With my breeders hat on it is a common misconception that having a litter of puppies is a licence to print money. Very few people realise how important a job it is to raise a litter in the correct environment and how different influences go into making the dog who it is before it changes owner.
The mother instils the initial rules and boundaries in her litter, but the domestic dog has to be capable of living with a human family in an alien environment. To become good pets, dogs need positive interaction with humans on a daily basis. They also need to be exposed to as many different stimuli as possible.
A responsibly reared puppy has a head start on a litter born in a puppy farm or large commercial breeder.
The physical appearance of an adult pedigree dog is what attracts an owner initially. It is not as easy to predict size or appearance with a crossbreed dog, particularly if the parents are crossbreeds themselves.
Selecting the appropriate breed of dog is an important factor; pedigree dogs will have an intense desire to fulfil its genetic purpose. This may require more effort on the owners part to make sure these special inborn characteristics are satisfied. For example, Terriers are determined characters driven to dig and hunt rodents, do you mind if it digs up your beautiful lawn. Border Collies are high energy intelligent dogs, are you willing to walk whatever the weather or go to an agility class regularly.
The “Designer “dog has become incredibly popular in recent years. The original being a Labradoodle. This was developed to combine characteristics of two pedigree dogs, the Labrador and the Poodle. The Labrador is a very successful assistance dog i.e. guide dog, but unfortunately due to the normal moulting of its coat it was not suitable for people with allergies. The Poodle does not shed its curly coat so the two breeds were crossed. The hope was to breed a dog with the wonderful temperament of a Labrador and the coat of the Poodle.
Genetics are not that simple though and not all Labradoodles inherit the correct gene from the correct parent, some of them will moult.
The idea of controlled breeding between two pure bred dogs has snowballed. It is vital to look at the breed characteristics of both parents and expect a mixture of both in your “designer” puppy. Do consider your expectations of your new dog and remember when two different breeds are crossed breed traits from either parent may be inherited. For example a “Springador“. This is a direct cross between a Springer Spaniel and a Labrador. Your requirements may be for a Spaniel size Labrador with a calm, relaxed attitude to life. What you may end up with is a Labrador sized Spaniel with high energy levels and obsessive behaviour, which you do not have the skills or time to deal with.
Rescue dogs are a special case, it may be a little older and past the puppy stage. This may bring its own set of problems, remember early socialisation may have been missed by its previous owner. It is important to remember the dog is there for a reason and may come with a complex set of issues. There are advantages to homing a rescue dog particularly if it is older than 12 months, what you see is what you get, a lot of its behavioural patterns are already formed, it is unlikely to grow significantly. There are basically two types, dogs that have been abandoned on the street and picked up by the dog warden. These will have no history of previous ownership. The second type is a dog that has been handed in by their previous owners. There may be more information and basic details of the dogs’ background. Remember these dogs will have formed their own habits learned from the previous home and they will need time to adjust and settle.
Early Conditioning Training and Education of Both Owner and Dog
Puppies have an ability to soften the toughest amongst us but that does not mean we all have a natural ability or knowledge to raise a healthy balanced dog. It is easy to treat the cute, cuddly new arrival as a human baby but remember they are dogs. By the time you obtain your puppy at approximately 8 weeks it is more advanced developmentally than a human baby.
It is easy to fall into the trap of indulging their every whim, allowing it to take advantages we would never allow a child.
Early conditioning would have hopefully started at the breeder’s home; you are now responsible for all the learned behaviour that is essential to enable you to have a well-socialised and easily controlled adult dog. One thing is for sure, if no training is instigated your new puppy will grow up being out of control and an embarrassment to you and your family. It is surprising how many people address the issue of training when a problem has arisen. Not realising that by starting training early these issues can be avoided all together, consider the saying “shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted!”
An important thing to remember is a dog is a puppy for the shortest period of its life span, on average 6-9 months. These early stages are hard work they take a lot of commitment, but put the hard work in at this stage before things go wrong and you will reap the rewards for many years to come.
It is very tempting to allow your new puppy non-stop attention; this is our way of showing affection. It is barely alone for more than a few minutes until bedtime, and then suddenly the pup has gone from non-stop attention to isolation. This is too extreme. You have set yourself up for a problem with a stressed and anxious puppy. Think about it sensibly, by restricting the area available to the pup to roam and having set rules and boundaries early in the puppies education you are pre-empting separation anxiety issues arising at a later date. Dogs are pack animals naturally and would not choose to live alone; the only time this happens is when they live with us. This is modern life; we shouldn’t feel too bad about it as long as it is not excessive. The reason dogs are so popular is they are extremely adaptable they can adapt to being left alone with help and we train them early to do so.
I feel it is a useful exercise to ask yourself what behaviours you wish to instigate in your puppy. Set yourself a goal then be consistent from day one in communicating these desired behaviours. This rule must apply to all family members; the puppy needs to know where it stands in the family pack from the beginning. Everything you do, if your puppy is with you, is “training.”
There are many different approaches to dog training so be prepared. Read books, access the Internet and probably best of all, find a good trainer. Whatever the approach the aim should be the same to enable you to own a well-mannered dog that you can be proud of.