Monday, July 19, 2010

Taming Dakota...How to Prepare for Life with a Labrador Retriever Puppy.

There she is...ready, waiting, deciding whether to jump at me, nibble on me, or run crazily through the house. It is up for grabs really what she ultimately will do. In the face of this, I have decided to take matters into my own hands. Having raised a Lab pup in the past without many boundaries or rules, I understand fully what it is like to live with an untrained dog and I don't want to put myself through it ever again.
In preparation for Dakota's arrival, I rolled up all the rugs and unplugged all of the lamps, tucking the cords up high or behind things- away from small teeth. With the rugs up and away, I made sure to let Dakota out every half hour so she could get with the potty program right away. This plan has worked well for us and after three weeks of training, working up to only being let out once every hour, we are down to about one accident a day. We never hit Dakota or told her "bad dog" when she had an accident. After awhile, she just seemed to know to go outside and has now started to let us know when she has to go by sitting at the door.

Of course, crate training has really helped with the potty training and given us an opportunity to still have some kind of life away from puppy training. I use the crate at night and during the day for her naps. Initially, I only used the crate during the day for an hour at a time, working up to 3 hours max. once I could see she would be comfortable and happy in the crate. I give her a treat each time she goes into the crate and never use it for discipline, though there have been times when I would have loved to put her in there just to have some peace.

Soon after bringing Dakota home, I found Cesar Millan's book called "Cesar's Way" at my local book swap and my entire family ended up reading it. We all loved Cesar's philosophy and it mirrored our feelings about how we wanted to raise Dakota- humanely but also with rules and boundaries. Cesar talks about how most dogs in America are not balanced because they are raised with affection, affection, and affection rather than exercise, rules, and affection. His words made me look back at how I raised my first Lab and see the mistakes I had made. I have now checked all of Cesar's books out of my local library and find them to be excellent sources of information. The titles of the books I have used are found in the picture above.

It can be pretty tough to not baby at new puppy, especially because they are so cute like a small baby is. But in actuality, a 2-3 month old puppy is much like a 2-3 year old child and should be treated accordingly. That means, from the time you bring a puppy home, it is important to start not only potty training it, but also begin to teach it how to properly walk on a leash, learn commands, and begin to socialize with other dogs that have been vaccinated.
Leash training is not rocket science even though it can feel that way to the person being dragged down the street by an out of control dog. Basically, don't ever let your dog pull on the leash when you walk it. When a dog begins to pull, stop dead like a tree until the dog comes back and there is slack on the leash once again. This may mean several stops and starts over the course of a walk (or even 20 feet), but over the course of three days, your dog will begin to figure out that it isn't going to get anywhere by pulling. This method does differ with what Cesar suggests in his books but seemed to work better for my dog.

Of course, no matter how much training you put forth, puppies still like to make off with shoes and other assorted household things. It is a good idea to keep things up high and constantly supervise young puppies when they are not in their crate. Always remind yourself too that what may seem cute for a puppy to do, won't be so cute when they are full grown. For this reason, I try to keep the rough housing down and the racing through the house to a minimum. Despite my best efforts though, Dakota does seem to get one good romp- ears flying as she slides around the corners- through the house each day.

Here Dakota is at the top of the stairs after having scaled them in a few quick leaps. Just two weeks ago, she could barely climb any stairs which gives you an idea of how quickly puppies learn and grow. I guess that is the most important thing I have discovered about puppies. The easiest time to train them is now. Don't wait. Time is short. By the time they are 8 months old, they are reaching adolescence and won't want to listen to you anymore. Just imagine a teenager without any prior training on how to be civil and that should be convincing enough to spur you to action. Enjoy the ride...

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