Dog Behaviour, Puppy

How to overcome the puppy blues so you can enjoy your puppy!

Having a new puppy can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster at times, but it’s often the lesser talked about reality of new puppy parenthood. It can leave you feeling a little isolated, frustrated, and even perhaps regretful. It’s the puppy blues in full effect! 

I’m going to let you into a well-kept secret that I think will help you. A large percentage of the issues we see with puppies are not actually training issues at all. 

There are two things that are leading to you feeling overwhelmed, conflicted, and possibly even guilty about life with your new puppy. You might be surprised to learn that they are both fairly easy to overcome once you identify them. 

So what are they, Jo? I hear you cry. 

Expectations and too much information. 

In this puppy blues blog, we will delve into both of these factors so you can recognise them, manage them and come out the other side with your sanity intact and a dog you love deeply and understand. 

So, let’s start with expectations. 

Puppy Blues: Is it normal to feel regret after getting a puppy?

You had a vision of what life was going to look like when you welcomed your puppy or rescue dog home. And this isn’t it. 

You’re exhausted. You’re monitoring your puppy’s toileting habits constantly, you’re sleep-deprived, and you’re frankly covered in bite marks gifted to you by your little shark puppy’s razor-sharp teeth. 

It’s disappointing, upsetting, frustrating, and you might even be feeling like getting your puppy was a terrible idea. Don’t panic! It’s also normal!

Guess what?! Your puppy is more than likely behaving like a puppy. The problem is not you, and it’s not your puppy. He isn’t some devilish spawn that you should never have invited into your life.

The problem is that you weren’t given an honest reflection of what these early weeks and months might look like. It’s not your fault. 

You read all the books and boffed up before getting him home, but now it’s like everything you read was written for someone else. 

I’ll tell you why. There isn’t much out there that highlights the fact that your puppy will not master everything you try and train immediately. And that’s not because you’re not doing it right. It’s because there are developmental milestones that have to be reached before that training will cement. Training takes time. 

Why is my puppy so hard to train? 

Your 9-week old puppy cannot physically hold their wee and poo in. They are not developed enough to do so. Your puppy doesn’t have the capacity to be fully toilet trained until approx 16 weeks old, when he can begin to learn to hold his toileting needs until he’s in an appropriate place. 

That doesn’t mean there’s no point in doing any toilet training. There is. But it means that you can allow yourself to relax a little and enjoy the little successes which are slowly adding up. 

Let go of berating yourself (and your puppy) whenever you find a puddle somewhere you’d rather not. It’s going to happen. Stock up on kind words for yourself and your puppy, enzymatic cleaner to remove odours and stains, and treats for celebrating the toileting that is happening in the right places. 

And trust that it will pay off. These little accidents may be frustrating, but they won’t be forever. 

The puppy biting you’re experiencing is also normal. Your puppy is teething, prone to becoming overtired in the blink of an eye and learning about the world with her mouth. You can do things to help your puppy with their sore teeth, but it is unrealistic to think you can completely eradicate any biting. 

Those sleepless nights or hideously early mornings? Yup, normal! Again, there are things we can do to make it easier on you and your puppy, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be gifted a puppy who sleeps 12hrs straight as soon as they enter your life. 

The fun and joy you expected from puppy life are in there. You will enjoy your life with your dog. The puppy blues will pass! 

You just need some help to adjust your expectations so that you can revel in your training successes and actually recognise when they happen. You might find that your puppy training is actually going swimmingly, you just need a different perspective… and perhaps a couple of small tweaks to help you on your way. 

Who can I trust – there is so much conflicting information

I remember when I first had my son, Logan. Yes, I’m talking about a human child, but stick with me, it is relevant, I promise. 

I drove myself round the bend, worrying about whether I was getting it right. I’d read so many books while pregnant, but my views were completely different when he arrived. 

So what did I do? I turned to Google, of course! 

And I didn’t stop there. I read various books, talked to friends, and tied myself in little knots once I’d acquired a ton of conflicting advice. 

It was overwhelming, confusing, and very unhelpful.  

We all have really good gut instincts, but we go down these rabbit holes seeking information, and we often end up ignoring or even fighting against our gut.

I have clients who have achieved great results using books or videos from YouTube. They have developed amazing skills which have helped them to train their dogs. But there is still something missing. 

