Old Habits Die Hard…

by Fiona Sinclair, Senior Coach // February 2018

Part of the joy of having a puppy is those cute, funny moments when they try out new things while exploring their world. But the human world is a funny place; natural dog behaviour doesn’t always fit in with our hectic lives and we have to teach our dogs how they can express their normal doggy behaviour in a way that is acceptable in a human world. 

Labradors are never short of ideas for how to find food and the pup in the photo think the best way to catch a sneaky lick of the dirty dishes is to get into position on top of the dishwasher door! So cute and funny we just had to take a photo! But will it still be cute and funny when he is a 28kg full-grown Labrador? 

If we want to teach our dogs good habits for the future we need to start when they are puppies; the behaviours we encourage in our puppies will last into adulthood.

When puppy attacks your fluffy slippers, it might seem funny at first to turn it into a game by dancing around while he snatches at your feet, but wouldn’t it be better to direct that puppy play onto a toy instead? Then your adult dog will understand that when he feels like a chase or tug game, all he has to do is collect a toy for you.

Puppies think everything is a toy, including the towel when we want to dry those muddy paws – tug of war with the towel might be cute with your new pup, but wouldn’t you prefer it if your full-grown dog will stand still to be dried after he has taken a mudbath in the woods?

Children love playing with their puppies and wrestling looks like fun, but should we encourage our puppy to jump all over the children every time they lie on the floor? It’s not fair to expect your full-grown dog to suddenly understand that this game is not OK anymore. 

So what can you do?

With any behaviour, we don’t want our puppy to repeat we need to think about two things: first teach them something else to do instead and second make sure the behaviour we don’t like is not being rewarded.  We don’t want to stop natural behaviours such as play biting, but we do need to teach our puppies that it’s not OK to play bite with humans – only with toys. Always offer your puppy dog toys to tug and chew and chase instead.

And the puppy in the dishwasher?

Teach him something else to do instead of practising this behaviour; put a mat on the floor and train puppy to wait there for treats while you fill the dishwasher. If he gets up to head for the dishwasher, calmly close the door so you make sure the behaviour you don’t want isn’t being rewarded.

No doubt your puppy has found even more ways to have fun; why not bring your pup to Dog School classes where we can help you teach him appropriate ways to have fun?


You can contact us on edinburghdogschool@dogstrust.org.uk for more details. 

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