Fortunately, the problem is easily preventable. As long as you are playing with your puppy, you can take the time to train it so when that puppy grows up, it will be a manageable dog. At a minimum, you will want a dog that is house trained, does not bite, will stop barking on command, will come when called, is able to be restrained for an exam and will not pull on the leash during a walk. While this seems like a lot, with 5 to 10 minutes of work every day for a month or two all these things can be accomplished.
In addition, note that all these things can be taught to an adult dog as well. It will take longer to for them to sink in, but all are very doable. Don’t use the “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” excuse to not adopt a rescue dog. Note these techniques will only work if everyone in the house does the same thing every single time with the puppy. Inconsistency is the enemy of a training program.
So where does a person start? Although it seems counter-intuitive, the easiest place to start is with restraint. If you are cuddling a puppy, they will undoubtedly want to squirm. When this happens, gently apply pressure to its body, like the level of pressure you would use to give your friend a hug. At the exact moment the puppy stops wriggling, release the pressure.
This pressure on/pressure off training can be done whenever you are playing with the puppy. This technique will train the puppy that when cradled, it is necessary to stop moving. That way, if you need to get a sandbur out of its paw when it is three years old, it will be much easier.
At the same time as restraint training is being done, you can teach your puppy to not bite. It may seem cute when it is small, but once again, the puppy will not remain small long. When the puppy bites, instead of smacking the puppy on the nose as some might suggest, grasp its muzzle gently and say “no”. Having the muzzle gingerly held shut is not painful, but is not enjoyable either. The puppy then associates the unpleasant feeling and the “no” with the act of biting, and consequently learns to keep its teeth to itself.
After cleaning up the first few messes in the house, you probably have house training next on the list. Remember it is foreign for a pet to not choose its own spot to urinate and defecate, consequently it can take some time to instill this habit. In addition, you need to be cognizant that your pet might know it is not supposed to do those things in the house, but not know how to tell you it is time at first.
There are many acceptable ways to house train a dog. For the sake of brevity, only one is detailed here. This involves using a crate to confine the puppy when you are not playing with it. Right away in the morning, let the puppy outside. After that, give it breakfast, then five to thirty minutes later let it out again. If your puppy takes a nap, let it outside when it wakes up, just like the morning. After every playtime, it also should go outside to urinate.
If you wonder how often the puppy should be let outside, use the age plus one rule. Take the age of the puppy in months, add one, and that is the number of hours the puppy can go between restroom breaks. If this is a problem during the night, keep the puppy’s kennel in your room, so it can wake you at the appropriate times.
What makes this system work is having the puppy in the crate often. The crate should be large enough to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably in. Any larger, the puppy will urinate in the crate. Give the puppy a non-choking hazard toy to play with while confined for entertainment. Although there will be a few accidents, with a consistent approach the puppy will learn that outside is for urinating and defecating, while inside is not.
These first three training steps can be done right away when you get your new puppy or shelter dog. After giving the dog a few weeks to bond with you and your family, you can move onto the next training items. These will be detailed in next month’s column.