Leighton Buzzard dog trainer's top tips following huge surge in puppy ownership through lockdowns
Pandemic sees puppy prices rising massively, intake of rescue dogs increasing hugely, and a disturbing rise in dog thefts and puppy farming
The pandemic has seen a huge surge in people buying puppies, but what happens as restrictions ease and more and more of us return to offices potentially leaving man's best friend home alone.
Leighton Buzzard-based dog trainer Lisa Edwards, of Dolittles Animal Training and Behaviour, has plenty of tips for new puppy owners. Here's what she has to say...
So, in case you have been on another planet, as well as there being a global pandemic, there has been a huge rise in people buying man’s best friend: The Puppy! This in turn has led to puppy prices rising massively, intake of rescue dogs increasing hugely, and a disturbing rise in dog thefts and puppy farming.
For many people this has been perfect timing, with many of us working from home. This is great as I personally encourage new puppy owners to take a week off work to help puppy settle in. However, plans will need to be put in place when things return to ‘normal’ and this should start today.
I am fortunate in my profession as a dog/animal trainer, and have been very busy, helping owners, often first-time ones, give their puppy and their relationship the best start including juggling their training in their busy lives. So what I thought I would do is give you my top tips if you have recently got a puppy or are thinking of getting one:
1. Get your puppy used to being left alone gradually: I have seen so many puppies this year, and last, with severe Separation Anxiety. It is a form of panic attack and they don’t just get over it. If you continue to leave them it will get worse. Start now; Leave them alone in a different room when you're working or take the whole family for a walk leaving puppy at home. Install a camera so you can check in or ask a neighbour to listen out for you.
2. The ‘dreaded’ first night: Think of it this way. Puppy is dragged away from everything it has known (Mum, siblings, human family), taken in a scary, bumpy thing to meet strange new people (that’s you!). They are then given endless attention all day and then suddenly they are then shut in a cage and left all alone...scary! I would recommend the first week someone sleeps downstairs with the puppy, so they are not alone.
Alternatively, you can have the crate upstairs with you. Most people use crates mainly because puppies won’t mess in them. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t need to go to the toilet. Set an alarm a few times during the night so a.) puppy doesn't learn that crying makes humans come to me and b.) no accidents and your toilet training is on to a great start as they are always doing it in the right place every time...the garden. Also do not bother with puppy pads, it just teaches them going inside is OK. Don’t assume they know the difference between the pad and your carpet.
3. Ditch the Bowl: Sometimes we forget that most breeds are working dogs. They have been selectively bred to have a job to do. Although being a pet dog looks like an easy life, they still feel these needs. Walks should take care of their physical needs (remember the exercise rule: 5mins per walk per month of age!) but what about their mental needs?
Imagine having the same meal in the same place, at the same time everyday….zzzzzz! I have a solution for you and it is called ‘ditch the bowl’. Work out your dog’s daily food allowance and split it into lots of smaller feeds.
Save some for training (dogs learn whether you train them or not, the training makes sure they learn the RIGHT stuff!) and rest can be used in food toys such as Kongs (not just for peanut butter!), licki mats, snuffle mats, treat balls and scatter feeds in the garden. No set times and lots throughout the day to stop them finding their own entertainment, inhaling their food & perfect for zoom calls! Check out www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk and see what your food scores?
4. Socialisation: So, this is definitely a puppy owner’s favourite word, but this doesn’t necessarily just mean other dogs. If socialised properly it should be everything you want them comfortable with during their lives.., sheep, traffic, car journeys, high-vis wearing people etc. One of the biggest mistake’s puppy owners make is letting their dog say hello to everyone. I have lost count of the clients I have seen after their initial puppy 1-2-1 whose dog will now run (usually 2 fields!) to see another dog.
They don’t know there are distance rules not that's what I’ve always been allowed to do? So, it is nice and simple and will make your lives so much easier; For every dog you see make sure your dog does a recall and comes back to you even if it's Fido from next door who they've played with 100s of times before. It is all about consistency. Once pup has come back then you can send them to say hello. Added bonus, you made the good thing happen therefore they are more likely to do it again.
If you are unsure if they will do this either give yourself more space and set your puppy up to succeed or use a longline (only ever on a harness for safety reasons) so they can’t get it wrong. Then that day when there is a dog on lead who really doesn’t want an ‘it’s OK he’s friendly’ puppy bouncing in his face because he has recently had an operation and the owners is trying to keep him calm, you can be the smug owner with the recall, lead on and strut away no drama!
I hope this has been useful. I’m always happy to help dog owners trying to do the best for their dogs. Dog training isn’t easy. That's what we are for so if you are struggling, get a qualified professional to help you. Remember they are part of the family so enjoy each other!