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The number one mistake puppy owners make

(Clue: it’s not about training!)

I’ve yet to meet a puppy owner who thinks, when their puppy arrives, it’s the ‘finished product’. Everyone understands that you need to put a lot of work into the early days and weeks of puppy owning. But do you know why? When your puppy arrives, it is experiencing a phase in its development called the ‘sensitive period’ (once known as the socialisation period). This overlaps with something called hazard avoidance, or fear period. What happens in this short and crucial time of your puppy’s life has a profound effect on its future behaviour – arguably, more so than the puppy’s breed or breeding. And yet, having made such a huge financial investment (the average price of a puppy is now an astonishing £1,875), not to mention an enormous emotional commitment, when the puppy arrives, many people decide to ‘see how we get on’. In other words, they wing it. The breeder should have given them a full puppy pack and this might contain good, comprehensive advice, but how do you know? I’ve seen plenty of outdated and/or frankly ridiculous advice from supposedly experienced breeders. The new puppy owner might have bought a book or two (again, depends on the book). And friends and family always seem very keen to offer words of wisdom. I’m always amazed at how many puppy owners take this to heart, given that it’s a bit like me offering car maintenance advice, on the basis I’ve driven one for years.

We see hundreds of puppies in our classes every year. And most of them are utterly delightful (as, it has to be said, are the owners). But the sad fact is that by the time puppies come to class, over 20% will be having an issue with separation; statistically, 14% will go on to show unwanted behaviours around other dogs or people (eg aggression); many will be displaying some kind of resource guarding and the vast majority of owners will be experiencing some kind of conflict with their puppy, whether that’s around playbiting, destructive behaviour, reluctance to walk or something else.

It breaks my heart because it means the puppy and the family are not enjoying this wonderful stage of a dog’s life as much as they could. And none of it is inevitable. It’s simply a matter of knowing how to head off problems BEFORE they start and how to deal with normal (but unwanted) puppy behaviours in a positive way that builds trust and confidence. That’s why we offer our Flying Start programme for new puppy owners. We can set you up with all the information you need before you welcome your puppy home, so you know how to deal successfully with the first nights, how to handle playbiting, chewing, toilet training, integration with children or other pets etc and gain the confidence you are doing things right from the moment you pick them up.

Then a follow up session, after the puppy has settled in for a few days, sets you up for success with the five most important things you can give your puppy: a proper socialisation programme, a proper separation programme, teaching your puppy to relax, to respond to their name and to release things from their mouth. Each of these things, if taught in the right way, prevents so many problems later in life. Flying Start can be at your home or on Zoom and comes with a full support pack. Just ping us an email to find out more

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