One of my favourite parts of being a trainer is going to meet a new client with a brand new puppy. Helping parents get off to a great start at the very beginning of their life together not only feels good for me – parent frustration is reduced and good habits can be developed from day one. It’s a win-win for everyone!
With a young puppy, helping with housetraining and chewing is always a big part of the first session. Puppies chew on whatever is available, and pee when and where the urge happens. Setting our pups up for success by understanding their special needs and using good management is essential. Providing easily accessible and appropriate chew items and potty is Puppy 101. We want to get right to setting up the area and helping the puppy begin good habit-forming.
My Poker Face
Occasionally I have a parent exclaim “Oh, that doesn’t matter”, or “I don’t care about that. We’ll be replacing it”, as their puppy chews the carpet in front of us. I do my best to refrain from redirecting the puppy as I slap on my best poker face.
There are so many reasons why it’s best not to allow a new pup to get into the habit of chewing or pottying on household items – even if they are old and you plan to replace them.
Set Up Good Habits From the Start
I always tell parents that it’s just as easy to get a bad habit as it is a good one. To the pup, it makes just as much sense to chew on the carpet as a puppy toy or go potty on the throw rug rather than their potty patch. That’s where we come in. We have a responsibility to guide and teach our pups so that they can be successful in our world. Learning which things around them are appropriate for playing with or chewing on is a lesson that is best started the day they come home.
First Experiences are Sticky
Another great reason to get started on the habits you want for a lifetime is that your pup’s first experiences are memorable. The first spot they go potty when they come home will be a go-to place for the future. The first item they place in their mouth will more than likely become a favourite. It can be difficult to change those early habits, so why not take advantage of that ‘stickiness’ and get your pup off to a great start?
Let’s Be Fair
Life can throw curveballs our way. Even the best-laid plans need to be tossed sometimes. But doing a complete 180 on your pup isn’t fair. I don’t think it’s reasonable to one day say it’s OK to chew on the baseboard and then suddenly say it’s not the next. Remember early habits are sticky! And your pup doesn’t have the benefit of you explaining why installing new baseboards suddenly puts them off-limits. Sudden changes to the rules are confusing, frustrating and potentially stressful to your pup.
Before your pup came home you probably spent some time ensuring cables and other dangerous items were safely tucked or put out of reach. Is that household item you don’t mind your pup entertaining himself with safe? Many contain chemicals from processing or for ease of care. They were not intended to be ingested.
The moral of the story? Think about the habits you want your dog to have and help your pup start building those now.
If you would like more info on changing habits, check out:
Need some ideas for appropriate chews and toys?
Lisa Kerley BSc KPA-CTP