Visions of sugarplums and the Christmas puppy are dancing through your head. Perhaps this is a vision best revisited. No, I am not the Christmas puppy Grinch: rather, a dog trainer recognizing much can go awry during Christmas chaos. Still in the thinking stage? You may wish to rethink the Christmas puppy. Having fulfilled my voice of caution, I recognize many puppies are brought home for Christmas. The focus, therefore, will be on providing great puppy resources.
Good management is the name of the game here. When puppies are not under direct supervision think X-pens, playpens and crates. Disaster is only a heartbeat away, about the time it takes for: puppy to chomp on chocolates under the tree, sample the poisonous poinsettia or ingest that tantalizing strand of tinsel. Think like a puppy and keep all the dangerous stuff out of reach. Make use of baby gates and install the investigative baby in a puppy proof room. Ornaments are fragile and pine needles hard on puppy digestive tracts. Have that Vet phone number on hand just in case.
Lest we forget, puppies are not energizer bunnies, actually requiring lots of sleep. Our own behavior deteriorates (I know mine does) when we are constantly overly stimulated and sleep deprived. Ensure puppy knows how to use a crate, providing quiet space away from the madding crowd. Speaking of, set boundaries with the kids. Poking and prodding is not cool and will teach the puppy to pounce on approaching hands. Most kids are not being mean; they just don`t know better. The resting puppy should be left to rest, that space being respected. We don`t pounce on the kids when they are asleep. At least I hope we don`t! Colleen Pelar has a great website and articles for parents regarding dog-child interactions.
And what of the stream of visitors wanting to swoop the hapless pup briskly into the air with nary a warning? Time after time after time? Might you like to be dangled through the air by a giant? And held restrained and helpless? Puppies can become sensitized to handling and begin defending themselves. Use common sense and limit the interactions. Socializing needs to be not overwhelming for the puppy. Think new baby being passed around at a party for 3 hours. Not so much hunh?
Speaking of socializing, Christmas and holidays are times when people tend to be at home. So what happens when everyone returns to school and work? All at once? The latter can be a rude shock indeed for puppy, who is ill prepared for the mass exodus. At some point, puppy needs to learn that being alone is ok, with some sort of a plan in mind. Before and After Getting Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar is a great resource. Did you know dogs in shelters with seperation anxiety have a very poor prognosis?
Regarding alone time, puppies are ill equipped for 8 hours in a crate. Surprisingly, many folks are not aware of this. Ask a neighbor to stop in or hire a pet sitter for potty relief exercise and mental stimulation during the day, if the family will be gone long hours. Most dogs want to be with people, not spend long hours on end alone. The latter is particularly unhealthy for the youngsters. Teaching to be alone, early intervention plus being aware of separation distress signs is half the battle. Full blown separation anxiety is not a place you want to go.
What else? Be sure to have a potty plan in place, with great advice by Pat Miller. Forgetting that scheduled potty trip outside means accidents. Have someone on task for this job. Did you know that punishing an accident is one sure fire way of teaching puppy to sneak off and potty? Accidents happen when people are not seeing the potty signs or forgetting that scheduled trip outside. So punish not the pee or poop accident: focus on teaching puppy how to potty.
Puppies tend to grow quickly! Adolescent dogs with no behaviors on cue are usually not pretty to be around. I see it all the time when I am called in to restore order in the house. Positive Perspectives 2, also by Pat Miller, is a great all around book packed with useful information. Training at home is great; highly recommended is signing up for a puppy class to ensure good socialization takes place, as well as ongoing education for you.
Hopefully my goal of providing resources for all contingencies has proven helpful. Enjoy that puppy breath. I know I would!
Until next time, Leslie Fisher CPDT-KA Pat Miller Certified Trainer
“your pet positively trained” Cecil County MD