MAKING THE TRANSITION EASIER FOR THE NEW PUPPY.
shows that of those dogs sent to centres for re-homing, most are age between
ten months and two years. They may be pedigrees or crossbreeds. Breed
rescues are often as full as the main centres. Why?
For the past ten years I have had some twenty dogs a week, coming singly for private lessons. In that time there must have been almost a thousand different dogs of over sixty different breeds. They come for remedial training. They are referred by vets, by the RSPCA, and also by the other dog clubs who find the dog disruptive to classes.
I start with a questionnaire. The first question is 'where did you buy the puppy?' When I began this, if the owner answered from the breeder, rather than froman advertisement, a pet shop or a dealer, I thought I could relax. Sadly this is not true. I can usually tell, by the behaviour of the pup, why this may not mean that I am presented with a happy confident little dog, adoring people, eager to explore the world, and biddable.
The second question now is, 'where was the puppy raised?' We now know from the latest research that one of the most important periods of a pup's life is between three and sixteen weeks. This is when the maximum development of his brain takes place.
few first time buyers of new pups realise just how stressful those early
days are when the little animal leaves the nest for a brand new home.
Many pups have spent a minimum of seven weeks, that is the whole of their
lives, with their mother and litter mates. They have rarely been alone
for more than a fewminutes, and many have not been outside the kennel
often the most successful pups have been born in the kitchen and surrounded
by all the family and grown up in the same environment as that to which
they will be taken. In one scenario they are isolated from the house and
all household noises. They may see no one but the breeder who only appears
to give food. They may be wonderful healthy puppies on the outside. But
they have nothing to stimulate them, to enable them to learn and develop
their minds. Some are never even given a toy to play with. When sold,
they are often terrified of
everything they meet. The worse case scenario is of course the puppy farm,
where bitches are bred every season. Many of these bitches may be having
seventh or eighth litters or even more. They are so tired of constant
motherhood they hate
Pups from a sheltered environment are taken suddenly into the world by complete strangers, who may never have owned a dog before and do not understand this new acquisition at all. The puppies may never have been away from the litter for even one second. Now they are isolated from all they know. They are overwhelmed by new smells, and new, often frightening, experiences, in a land of giants. They are also taken, in all probability, for a long and terrifying drive and may be car sick. Their small world has suddenly enlarged to astronomical proportions.
new environment is often noisy, filled with people, and maybe also contain
over-excited children who want to pick them up and pull them about, or
even chase them. New owners want to show them off and they are never left
in peace. There are inexplicable background noises; loud voices; radios
and TV; refrigerators and dishwashers. Switches click, lights go on and
off, curtains draw, hoovers make an appalling din.
surprising number of breeders fail to provide the necessary papers. If
this goes on for too long the Fair Trading Officer will help and that
In the past few years a number of my owners have come to me for advice on breeding from their bitches. We have devised a system that does its best to ensure that the pups are well socialised from three weeks on, and that the new owners have every chance of being able to settle their new puppy in fast.
It is also, with inexperienced breeders, necessary to emphasise that the birth is not a means of showing children how pups are born, or a peep show for all the neighbours. The bitch needs a quiet place with, at most two people she knows very well with her. Failure to do this may result in uterine inertia, where contractions stop due to stress, to neglected pups or at worst she may attack her pups and kill them.
One bitch was whelped in a caravan with eleven people, six of them children, watching. That litter ended in disaster with nine out of eleven pups dying on their first night, as she neglected them. Sadly I only heard of it too late. But my advice was taken for subsequent litters which all produced a number of bonny pups.
Most of the pups from the breeders I know are either bred in the house, or in a custom built whelping kennel beside the kitchen door. The bitch is introduced to this some time before she is due.
My first GSD came from a kennels where the whelping kennel was beside the house, in the farmyard. The pups from an early age saw horses, cattle, other dogs; they also saw vehicles of all kinds from tractors to milk tankers, from cars and bicycles to motor bikes. Everyone who came into the farmyard went to greet them. They came into the house on a rota basis, each puppy on its own, and learned about the various noises. Even a refrigerator can sound alarming to a tiny animal that has never heard one before. Also their ears are far more sensitive than ours.
When people visited the pups were taken on to a small enclosed lawn and we all played with them. Their breeder would kneel at one end of the lawn and the visitor the other and would call the pups, who raced from one to the other delightedly, being greeted with cuddles.
were friendly and outgoing when sold, and none of those I kept in contact
with has ever been afraid of noises such as fireworks or thunder. One
of my earliest pupils, who bought her bitch for training, acquired her
as a brood bitch thirteen years ago. Since then the owner has reared eleven
litters from five different bitches, four of whom are now retired, being
over eight year sold and having each had three litters, one every two
whelping kennel is just outside the house, connected by a yard where the
pups can play when old enough. The house kitchen leads on to this and
has a half door so that pups can be watched. There is a very roomy whelping
box with a side that can be dropped when the pups begin to explore, and
of course a lamp for cold weather.
The pups are handled daily, and come and beg to be cuddled. They learn that people are good fun. They are carried by responsible adults to the gate and held safely and securely so that they can watch the world go by. People, cars, big dogs, all become familiar. They are taken out in small groups in the car and carried into the bank, the hairdresser, into any shop that allows them, where they always receive a splendid reception. All this before they are sold
play out in the garden under trees and get used to wind noises. Nearly
all these homes also have cats so puppies have a head start if they go
to a place where there is already a resident cat. It is also an advantage
if they meet small pets like hamsters and if country dogs can see sheep,
horses, cows, and poultry. The pups I know best are Golden
The kennel also has a number of safe toys; an old tyre, rubber quoits, large balls, socks to tug on and soft things they can carry. It is better not to stop them carrying when they come home as this means they may not play ball and bring it back to the owner. I encourage my pups to bring anything they pick up to me.