For a lifetime of success, understanding, and a strong bond with your dog, you need to not just be able to teach behaviours but to have a clear understanding of your dog’s behaviour. 

What’s beneath the problems you are experiencing? When you understand your dog’s specific needs, what motivates him, what he struggles with and what emotions he is experiencing, you are both set up for an incredible relationship.

That can’t be taught in a generic video or picked up from a well-meaning dog friend because your dog is unique. There will be different motivations, life experiences, breed traits and so much more that affect your dog’s perspective on the world. 

Let’s go back to Logan for a minute. Imagine I told a friend he screamed all night, and I was at my wit’s end. And imagine my friend told me that she had a similar experience, and her baby was hungry, so she gave her an extra feed before bed, and the problem was solved. 

So off I toddle, and I give Logan a huge top up feed before bedtime. Only he doesn’t sleep soundly. He screams even more and for longer. Because the reason he couldn’t sleep was reflux, and the extra milk just made that 10x worse. This is a made-up story, but I just want to highlight how if we seek out information without a two-way exchange, it can quickly lead us into bigger problems. 

Just like children, our puppies and dogs need us to be consistent. And with the best of intentions, when we bounce from pillar to post trying different techniques from various people, it simply doesn’t work. In fact, a lot of the time, it creates bigger problems, because we are now unpredictable to our dogs (or kids), and that doesn’t foster confidence or security. 

What should I focus on with my puppy?

Your puppy is like a baby, he/she needs you. The absolute best thing you can do for your puppy (and your future self) is to help your puppy to grow in confidence. The typical dog training obedience stuff can come later. The early weeks and months are all about supporting your puppy and helping him/her to feel secure and safe. 

This solid foundation will enable you to build a strong relationship with your puppy. And that foundation will make it a million times easier to teach your puppy the vital skills they need to grow into an assured, confident, and happy dog. 

You can begin teaching cues such as drop and leave to help keep your puppy safe, of course. I don’t mean that you should completely ignore all elements of training your puppy. But the area of most importance is your relationship and their feeling secure. 

So, if you’re not going to Google everything and ask every dog owner you know, what’s the alternative? 

“I wish I had got help from the beginning” is a phrase I hear from clients all the time. Initially, they tried using a book or the internet to help them with their puppy woes, but the reality was they became even more overwhelmed. 

They wound up pulling their hair out and making things so much harder for both themselves and their puppy. 

Prevention is better than cure

Don’t put off puppy training until you have a problem. It will be so much harder for you and your puppy. 

Being proactive to prevent problems or getting help as soon as they arise sets you and your puppy up for success both now and in the future. Whether you’re having a tough time or you’d like to try and prevent a challenge from occurring, having a professional you can call on to discuss your individual situation is a huge relief. 

How choosing one to one puppy training support can help you overcome the puppy blues

Group puppy training classes usually teach general obedience training covering things like sit, stay, recall, and drop. And while these can be helpful skills to learn, you then have to take what you’ve learned in a class environment and progress it in the outside world alone. And that can be tricky without someone coaching you through the little hiccups that occur in day-to-day life. 

Choosing one to one dog training support means that we work on your specific challenges and your unique goals. We consider your lifestyle, the things that are important to you, and we work on a bespoke plan for your puppy or dog and support you through putting it into action. 

I’m not just a dog trainer and behaviourist, I support the humans I work with. If you have a safe person to turn to it makes it a million times easier for you to be the safe person for your puppy. 

And it helps you get over those inevitable humps without falling down a Google hole, only to emerge confused, even more exhausted, and utterly fed up. 

Instead, you have one person to reach out to who will give you consistent, tailored advice and support that meets your needs and those of your puppy. Hurrah!

So that vision you had of life with a confident and calm dog by your side that can stride through life with you no matter what happens is your reality. 

If you’re struggling with the puppy blues, then please don’t suffer alone. Reach out and get in touch with me, and let’s banish those puppy blues so you can enjoy your new pup! 

Since you’re here and tackling all things puppy, you might find this blog on socialising your puppy a useful read. https://johinds.com/2018/03/29/dog-play-vs-oversocialisation/

Dog Behaviour, Dog Training, Puppy

Don’t leave your dog hanging!

