So you’re getting a puppy! As many of our readers know, I work with many hundreds of people who have dogs, these include people who have dog problems, people who have dogs they wish to compete with, people who have dogs that they work with and pet owners who need help in some way shape of form; I also breed dogs for specialised roles too.
So the idea of this article is to give you advice on how to raise your next puppy so you will never have to visit me for a behaviour problem.
That’s right, this post is to help you get it right so you never have to see me.
Sounds good, read on to find out how!
So let’s start with how to select the right puppy for your needs. As I don’t know all my readers individual needs, let’s start with some basics.
You need to have goals, no one ever hit the Bullseye on the dart board if they were not aware of it. You need short term, midterm and long term goals.
Once these goals are in place, you need to figure out a training plan, perhaps ask your trainer how much time it will take per day, per week, per months and how many years.
I feel that one of my Malinois puppies will need about 15 hours per week. This cannot be one long day either, it is likely 90 minutes per day broken into 3 – 6 small sessions.
Then on the weekend a few longer sessions to make up the 15 hours. If your thinking that’s because they are a Malinois, well that might a few minutes a day. Consider I would say around 10 hours a week for a Labrador and 12 hours a week for a German Shepherd.
I don’t think there is a breed on the earth that would take less than 6 hours a week, if there were, why would you be getting a dog if you have no time?
This time is not you asleep on the couch with the puppy either, its active time, where your training, exposing your pup to a social experience or exercising etc.
Research the breed
Get a breed that can do what you want the dog to do. I hear people say often “I want to get a breed that has never done the sport before and train it to do it” Don’t, you will only find the limitations of the breed and very likely never reach your goals.
If you have a trainer in mind, speak to him or her about your goals and ask him or her to suggest a breed they can work with.
Consider the dogs size, exercise needs, training ability (yours and the pups) and any common problems the breed can exhibit.
It’s good to be optimistic, but rather than take risks, selecting a breeder that does some health testing that is appropriate for their breed can save you a lot of heartache, failure and costs. The dogs that your puppy comes from too should be tested to insure that your dog is clear of genetic health problems by parentage.
Remember too we are talking about a live animal, genetics, a degree of luck or bad luck, so there are no 100% guarantees.
The breeders premises, whelping facilities, manner, level of communication and general approachability are important characteristics to consider.
Whilst you may intend to buy a puppy and perhaps never speak to them again, if your puppy has a health or temperament concern, you may need their input and communication, so make sure it’s professional before you buy the puppy.
I believe Breeder Support is part of the responsibilities of a professional breeder.
Getting this right will make a huge difference to your life for the next 12 – 15 years.
When I select a dog, the achievements of the dam and or sire may be what have drawn me to the litter, but that won’t be anywhere near enough to convince me to take a puppy. A great trainer can title an average dog. I like to see the dam and the sire if possible. This may of course may not be possible as of course many mating’s are artificially inseminated but I would certainly like to see them if I could.
On that, a couple of years ago, during the planning of my Herzhund B litter, I found in my research a dog that had been popping up in some of the circles I focus on. I did some research on the dog, his accomplishments and what his litter mates and progeny were doing.
I really liked what I had discovered and contacted his owner, breeder and trainer, Marc Peeters from Arracks Home in the Netherlands. I asked many questions about what health tests had been done, what his temperament was like and his behaviour. His breeder shared with me many videos and we had quite a number of discussions before I was satisfied with this dog to further my breeding program.
After choosing him a number of people told me that because the dog had not titled yet, he was unproven and hence a bad choice. But you know, I had seen the dog working and knew lots now about his progeny and his siblings and I had many good discussions with his breeder, so I was convinced, that is what mattered to me. I used Arracks Home Idefix in my breeding twice now and the results have been outstanding. I still speak with Marc who has been professional the whole way through and we have maintained contact for a couple of years after the “transaction”.
For those that disagreed with my choice, Idefix did pass his KNPV certificate PH1 with an outstanding 434/435 points.
The message here is, I chose this dog based on his ability, breeder professionalism, whelping facilities etc and when the whole package is right, the relationship lasts.
Now most people would have a better chance at lotto than temperament selecting a puppy and because it is such a big thing, it is really worthwhile getting some professional help here.
When asked to do this, I will often look at the Dam, the Sire (if available) and the litter of pups with the owners goal in mind. I compete a number is tests and determine which pup/s of this litter are the most suitable (if any). I have even done this via skype when the distance is too great to make travel viable, including dogs from all states of Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, Austria and South Africa.
These tests are non invasive, non temperament effecting observational tests that give me enough information to accurately select the most suitable puppy.
I more than anyone I know want to put puppies in homes where their owners will adore them, so I would not breed dogs and out them places where they could not exceed owners expectations.
Know this, you need to select dog for temperament over everything else because that is what you will be living with.
I spend upwards of 300 logged hours with my litters between 0-8 weeks. This means that I do minimal other work, this means it is expensive.
I do this to prepare my pups the best I can, I don’t expect every breeder of every breed to do this but I would not be happy with a pup that had not left the breeders house and is fearful of a stranger walking into the back yard.
I want to see confident pups that have already had social experiences in their 0-8 week period.
We expose our puppies to extensive environmental stimulus, extensive noises and sounds such as gunfire, helicopters, cars, trucks, barking dogs and 200 other sounds so you can see where the 300 plus hours go.
Believe it or not, 50% of how the puppy turns out is going to be what happens in its first 18 months of its life.
That means the puppy is with the breeder for the first 2 months, the next 16 months are up to you.
I mean this with all honesty when I say “the she will be right attitude” to raising puppies is the main reason why I am always booked out months in advance and have been for years.
Multiple Dog Household
There are many things I have left out of this article but this part is essential. If you bring a puppy home and you already have an existing dog, you need to consider your goals again.
