Consistency - What Does it Really Mean When Raising a Puppy
Most new clients I meet understand that there is a need for “consistency” in training their new puppy, but “consistency” is another of the many misunderstood terms in dog training. I’m going to discuss consistency here by addressing the most common mistakes I run across in new puppy appointments.
Most of the time when I hear consistency mentioned, my new student is referring to the need for all members of the family to use the same “commands” with their new pup. While this is true, it really only scratches the surface.
“Consistency” in puppy raising and dog training goes a lot further than people simply using the same words around the house. Here are the two most common places I see people missing the consistency boat with new puppies, both easily fixable,
Family members view and then treat the new pup differently. There’s no pattern here as to who treats a pup which way, but most of the time, younger children think pup is a stuffed animal, while adults in the home can range all over from loving caretaker to a mild case of disdain to simply not caring about the animal. This creates a lot of confusion for Pup as they try to navigate the different rules of each person they encounter. Believe it or not, they always figure it out, usually to their own detriment and sometimes even their demise. The extreme case here is a pup who’s either very bold or very timid and thinks the family are simply his litter mates. On both ends of the behavior spectrum, these pups are at real risk for developing aggressive behavior with strangers and some or all family members. Some pups raised in these confusing circumstances never develop any “real” problems, but do you want to take that chance?
Pups are given too much freedom for feedback to be consistent. Basically, if you have your pup gated in a room of the house, you’ve given them the opportunity to rehearse all kinds of bad behavior, like chasing the kids around, chewing chair legs, eating shoes and kids toys, not to mention going potty wherever they please. You’re then stuck chasing pup down to get things away from them, and usually, people are scolding in a quite threatening way, which is counterproductive and can even create fear and anxiety (leading to aggression) for some pups. Your puppy already learned that they can play with whatever item or chew whatever they’re chewing, before you noticed and took action. All you are now is a big scary monkey with a very confusing message. Don’t be a big scary monkey!
As I mentioned, a lot of puppies, maybe even the majority, survive this confusing time, learn to navigate various family members and never eat that sock that sends them to the ER. The question is - do you want to take a chance on any of this stuff happening, and do you want to struggle later to break all those habits you let form when your pup was a cute little fuzz ball, who’s now 70 lbs and still chewing on on the kids at a year old?
You can guess my answer to this last question - I’d rather you say NO to the hard route and yes to the easy route, which means you need to understand what “being consistent” really entails and how to implement systems and structures to support that very worthy goal.
Here are a few hints as to what needs to be done to give your pup a consistent upbringing and avoid the pitfalls of too much freedom.
One person should be assigned to taking care of pups needs, training and supervision. This needs to be a responsible adult with both the time and inclination for the job. Spouses who’ve been defacto forced into this position often don’t do well, so if it’s you that wanted the dog, then you need to step up and take care of them.
Your dog’s crate is your friend! To really be consistent, you pretty much need your pup on a leash, attached to you at all times when they’re not in their crate. This means crating them if you want to use the shower, do a video call for work or clean up after the kids. A lot of the inconsistencies I see develop by way of Pup’s caretaker being distracted. Crate them when you can’t pay attention to them. Crating has many other benefits not discussed here and is critical, as far as this trainer is concerned, to success. Don’t feel guilty, your pup probably isn’t getting enough sleep in the first place.
Roughhousing and super energetic play is NOT the way to get your pup to settle down. Neither are long walks. You need ot learn and employ some simple relaxation techniques to teach pup when and how expressing that “puppy” energy is OK.
Children need to be taught to respect Pup’s space and how to pet them correctly. One of the most alarming statistics in dog ownership are the number of children bitten in the face by dogs every year. This is a direct result or the child not being taught or not respecting the rules of interacting with a dog. Teach the kids to respect your puppy. Don’t expect pup to tolerate anything and everything they throw at him. You wouldn’t tolerate being hit, having your ears and hair pulled, being hugged incessantly when you didn’t want to be, or being carried around in a way that was painful. Don’t expect your puppy to tolerate it either.
Create as consistent a schedule as possible for your pup’s feeding, water, play time and sleep. Don’t forget they need plenty of sleep!
There’s an easy way and a hard way to raise a puppy. The easy way, counterintuitive as this may sound, is to keep them on a leash with a responsible adult at all times for the first few months of their life. This allows them to learn the do’s and don’ts of the household and sets them up for long term success.
Sit down with the family and make up a set of rules, then apply them consistently AT ALL TIMES. Yes, 24/7/365. Begin with the end in mind and the end will be what you want for your pup and your family.
It’s much harder to break the bad habits both your pup and your family will develop if you allow them all to set their own rules at this critical time.
Discipline = Freedom. Never forget.
On Command serves an awesome group of clients serious about having well behaved dogs in Swedesboro, East Greenwich, Mullica Hill and surrounding areas. We bring almost 2 decades of experience right to your door. We can be found on the web at oc-dog.com, Facebook at oncommanddog and on instagram @oc_dog_training
Thanks for reading and as always - good training!