Transcript:

“This is a quick one today but I think it is a really important one because we often leave our dogs in a state of not realising when things are over, which can for some dogs lead to frustration and more desperate attempts to get more treats, play or more fuss. Now I like to teach dogs what I call “The End Signal” which can be named what ever you like but what it means is that we have finished whatever we were doing. I think this is fair because its really hard for some dogs particularly, to understand that now there is no more treats or now we have stopped training and there are some dogs that are particularly more addicted to training, play or fuss even, so its important for our own benefit as well as them to let them know that it is over now and there is no point carrying on trying. Your word can be anything; most people say all gone when it comes to treats, they might say enough, finished, go find or go play, what ever it is it needs to be consistent and I tend say use one word that means that is it, its finished. “Finished” and a hand gesture is useful for your dog, when we would use this is say we were training with them and we have been giving loads of treats and we have been doing some sits, downs and stays and I like to teach a settle at the end so they relax after at the end of the session we say “Finished” with the gesture so they go off and they know that it is the end of training, there is no more treats and we are going to put them away and its clear to them its futile to continue trying. This should apply when you are playing as well particularly for dogs that are ball obsessed but for any dog so they are not just left hanging there like “What happened?” you know we often just carry on, “oh we have done that bit now” and we will carry on doing whatever, we just need to let them know, right that is the end, its all gone you can go and sniff and relax now, so we are not training any more, we are not playing any more. You can obviously use that for fuss and anything where you dog tries to continue to pursue something. Finished means right go and settle down, go sniff if you want to, go an play with your mates whatever but what it should mean from us that it does mean the end. There is no point saying finished and then go and give your dog another treat at the end of that because you then undo what you are trying to achieve, you want your dog to understand that finish means no more now, you can do something else and I am going to do something as well. I cant say enough how important I feel this is for dogs because as i said it just leaves them understanding it is the end and they are not left in limbo. OK I told you it was a short one today so please do the usual like a subscribe and catch me next week take care.”

Dog Behaviour, Dog Training, Puppy

A Walk to Remember

How stimulating is your dogs walk?

Is it round the block or the same park once a day?

Do you always take the same route?

Has your walks become predictable and stagnant?

The best way to know if your walk has become stagnant is by looking at your dog, does he avoid being put back on the lead, when you reach the car or a certain point on the walk? Along with predictable walks often comes poor recall. Does your dog on the walk, stick there heels in and want to go in a different direction. Does your dog know the route off by heart. If your dog pulls you all the way to the park, again the walk has become predictable as your dog knows you always go there.

Our dogs lives are very much dictated by us humans, we decide when they eat, play, at worse; when they have to sit and lie down and of course when they get the privilege to leave the confinement of the house and garden, and go for “their” walk. You may have a lovely big house with a large garden but it is vital that dogs as well as us get out the house and get stimulation from many different environments too. When we think of walking the dog, the main thing we often think about is exercise. For our dog however it is much more than that. It’s a chance to finally get out of the house, no matter how big or small your home is, it is still the same four walls your dog sees day in and day out, they cannot decide to leave, its all dictated by us, when and if we decide to take them. Think about it from a human perspective, when you are stuck in the house for one reason or another you can end up getting cabin fever. A walk for a dog means a chance to explore, take in new sights, smells, meet people, other dogs and much more. When you walk your dog try and keep one thing in mind “The walk is for your dog and he/she might need it more than you”. How we walk our dogs can have a huge impact on there mood state and can cause all-sorts of on lead problems, lead frustration, reactivity to other dogs, people and more.

When you start taking your dog just on round the block walks, you make the walk boring for your self, in turn the walk then becomes a chore “I have to walk the dog” exercise is important for dogs but so is the quality of walks, if your dog is not allowed to sniff, it’s not being naturally stimulated, studies have revealed that dogs get a lot of information from scent, such as when the last dog was about, what sex they were and more. If we constantly interrupt the sniffing, this makes the walk unpleasant and could make your dog anxious as its is not getting full information about the dogs that are around. Let the walk be about them. Variety is the spice of life, keep your walks interesting go to different places, woods, fields, canals, parks, lidos, journey in the car to different places, go in different directions. Walking in the same direction round in a circle in a park two or three times can be frustrating too, you walk round the path meet a dog, you walk on again then repeatedly meet the same dog, this can be frustrating for both dogs.

