I find it a little ironic that the Pet Blogger Challenge yesterday seems to have jump-started my brain and now I have lots of things I want to write about!!! Maybe it was all the other blogs I read...
Having 9 puppies in the house right now makes life more than a little interesting. And puppies seem to be coming out of the woodwork, so to speak, at the business! One of the most common issues with puppies is their tenacity. They want to play and play and play and when you think they are done playing, they want to play some more. (But then, at least at my house, they sleep and sleep and sleep!) For many families, this is an issue because it becomes undesirable when it involves unwanted behaviors like nipping and biting, jumping up, chewing, and pottying inappropriately.
One of the hardest things to convince people to do with their dogs is to completely ignore unwanted behaviors. Let's use the chewing as an example. Puppies are chewers -- period. They need to have appropriate and safe things to chew. But if you yell, yank the item away, and otherwise make a big fuss when you find your puppy chewing on something they shouldn't, you are actually reinforcing the chewing on the item (or worse, encouraging your puppy to chew in "secret" -- more on that below) by giving the puppy attention. To a puppy, any attention is good!!! They don't know enough about the world to think anything different. So interacting with your puppy when you remove the item reinforces the chewing and it will probably happen again.
Instead, stay quiet, get an appropriate chew toy, and trade your puppy for the inappropriate item. No words, except maybe the puppy's name to get her attention away from the inappropriate item long enough to trade items. Then when puppy is chewing on the good item, praise her and tell her what a good puppy she is! Ta-da! Puppy is happily chewing on something good and wonderful, you are happy, and you have not reinforced the wrong item.
Chewing in "secret" typically starts when you make such a fuss over the inappropriate items puppy is chewing, that puppy decides it is "dangerous" for her to chew on things when you (or whoever makes a fuss) is around. Puppies (and dogs!) don't necessarily know right and wrong (unless we teach them), but they know "safe" and "dangerous." It's safe to chew on things if you are quiet and calm and trade for appropriate items. It's dangerous to chew on things when you yell and scream and yank things out of puppy's mouth. This "safe versus dangerous" idea is applicable in many areas of puppy and dog training. If your puppy or dog is doing something in secret or away from you, consider how you might have reacted to cause your puppy or dog to decide it is dangerous to do that activity around you. It's not that you are a bad person or even a bad dog person, it's probably that you reacted too strongly to something you should have been quiet and calm about.
Puppies are so much fun and they grow up way too quickly. Enjoy your time with your puppy, marvel at their learning and development, and be sure to take lots of pictures -- before you know it, they will be wonderful adult dogs!!!