In all cases I would not allow these dogs to live together 100% of the time. If you do the puppy will develop a dependency on the older dog and you really can’t imagine how bad that can be.
The end game is that when your older dog passes, your now middle aged dog will not know how to cope without your older dog and you may have to buy him a dog.
The more short term problems are generally based around your pup only listening to your older dog and freaking out when you take the older dog out without the pup.
If you want a dog that is bonded to you and engaged with you then I would consider this ratio of the relationships.
For every hour your pup spends with your older dog, you need to spend 10 hours with the pup, 1:10 if you want to remain the absolute strongest influence in your pups life.
Many people will feel that they can socialise their pup with their older dog and when they see their pup confidently playing with their older dog, they tick the socialising to other dogs box.
This is not true, if your main aspect of socialising your pup to other dogs is your existing dog, when your pup is older than 5-6 months and see’s an unknown dog, he will act like he is unsocialised.
There is no easy way.
Plan to spend the time.
If you don’t have the time before the puppy, where will it come from when the puppy arrives?
I suggest that you take your puppy out to a social setting every day between week 8 (when you get the pup) until the first fear period (often around 16 weeks)
Yes I said every day.
Train your pup every day
Training is teaching and there is an old saying “every moment your with your dog your training him, training him to be better or worse“.
I suggest 3-6 short training sessions each day, maybe 2-3 minutes is all you will need.
These might happen during your social outing or before or after it.
Plan to do this for at least a year.
Yes a YEAR!
We call a puppy and 1/14 investment. Put in the work for the first year, get a 14 year return.
Ask any investor and they will tell you that is the best odds you can get.
Your puppy will need to learn how your life works, where he sleeps, when he eats and what does he have to do to get along in life.
He will need to learn life skills which include “effective” socialisation, which means he should learn all about other dogs but not play with them so much he can’t control himself every time he sees one.
He should learn that people come in all shapes and sizes and they move, sounds, smell and act quite differently.
He should learn that you have and are the most rewarding thing in his life but he should also not be dependent on you to be there every moment of every day.
I was looking after my daughter Mackenzie Rose once when my wife was at the shops with her. (Almost) Any time my wife had left the house in the last year, Mackenzie has been with her. This includes car travel, meeting people, kids, you guessed it, dogs; she has travelled a couple of times on an airplane, been in a sea plane, boat, quad bike, bon fire and a billion other experiences in her first year.
I’m only asking for the puppy to go out once a day…
If Mackenzie doesn’t grow up stable, I doubt it will result in her biting someone and being euthanised!
Controlled Exposure is ESSENTIAL for a balanced dog.
The problem often is that inexperienced people don’t know what this means and allow their pup to play with other dogs until their pups explodes with excitement any time he sees another dog anywhere.
This is not effective socialisation or controlled exposure. It’s over socialisation and it will almost certainly lead to problems.
What problems, well for one, probably obedience problems, from pulling on the leash to get to dogs to failing to recall away from another dog during play.
Will your pup grow out of it? Let me see, think of something you think is the very best thing on earth the you don’t get enough of, then ask yourself will one day you not want it?
The answer is of course yes, when your 100 years old … maybe.
Teach teach teach your pup that you are the best reward on earth, then that 100 years will be pleasant.
So here is a simple plan, I provide many management plans for puppy buyers that vary in their attributes but this one has some of the more common elements.
Crate train your puppy so he or she does not run wild in your house. Use an exercise pen as well.
Feeding your pup should be a reward opportunity, I suggest you hand feed your puppy as much of his or her food as you can through training.
Food is currency and if your puppy learns “I do something – I get something” this is a solid life skill.
If you train one thing, make it a recall. Reliable recalls give your dog a life. He can go off leash and enjoy places more readily if he will come when called.
If our 10 week old puppy can have a reliable recall, yours can too.
If you train only two things make the second one, how to walk on a loose leash. Did you know that the most common behaviour that leads to aggression is leash pulling?
Even if your dog does not become aggressive, being pulled down the street every day is unrewarding, unpleasant and annoying, and that’s just for your dog. I teach my pups how to walk on a loose leash with either a clicker or marker and some of the food I feed for work rather than give for free.
My personal dog Venom is a Working Line Belgian Malinois and he was taught to walk on a loose leash and does this very well and I have never needed a correction of any type in his life for this. Here is a video showing him walking down the main street of a town he has never been to, with no leash as people walk by and dogs bark at him.
To be honest the rest are icing, but first you need cake, cake is a solid, reliable recall and a dog that walks with you calmly on a loose leash.
If you had a dog with good social skills, meaning when he sees people and other dogs in a new environment and he is happy but not over stimulated, and he knew how to recall and walk on a loose leash, you would have a pretty reliable pet dog that I bet you would be happy with.
If you get a puppy and leave it running your back yard and take it out every second week or so it when you get time, if you allow that pup to play with other dogs or pups every chance he gets and you fail to teach a recall and loose leash walk, your going to be in for a hard time.
I promise you that.
If you have a puppy and your lost or don’t want to be, how can we help?
- Phone Consultations – you will be amazed at what these can achieve, especially if you are far away.
- Training you to become and EXCELLENT puppy trainer – This page covers plenty of detail.
- Puppy Class – We run puppy class and cover all of the above, and much more!
- Sourcing, selection and training – We know many breeders who meet our high standards of many breeds, we can help find you the right pup!
- Early Intervention – If you have a puppy and you think something is amiss with his or her behaviour, or you just want to make sure your puppy is on the right track, we can help (email us)
We really hope that you enjoy this article and it helps you get the very best from your next puppy experience!
As always, we love to hear your comments so just add them below and hit reply!