Now some of you may have a dog that does not like walks, they are fearful of cars, novelty, busy places, you may have a dog that is reactive to other dogs or people, these behaviours must be addressed for the health and well being of your dog, so please seek professional modern advice. These are behaviours that can be changed with the right person helping you, they should work with you at your dogs pace and help you both enjoy getting out again. If you don’t like the idea of letting your dog sniff because you have a dog that constantly picks things up of the floor, this may be because you have accidentally reinforced the behaviour, by making everything they picked up from a pup a big deal or they are not getting the opportunity to forage naturally see my Banish the Food Bowl blog for some ideas. If your dog is a puller find a good trainer to help you teach them to walk loosely on lead. If your dog has a condition which means it cannot walk for long, drive it to different places, if you also have a condition which means you cannot go far again either drive to new places or hire a dog walker

Don’t make your walk all about throwing a toy/ball for your dog either, this can actually keep their arousal levels high, which I typically hear from owners who says they have played for an hour and the dog comes home with as much energy as they went with. This kind of exercise is like going to the gym, when you have finished your work out, you are full of endorphins, which make you feel good and gives you more energy. Ball throwing can make some dogs obsessive and can stop them doing natural behaviours like sniffing and exploring. This in turn can also make them so obsessed that they pull all the way to the park rather than enjoying the journey too. This can then be a dog that is highly stressed out on the lead and can trigger other unwanted behaviour. Although it is vital to play with our dogs, throwing a ball is overused by us and is generally for our own convenience, to “exercise” the dog by us standing still, it is not a natural behaviour for them to be solely focused on a ball or toy of any sort. It often causes conflict/fights with other dogs in the park when your dog becomes possessive of it. It is normal for a dog to resource guard however it is not normal for your dog to resource aggress. I have spoken to a lot of physiotherapists and they say if they had their way they would ban ball play altogether, as it causes many injuries in dogs, sometimes that their owners are not even aware of, dogs are good at hiding pain. Dogs that are injured can act out of character and be more reactive generally. Now as mentioned it is crucial you still play with your dog, but you can play hide and seek with the ball instead, or hide and seek yourself so your dog has to find you as well, this game is a good way of strengthening recall.

Walks also where you take your dog for a jog/run with you or on a bike ride, also can be unpleasant for dogs, especially if this is the main way you walk them. On these kind of walks they are forced to run with you and can only generally stop when you decide, their arousal levels will also be high from this type of endurance exercise, it’s not particularly relaxing or stimulating, again make sure your dog is getting something out of this kind of walk.

A walk where your dog gets to investigate and explore is much more rewarding than a dog that is marched from A to B in a strict heel, when your dog is looking at you the whole time on the walk, who’s the walk benefiting, this is not the only way to stop your dog pulling their are other techniques out there, in fact in my time working with dogs, just changing the equipment the dog is walked on and allowing them to sniff has made a significant improvement to dogs that usually pull and ones that are reactive on lead. Those of you that know me, will know that for many years I have not taught heel walking and instead have taught loose lead walking, the dog still learns that pulling on the lead gets them no where and they are taught to correct their own behaviour. The compromise is that if they do not pull, they get to sniff what they like pretty much when they like. More about my lead walking technique in my later blog!

Now you can teach two different walks, as I am aware that some times you need to get to places with your dogs, you can teach one where you want there nose off the floor and one where they can sniff until there hearts content however make the no sniffing walk the exception rather than the rule!! Try not to take your dog out when you do not have much time or if you do, make the walk shorter but allowing them to sniff more, they will get more out of this kind of walk than a rushed stressful one.

You may feel you have no time for the kind of walks I am describing but you need to make time for the health and wellbeing of your dog, so miss that episode of Eastenders and make your dogs walk interesting.

Of course for those of you that already provide variety for you dogs, keep up the good work!

