… by Cathy Hughes
Adding a new puppy to your family is an exciting event. It may have followed long research or it may have been an impulse adoption. In any event, it doesn’t take long before the romance period of puppy ownership is tested. Let’s take a look at how we may extend that honeymoon for the life of your new companion.
Management, management, management
We cannot overstress the importance of management. Exercise, supervised play periods with children or other animals, safe confinement indoors and out, training basic obedience commands, regular feeding schedule of a proper diet — all these and more fall under the heading of proper puppy management. All of these issues should be addressed from the time you put your new pup in the car to bring her home (some of them, like appropriate fencing, before you go pick her up). You will then be on your way to one of the most rewarding relationships in your life.
So how do you find out the particulars regarding each of these management issues? You can start by doing some research on your own. Read books and talk to breeders of the dog you are interested in adopting. There are even a few good books written about adopting shelter dogs. Talk to your veterinarian and a local groomer to find out what health issues and grooming recommendations are associated with your type of pup. Talk to trainers who specialize in behavior modification regarding how a particular type of puppy will fit into your lifestyle.
Once you have everything headed in the right direction at home, you should consider looking for a puppy class to enter. Puppies should start socialization and a certain amount of conditioning prior to leaving the whelping box. Some breeders are better at this than others so it is imperative that you lose no time once you get your puppy home. Most puppies are ready for structured training by the time they are seven weeks of age, as long as the training sessions are short and positive methods are used. Get your veterinarian’s recommendation for the safe age to enter a puppy class. Also, ask your trainer what behaviors you can be training at home prior to attending class.
Choosing an instructor
Before you can consult a trainer you need to choose one! (Are you getting the idea that this puppy ownership thing isn’t as simple as you’d thought?) Your veterinarian, breeder, friends, or local animal shelter can give you a list of dog trainers in your area. Your job as a prospective student is to find a class that best suits your needs and personality. Talk to the instructors about the methods they use, how many students are in each class, what kind of dogs they have trained, how long they have taught classes, and what is covered in the class. Try to visit a class already in session if possible. Puppy classes should cover management issues, basic manners, handling (for grooming and vet exams), as well as basic commands and introduction to leash work. If you are unable to attend regularly scheduled classes, some trainers offer private instruction or may be able to recommend books or videos that may be of assistance. However, the class environment is a much better situation for puppy and owner if possible.
Addressing the issues discussed in this article will help to set up a rewarding relationship between you and your new puppy.