In this series we discuss some of the most common errors we see owners make, and how to address them.
Letting The Puppy Discover How Good It Is To Be Bad
Puppies are constantly learning about the good and bad the world, and unlike you and me, their definitions of “good” and “bad” don’t involve morality.
Dogs don’t understand right and wrong.
If a dog gets to eat food, and it tastes good, then that is good. If they try to get food and they can’t, that’s bad. How you feel about it doesn’t really enter into the equation.
If your puppy discovers that food in the garbage is easy to reach AND delicious, then your puppy will grow into a dog who is obsessed with getting into the garbage.
If your puppy discovers that shoes are fun to chew, then your shoes will be in constant danger thereafter.
If your puppy finds out that he can poop behind the couch and no one gets mad at him, then you will be constantly finding little presents hidden back there.
The same goes for destroying furniture, eating rugs, shredding kleenex, surfing counters in the kitchen and all of those other fun occupations that your house contains in abundance.
Once your puppy has discovered the joy of raiding your counters or eating your table leg, there are things you can do – but it will be very difficult to fix the problem.
There is one thing that will prevent all of these problems arising in the first place:
WATCH THE PUPPY!
We cannot emphasize this enough.
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS WATCH THE PUPPY.
When you are home, we recommend tying the puppy to you with a leash and a harness or flat collar. When you leave the room, your puppy leaves the room. When you sit down, your puppy has to learn to settle down. When you get up, your puppy follows.
This has two benefits:
1. It teaches your dog that his life revolves around your life and your decisions. You decide when he gets up from his nap, and you decide when he has to settle down. He learns to sleep when you are still, and walk when you’re moving. He learns to watch you and what you are doing, and he learns to accommodate himself to your patterns.
2. If your puppy is tied to you and constantly within arm’s reach, he isn’t peeing behind the couch, eating the carpet, or finishing off your children’s sandwich crusts on the kitchen table.
Any time you cannot keep an eye on the puppy, perhaps because you need to cook dinner or go to sleep at night, your puppy should go in his/her crate with a tasty Kong or Nylabone.
Even if your puppy cries, you will at least know that he/she isn’t discovering how delicious your baseboards are or how fun it is to chew Louis Vuitton handbags.
This is also a safety issue – if your puppy is always tied to you or safe in his/her crate, she isn’t electrocuting herself by chewing on wires, running out into the road in front of oncoming cars, swallowing pennies, or getting her head stuck in a plastic milk jug. If you wouldn’t leave a human toddler unsupervised in a room full of things to consume or destroy, why leave a toddling puppy there?
Think of the crate as your puppy’s play pen or crib – a safe, comfortable bed where he or she can be kept safe from discovering nasty habits.
When you do discover that your puppy has escaped your watchful eye and made a mistake (and it will happen, even to the most watchful owner), take a newspaper, roll it up, and hit yourself on the head with it while repeating the following phrase:
“I will watch the puppy more closely!”
-Carol Millman has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a diploma in Animal Health Technology. You can read her bio here.