Dog’s Eye View: Home-schooled
October 13, 2018
The new puppy arrives, and everyone is so excited. You've done your homework and have everything set up; kennel crate, exercise pen, tons of toys, good food, collar, leash, etc. You've planned well, all the family is on board with the potty-training schedule and feeding times.
The puppy is so soft and beautiful. The little nose licks and whimpers bring out your nurturing side. The kids argue over who gets to play with the little one. Sleep schedule and potty training are at the top of the list. The first day or two when the puppy has left his litter mates, he seems so quiet. He's almost perfect.
In all actuality, he's trying to see how to survive on this new planet. Remember, he has only known the breeder, his mother and littermates. If they've done a good job with early neonatal socialization and started some potty training, you are ahead of the game. He just needs to settle in and build trust in his new family. Add play time and affection, and he will start to gain personality and confidence.
The family management program helps to create a consistent schedule. Something he can count on. Take puppy outside in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, feed breakfast, take the puppy outside, play for a bit, take the puppy outside, feed lunch, crate puppy for a nap, take puppy outside. Kids get home from school, play with the puppy, take puppy outside and play some more.
Now that's home-schooling Someone is managing the puppy all the time. Or he is confined to his crate. Within a few weeks or months, the novelty wears off a bit; he's learning some things. And then the rest of life takes over. The teacher has left the building.
Puppy in charge of home-schooling is not a good idea. Most of his decisions are based on what works for him. Repetitive behaviors become self-rewarding. If barking at the UPS driver makes him feel good that behavior is self-rewarded. If you leave him loose in the house, then shame on you. He's a puppy.
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By six months of old, most people believe their dog knows exactly how they should act in the house. Not true. The puppy only knows what he wants and what works. Home alone, he gets to set the curriculum. Stay in the classroom. Don't let him home school himself.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 30 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants as well as certified nose work instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She owns Total Teamwork Training in Northwest Colorado.