So you have made the incredibly life changing decision to bring a puppy into your life. Hopefully you have planned for this for a long time, researched different breeds, talked to trusted individuals very knowledgable in the breed or mixes you are considering making your companion for the next 10-20 years, and spent plenty of time making sure your home is puppy proofed…right? You didn’t just decide one day that these ones are cute and go buy one of the cheaper ones you could find right?…right? You didn’t just go get the cutest puppy at the shelter and bring it home with no thought process as to the time and energy required to raise a puppy right?
Well for your sake and your puppy’s we are going to hope you were very responsible in your decision to bring a puppy into your life. I won’t harp about that here anymore than I already have. What I’m talking about today is what you do with that puppy once you get it home. Puppies do lots of little cute things that you think are super adorable when they are small and fluffy.
-Chasing your pant legs or biting at your hands in a chasing game.
-Crawling up into your lap for puppy kisses and being as close to your face as possible.
-Jumping up on you desperate for any attention they can get.
You see, when your puppy is another 30, 40, 50, 80lbs heavier than they are now, and when you have been dealing with this stuff for months, those cute little puppy behaviors turn into big problems. Once you have allowed your puppy to do all of these things and given them attention and affection in return they will continue these behaviors throughout their entire lives. It is only fair to the future dog that puppy will become to teach them right from wrong now. If for 7 months of your puppy’s life you gave them love and attention for jumping up on the couch and licking your face, then all of the sudden it has been raining out and your dog comes to jump up and give you kisses and you start yelling NO! NO! NO! and getting all upset your dog will not have the slightest clue what the problem is.
It is completely unfair to suddenly change the context on your dog because now they’re “too big”, or “too strong” to deal with anymore. Whatever behaviors you allow now are going to continue in the future so think about that when you are letting your puppy dive-bomb you on the couch or play tug-of-war with your pant legs. Is that going to be so cute when you’ve been dealing with it every single morning for two years?
We as humans tend to forget that every single moment your dog is learning. Your dog will continue to perform behaviors which you reward, whether that be with a treat, praise, a toy, etc. Your dog will diminish behaviors which have been reprimanded or have not successfully gotten them the attention they were seeking in the first place.
To put it as a slightly better example, imagine you are a kid and you are coloring on walls. Everyday your parents tell you how amazing and artistic your work is, and continue to praise you for your efforts. Then imagine one day they decided they didn’t like you coloring on walls anymore. They came home, yelled at you, and drug you to your room.
This is a reality for many dogs. Behaviors they were allowed to get away with as puppies are suddenly no longer acceptable for some reason. The dog has no idea why on earth their human is suddenly yelling at them. This is how you build frustration and resentment in your dog. Not setting clear expectations can really diminish the quality of your relationship. Dogs need rules to be black or white. This is okay, this isn’t. You can’t allow your dog on the furniture all the time, and then suddenly when company comes over your dog has no idea why you keep yelling at him to get down.
The point I am really trying to drive home here is what I have told my clients for years. The key to success in anything with your dog be firm, fair, consistent, and FUN. Never forget the fun, that’s why you got a dog in the first place right?