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Puppy Training Gone to the Dogs

by Barbara Haupt

The day has arrived; the new puppy is with us. Volumes have been written on the proper care and handling of those warm, cuddly, squirming creatures. Our bookshelves are full of them and we didn’t even make their purchase. The books are GIVEN to us by friends and family who are well meaning and well aware of our dog fanaticism. It’s true, when we read this literature we find valuable information relating to us as humans and our personal relationship with our new addition, but those of us who own more than one dog know we have another valuable resource in our midst. Whether by accident or intention, we have already discovered that having multiple canines can be easier than having one. Whether the resident dogs be of the pointing, retrieving, or flushing variety, or any combination thereof, the four-legged teachers are there ready to instruct and multitudes of lessons are there just waiting to be learned. Puppies are like little sponges sopping up knowledge every waking minute.

When the new pup enters the multi-canine home, it must suffer through a very thorough inspection - a “nose job” doggie style. Most likely, our number one alpha dog will look at pup AND us in disgust. We know what’s going through that mind: “Good grief, you’ve brought home another one for me to look after, put up with, and teach some manners.”

That’s what happens. The older dogs do tolerate the puppy, sometimes demonstrating amazing patience toward that biting, yipping, clumsy dynamo that is invading not only their space but also their peace and quiet. Toleration can just go so far and when necessary, discipline is swift and effective - amazingly effective. And this entire time puppy is learning - abundantly learning - from his new foster family. He adapts and adjusts quickly to their routine and habits. It’s not long before he has found his place; he belongs.

Just what is it the older dogs can do with a puppy and how can we take advantage of their expertise? Consider the basic commands of “sit”, and “come”. If your long-term residents understand them, so will the youngster in short order. Give the sit or hup command more frequently than normal. It won’t hurt the elders and puppy quickly learns by imitating their behavior - at feeding time, when going in and out of the house or kennels, when visitors arrive, before and after other training exercises - WHENEVER! And when the pup is out and about with the other dogs, give a pip on the whistle, say “here” or “come” and watch him follow the others to you as fast as he can get there. Repetition, repetition, a minute here and a minute there, and before long this little guy is just one of the gang doing what they do and loving it.

Results of good training -- a "group sit" or "hup".
Photo by: Author
Perhaps the “kennel” command is valuable to you. Envision how imitative behavior comes through again. Have the puppy watch the others respond to the command and it won’t be long before he too can comply without assistance from you. Using the word “kennel” for the portable dog crates as well as any other kennels you may have also helps strengthen the term because most dogs love to accompany us wherever we go. They don’t want to miss a thing because who knows what lies at the end of the journey? It may be a short jaunt to the post office, or Uncle Roy’s or Aunt Flo’s with the probability of good pets and a dog biscuit. Or if they’re lucky, it might be a trip to a lake or the field for some training and conditioning. The ultimate, of course, would be the excursion which ends in hunting. Seeing the older dogs bolt into their crates upon hearing the term “kennel” won’t hurt pup at all; he watches; he observes and their enthusiasm is catching. It’s not long before “kennel” will induce its automatic response in pup. Just watch him go; he loves that crate!

Getting the new puppy acclimated to water will be no problem if the opportunity is presented in a non threatening manner. A warm sunny day by the side of a calm, clear body of water and we can sit back to relax and observe. The experienced canines do their own thing and gradually the pup is by their side. The natural curiosity of puppies coupled with their respect and trust in their four-legged family does it all. It’s not long before Junior is along the shore looking for frogs and any other interesting critters available. Without thinking or being coerced, puppy is wading, then eventually paddling, about with the others. After a few of these relaxed sessions we have a puppy who loves the water.
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