After the chaos of the pup arriving, this week has felt relatively easy. The toilet training is going well and as long as I let him out when he wakes, after playing and roughly every half an hour all goes well. We have had two accidents both because I didn’t follow the rules. I merely cleaned it up and made more effort next time. Telling him off, punishing him or freaking out may well have created a bad association and he may well then try and avoid me to toilet in peace. Aside from that it was all over by the time I noticed and punishment needs to arrive at the time or within 0.5 seconds which for most people is as good as at the time. It also needs to be connected to the environment rather than with you or the pup will just associate the punishment with you and try and avoid you. Therefore trying to punish a dog when toilet training is actually quite difficult and therefore not worth worrying about given that teaching good habits is so effective. As it is he is quite happy for me to hover (ready to pick it up before he eats his pooh). He is not eating his pooh so much now but is far more likely to first thing in the morning. Knowing this I am with him ready to distract with some cheese whilst I pick up immediately.
Everything else feels pretty routine now. He is happily sleeping through the night now and when we wake he is straight out for a wee and pooh. He has is food and then goes nuts trying to bite legs so we distract onto towels. When he calms down we explore the garden and maybe retrieve some balls. His interest in balls is limited. Some he likes and some he doesn’t. He quite often will chase and then ignore. This is a process and his desire for balls will grow as he learns they are fun. There is no such thing as ‘ball drive’ so don’t let people panic you if your pup isn’t interested in them at this stage. If your pup isn’t interested you may be better off just finding other objects that he is interested in at this stage rather than risk making bad associations. I normally give him about half an hour or so attention then place him in the crate whilst I get myself ready. Sometimes I will give him a cardboard box from the recycling or whatever else he can safely chew up. A bit of cream cheese or pate on it guarantees he is distracted and prevents any bad habits in the crate whilst I get ready.
I have made no efforts to take him to new places or see new things this week although there is always an opportunity. Just letting him in the front room at home is a new experience. Seeing a few new things is good but don’t overdo it. It is easy to forget at this stage that they have been through a lot and this week is a great time to take stock of your progress and start planning the coming weeks.
He is due his second booster on Thursday so I know I’ve got a big day that day. Friday will be a quiet day at home just in case there are any side effects. Being overly tired, ill or injured can lower the dogs tolerance and make anything feel scarier than it would otherwise be.
He met his brother Marshy and my mums dog and cat again last week and also had a sleepover with his handler and met his Great Dane again. This coming week could be time to meet a new dog so I will seek out a nice puppy friendly specimen for him. He isn’t yet protected by his vaccinations so we are risk managing by meeting dogs we know to be fit and healthy and only going places where dog walkers don’t routinely go. Whilst the vets may disagree, the benefits from early socialisation cannot be over emphasised. It is especially important that he learn to meet not just dogs that he knows but learns how to deal with meeting new dogs as this is a separate skill. He will quickly become a very confident, large dog and if his social skills aren’t good, the tendency will be to withdraw from new interactions and the problem will get worse. It is much better to be proactive at this stage and prevent any possible issues before they arise.
Whilst paying with him I am always thinking about the end game and how what I am doing is working towards that goal. He has a good recall and will happily chase towels and rags, legs and brushes. At this stage we will play with anything that gets him excited but I will gradually play less and less with things like brushes as the intensity to play with rags increases. I also throw things and encourage him to bring them back. Again, at this stage we are limited to whatever he will pick up but I will again move him towards balls as that will be my toy of choice. It is all about making him chase and bite at this stage.
I am also encouraging barking and when he is excited will happily bark in response to a bah! sound. I have also started to feed him in the plastic pot so he needs to push and knock it around and use his nose to find the food. This all helps to increase his problem solving, tenacity and determination as well as using up some of that brain power to tire him out rather than having to exercise his rapidly growing body.
Everything I do will always be about encouraging or discouraging future behaviour. Whilst there is no need to panic and try and stop unwanted behaviour at this stage I am conscious of them and taking steps to distract, divert or manage them so as to not let them develop into habits with a long reinforcement history. Equally I am using the same technique to encourage desirable behaviour but there is no requirement to worry about commands and control positions or any kind of ‘formal’ training just yet. The aim is to make a well rounded individual that has all the drive and enthusiasm to do the job. Teaching sit, down and stand can come much, much later. It is all about prioritising your time in line with the puppys developmental stages at the moment.