Ask The Chiswick Expert

Vicky Carne gives advice to those who are thinking about getting a puppy

Vicky Carne website: telephone: 020 8994 9664 email: Directory

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Do take the time to find out the best way to look after a puppy before you bring one home. Over the past decade or so, our greater understanding of how dogs learn has led to significant changes in the best way to train them. See recommended books. The following are a few pointers to get you started.

Biting, barking, chewing, digging and going to the loo in inappropriate places are all perfectly natural puppy behaviours. Your new puppy will be only too happy to learn how to behave at home and when out and about in the streets and parks of Chiswick – but you need to teach him. So, plan to get a puppy when you’ll have plenty of time to give him the attention he’ll need, especially for the first few weeks.

Choose carefully. Read up on breeds, ask for advice and, when you’ve decided what will suit your family and lifestyle, find a recommended breeder (look at the Kennel Club or breed association websites). Always meet the puppy’s mother so you can be sure that she’s a confident, friendly dog. If possible, leave a small blanket with the breeder to put in with the puppies for a few days before you bring yours home. When you bring the blanket back you can use it in his bed on the first night or two. The smell of his littermates will help him relax.

The key that unlocks the secrets of dog training is to remember that what gets rewarded gets repeated … for example, if you always wait for your puppy to sit before giving him food (just hold the bowl above his head, eventually he’ll sit so he can look up at you and that bowl!) he’ll quickly learn to ‘sit’. Similarly, if you give your cute puppy lots of attention when he jumps up at you in welcome, guess what, you will eventually have a large, and often muddy, grown dog doing the same thing.

The easiest way to teach your puppy to do the right thing is to limit his options for doing the wrong thing. Don’t give him free run of the house initially – there are too many opportunities to make the wrong (from your point of view) choices of toilet area and chewable items. Do find out how to use a dog crate (from the puppy’s point of view, a secure den). Used properly, this will be an invaluable training aid.

If you have small children, monitor their activities closely. Your aim is for both parties to enjoy getting to know each other. Puppies love to play but also need a lot of sleep – so no prodding him awake every few minutes or you’ll have an over-tired puppy to deal with as well as over-excited children.

Plan a visit to the vet for a health check and any vaccinations needed. Do book puppy classes. Have fun!

June 9, 2010