When we got Taz, our little collie kelpie cross puppy, on the first weekend in January this year, she was only 11 weeks old and tiny, everyone we talked to joked about how much she would chew our things and how much trouble she would be. Truly I dreaded having a puppy. I hadn’t had one before, but I had heard that they can be difficult. I would have been happy to adopt an older dog from a shelter and skip puppy-hood altogether, but we wanted to have the opportunity to train our dog to behave around chickens, and maybe to help us herd cattle, so we needed to start young.
Now that we have had Taz for 6 months and she’s about 9 months old, the puppy times don’t seem so bad at all, and I am glad that I didn’t miss them, its been really lovely to watch Taz grow up so quickly. I credit our relatively satisfaction to several factors. First, we started with a smart puppy, she does want to learn and want to please, she only wee’d inside once in her life before she figured out that wees are done outside, toilet training took exactly one day. Secondly, Taz has looked up to Cheryl (our 12 year old kelpie cross that has been with Pete since she was a tiny puppy) as a mentor from the moment they met. Although Cheryl is herself not always a paragon of obedience, she has taught Taz doggy manners. Taz is the bottom of our pack, she has to wait for Cheryl to finish with a toy or a bone before she can take it. She suffered several warning bites to the nose before she learnt this, and we let dogs be dogs so that Taz learnt her place. Naturally, she recognises Pete and I as higher in the pack order than herself, because that’s how Cheryl sees us, but it was much easier to let Cheryl teach her.
We also learnt to use a puppy box, not as a punishment, but as a safe place where she could relax during the day. We use the dog box from our ute, positioned under the veranda, as the puppy box. Taz loves her puppy box, we leave the door open and she often pops back in there if she is scared, or just wants to lie down, she knows that’s her safe space and it obviously brings her comfort as she never resists going into her box when we ask.
We have tried to train Taz at her own pace. We choose one or two commands that we want her to learn and focus on them until she gets them. Taz quickly learnt to come, sit, lie down, stay, get in her box, get in the car, get on her mat, give us five, and wait before she eats. The main thing to remember is that puppies don’t understand “no”, we had to start using positive commands. If we didn’t like what she was doing, we had to call her using “come” or to stop her jumping, tell her to “sit”. For chewing, we tried OFG’s suggestion of “that’s mine” and replacing the offending item with a puppy toy (not sure if she quite got this one, but doesn’t hurt to try). For the record, she has chewed up my prescription sunglasses, and all the thongs (jandles/flip flops) in the house and she has a habit of stealing socks from the laundry basket, and the cheapest way to keep her supplied with puppy toys is to buy an armload of soft toys from an op shop (charity store).
I think its really sad to see so many puppies offered for give away at 9-12 months of age. I guess these puppies were not trained or treated appropriately when they were younger and now they are big and the chewing and crazy jumping is not so cute anymore, so its time to get rid of them. Puppies don’t come with a manual, but its not hard to get advice and spend some time helping them to become obedient, happy and settled mature dogs. We never even considered that giving a dog away was an option, so that meant we had to put the time and effort into making Taz, the puppy we chose, into the dog we wanted.
Any thoughts about training dogs?