To say that I love puppies is quite the understatement. I can’t keep my hands off them! Adorable, innocent, and interactive—like children and snowflakes, each one is unique. They are full of wonder and curiosity and need our direction, empathy, and companionship. Unconditional love must go both ways. Although puppies share similarities, from sweet milky breath to tail wagging and nipping, the list of differences is a lot longer. Discovering your puppy’s unique qualities and breed-specific traits will illuminate and calm the days in front of you. Getting to know your puppy’s personality and likes and dislikes will also help you organize a life plan that will satisfy both of you. Knowing how to communicate your ideals and direct your puppy’s impulses will calm her mental energy and ensure a greater trust between you. If you’re reading this book, you’re either boning up to get a head start on lessons to avoid common pitfalls, or you’re in the throes of frustration and hoping for a miracle cure. Although I can’t guarantee an instantaneous fix, I will help you understand your puppy’s behavior and shape a program to contain and redirect your puppy’s mischief today. Whether you’ve got an 8-week-old puppy nibbling your shoelace, an 8-month-old puppy cruising your counters, or an 11-month-old puppy tearing through the living room with your favorite shoe, there is a well-timed developmental reason for her behavior. Simply stressing your disapproval won’t be enough. In fact, as you’ll learn shortly, your disapproval often gets misconstrued as confrontational play. There is a lot of activity going
Here’s an example of how two puppies of the same age can view and interact with their environment differently. Meet 12-week-old Zip and Dudley. Zip is a Cairn Terrier, whose ancestors were bred to listen for, hunt, and kill whatever crawled beneath the earth. Although these qualities are no longer required, you can’t convince Zip. Dudley is a Labrador Retriever, whose ancestors were bred for companionship and trainability, as well as for retrieving water fowl on command. Aesthetics aside, their differences are poignant. Zip is sound-sensitive, instinctive, and intense. An independent hunter, he focuses on stimulation over direction. In his New York studio apartment, however, sound stimulation is constant, and the only thing beneath him is Mrs. Flowers, who doesn’t appreciate his alert barks at three in the morning. Dudley, at home in the suburbs, is oral, interactive, and focused by nature. If left undirected or underexercised, however, he’ll develop annoying, attention-getting habits that include stealing objects, behavior that I call keep-away, and destructive chewing. To avoid these pitfalls, each puppy must have a custom-fit lesson plan that includes a list of displacement activities to satisfy their genetic impulses. To shape early cooperation, Dudley’s list would include retrieving games and directional exercises. Zip, on the other hand, needs to play chasing games and do exercises that involve alerting to motion and sound, like toy along, tag along. (Games are further described in chapter 57.) Play training should be tailored to each puppy’s genetic impulses.
on behind those beautiful eyes. From the moment your puppy is born, she begins to process information, and before long, she learns how to regulate and control both herself and her environment. This book will teach you how to influence her behavior positively by helping her feel safe and happy in your world. GENETIC/HISTORIC IMPULSES What lies behind my fascination with dogs? They accept our species as their own. Pretty profound. In fact, a trained dog will put her human’s direction above her own impulses and will love unconditionally. Their evolution not only paralleled ours, it was directly influenced by our wants and desires. Some humans wanted a dog to pull a sleigh: they bred dogs that like that activity. They wanted a dog to retrieve a duck from a pond on a freezing November morning: they bred dogs silly enough to go for that idea. And so on. We didn’t stop with instincts either; we also chose (through selective breeding) other traits such as coat type, size, and personality. Through a process of organized tampering, we humans have shaped more than 400 hundred breeds, all bred for a specific purpose and look, worldwide. The American Kennel Club recognizes 153 breeds, and 4 more are waiting in the wings in the AKC’s runner-up “miscellaneous class.” The AKC organizes the breeds into seven groups—Hound, Herding, Toy, Working, Terrier, Non-Sporting, and Sporting—and keeps records of every registered puppy. It’s a serious business. I’m going to further divide the breeds into thirteen groups; the first twelve are organized according to specific predispositions, like hunting or herding. The thirteenthrepresents mixed breeds, inviting you to discover the blend of traits represented in your unique puppy. If you have a rare breed, discover which AKC-recognized breed shares your dog’s ancestry and make comparisons. All Together Now—Herding Breeds Herding breeds have a zest for togetherness! Control-oriented, they prefer “their” sheep in a row and quickly determine within a family (even as young pups) who is a shepherding influence (shepherds give direction) versus who are sheep (sheep need to be directed). Undirected, their impulse for order can be misunderstood; insufficient exercise results in obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as pacing, relentless attention-getting, incessant barking or chasing, and lick granulomas (sores created by obsessive licking). On the other hand, a structured setting, family lessons, chasing games, and a task-oriented activity like catch or chase will help direct their impulses and bring out the best in their nature. Devoted to their family “flock,” they’re loyal, loving pups who enjoy togetherness, are home proud, and rarely wander.
• Best quality: They’re very family-oriented, staying close to home and devoting themselves to all activities.
• Chief frustration: Barking and chasing.
Think Twice before Entering—Guarding Breeds Guarding breeds, originally bred to guard either flocks or homes, are stoic and calm. This lot has a serious life focus. Although playfully accepting of strangers as young puppies, loyalty to their families can be seen early on. As maturity takes hold (between 6 and 10 months), these puppies become suspicious of unfamiliar
people and places, and without proper socialization and direction, they perceive themselves as the protectors of home and hearth. If you have or want a great guard dog, teach her to look to you for direction. If you’re not around, she will protect naturally, but in your presence she’ll defer to your judgment.
• Best quality: Solid devotion. They’re patient with children when raised with them.
• Chief frustration: Powerful protection that can be hard to influence without consistent direction. These dogs can be dangerous if untrained.
Watchdog—Protective Breeds A good protective dog is more bark than bite. Once this puppy hits puberty, there’ll be no need for a doorbell! The goal is to develop an off switch. Left untrained, these puppies interpret lack of direction as lack of leadership, and they take the task of alerting the pack to every sound and stimulus quite seriously. Avoid this headache! If you’re to share your life with a protector, teach your puppy to find you the moment she alerts to a stimulus and train her to watch for your direction. You’ll have a trusted friend who will alert mindfully when you’re home and will ward off intruders when you’re gone.
• Best quality: Loyalty, to a fault.
• Chief frustration: Unchecked barking and aggression. Training this group is a must.