Skipper is about 16 weeks old now and growing like a little weed! Potty training is going very well; we only have a handful of accidents per week! He’s been enjoying playing with his sister terrier at home and the other doctors’ dogs from work (Check out our Instagram for pictures of the Skipper Conroy & Phebe Luce playdate!). He’s also learned a few commands; high five is my most favorite of these. I have grand plans for this to be a gateway into a “touchdown” trick for next football season. As it turns out, he’s a little lanky and unbalanced which results in him just tipping over these days, so we’re going to table that one for now.
With every growing inch, Skipper finds access to new places. Coffee tables apparently house very fun things, like all the cat toys that have been way more interesting than his 800 dog toys. Teaching him to stay off the couch was also much easier when he was half this height… and his maximum launch distance was shorter. Also, in his defense, Lily the terrier sabotages him by pulling him on to the couch during tug of war battles. As Skipper grew to couch access height, it became important for him to learn “off.” I picked “off,” because “get down” sounds too close to “lay down” for such a young pupper to differentiate. In my opinion, it is easiest to teach commands along with their opposite. For couch purposes, I taught Skipper “on” and “off” using lots of treats and a very sturdy wooden box. Now, when we correct Skipper for putting front feet on the couch, his (reluctant) retreat is another command worthy of earning praise and a treat.
Now, possibly more than ever, it’s important to keep everything positive, including corrections. Puppies can be very sensitive; disciplining early or incorrectly can damage your relationship together, and cause the puppy to misinterpret a situation. For example, if the puppy pees on the floor, refrain from pointing at the mess and yelling, “Bad dog!” He may act sheepish and seem like he understands, but keep in mind that puppies are pretty literal. Your pointing at the yellow liquid on the floor can make him think the pee itself and his proximity to it is bad, not the act of peeing on your floor. Shame and guilt have the same emotional appearance to us, but there’s a critical distinction. Guilt is a feeling of that one has done something bad; shame is thinking that one is inherently bad. There may be some level of satisfaction and accomplishment from these phrases and that sad puppy face you receive in return, but it is in fact a façade, and all we’ve done is derail the puppy’s confidence in your relationship.
Gently startling a pup to get his attention and redirect it is appropriate in many situations, but remember, you’ll need to remove and replace the undesired activity. Skipper greatly enjoys “shopping” for shoes and socks in the closet. He will oh-so-proudly return to a room and proceed to nom on his selection. This is an issue for two reasons. First, he can’t chew on expensive shoes. Second, socks, shoes, and clothes make excellent foreign bodies and could be life threatening. Your first instinct may be to chase the puppy and retrieve the item promptly. This incites a super fun game of chase! This may work for a little while, but my kiddo is going to have the legs of a deer and is definitely going to outrun me. A dog running away with a toxic or dangerous item is the last thing I want to encourage. To avoid rewarding Skipper with attention for stealing an off-limits item, we nonchalantly approach with another toy, ask him to “leave it” and then trade for an appropriate chew toy. Ideally, we keep the “fun” things out of his reach, or distract him on his way into the closet. If Skipper doesn’t know an item is off-limits, the allure of taking something he’s not supposed to have will likely fade away. Conversely, if every time he takes my shoe earns him a game of chase and attention, I’ve just increased the value of the shoe exponentially.
Let us know what fun things your pup has decided to have an affinity for, and how you’re working on it at home! We love updates through Facebook and Instagram!
-Dr. Conroy & Skipper