Congratulations! You have decided to welcome a dog into your home and become their guardian. Below are 5 tips that will help you build a relationship based on trust and understanding. Although puppies/dogs are attracted to humans and in general aim to please, rewarding relationships take time and effort, with a continued desire to learn from them. By making sure that we do our best in understanding them as individuals and knowing their capabilities, allows us guardians to respond and provide appropriate opportunities for the dog to learn from us.
1. Self educate as much as possible!
Introducing a new addition to the family can be a wonderful experience, but it can also trigger lots of questions too. The best way to minimise stress is making sure to find out as much about dog body language and on the breed you have chosen before bringing them home. Breed information will let you know what energy levels to expect from your dog, which will help you manage how much time will need to be set aside for walking, training and brain games to keep your puppy occupied and engaged. By researching what you will need to maintain a healthy dog will help prepare you for the responsibility.
2. Know the expectations of the whole family towards the puppy.
Before taking your puppy home it is a good idea to speak to your partner/family/children about what their expectations of the new addition. Do they want a well trained dog? Just one for companionship? One that will jump on the bed? Or one that stays on the ground floor? There are many training routes that can be taken to achieve the level of response in the dog that is desired, therefore it is important to understand what people hope to gain from having a dog.
By discussing what everyone wants allows you to find a common understanding of how to interact with the dog to create consistency. For example, one member may want a dog that is trained, yet for the other the importance may lie in having a dog to cuddle at night. To help achieve both of these scenarios, it could be agreed that the dog is allowed on the sofa/bed but only when they are invited to, and when they know the word ‘off’ so that the behaviour can be stopped when it is not wanted.
3. Explore your options of socialising your dog
Having a friendly dog is a common desire of the majority of dog guardians, therefore finding suitable ways of socialising your dog is important. Most guardians tend to assume that puppy classes provide the socialising they need to achieve good interactions. However, not all puppy classes are a beneficial example of how dogs learn to greet one another and understand boundaries of fellow dogs. It is important that dogs are allowed to greet and play, but safety and controlling the level of interaction is necessary for creating good responses from the dog. A dog can become overwhelmed if there are lots of dogs bouncing round, therefore it could be a good idea to find walks where you can interact with one or two dogs on leads, or before singing up, asking puppy class instructors what exercises are practised during sessions. Only let them off to play when you can gain your dogs attention, instead of having to separate them with force (which the dog learns nothing from!).
An update of ways to successfully socialise your dog will be added as a new blog post.
4. Choose specific command words and stick to them
A dog that lives with more than one human can become confused if there are conflicting boundaries and command words being used. If the dog does not know what is expected from the word ‘off’ or ‘come’ or ‘heel’ because of the inconsistent use of the words and lack of teaching from owners, then the dog will not demonstrate desired behaviours. It can be easy for people to become frustrated when a dog doesn’t appear to be ‘listening’, however we must take responsibility in properly teaching a command word and having everyone use the same words for the dog to be successful. Before getting the dog and commencing general training, sit down and agree on what words are going to be used for each behaviour, so that everyone can learn them and make them habit.
5. Start training sessions straight away
You don’t need to be training your dog for hours a day.. short 5-10 minute sessions are perfect for engaging with your new dog and begin building a relationship with one another. By introducing these sessions you can encourage desired behaviours such as eye contact and house training, as well as building their confidence in walking on different textures and in locations. Training classes and 1 to 1 sessions are a good step forward in your training journey together, which can be used alongside these initial training sessions.