A friend recently shared a concern with me about her high-energy puppy. She said she was worried that she might “slip up” and the pup would learn something she didn’t want her to learn. Now, this is a high-achieving puppy mom! The nice thing is that my friend has done just about everything that we recommend in our puppy classes to get both human and canine off to a good start.
She uses a variety of reinforcing treats to keep her puppy interested and focused. She uses a high rate of reinforcement for the behaviors (sit, lay down, come here, etc.) she is teaching. That means she delivers at least one treat each time the behavior is completed, and sometimes more.
This puppy lives in an environment that is rich in stimulation, play, human companionship and sound preventive management. In other words, the bond between owner and puppy is about as good as it gets with a puppy of about 5 months of age. I would say the trust in their relationship is rich and healthy.
We need not worry about investing too much in our relationship with our dog. When a rough patch in the relationship comes along — and it surely will — a small withdrawal from the relationship account will have little effect on our long-term bond. Being a good pet parent trumps the cherished buddy role we love to play.
When I think of the times I have turned around and tripped over and scared my own dog who was lying behind me, or clipped a toe nail too close causing pain, or had to change bandages on a wound that might be painful, I am glad that he and I have a respectful and trusting rapport.
If your little darling puppy is growing into an 80-pound sporting dog and you realize that letting her chew up an old shoe is coming back to haunt you, take heart. You can close the closet door while teaching her the value of a never-ending supply of stuffable toys (Kongs, hollow bones, etc.) rather than yelling and chasing her all over the house because she’s got your new ski boot.
I believe my friend will see that she will have plenty of “bounce back” in her puppy when she needs it. Keep making those investments!
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer with Total Teamwork Training. She has more than 25 years of experience.