As we come upon the holidays, people often add a pet to their home. The arrival of a little puppy can be a wonderful gift to a home, but it can also come bundled with a lot of work and difficulties if the first few weeks are not set up to have that puppy learn about good manners and training. Dr. Yin understood the impact of getting a puppy off to a good start right from the very beginning. As a veterinarian and behaviorist, she understood well the impact of routine, socialization, and clear rewards for appropriate behaviors in the first few months in the home. In 2009, Dr. Yin’s father wanted a cattle dog puppy. As she was growing up, Dr. Yin had a couple of Australian cattle dogs as family pets, so her parents were familiar with that breeds active nature, although her dad tended to forget that part. Now that her parents were older, Dr. Yin was concerned that a puppy would be a lot of work and could have some naughty or problematic behaviors if it did not get consistent training right from the start.
So that is the story of how the book, Perfect Puppy in 7 days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right, was born. Dr. Yin decided to keep Lucy, the new puppy, at her home for the first few weeks to have Lucy learn how to sit, come, walk on a leash, go potty in the yard, and play nice with other dogs – Jonesy (Dr. Yin’s Jack Russell Terrier) in particular. I remember Dr. Yin saying how she had about 200 photos already taken to document the Learn to Earn program she was using with Lucy; carefully outlining the steps for potty training, using her meals for rewards, and how to time the reward to get the best response from Lucy. Despite a 120-page outline of instructions – indexed and complete with photos – Lucy regressed at her parent’s home. Luckily, Dr. Yin lived not too far away, so she saw the backsliding Lucy was doing within a week or so at her parent’s home. When she visited her parents, Dr. Yin could see where some of the trouble was, which contributed to Lucy’s backsliding.
Timing the reward – her food in the Learn to Earn program – to within one second of the right behavior was a challenge for her dad. He would praise Lucy, but as he fumbled for the reward she would stand up from her sit or pull on the leash. At that point getting the food was reinforcing the wrong behavior, so Lucy was learning to not sit, rather than to sit. Going to Lucy’s puppy class was also enlightening. The puppies were allowed to all play in one big group allowing more forward puppies like Lucy to jump, pounce, and mouth other puppies. This resulted in Lucy starting to become more aggressive with other forward puppies because no one was redirecting the puppies away from each other when they became too aroused. Structuring puppy class is very important – a free for all play session may look like fun, but can encourage problem behaviors. In Dr. Yin’s “documentary style” she recorded the puppy classes to see what was making the problems. In the Creating the Perfect Puppy in 7 days DVD, you can see that what looks like innocent rough housing play is actually leading to more inter-dog aggression and mouthing on people. Habits we do not want a puppy to learn.
So Dr. Yin took Lucy home to get her back on track, and in a few weeks Lucy was walking well on a leash, staying in a sitting position, playing nicely with other dogs, and able to remain calm. Lucy was still in that early socialization period – three weeks to three months – which is so important in a dog’s life for learning manners and skills. What I really love about this story is that Lucy was able to re-learn her early training and still be able to hold her sit and not jump up as Dr. Yin’s father was slow in rewarding. In other words, the puppy who backslides can re-learn and be even better by following the Learn to Earn program, and being consistent at it.
All too often I see families start off very consistent in toilet training and leash walking, then after the puppy is showing that they have learned these things, the training routine slacks off. Also, the timing of the rewards may be off, resulting in reinforcing the wrong behaviors. Families do not go back to the first steps of concentrating on consistency and are left with a misbehaving young dog. Then frustration builds and they either have behavior problems that are more work to change than the initial training, or the family gives up on the dog.
Both the book, Perfect Puppy in 7 days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right, and the DVD, Creating the Perfect Puppy in 7 Days, are available here in our store. The book offers an excellent plan for all puppies to learn to be great dogs. The DVD is Dr. Yin lecturing and features lots of videos of puppy class and training Lucy, especially in her remedial period. This is what helps many of my clients – seeing how to get a dog back on track as an older puppy.
If you or someone you know has added a puppy to your home, please bring the Perfect Puppy in 7 days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right book home with you and follow it right away. If you have a puppy that is naughty or hard to train, use both the book and the DVD to help you get your puppy back on track.
- Puppy Behavior: A Sensitive Period for Puppy Socialization
- My Puppy Won’t Walk on a Leash! 3 Ways to Train Your Puppy to Love Her Leash
- Developing Separation Anxiety: Will the Learn to Earn Program Cause Separation Anxiety in my Puppy?
- Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: My Puppy is TOO Perfect, What Now?
Dr. Sally J Foote, DVM