Is your puppy a blank page?

rupert and chita

New puppy care is vital.  Your new puppy is a wonderfully fresh blank page. This is your chance to shape your puppy into the dog you want him to be. Puppies don’t start out with separation anxiety or other behavioural problems, but it is usually in puppy hood that these problems arise. You have the chance here to help your puppy through training and socialisation to become a dog that can cope with most things he is going to encounter in his life and environment.

Socialisation with conspecifics is essential of course as well as socialisation with people of all ages, sizes and colours as well as other animals that he may have around him in his home such as cats.  Socialisation must be positive and never forced.  Only socialisation can prepare the dog for anything it may encounter in life and it is infinitely easier to socialise puppies than remedial socialisation with older dogs. Socialisation means getting used to environmental elements through exposure to them and making positive association.

Below is a link to a puppy socialisation checklist where you can tick off every time your puppy experiences unfamilar people and other dogs/animals.  All experience must be a positive experience.  Also included it a list of items that you can get your puppy habituated to. Habituation can be described as the process whereby an animal becomes accustomed to non-threatening environmental stimuli and learns to ignore them.  These can include a variety of environments, sounds and surfaces. Dogs that experience different sights, sounds and textures learn how to adapt and how to bounce back from surprises.

From the moment you bring him home your puppy is learning.  He is learning to practice as many naughty behaviours as he is  good behaviours and you the owner may be inadvertently rewarding those naughty behaviours such as inappropriate greeting, chewing on furniture and barking.  Because basically dogs do whatever works!  One example may be the dog that is jumping up on his owner. If the owner is pushing him off, saying “no” or “down boy”, the dog may actually think he is being rewarded with attention for jumping up and will continue to do so as long as he is receiving attention for jumping up. Teaching puppies to perform a good sit and asking for that instead of rewarding the jumping up can help teach puppy to offer a sit for polite greeting instead.

Teach puppy what to he needs to do to get attention and  rewards!  Rewards can include treats, kibble, toys, play, praise, attention, a scratch behind the ears and must be something that the dog wants.  Studies and personal experience have shown dogs learn VERY quickly when using a combination of positive reinforcement and negative punishment. Positive reinforcement is adding something (a motivator that your dog wants) in order to increase a behaviour you would like such as sitting when asked.

Negative punishment is all about removing something to decrease unwanted behaviour.  This can include turning your back (removing your attention) when puppy jumps up at you or removing eye contact when puppy barks at you for attention.  The word punishment should not be a word to be afraid of, in the case of dog training it simply means removing an expected reward in order that the puppy learns what he is doing is not working.

For best results you can combine both positive reinforcement and negative punishment; Ignore the behaviour (such as puppy jumping for attention) and follow up with positive reinforcement of the desired behaviour.  You can teach puppy what you want him to do using operant conditioning.  However try to avoid using positive punishment such as smacking a dog in the face with a newspaper as this is an aversive and very damaging to the bond with your dog.

quadrants of operant conditioning


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s