Structure during puppyhood

Jul 01 2014 : Mirror (Bangalore)

We now have a fully functional crèche at our centre.Nishi, our boxer, is being the nanny and a good one too. But I must confess, I am exhausted. Having had only adult dogs for a while, having puppies around floods me back with memories of when Nishi was a pup. One might ask what the big deal about being around puppies is ­ after all it’s all puppy play, is it not? Well, not really. This is a critical period in a dog’s life. Many important lessons are learned during this period and laying the foundation right is critical. The puppy is learning everything from toilet training, bite inhibition, boundaries etc. And the one tool that will help you through all of it is ­ structure.
That’s right ­ structure is critical in a puppy’s day. The puppy should wake up at the same time every day. Have his meal and water at the same time. Have his potty break at the same time. And play too should be at a scheduled time. For example, at our crèche, the puppies come in and are immediately confined in the pee-pen.

As soon as they are done, they all get to play for half an hour. They get to drink water at this time. The play is supervised closely.This is important as not all puppies have the same appetite for rough play.Some pups might need to gain confidence at their own pace and might want to hide behind you till they are ready to head out for play. It’s important to give that protec tion to the pup and let him venture out at their own pace. This gives the pup confidence that if at any point he wants to back out of the play, he has a choice. “Choices“ are key in confidencebuilding exercises. As a puppy explores the sounds and shapes around his world, some things may scare him. But to have the choice to run indoors or into his crate and venture out when he feels like it is the best way to give your pup the space to build his confidence and personality.

After half an hour of play, all the pups are forced to have naps. Pups need a lot of sleep. Grown adult healthy dogs need about sixteen hours of sleep a day. Puppies need a lot more.Being in the company of other pups excites them too much and they don’t sleep enough. It’s important to impose structure ­ mandatory nap time.

Mandatory nap times also give them alone time. A puppy needs to start learning this early, as there will come a day that you will have to leave the pup alone at home for a few hours.You don’t want the puppy to completely freak out. So start by walking away during nap time. Take short breaks ­ starting with perhaps taking a shower or going into the kitchen. Then step out for 15 minutes or so. Slowly increase that. Soon enough, your puppy will be more than happy to be left home alone during nap time.

At our crèche, the puppies are all fed at the same time.Once they are fed, about twenty minutes after their meal, they will need to relieve themselves. Back to the pee-pen. Free play is a privilege for puppies at this point. They are given only after they have relieved themselves. Most of the other time, the pups have to be confined, to avoid accidents all over the house.

During play, it’s important to mix puppy-puppy play and puppy-dog play. An older dog is a good mentor. Older dogs teach pups boundaries, bite inhibition, dog language and dog manners. All of this is next to impossible for humans to teach dogs. As my teacher puts it, no human can raise a perfect dog.Only a dog can raise a perfect dog. So having a mature, gentle adult around teaches the puppy several life lessons.

As you can see, raising a puppy needs constant supervision for the first few months, even during play. The puppy needs gradual exposure to many new situations ­ dealing with people, dogs, pups, sounds and sights. The puppy needs reassurance when he asks for it. And he needs structure to reduce confusion on what is expected of him during the day.

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