Getting off on the right paw...

Outside of what has been a busy few months at the practice, the main focus in our house has been start of son number one at school. I’d not considered how big a deal this is for first timers like us until I found myself in the situation. The sudden requirement to stick to the new routine, the nerves of starting in a new environment and entering a new social structure, making new friends, becoming independent and, of course, there’s probably a bit of learning involved somewhere along the line! It occurred to me that this period of uncertainty, which can be stressful but is ultimately rewarding, is not dissimilar to training and socialising a new puppy – at least in some respects! There are definitely some parallels to be drawn between a new canine addition to the home and the new “receptioneer” at school:

The howler

Nobody likes a howler – the howler themselves doesn’t want to howl, those responsible for the howler get distressed by the howling, and those who can merely hear the howling find it adds nothing to their day. Just as a child on their first day at school finds themselves out of the comfort zone that was home with the family, the same applies to a new pup. They are yet to realise that they are in a loving new home where, just like school, only their best interests are at heart. They miss the smell and sense of their old home, so they howl when they are on their own…. at night! What to do about this? A bit like parenting, there is no hard and fast rule here and it does depend a bit on strength of will and heart! Most howlers tend to only perform for a night or two and it is generally best not to go down to them too many times as this only gives a positive outcome to the howling. It’s best to make sure that the puppy has a comfortable secure “area” which is not too large so that they don’t feel vulnerable. Crates work well for some puppies – while I have been tempted on occasion to use them for my children, I’m not sure it’s conducive to a well-rounded upbringing! If you can get the breeder to give you a bit of old blanket or bedding which smells familiar to them, then this can help to reassure them. A pheromone collar or diffuser is also a great way to reduce separation anxiety in the early days – we stock the adaptil range at the practice. Take solace in the fact that all puppies will settle in swiftly to their new home and will soon forget it was ever any different – just like school!

The shy one

There are some individuals across both species who certainly come from the cautious school of thought. These characters have bags of potential and just need to be coaxed gently out of their often resilient shells. With regards to puppies, it is important that the anxious puppy is encouraged to realise that the world isn’t as scary as it seems as young as possible. There is always potential for nervous aggression which is obviously an undesirable trait. This is where socialisation classes come in – putting your puppy into a controlled situation with other dogs and people where they can learn to develop relationships with others is the key.

The boisterous one

This lot are the opposite – they don’t seem to have an “off switch” or many boundaries! Here, positive reinforcement of good behaviour is a good way to go: A treat for sitting still 5 milliseconds, praise for not jumping up and licking the teaching assistant and rewards for not barking or shouting at other dogs or children.

The perfect one

The puppy or child who always does what they are told, never makes a mess, never poops in the wrong place, is intelligent, responsive, eats everything they are given – not too slow and not too fast, is well groomed, attractive and engaging, greets strangers politely, never has a runny nose, asks before going out, always allows others to go first, comes back when they are called, has a sense of danger, is never remotely aggressive and is always a pleasure to be around.

Luckily, to my knowledge, no such individual exists or we’d all be jealous of them!

If you have any questions about a new puppy, please don’t hesitate to contact us at the practice and remember we run FREE socialisation classes for new pups at Henfield on Fridays. For any child related advice, I’d suggest a school may be more useful!