There is no handbook with one-size-fits-all information on behaviour training that will work for all dogs, but there are some guidelines that you can follow to raise a well-behaved dog. Here are 10 big things that you should avoid at all times.
1. Punishment during potty-training
Don’t punish your new puppy for toileting in the wrong place by smacking him, shouting at him or worse still, rubbing his nose in the urine or faeces. You are not teaching him where you want him to eliminate – all you are doing is teaching your puppy that his urine and faeces make you angry, so you end up with a puppy who is scared to eliminate in front of you.
This can be problematic if you are taking your puppy out for a pre-bed wee and he is too frightened of being punished to go while you are standing there. This is how you end up with puddles in the hall, because as soon as you bring your puppy back inside and you stop watching him he feels safe to wee, or else he runs off to wee in a safer place like an infrequently used room or behind the couch where no one will see.
2. Sleeping all alone
Don’t leave your puppy in the kitchen to ‘cry it out’ overnight, when you have just brought him home. Think about it – he has been raised with his littermates and his mom; there has always been someone to snuggle up to for warmth and contact. He comes home to you and it’s the first time in his life that he has been without his mom and siblings – what he is feeling is just the same as people feel when they lose a loved one: heartache.
So, it is vitally important that he does not feel abandoned: you can make his bed next to yours and if he cries, put your hand down for him to touch and smell so he realises that he isn’t all alone. If you are happy to let him sleep on your bed for the rest of his life, then let him snuggle up with you.
3. Accepting bad behaviour because he’s a cute puppy
Don’t allow your puppy to do things that are cute now but are likely to be a problem when he weighs 45kg. The most common of these is jumping up. It is a normal behaviour for dogs, but one that should not be encouraged, even when he is a cute, cuddly puppy.
So, make sure no one in the house gives him any attention when he jumps up, but give lots of love and cuddles when all four paws are on the floor. The vitally important thing is that everyone does this, because if one person rewards him for jumping up, then he will keep trying.
4. Taking his toys
Don’t chase your puppy for articles that he has picked up that are not allowed. It is easy when your eight-week-old puppy is running around with a pair of socks in his mouth, to chase after him and make a game of it. This is not a good idea, because he will learn this is how to get your attention and when he is an adolescent dog, you may have a lot of trouble catching him!
From the beginning teach him to ‘swop’. Offer him an item of similar or greater value (and something he is allowed) and let him swop what he has in his mouth for the new article. This teaches him that you will not just keep taking things away from him without replacing them. If people continually just take things away, he may well start to resource-guard objects.
5. Enforcing bad chewing choices
Don’t give your puppy items you don’t want him to chew; for example, an old shoe. This may seem like a great chew toy, but how is he to know the difference between the old shoe and your brand-new pair of sneakers? Always make sure there are plenty of puppy chew toys available for him to chew on.
6. Lead pulling
Don’t let your puppy pull on his lead from day one. It is easy to handle a 5kg puppy who is pulling, but not so when he is an adult dog weighing 45kg. Your pup needs to be taught to walk with a nice loose lead in order to get to the places he wants to go.
Don’t over-exercise your puppy. His joints are not fully developed and too much exercise can cause damage. The exercise requirement varies between breeds. According to the American Kennel Club, five minutes of daily exercise per month of age is enough and this is broken into two sessions.
8. Visiting public places without vaccinations in place
Don’t take your puppy to public places like parks, beaches and shopping centres until he has had all three of his puppy vaccinations. If you need to take him somewhere that is a safe area, like a puppy school, rather carry him into and out of the school to avoid him contracting a disease in the public area.
9. Inconsistent rules
Don’t have different rules for different household members. It is important that every member of the family agrees what the puppy is allowed and not allowed to do. If, for example, he is not allowed on Granny’s bed, then he is not allowed on any beds, otherwise all you will do is confuse him.
10. No supervision around children
Don’t ever leave your puppy with a child unless an adult is there to supervise. Accidents do happen: the puppy may snap at the child if he feels threatened or if the child hurts him. This can affect the puppy for the rest of his life and he may end up being fearful of children.