogs to keep them occupied whilst I allowed my new pup to explore.
- I continued on with my usual daily routine whilst my puppy wandered around and explored. Continuing with the homes usual routine allowed my pup to become familiar with this routine quickly. Although it is tempting to take time off work to help the puppy settle in, this can backfire and instead teach the puppy to expect a routine that is not going to continue, which can lead to distress when you eventually do leave them.
- If my puppy cried I went to her! Remember dogs can’t be naughty, malicious or vindictive as their brains simply aren’t wired that way! ESPECIALLY puppies!
- The other animals and children were introduced slowly, calmly and individually over the next 2 days.
Socialisation time – out and about.
I began to socialise my pup at 8.5 weeks. No, she was not fully vaccinated however puppies have a socialisation window that closes at 12-16 weeks so correct socialisation is not something we can ‘do later’. Once that window closes there is no turning back. In saying this I did not take her to any ‘high risk’ areas such as dog parks or beaches.
So where did I take my puppy? Anywhere that is not frequented by other dogs regularly; Hardware stores, cafes, schools, ice rink, local shopping centres, horse yards….. you name it I went there! Every day I introduced my puppy to new people, places and experiences. Correctly socialising a puppy is a full-time job!
Training? What training?
You would possibly think that as a professional trainer this would be the first thing on my agenda, right? WRONG! My first priority after ensuring my pup was well socialised is teaching her to be a dog – life skills! Allowing and encouraging her to play, think, explore, make good and not so good choices (safely) and building a bond between us.
Of course, there are a few cues I taught her; name, leave it, come back when called (recall) and LOTS of tricks, however for the first year of her life I just taught her how to learn and focused on building value for me – most of this was done through play! Similar to the way we raise our children; early education should be based on play!
And now I’m here …
So are there things I would do differently or will do with my next puppy? Yes of course! The industry of professional reward based training is always evolving and as we do we will always improve, hence the reason it is important that you seek the best advice you possibly can when raising your own puppy.
We’re here to help!
The following link demonstrates the method I used to socialise. Puppy Social Education
The following link will open Kalmpets socialisation program pdf. Puppy socialisation program
The following link is Kalmpets 5 Steps to puppy raising: