Every Dog Every Day
4. But it’s a puppy…?
We indulge puppy behaviour.
We respond to those large eyes. Thanks Disney.
We behave without repsonsibility.
My puppy is biting me
Puppies are like toddlers, everything within their reach is a learning opportunity and although some things may be sniffed or tapped with a paw, their dominant learning pathway is by taste, texture and mobility.
As part of this process and within the social development calendar, they taste every part of their siblings – oh yes, every part. At about 3 weeks their mobility is limited to the nest and a small area around it. Their eyesight is only just beginning and sound is mere muffled noises.
They are very skilled, in comparative longevity of learning, at putting their mouth around something and finding reinforcement. This progresses to any part of their siblings. Two weeks later when their sight and hearing skills are catching up, they can launch an impressive attack with momentum and pressure.
As part of social development the siblings learn how to avoid bite. They discover that some bites are an instant win for their opponent and other bites can be quickly diverted.
A puppy training protocol that is now well established is to squeal when your puppy bites your hands/legs/toes and this will cause them to stop. I presume the idea was that they would not knowingly harm someone they love? hah! They “love” their dam, but chew on her with gusto and competitive vigour.
That protocol cannot have emerged from observation of many litters as the squealing noises are usually a successful indication of a forthcoming win for the transgressor. Very often it increases the pleasure and bite vigour. The boys squeal with impressively high decibels when they feel their willies being separated from their bodies. Mother never responds or intervenes.
You can find some success with this protocol if your squeal is sufficiently loud to startle the puppy. The startle reflex can be recognised with a freeze, or cessation of bite, whilst the environment is assessed for threats. But we are employing a reflex that is associated with something negative. After a very small number of repetitions and no threat imminent the puppy will quickly stop responding to the squeal-startle.
If the puppy is quite relaxed and biting hard on your fleshy parts then quietly remove them, both parts and puppy, and substitute something more appropriate for chewing. Soft toys are often not a good replacement for flesh, rubber toys or even more appropriate warm, raw chicken wings are excellent.
Puppies that are allowed plenty of chewing on (deceased), raw bones can be skilfully discriminative when presented with live bones. They need to chew, it relaxes them, soothes the gums and is an excellent “home alone” activity.
If the puppy is over excited, tired or generally snarky, then it is time for a nap and a warning to their play partner that too much play beyond their self control is not of benefit to anyone.
Fleshy parts of humans should not be used as predatory toys. Whilst it may be amusing to see a terrier pup chase spider-hands consider the future of that skill as a fully developed adult. Unless you have undesirable sales reps calling your terrier pup my find other ankles to predate.
If the young dog was being reared by a canine family some members would indulge all behaviours until they become young adults and potential competitors for resources or working partners. Others would provide a discipline structure. Oddly the discipline will come from their siblings.
Certain behaviour tolerated by grandparents and absolutely not allowed between siblings. On a daily basis the siblings learn to curtail rough behaviours, control their play and bite pressure and develop communal living skills.
Puppy party or school reunion?
I often have a get together of the puppies as they mature and sibling reunion is legendary in snarky learning sessions. The pups that were best buddies at 8 weeks become bickering siblings when meeting up again 16 weeks. But given the space and a distracting activity they quickly adapt their behaviours and enjoy the party.
At 12 weeks puppies should be sleeping at least 18 hours a day with short learning sessions whilst they are awake. All the learning packed into the awake time needs to be digested by their brain and this is done when they are asleep. Try to establish quiet sleep areas, crates and pens are ideal and accustom the puppy to pleasure, food, security and comfort when in their “bedroom”.
It is not a place of punishment and enforced separation. Be nearby and visit often.
I always raise my litters in the sitting room, usually in the summer and they become well accustomed to the TV. It hides the sounds of the rest of the house so they are not continually aroused by expectations of activity and food, and it also is a future pacifier. Especially Wimbledon.
Puppies at 6-12 weeks when they are in the litter are continually assaulted with bite challenges. They have developed lightning reflexes to avoid the preliminary bite becoming an on-your-back battle.
The smaller the pen the pups are reared in, with little outside exploration and stimulus, the greater this bite-back off reflex can be. Imagine living in a touring caravan with your worst relatives for a month with no outside activities. A little touchy, might be an understatement. To avoid escalation to murder, rules would need to be set and agreed, and puppies are similarly having regular family meetings to work out what they can tolerate under pressure and what they cannot.
If the litter’s environment is allowed to expand to match their developmental curiosity and desire to explore, then the sibling play-fights and battles remain playful and mutually pleasurable.
At 7 weeks my pups are visiting the kitchen, staircase, garden, all under supervision of humans, their dam and various responsible adults of my group. After 20 minutes they are returned to the play pen, Wimbledon is switched on, and within 2 minutes they are all asleep.
The next waking period, which to them is another day, may be a trip in the car. This rich environment ensures that compression fights do not develop.
The right environment makes a good party, the wrong environment can cause long term harm
A Daily Outing
Adult dogs can also suffer from this pressure living.
I consider my house space, garden space an outings as a collective “world”. Only so many dogs of certain personalities can live in this space. You cannot specify the number of dogs that an environment can support in comfort and without stress as the different personalities need different degrees of breathing space.
Some breeds are certainly more predisposed to living as a group and some breeds do not live well together. Cavaliers always love to sleep in a heap. It was pointless buying a dog bed for each of them as they would all collect into one if my lap was not available. When the first Gordon pup arrived, at 8 weeks old the equivalent size of a full grown Cavalier, they thought he made the best mobile hot water bed that grew and grew. He loved sleeping company.
The collies detest it, they certainly subscribe to the “be nearby” policy, but reject full body contact for sleeping. Since any piece on linoleum is considered good bedding for a collie they rarely have to reject the snuggling propositions of the Gordons.
They are sofa-designed dogs, preferring to employ the sofa arm as a head rest.
If your environment is on the pressure threshold then the daily outings are extremely important decompression.
I am not so sure that dogs need a daily walk as we might view it. They certainly enjoy a browse around the neighbourhood and they view it as a daily sniff. Lots of stopping and starting reading the headlines and leaving comments. This can be somewhat irritating to the walking partner who has the “we must walk” view.
I like people to see this outing as a walk around an exhibition of your passion – perhaps a computer fair, car boot market, car show, or Crufts? It is about a walking speed that is slow enough to maintain a 360° swivel capability to seek out all that may interest you. There is certainly low benefit to your aerobic system.
Your outings should be viewed as a series of varying activities to suit your dog’s needs and delights:
A short evening and morning sniff-tour will activate the bowels and de-compress.
A trip to a playground, of the canine variety, where you can engage in interactive sports, chasing, tracking, hunting etc. will suffice for aerobic activity.
A social opportunity, if your dog is comfortable with other dog-friends, classes or local cafe will provide stimulating interactivity.
For any other needs you can supply much of them at home – scent games in the garden, training in the kitchen, hide-n-seek around the house.
Essentially I am giving you a licence to not take your dog on a daily walk of perpetual motion. If this is not a pleasant event for either you or the dog there are many other options that will give your dog pleasure, contentment and keep them fit.
EVERY DOG EVERY DAY
10 Chapters in this book
Kay has been involved in training dogs for over fifty years. From teaching lifeskills for all types of dogs to top level sports and working dogs.
Kay leads the way in developing innovative and creative techniques that deliver connection and effective teaching for both dogs and people in a blend of passion, joy and enthusiasm.
The constant thread has been a passion for learning about dogs and effective teaching.