Starting 2020 Off Right with Your New Puppy

So that new puppy you got for Christmas is the best gift you ever got! Well, except for the time Aunt Millie took you to Disney when you were 8.  But, given today’s world, even Disney pales when compared to the adoring look on that sweet puppy face. But here it is, a new year, and you have a world of things to learn about having a puppy.

The very first thing that we all need to know about puppies is that _they grow up to be dogs.  

Yes, that tiny ball of sweetness will become possibly a hundred pounds of the best friend you have ever known. Now if your baby is a chihuahua, it may fall shy of that hundred pound mark — but a DOG it will be; with all the lovely characteristics of an intelligent, demanding, loving, devoted friend. So, let’s explore some of things that turn a puppy into a dog and figure out how to create YOUR dog.

You’re the pack leader, whether you realize it or not

Like all babies, dogs are very influenced by their environment. Not just by the air or the temperature and the like, but by the unique group of habits and demands that make a family function. Dogs are very pliable and will adapt — to the best of their understanding — to whatever their environment requires. Dog’s best game is Follow the Leader.  And you, my friend, are the leader.  

For this, our first lesson, lets look at yapping dogs.

What’s cute in a puppy might not be so cute in a dog

It’s a fact — dogs bark. When something happens that they think warrants it, they sound an alert. Your job, as pack leader, is to be sure that you’re both in agreement as to what actually warrants an alert.

A lot of small dogs have the reputation of being “yappy.” It seems they bark at every given opportunity.  What we may not realize is that, usually, the reason they bark is because we’ve unintentionally taught them to do so. Here’s how it happens:

Say you have a tiny two-pound ball of fur that is a Pomeranian. Just to watch them waddle along is so cute.  They’re like tiny, furry wind-up toys.

As babies they rarely bark.  But as they grow, they learn that to get someone’s attention they need to bark.  For example: Mama has gone outside to get some air and they’re alone in the den with only their tiny littermates. They hear a sharp sound. Maybe the door slammed or someone set the feed dish down with a thud.

They bark!  “Mama!” they bark. “Where are you, Mama?  We’re scared!” Mama will come and nuzzle them. She assures them that all is well. Or, depending on the level of fear in their tone, she may totally ignore them, teaching them that barking isn’t warranted in this situation.

Your puppy looks to YOU for guidance

Fast forward a month or two.  You have that little fuzzy ball playing with a toy on your living room floor, when suddenly there’s a rap at the door. That ball of fur will gather herself up, literally hurl herself in the direction of the sound, and send out a tiny little “Yak!”  

Oh my goodness, it’s so cute that you nearly bust a gut laughing. You talk sweetly to the puppy. “Oh, Binky,” you croon. “Did that scare you? Who is it? Who is it, Binky?”  

Binky is very excited and happy with this attention. She was just lying there chewing her toy while you did stuff on your phone. Now, you’ve flooded her with so much positive attention that she thinks, wow. About then, there is another rap at the door and the whole scene repeats itself. She barks. You croon to her that all is well. You may even pick her up and give her kisses.  

Then you answer the door and let your friend in. You tell your friend how cute Binky was. You want your friend to see how amazingly cute she is. So even though Binky has happily gone back to chewing her toy, you decide to show off her cuteness. So you demonstrate by knocking on the coffee table.

At first it doesn’t register, because she’s not threatened by you knocking on the table. But you prompt her.  

“Who is it, Binky?” you ask excitedly.

You repeat several times while knocking on the table. She sees that you’re excited, and so she barks. Your friend gets a big kick out of how cute she is, with that tiny little bark and hurling her whole self into making the sound. You continue this for a few minutes and then all goes back to normal.

Later on, your Mom stops by. Since Binky didn’t bark when she knocked (she could smell that it was Mom, and she trusts Mom so she felt no need to bark) you demonstrate how cute this little show is. Pretty much whenever people come over you show them how cute she is when she barks.

Guess what?

You’ve just laid the ground work for creating a yappy dog.

So be aware of what you praise and what you correct. Dogs want to please us.

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