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Puppy 101

What do you do with your puppy? What do you expect from your puppy? These are two questions that I ask puppy owners at the start of a kindergarten puppy class. Invariably I encounter a blank look. “Well, uh, I expect to housebreak him.” “I expect him to look cute.” “Is this a trick question?”

Puppies are always learning. It may not be what we want to teach them, but they are always learning. The puppy that learns to steal food from the counter can easily be the puppy who learns that whatever is on the counter is off limits. The puppy that jumps on everyone that it meets can easily be the puppy that sits quietly to be petted.


So what can a puppy learn? I decided to experiment with my current litter of six puppies. At six weeks, all puppies could sit for a treat or a food bowl. At nine weeks, all could easily walk on leash both to and from their play and sleeping area. At 12 weeks all can walk on leash and go for a walk leaving their familiar area and walk happily beside whomever is walking them. They can crate with minimal whimpering, sit for all treats and food bowls, do not jump on children or adults, sit quietly to be groomed or blow dried, lay quietly to get their nails trimmed or ears cleaned and will turn over onto their backs and lay in my arms totally limp and relaxed. Eye contact is made easily. Last but not least, all pups can stand and bait. All of this easily achieved in a six week period spending a few minutes a day with each pup individually.


At 13 weeks, all the pups were brought in to a training class environment and they got to meet and greet other pups of various breeds. This was a great new experience as they had only ever seen other Newfoundlands! As the class walked their dogs in a big circle each puppy joined the group. Now I had a huge circle of dogs of various ages and puppies. Every couple of minutes all the handlers would switch dogs and get a new dog to walk. This way all the pups and dogs were handled by someone other than their owner and each handler was able to experience walking a dog other than their own. Add children to the mixture and it was utter chaos. What a delight to see puppies wagging their tails, wrapping leashes around legs, the pulling puppy, the crying puppy, the puppy trying to see what was coming up behind him. All of these things were wonderful new experiences for puppies and people alike.

There are many different techniques for training a dog. That is what a puppy is isn’t it? A dog. Whatever keeps the pup’s attention, is fun for both owner and pup, gets the point across and makes sense to both pup and owner is the right training method. What works for one dog may not necessarily work for another dog, so keep an open mind.

Counter thief pup, pup that takes its owner pavement surfing, pup that jumps and nips, barking pup, shy pup, dog aggressive pup, willful pup—all of these behavior problems can be solved or softened by taking the time to teach what you want and exposing your pup to new experiences while it is small and manageable. All it takes is consistency, patience, a sense of humor, a puppy and a few minutes each day.

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Obnoxious behavior in a small dog is frequently ignored or excused. The same behaviors are magnified when a large dog is the culprit. The recall, sit, down, stay or wait, retrieve, stand, speak, up, off, drop, give, go potty or hurry up, go, quiet, roll over, shake and give me five are just a few exercises to teach your growing puppy. Build a vocabulary and expect each word to mean something different. There is nothing sweeter than taking a well behaved Newfoundland out in public.


I take my puppy to the bank, the library, the vet office for a quick hello, the insurance office, the convalescent home, the elementary and middle schools, work, husband’s work, car dealership, automotive center, farm supply store, video store, the beauty salon, the bookstore and wherever else I can think of. These places are wonderful for socializing a puppy in the dead of winter when it is freezing cold outside. New noises and smells, different shaped people with hats, umbrellas and overcoats. People with glasses, wheelchairs, walkers and strollers; all of these things teach my puppy about life outside of my home.

I always make sure puppy is clean and has gone potty before going indoors. Frequently everyone in the office will come over to pet and greet the pup and ohh and . We’ve never been asked to leave an establishment and have always been asked to return again. Please remember that in many cases this may be a first encounter with a Newfoundland for many people. You represent the breed each time you leave your home with your dog. A little planning goes a long way when socializing your dog and will help to make your training a pleasant experience.


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