Calmness and Expectations

Socialising your puppy appropriately

Whenever socialising with other dogs, I urge you to include calmness as a major part of the play date. Allowing dogs to free play continuously isn’t going to help them learn how to communicate with other dogs (it often does the opposite) or help you in the long run.

Remember, you’re trying to set expectations for your puppy and build habits of how you want them to be and interact when older. None of us want the dog that runs up to all other dogs, jumps on them, bites their ears, gets over aroused and then won’t leave them alone. Yet one problem that I get called into a lot is attention outside. Dogs running off to meet other dogs and ignoring their recall, dogs that drag you on lead to meet others, dogs that jump all over strangers and dogs that generally do not listen outside. Now is your time to prevent your puppy learning and practicing all of that. 

We spend a lot of time setting the wrong expectations for our puppies. We should be raising puppies to expect a rough 1:3 ratio. Roughly, 1 distraction you ignore and pass by, 1 you can quickly engage with (eg sniff) and move on, 1 you can have a longer interaction with (eg offlead play). This reflects much more of what we expect from them as adults.

Remember, teaching your puppy that they don’t always get to say hello is a huge part of appropriate socialisation.  So remember to teach your puppy how to mooch calmly, how to sniff, how to say hello calmly when other dogs are present and equally how to ignore and walk on by,  this is the true meaning of socialisation.

General Training

You need better treats

Why it may not always be the case

Motivation vs Information.

Quite often when your puppy isn’t listening to you, you’re given the advise of upping your treat value by meaningful passers by. Swapping that bit of biscuit for a piece of chicken or dried smelly meat. And while I partially agree with this, you need to assess and make a decision based on your own puppy.

Often some pups are not motivated by what I would call, lower value treats, the rich tea of the biscuit tin if you will (and yes some people’s favourite will be rich tea, much like many dogs that actually love the dry biscuit treat- again each to their own). For these upping the treat value to something more appealing may well work.

I generally however advise you also work on the value your puppy sees for you without reinforcement- your relationship. Reinforcement should be a bonus, not the sole reason to want to work with you. Remember to teach your puppy that you’re fun to be around, indoors, outdoors and around distractions. 

If your pup is refusing lower value food in particular scenarios, is upping the treat value going to help them? Likely not. See, if a pup is not willing to engage because of fear, frustration, anxiety, etc, upping the food is likely going to cause more problems. Higher value food can often lead these puppies into scenarios they cannot cope with, often giving us a false sense of success. Your pup is telling you they can’t deal with that situation. Instead of upping the treat value to keep them in the situation and almost mask the problem, we need to remove them from it and work at a pace/distance/intensity the puppy can cope with. This prevents problems and ‘unpredictable’ behaviour later on when the high value food is removed.

So really, I want you to think about your own puppy. Do they simply not like the lower value treats on offer? Do you need to build a better relationship with them first rather than just upping reinforcement that eventually has a ceiling? Or do you need to listen to the information they’re giving you in that particular situation?