Mostly that is fine but I have been presented with a dead mouse, a live hedgehog, and a fox dropping. They still get rewarded. Better their unsuitable trophies come to the owner and dont end up inside the dog.
The pups are encouraged to bring anything to the breeder and give it up. Also at each meal they are called to come, which starts the recall very reliably. They have paper outside the box and go to it to eliminate, so making house training easier.
owners are encouraged to come, if possible, several times, and play with
the puppy they have chosen. There is rarely a problem in selling them,
as there is always a waiting list for pups reared like this. They turn
into wonderful adults.
old blankets are cut up into smaller pieces. Each pup has a blanket piece
that he sleeps on, with his littermates, on his last night. That blanket
becomes his comforter, something familiar to take to his new home. It
often makes those first nights much quieter.
There is a comprehensive diet sheet, covering amounts needed for his first year and when to drop the feeds from four to two. Many vets today recommend two feeds a day, to lessen the chances of a torsion or bloat.
There are guidelines on exercise as many owners take their pup for walks that are far too long before it is able to cope with them. It then develops hard muscles on soft bones and that leads to trouble.
There are suggestions on training, the names of classes in the pup's new area, from the APDT Directory, ( Association of Pet Dog Trainers) and one of my booklets, A Puppy in the Home, which saves a lot of mishandling due to lack of knowledge.
There is enough dog food for three weeks as sometimes foods are area specific and the owner may not be able to buy the one the pup was reared on. It also states whether the pup has been drinking cow's milk, goat's milk or 'Whelpi' as a change may cause an upset tummy. One kennel gained a reputation for selling pups with tummy upsets till it was realised the pups had been reared on goats' milk and the new owners changed them to cows' milk.
pup has his photo taken the day he or she is born, with the mother and
the litter, and again the day before the pup is sold. This is put in the
pack together with a photograph of the sire.
All the pups from the breeders I know are puppy tested by me. So each has a profile from which I can give advice on handling. A timid pup needs to be brought out of itself gently; a cocky one gently put in his place; one needs a lot of encouragement to retrieve, another will be a natural retriever. Brash pups are not suitable for a recently bereaved elderly lady. Boss pups need to go to experienced owners.
Pups treated this way before selling are almost always a great success when they go to their new owners, but we do give warning that at seven months or so they start the hooligan phase and may behave like rebellious teenagers. This can come as a shock to folk who don't know dogs; I have lost count of the number of times someone left off having lessons who thought the puppy knew all there was to know. They ring in panic.
'I don't know what's happened to my puppy. He's gone mad!' He hasn't. He's hit the hormone blaze and is now testing his boundaries; he doesn't drink or swear or take drugs but he does do the dog equivalent. He is suddenly aware of bitches and the bitches become aware of dogs. However, with the training they have had from the day they went home as well as that before they were sold, they are usually far easier to cope with than with a pup that has not had the benefit of such teaching.
Breeders who tell people not to train before six months do their dogs a great disservice. From eight weeks old the pup can be taught to sit, to lie down, to stand; to concentrate, which is especially necessary for showing in Breed. They can be deterred from jumping up, learn to go to their beds if told, and taught not to pull on the lead, not by severe methods, but by gentle coaxing and encouragement.
At this age it is not training but a wonderful game the puppy can play with the new owner.
So many people are cheated of the dogs they might have had. It is well worth asking around to see who does take immense care with their puppy rearing. The owners of these pups often stay in touch with their breeders, come back again for another, recommend them to their friends, and say that the profiles have helped enormously to bring the dog up and overcome any possible fault that might have otherwise developed.
But if these pups are unlucky enough to go to the wrong owner who neglects the care that is needed, they too may well end up as an unhappy statistic. For the right owner a pup reared this is the dog we all dream about, a companion that is a joy to own, as well as often excelling for those who want to do competition.
first few weeks are the most important in the dog's life and if the puppy
is not civilised then time is spent taming him that might well have been
spent making good progress and having enormous fun.
This owner has already had one lesson and has a copy of my book 'How to Own a Sensible Dog' as well as 'A Puppy in the Home' and 'How to bring a Puppy and avoid aggression.' The puppy wont be a centre of attention, overwhelmed by people she has never met before coming to see her and pick her up and scare her.
The owner is taking two weeks off work to get the pup used to her home and lives next door to her parents who will be there during the day. This pup won't be thrust into the chilly, windy and possibly wet garden on her own and expected to know why. Her owner will be there with her, to re-assure her in this big new place, and praise her when she does the right thing in the right place and ignore her if she makes a mistake. The pup has been brought up by the breeder, in the house where there are children who respect dogs.
She will be taken out and about. Good places to take a well balanced pup are big car parks, car boot sales, markets. Here they see busy places, travel in the car and learn not to fear it, and there are people, baby buggies, wheelchairs, and children.
The more experiences a young dog can have, the more relaxed he will be in new situations. This ensures that your pup will become a great companion and not be as one owner put it, 'a headache on four legs.'
So much can be done in those early days but the weeks fly past and the time will never come again
are available direct.
Nobody's Dog. Can I be Your Dog?
It is easy when you know how. Just a few subtle cues can change the whole way you and your dog react together, and show him in the nicest possible way that he doesn't call the tune.
pup from his first day with you needs to go out and about even if only
in the car; to see the world, see other dogs and people and to meet lots
of people, or he will be afraid of everything. This is how to reverse
that if you are unlucky. Dogs that go nowhere and see nobody can turn
out very unpleasant companions, ready to attack anything they fear.
to Own a Sensible Dog £6.95
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