Every new puppy is a new adventure that lasts a lifetime. Just like people, all dogs have their own personality and they will surprise you with how smart they can be, and also how literally they can take what they have learned and apply it.
Two of the most amazing things about new puppies is how fast they grow and how fast they learn. Velvet is seven weeks old today and has been with us eight days. We've been having a lot of fun, making a lot of trips outside and yes, we've cleaned up a few messes. Messes were expected of course. A new puppy has no idea it should ask to go outside since previously, its mother cleaned up the messes.
Now cleaning up her messes and teaching her to do business outside the lair is our job.
Also in the expected but not so wonderful arena is a puppy's need to chew and nip. Everything. This comes from three factors. First, when wrestling with siblings in puppy play, they nip each other. Since you are now the rest of puppy's pack, she nips at you when you're playing with her. This is perfectly normal and completely unacceptable.
The second factor is teething. Just like any baby that is growing fast, Velvet's teeth are still growing with her, and that can be uncomfortable or even hurt. It helps to chew, and so, she might try to chew just about everything.
The last reason puppies like to chew is that is part of how they learn. This also goes along with just about any new baby, including humans. By picking something up and feeling it, tasting it, chewing it, the puppy learns about it. Taste, touch, smell, texture, sound and feel all come into play. Of course, the puppy does not have hands and so it uses what God gave it―its mouth.
Over the past week, we've concentrated mainly on teaching Velvet three things.
My Name is Velvet
By day three, Velvet was just beginning to realize she had a name. Today, on day eight, she knows her name and responds to it. How did we accomplish this so quickly? Teaching a puppy its name is easy. Use her name every time you talk to her with one exception during this first week, and that is a reprimand. I'll talk about that in a minute.
Every time we praise, every time we talk to her, we begin with her name―Velvet―and often use Velvet within the sentences we speak to her as well. "Velvet. Good Girl Velvet."
Now, just eight days after we brought her home, she knows her name and will sometimes come when we speak it. It is very important for a new pup to learn this because formal training often includes beginning a command with the dog's name.
The first signs that she was beginning to understand her name were to look in our direction if we spoke her name. When she came running the day before yesterday after I said it, I was fit to burst. I picked her up and began praising while I opened the fridge, took out a puppy snack, and gave it to her immediately. That moment she went from, "I think they call me Velvet" to "My Name is Velvet."
Learning to Go Outside
I was making dinner and Velvet came to the kitchen doorway, sat down, and barked. Had I been paying better attention, I'd have realized she was giving a signal. She had just woken up and it was time to go. This is a huge step for the puppy at seven weeks. Moments later, when I didn't respond correctly and race outside with her, she left a puddle on the floor.
The two biggest concerns with any new puppy is messes on the rug and the things she should not chew. Presently, a mess on the rug is no accident. Puppy has to go and go right now and so she goes. The first sign of an impending mess is suddenly being on a mission with its nose close to the floor and moving quickly. This means, "I have to go and find the right spot right now."
It won't take more than a few seconds to find that spot, and they go. A six-week-old puppy will urinate frequently when it is awake, as often two or three times per hour if you're being responsible and supplying it with a continuous supply of fresh water. As they grow larger and older, their bladders grow too, and so does their ability to control themselves.
At this point, you should not be scolding. The puppy has poor bladder control and does not know that outside is the puppy bathroom. Scolding in fact, may make training worse since the puppy only knows you don't like that behavior and instead of going outside in your presence, may try to hold it until inside and it can hide and leave smelly messes out of your presence.
Another sign is the circle dance, accompanied by a swollen butt. To be specific, the puppy's anus may swell as it tries to hold back while it finds the perfect spot. The circle dance is just a name we've given the behavior, it may or may not include dancing in a circle, but doing a crazy run/dance and sniffing at the same time is definitely part of this behavior. You'll learn to recognize this―every puppy does it and every puppy does it differently.
In either case, be it the need to urinate or defecate, pick the puppy up. This will give it at most a few additional minutes of control. Immediately take the puppy outside and put it down. Then give it time to recover from being picked up and it will go. As soon as it squats, begin giving praise.
"Velvet Good Girl Velvet. Good Girl. That's my Good Girl Velvet."
Note the enthusiastic emphasis on Good Girl.
Of course, if your pup is a boy, substitute boy for girl. I doubt the dog will care, but knowledgeable dog owners may look at you oddly if you use the wrong gender.
Puppies put out a huge burst of energy for up to an hour or maybe a little more than that. Then, as if someone turned off a switch or the battery died, they plop, drop, and sleep. Look at this picture. She was having a blast and decided to check out the presents on the couch, and only got partway in when nap time came. As soon as Velvet wakes up, we take her outside. During play, she goes out again after half an hour or forty-five minutes.
Clearly, as she demonstrated, she is learning that outside is THE place to go, and is learning to indicate she needs to go.
No Nipping! No Biting!
My left hand is scratched and scraped from needle-sharp puppy teeth. I'm sure my big toe has holes it in. There are scraps of paper on the office floor that were chewed up when I wasn't looking, and I'm not even sure where she found them. During the day, she sleeps under my desk or on the puppy bed behind my chair.
Puppies play with their mother, their father if he is present, and of course, their siblings. They don't have hands to use while they wrestle, so like anything else that requires a grip, they use their mouth. Velvet wakes up and the first thing the little brat does is bite my big toe.
This presents a problem. When she wakes up, I take her outside. But if she just woke up and bites my toe, and I take her outside, will she learn that biting is the way to say "outside?"
Unfortunately, the answer to that is yes. Not only that, biting people is an absolute no no.
Velvet is learning that biting is not just a bad thing, but also brings an uncomfortable reprimand similar to what her mother or father would use. When she nips, and she does so quite often, we respond with a loud "Ouch." Then, a toy is substituted for our body part. If she continues trying to nip, we give another loud "Ouch," and hold her mouth shut, and say "ouch" again.
We will then make sure the next nip happens on a finger, and then place our thumb on her nose and squeeze just enough to make it uncomfortable and hold on for ten to thirty seconds. She gets the message quickly then. Her mother or father would do this, although it might not be her nose that gets held. She learns, at least for the moment, that biting is not acceptable.
Keeping Velvet occupied isn't hard. She loves to play and we do wrestle with her a little. It is important to maintain that enthusiasm and we don't "win" all the time.
During the first week, we avoid the use of "NO" like the plague. For one thing, Velvet has enough going on without something else to learn. However, when really necessary, we use "NO" in a loud, displeasing voice and move her away from whatever it is she should not be getting into. We do not use this to scold, or anything similar.
Many folks will repeat "No" to the point it has no meaning to the puppy. A phrase like, "no no no no no" as you run toward a peeing puppy only scares into thinking it should hide when it urinates. Once the mess is started, you're not helping by interrupting or scaring it.
We use "No" only as absolutely necessary and with great vocal force. We also do not use her name when speaking it. "No" is a bad word. It means something is wrong. Saying, "No Velvet" implies, to the dog, that her name is bad. We certainly don't want that.
A true story by MJ Logan
All Photos by Mike and Marg
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