So your new puppy has arrived and he is the most special puppy ever in the history of the world! There is endless excitement and attention. But beware; training and teaching manners must be started right from Day 1 or you puppy will be ‘spoiled’ and there will be struggles with behaviour!
This scene setting is VERY much tied into the pup understanding his order in the pack! Your family is his new pack, and without discipline, the puppy quickly develops an impression that he is equal or higher in the pack, especially regarding the little humans. Bad manners develop quickly and everything goes downhill rapidly! What you first perceived as cute will be plain old bad manners in few weeks. And when the pup grows bigger, he will be more difficult to handle and be around.
Remember, the biggest thing your puppy wants is attention so capitalise on that!
Praise and loving attention make a big impression and training can be a very positive experience. And just like a child, the puppy will get your attention any way they can. Puppies learn that bad behaviour gets noticed and earns attention even if it is negative! If the puppy knows they are under your leadership in the pack they will be eager to please you from the start, and will quickly learn to be obedient and polite. If the puppy believes they are equal or above you or the children, they will not be so eager to please you or behave politely…. Good manners need to be taught and consistently reinforced over a good timeframe.
How do you notice when a dog thinks they are equal or above the humans in their pack?
Beware of a dog repeatedly jumping up, on furniture constantly, barging ahead repeatedly, or sitting even higher than the humans, e.g. the back of the couch. These may be warning signs for future discipline and behaviour problems.
So how do you prevent or overcome potential bad manners?
Ignore annoying negative behaviour (unless it is destructive or problematic) and then reward the positive behaviour immediately! For example, when you come home and the puppy is very excited and would naturally want to jump up; gently insist that the puppy sits before you pat it and praise it. If the puppy is outside, ignore them until they settle then immediately give them your positive attention.
What good manners should I establish and reinforce?
There are some basic good manners that are worth establishing early to make life easier, and remember to teach your children how to reinforce these manners too.
- Ask puppy to sit nicely before you pat and love them, don’t give them pats until they calm and sit.
- Ask puppy to wait in the crate with the door open before you let them out.
- Make puppy wait at the door, and you always go through first before you ask them to come through.
- Make puppy sit and wait for his dinner, even for a small time after it is served.
- Ask puppy to wait until they are asked to get into or out of the car.
Use consistent words every time – like sit, wait, come, free, up. With new puppy training, start with very short periods of ‘waiting’, release them early before the wait gets too much for them, so that your praise is really positive. Allow those early little ‘wins’ for both of you so the connection is made, and then gradually as the pup grow and gains experience, you can stretch out the wait-time, and develop really good compliance.
For example, let’s look at releasing from the crate after being confined. At first, as soon as your puppy sits and gives you eye contact, let them out to lots of positive praise even if they get up right away. Then, with time, to progress the learning: have puppy sit till you open the gate; then have the gate open and ask them to wait for a moment with gate open, etc. NEVER let them out while they are jumping or crying. NEVER let them out before you ask them to wait; if they barge or don’t comply, put them back in the crate and let them settle, then ask again. Eventually you will be able to walk away and they will stay in the crate until asked to come out, which means you have a compliant, listening puppy that is a joy to be around, at home or out and about.
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