Saturday, February 2, 2013

When to Start?

When to Start?

The moment your new pup or adopted dog enters your home you are either training what you want the dog to learn or you are “training” something that needs to be undone down the road.

Unfortunately most people wait – and wait! – until problems are very evident before seeking help.  Sad to say the “help” they seek may result in the pup or dog being sent to a shelter or otherwise abandoned because behavior issues have gotten a bit out of control.  But, even if that is not the case it is ALWAYS more difficult to correct problems then to prevent them

Impulse acquisition is the first mistake!  Before a pet enters your life there is homework to be done.  One needs to carefully evaluate one’s lifestyle to be certain that a pet will fit in well.  And, then, just what kind of pet will be best?  For some a puppy is the only answer – puppies are so cute and so much fun to watch and play with.  But, they certainly come with issues:  housetraining, chewing, mouthing and more.  Puppies acquired from less than reliable sources very, very often have health issues that mean extra care and lots of extra vet bills.  Older dogs may fit in beautifully but all too often they come with “baggage” that can include housetraining problems, temperament issues, separation anxiety and more.  It may be that a cat is a much better answer but do not think you simply bring home a kitten or adult and you live happily every after.  Kittens and cats have very special needs and you best learn what they are.

Before a pet enters the home one needs to decide where she will spend most of her time.  Where is the feeding station?  What food is needed?  Water bowls?  Toys?  Collars and leashes?  Who is the primary care taker?  Have you planned to blank out your social calendar to give the much needed adjustment time to the newcomer?  Do you have an appointment with the vet to check on health issues and set up a vaccination schedule?   These are for starters!

Often people want to give a pup/dog time to “adjust” before asking anything of them but habits – good and not so good – form very quickly.  If the pup is not going to be allowed on the bed or furniture when she is an adult then it should not be allowed on the furniture because “she is so frightened, or lonely, or sad, or whatever.  Please do not misunderstand what I am saying:  If having your pup on the sofa or bed with you is what you enjoy then by all means do so!  Just don’t confuse the issues by one day great and the next day – no way.

Eight week old pups have almost identical brain waves to adults so they can learn just about anything they can physically do – but their concentration is limited and they are easily distracted.  Also – and this is VERY important: Punishment is NOT part of the scene.  You don’t even get to holler at the little one!

It used to be that one did not begin training until the pups were 7 or 8 months of age and many (Too many!) people still believe that to be the case.  The reason that “rule” was in effect is that punishment was the method to “train” and pups are quickly ruined when they encounter punishment.  Positive based training methods can teach pups as young as 4 WEEKS of age so your eight week old baby is a sponge just waiting to soak up all the good things you can send her way.

 It is so much easier to teach a small pup good leash manners than an unruly 8 month old adolescent.  It is much easier to prevent destruction of pillows, remote controls, toilet paper rolls and your fingers than it is to “cure” the problems.

So – please plan well ahead of time if a pup (or kitten) is to be your companion.  Seek help before you bring home this little creature that will be looking to you for safety, comfort and a long healthy, happy life.

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