Looking After Your Puppy/Dog
It is always a great event when a puppy arrives in its host family. After often several weeks of waiting, the newcomer is the centre of care and attention. But, if these good relations are to last, you will have to make sure that the situation of the puppy you have just acquired is one which eases integration.
It is indeed these first weeks of life together which, to a large extent, will set the pattern for your pet’s behaviour in future years.
In particular, you must avoid two big mistakes:
Your dog is a living creature. In their natural environment, dogs live in groups with complex hierarchical social rules. Its development is based on attachment, and the first weeks are crucial for the rest of its life. This is when it learns the basic features of its environment, and how to control itself. The very long period of its dependence on its mother (or human tutors) goes with its considerable learning capacity. It is able to acquire social rituals favouring the harmony of the group and to forge individual bonds with one or other members of it.
For dogs, communication involves all of the senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch). It represents a blend of instinctive messages, reflexes and more complex learned sequences combining posture, vocalisation and emission.
All of the general rules which you are going to be given here will need to be adapted to each individual case.
So are you aware now of your dog’s complexity, richness and limits? If so, then, let us see a few important points so as to avoid getting off on the wrong foot.
Your puppy has no doubt only just left its mother, the primary object of its attachment.
If it is less than 6 months old, then it is going to need someone to replace her. And so it will choose a person who can provide warmth and comfort. It will try to be always as close as possible to this person, whose contact is a source of calm for it. It is vital that this new attachment should be formed, for the pup to be able to set off to discover this new world of yours.
At about the age of 6 months, the time of puberty, you will need to detach your baby dog from you- not that this in any way means ceasing to love it! What it means is simply helping it to replace its primary attachment, which was necessary at the beginning, by an attachment to the group as a whole, which will be vital for the rest of its life. For this, what you need to do is to make sure that, in the contacts between you and the little dog, the initiative comes from you and not from the puppy. This will enable it to put up with your being absent. And in this way it will not fall prey to a certain all too common pathology: separation anxiety, causing the dog to howl and ravage or foul the house when you are not there. This pathology is now well known and easy to treat.
Things To Be Learnt
Adopting a little dog means accepting that you are going to be using a floor-mop for a certain time. At the ideal age for adoption- around 8 or 9 weeks- toilet-trained puppies are few and far between!
To expedite matters, there are a few rules to follow, and especially some mistakes to avoid making.
If you are going to get on well with your dog, you will need to train it in two types of command: call and stop.
For the first lessons, crouch, face away and call softly, tapping your thigh, "Come, boy!". This makes you attractive for your puppy, who will come, and be delighted to get a vigorous stroking as a reward.
Walking on a lead
Walking on a lead does not mean much to a dog. You are going to have to teach it this new relationship which binds it to its master or mistress.
A tight leash is a transmission line for emotions and may trigger undesirable reactions, such as aggressiveness towards other dogs.
Taking your dog out
Finally, to properly respect your dog’s nature, you should fix its place in a hierarchical structure. You should take on the dominant role yourself, and let your dog enjoy the peace of mind that comes with the submissive role in the pack. The dominant animals are the ones which take charge of the smooth operation of the group, settling the place of each member, their comings and goings and all the rituals of daily life. Therefore, it is not a matter of shouting and hitting, but of exercising an everyday authority which can reassure your dog and ensure a settled place for it.
If you take care of these two very important points, you will run little risk of your dog developing a hierarchically aggressive behaviour pattern.
While your dog is still a puppy, if it does something it shouldn’t, then respond as its mother would: lift it up firmly by the scruff of its neck and hold it hanging there until it calms down. When it does, put it down and stroke its shoulder (pacification signal). This sequence, far more than anything else, will teach it that you consider yourself to be the dominant animal in the relationship.