Dog Behaviour, Dog Training, Puppy

Banish the Food Bowl

There are many behaviour problems that can be resolved in our dogs by just providing them with mental and environmental stimulation. One way of doing this is by Interactive feeding. For many years we have fed our dogs out of food bowls, as this is the way we eat ourselves off a nice clean plate. Many dogs don’t enjoy eating this way, some may take the food from the bowl and then eat it off the floor, others may regularly go off there food, especially the ones that have one large meal once a day (not good for many reasons) or ones that have their food left down all day, imagine me leaving your roast dinner on a plate all day and expect you to eat it, you might pick at it because you are hungry, but would you really enjoy it! Now if you look back in history at how dogs evolved, you will find that they are natural foragers, eating small quantities up to 12 times a day or more and of course hunting is a strong instinct that we have bred into them too although most dogs no longer consume prey. Although a large number of dogs are now bred to be family pets, they still have these instincts hard wired into them. You see this when they raid the bin, when they watch the floor like a hawk when you are preparing food, just incase you drop a bit, when they pick up everything that looks like food on their walks. Dogs have natural instincts and needs to but we are so busy making them conform to our lifestyle dictating how, when and where they do things, they can often get frustrated as they have no job to do. When dogs are lacking mental stimulation they often go what we like to term as “Self Employed”. Your dog may hunt socks, the remote control, chase shadows or reflections, pace the house looking for something to do, chew, start barking at things and more. Now I don’t recommend exactly encouraging them to use the hunting skills they were bred for i.e. hunting birds, local vermin or the neighbours cat but we can provide them an equivalent.

It’s time to change the way we feed our dogs!

At the very minimum dogs should be fed their daily recommended allowance twice a day, this helps sustain their energy levels, but splitting it down to 3, 4 or more meals is even better. After all how often do we eat if we include snacks.

Use every meal time, everyday for the rest of there lives, as an opportunity to mentally stimulate your dog, there are many ideas out there nowadays  and the good thing about this type of stimulation, is you can do it no matter how old your dog is. Here are a few suggestions:

Please note: It’s important that your dog enjoys it, feed differently at different meal times to keep it interesting and make sure it is not so hard that it’s almost impossible to get the food out

  • The simplest way to start off with (if your dog is on a dry complete food, wet food could get messy!) is by scatter feeding, which literally means throwing the food all over the kitchen floor, out in the garden or even on your walk, just make sure other dogs are not around, alternatively use a snuffle mat you can make your own too see here.
  • Hide some portions of the meal around the house or in the garden in small piles, at first let your dog see where you put it and say “find it” once your dog understands what you are doing make the game more challenging by hiding it whilst they are out of sight.
  • There are obviously the classics like the Kong or the cheaper version Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude, which are so versatile you can put the dry food loose in them to start off with making it easy, then if you have multiple ones you can then hide them in different places around the house. You can soak their dry food, stuff them with it and then freeze them, making a popcicle for hot days or just use feed wet complete food stuffed in it. These are good for when visitors arrive too.
  • There are plenty of other Interactive feeding toys on the market now, like the Kong Wobbler or the Buster Activity Mat, just ensure they are not too over exciting or frustrating. see the following link for many more ideas www.johinds.com/dogentertainment

Of course the cheaper alternative is to make your own. If your dog likes to chew and consume then some of these ideas are not for them, always supervise your dog and remove the item when empty, and completely if you have any concerns of them choking on or swallowing bits. Again there are some innovative homemade ideas out there:

  • Snuffle mat
  • Refill old marrow bones
  • Fill up Plastic bottles (with lid and ring round neck removed) with there dry food
  • Old slightly split tennis balls can be filled and dotted round the house or garden to hunt and find
  • For your diggers out there; take 1 cardboard box and hide the meal between layers of fleece, towels, plastic milk cartons, toys etc
  • Wrap the food in an old blanket or towel
  • Take one juice carton, remove any plastic, rinse, dry and fill
  • Buy a cheap kids ball pit, scatter the food in with the balls

With some of the interactive toys you might need to help them to start off with, showing them how it comes out. You must then leave them to try and work it out themselves, this is how it becomes stimulating for them. Always make sure the toys are not left down after they have finished with them, to keep them novel and interested the next time. Ensure your dog has opportunities to rest, there should be a balance between mental stimulation which includes sniffy walks as well as ample opportunities to rest and sleep.

Be inventive and share your ideas in the comments below.

Lets make our dogs lives even more interesting.

Thats me for now, will blog again real soon…