Puppy Training 101: Preserving The Inner Puppy
Sammie here. I love training puppies - if that's my niche in this all, I'd say that's right up there with rehabbing rescue dogs with behavioral problems. With a booming training industry that has tons of free advice out there, reality TV shows that talk puppies, and many different training approaches available... puppy raising has become extremely overwhelming for the general public. What advice to take? How to stay consistent? How do I make sure my puppy doesn't wind up with a variety of behavioral problems? Well, folks - I'll break it down with the top 7 things I tell puppy clients to ensure an unbreakable relationship with the owner and a confident pup! Most importantly, these tips will preserve your puppy's prey drive so they can completely channel it with the owner and maintain a strong and trusting relationship throughout life.
The Top Tips to Raising Your Puppy Holistically
1. Get a plastic crate to provide your puppy with a den and place to rest.
Every puppy should have a crate to decompress from the action of the day... which even if you're not doing much, they are still extremely stimulated. A brand new puppy is experiencing the world for the first time. The grass, new people, the air, and fun things they can explore. In turn, this is extremely stimulating: physically, emotionally, and mentally. Providing a crate for your puppy ensures their ability to be able to recharge, relax, and soak in all the world has to offer privately. Does a puppy need privacy? Yes. Without a crate or place for them to chill out along, they will be at risk to grow up having separation anxiety and "Owner Addiction" meaning they don't feel good unless they are with the owner. Let's chat about why we suggest a plastic crate over a wire crate. Wire crates are completely open. Think of it this way: if your puppy can see out of 5 different sides, yet feel completely exposed, they don't have that same den feel where they can feel covered and safe. Many people will say if the puppy can see the owner and the action happening making them feel more comfortable, however we disagree. A puppy should be able to feel good alone without seeing the owner thus creating an interdependent relationship... In tune and channeled with the owner outside and able to rest alone inside. With this also being said, you're automatically potty-training. Indoors they are in their cave resting, outdoors they are being completely social and relieving themselves through movement and engagement with the owner and literally by peeing and pooping on anything they want! Last note: starting a journey with a new puppy means having a lot of time to enjoy the outdoors together. It's a chance for both you and your pup to connect with nature and with each other. Final note: Never put your puppy in the crate to "punish" them or shove them in the crate. Your puppy should always choose to go in and you can be a good midpoint by offering treats or tasty snacks to lure them into their cozy cave. Puppies will sleep 18 hours a day... so don't take that away from them.
2. Don't stimulate or play with your puppy indoors.
To ensure that your puppy has an association with indoors being a quiet sanctuary of rest and peace, avoid stimulating them and creating a lot of action indoors. When you're able to create a separation between inside and outside, your puppy knows and feels that they can completely decompress. Really, all the action and stimulation should be happening outdoors with the owner... this later sets the puppy up for recall (along with our training), feeling in sync and channeled with their outdoor adventures, and wide spaces to explore and bring them back to a place of neutral with plenty of objects to pick up in their mouth to get grounded and back in their body if outside is extremely stimulating. If puppy is always stimulated indoors, they won't have a different feeling of association (even when you're away from the house) and may get into things to feed that addiction of stimulation.
3. Don't correct your puppy.
"Don't correct your puppy? What!" Hear me out for a second... If our go to is to always correct the puppy whenever they are doing something we don't like (especially indoors), take a moment to realize that puppies don't think cognitively, have no idea why the owner is angry with them, and are brand new beings to Earth. Correcting your puppy for them expressing their natural instincts and being a dog is killing the relationship between the puppy and the owner. They may feel on edge, untrustworthy, addicted to the owner to try to resolve the feeling of distrust, and more problem behaviors may arise. Instead, set your puppy up for success. The word "NO." "LEAVE IT." and "STOP." should be reserved for life threatening situations... i.e. The puppy goes to grab a sparking wire and will get electrocuted and die if they make contact with it. Want them to be calm indoors? Refer back to step 1 in puppy training - the crate. As they get used to the crate, you can back tie your puppy on a cozy bed in the house they can nest in while you go about your day and take time for yourself. By this point, puppy should already get the feeling that since you are both inside, it's rest and decompress time. So, once all your training is completed and you know they are feelin' the zen of indoors, they will self regulate independently and know what's up. You won't have to worry about them as they will know what to do and you won't need the backtie after much time. If they are fussy, offer for them to go back in the crate by food and treats and let them decompress in their cave. Over time, when they make the connection with inside being quiet time, DO give them relaxing massages and bodywork with only touch (try not to talk :) hehe) so they can soak in all the goodness you have to offer in their new life with you. The beauty in this all? As they grow up, they will bring themselves to the crate if they get overstimulated, uncomfortable, or want to rest. Talk about interdependent! Woo hoo!
