What’s this for? What’s that do? What happens if I push this button? What happens if I pull this? Where’s my potty…oops too late!
Does your puppy remind you of this popular children’s toy advert from many years ago? Young puppies can sometimes be just like young children, but a lot faster, and they have four legs and very sharp tiny teeth! They are fascinated by life and want to investigate absolutely everything.
But what’s this all for?
This is generally called socialisation. It’s about carefully and sensitively exposing your puppy to all sorts of people, objects, noises, and circumstances - even in the safety of your own home.
Of course, genetics plays a large part too and puppies from the same litter can have completely different temperaments. They all need to be handled differently, to stop the bullies, to help the shy ones gain confidence, and to ensure that they’re not overwhelmed.
So how do puppies learn? Basically by investigation and experiment. “Good” things are rewarding and worthwhile doing again. “Bad” things are to be avoided. So if you run after your puppy to get that stolen sock, they’ve got your attention and your playing - that’s fun! Or, if they jump up and you give them a pat, they have learned that this is what to do to get what they want - your attention!
Do I hear you say “But surely a tiny puppy can’t learn when it’s so young”? They definitely can. Puppies’ brains grow just as fast as their bodies and they are learning all the time! We simply need to teach them what’s acceptable and what’s not. Once they understand the positive training game, they just love it!
Why don’t we therefore, use their natural learning ability to help understand and train them? When puppies do things we don’t want them to do, we need to make sure they don’t see it as “good”. But, it’s not as simple as saying “NO” all the time - shouting can still be viewed as rewarding. So, a far more effective approach is to start training basic manners at a very early age, using the modern gentle and reward based methods. Then, instead of patting or cuddling them when they jump up, we can teach them to sit and only when they do that, do they get our attention and pats or treats. Or when they run off with that sock, if you find another more exciting toy and attract their attention, then they’ll run to you - the first steps in recall training.
To find out more, come along to Pawsability’s Puppy Early Learning Workshops For more information on these or help and advice for your puppy, older dog or cat, please look at www.pawsability.co.uk's puppy training pages.
Safety Precautions : there is much which can be done to help your pup’s life experience without putting them in the potentially dangerous position of being with non vaccinated dogs or picking up other ailments. Whilst in their vaccination period, always avoid areas which are heavily used by other dogs and always ask your vet about socialisation precautions in your area before going out.
>Pawsability article, first published in PerthLife Magazine July 2005
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