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How to create the perfect puppy plan

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
How to create the perfect puppy plan

It is one of the most exciting times anyone can imagine – the day your pup arrives home. However, it may prove frustrating and challenging as well if you don’t have a solid plan in place. Following a well thought out Puppy Plan will create a solid foundation for you and your new companion, and will provide you with many tail wags over the coming years.

Here’s what you can do to ensure a comprehensive puppy plan:

1. Arrange a vibrant social life

Make this a top priority. You can start right from day one. Have as many people as you know come to your “puppy party” and let the pass-the-puppy game begin. Make sure your guests have washed their hands and removed their outdoor shoes, and have fun. Introducing your pup to their world, in stages, is an important step. As their vaccination schedule moves along, so can their exposure to anything that is unusual. Take your puppy out into different areas, jump in the car, climb on an elevator and walk in different neighbourhoods. Get her into the hands of children and men, and teens wearing hoodies, and change how they feel about the world. Instead of feeding from their dish, dole out their daily ration when they are around anything new. Once they are able to frolic in the park, get them used to other friendly dogs of various ages, sizes and breeds, so they are well equipped to say hello to their fellow canines as life goes on.

2. Set up your toilet training schedule

Training your pup to use the outdoors as a bathroom is a matter of supervision and avoidance. The more you supervise, the more you will avoid any indoor accidents. Plan on getting your pup outside after they wake up, after strenuous play and at least every couple of hours when you are home and awake. Use your crate to establish a clean area and make sure to go with your pup outside, regardless of the weather, to celebrate their accomplishment.

3. Sign up for a puppy class that teaches positive training

Research your trainer and make sure they use positive, motivational and respectful techniques. Positive does not mean permissive, and this is the time you are building trust and a bond with your pup. Establish a consistent, fair and fun training plan. Choose an experienced training school where you can attend a group class or have the option of private instruction if needed. Don’t select the class based on location or cost. If you need to travel ten minutes further or pay a bit more, it will be well worth it. Always remember, there is simply no substitute for experience.

4. Recognize the absence of naughty behaviour

If you want a well-adjusted dog, you need to acknowledge that he had some great moments as a pup. Teach a solid sit and reward him for it a million times over with a treat, toy or verbal praise. Soon, you will see him sitting for everything. He will sit to be fed, sit before going out the door, sit in front of you for attention. Where it will fall apart is if it is not seen and not rewarded. As soon as your pup realizes he is not being seen, he may jump up. When he jumps up, he will get noticed and that will quickly become his default behaviour. It is important to give a lot of verbal feedback to your pup, along with reward. Keep telling him he is doing the right thing, and you will notice he will do the right thing. Always keep in mind that the more a behaviour is rewarded, the more it will be repeated.

5. Set up your own household rules

It doesn’t matter how you come up with your household rules; what matters is that you set them up, write them out and post them on the fridge. If you have children, involve them in the process and ask them to do up a nice Puppy Rules poster.

Your pup’s rules may include sitting before going out each door, lying on a mat during family dinner or staying off the couch unless invited. What if rules are not your thing? Make up some. Why? Because you need to show your pup that you are the keeper of the rules. He will need to practice listening to you, and doing things that don’t seem important. But later in life, your pup will continue to see you as the keeper of the rules and if some are needed, he will be ready. When education runs out, frustration sets in. If you have educated yourself and your dog, your frustration level will decrease.

6. Teach, train, manage

Some may say that a tired pup is a good pup. I think a tired pup is a tired pup, who behaves well because he’s too exhausted to behave badly. The point? Don’t just tire your pup out with physical activity; teach her to behave well by combining training and play. Toss a toy, and when she brings it back, ask for a task before the next toss. Ask her to sit, lie down or do a trick, then toss. Simply throwing a ball and having your dog bring it back can often rev up a pup more than tire her out, especially as she heads into her teenage years. Some breeds simply don’t tire with strictly physical exercise. By incorporating tasks into the exercise, you will teach them that they need to have a bit of control and do their tasks when asked, even when in an excited state. Bottom line: you need to tire out your canine buddy both physically and mentally.

So what about management? It’s crucial to make sure the environment your pup lives in is well managed. Keep her supervised, and supply her with interactive playthings such as treat balls or rubberized toys that you can stuff with food and treats.

7. Expect the unexpected

Yes, you did your homework. You researched your breed, breeder, groomer, veterinarian and trainer. You have a plan and you intend to stick to it. But you know what they say about the best laid plans – your dog may take you on a journey that you did not expect. You may have planned to get the ideal sport-playing dog.

However, as it turns out, this pup is not as motivated to play the game or has an injury that takes him out of his sport. It may be a blessing in disguise, and you may find yourself going down a different path. Soon your potential sport dog is getting you involved in therapy work and you find your mission is to put smiles on the faces of the people you visit in hospitals. That’s the great thing about our dogs; we can never predict what they will bring into our lives. So be kind, be ready for the unexpected, and enjoy.

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Gillian Ridgeway is the Director of Who's Walking Who Dog Training Centres in Toronto and Ajax. She has been featured on many television and radio programs, and appears regularly as the canine expert on Canoe Live. Gillian is a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto, and a popular speaker at Veterinary Technician and Trainer Conferences.


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