4. DO play fun games that tap into their wild side outdoors together.
Puppies love to play... and they want to connect with their owner. Play fun games like hide & seek, tug games (let them win... ALWAYS. Plus, put on your acting skills to make it extra dramatic like they are the strongest dog in the world - they will feel awesome with you), have them jump up on you leg to make contact, and when they pick up sticks or objects in their mouth cheer them on and run backwards so they can follow you with the stick in the mouth. If every interaction you have with your puppy is positive and fun, why wouldn't they want to run back to you when called? They'd find you as the most attractive thing ever... who can resist that!? DO go on long walks in the woods and let them explore this beautiful planet we live on. There's no need to socialize them in group puppy classes that teach obedience first (the complete opposite of tapping into their prey drive - prey drive foundations with the owner FIRST, then obedience to build off that!) if every waking moment they have with you outdoors is them being social. Preserve their prey drive with you and you are preserving their social abilities with strangers and other dogs. Over socialize and overstimulate them without letting them express their prey drive and their social qualities may be squashed.
5. Run from the advice to teach bite inhibition.
Often times, the first thing people will do is teach their puppy bite inhibition. Meaning, if the puppy bites or mouths the owner they will get a finger shoved down their throat, they will get corrected, or the person will yelp and pull their hand away. That's terrifying the puppy. One of my favorite quotes regarding this topic is from a fellow trainer, Meagan Karnes, of The Collared Scholar:
And puppies with drive bite more.
Thing is, puppies explore the world with their mouths. They play with one another with teeth and paws. They wrestle…at times HARD…and they have a blast doing it. They pick up things in their mouths and carry them around, they chew, they pounce, and they shred.
This is what puppies do. And stopping them from doing what is natural for them can cause significant frustration and fallout.” - Meagan Karnes
If every time our puppy when to go mouth something, they got corrected... their social ability would be lessened with each and every situation. Resist teaching your puppy bite inhibition, and instead make a fluffy toy or a stick way more energetic and exciting than your hand and cheer them on to bite that outdoors and play with you as they have something in their mouth.
6. Feed your puppy by hand outdoors.
That's right, folks! Get some working gloves on and get ready feed your puppy only by hand for every meal outside. You can do this in many ways, but I'll touch on two. If you're sleepy and have minimal energy in that moment, take a seat and feed your puppy by hand - see if they can jump up on your leg to get the food. If you want to make it a fun game of hide and seek, every time they find you behind a tree, give them a handful of food for the find. The answer to their hunger comes from the owner, so that's just making you so much more attractive. Ditch the food bowls and instead invest in a badass treat pouch.
7. Tap into their prey drive first before obedience is taught.
I touched on this briefly in a couple paragraphs above, but let me just reiterate this. Let most of the first year of your puppy's life be about preserving their prey drive with you. Every time your puppy goes outside, they are in hunting mode... and you're the answer to how they will feel satisfied by food, bite toys, running, walks in the woods, and running around. If the first thing that's taught is obedience, they won't know what to do with that inner most desire to hunt and connect with you over their prey drive. Once you tap into their prey drive through the foundations we teach along with fun games, the obedience that's built on top of that will be sharper and snappier. If a dog was in the wild, they wouldn't sit in front of the deer (the large prey animal) to bring them down... they'd jump up, make contact, and complete the hunt. Let your training be holistic and stress free! Get ready to sweat and be active outside with your puppy.
Good luck! Most importantly, have fun with your puppy - that's what this is all about. Connection, fun, preserving their inner puppy and tapping into the inner child that still lives in our hearts.
puppy training 101
Preserve the inner puppy!