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Ingredients for the Perfect Puppy

If we could persuade owners to buy the right type of puppy for their families and raise them successfully, there would be fewer problem dogs with discontented owners, fewer dogs would be euthanased unnecessarily, and the rescue centres would be filled with dogs that could be homed easily.

This may seem like an impossible dream, but, with a sustained effort, it could be achieved.

As professionals working within the world of dogs, everything we do contributes to the welfare of dogs.

I believe it is possible for us to make a greater impact on the problems faced by many owners, by giving better advice, to help them choose the right puppy in the first place, and to train and educate it so that it grows up to be friendly and well behaved.

Getting the perfect puppy for a particular family is the first step.

No two puppies are the same, even at 7 to 8 weeks of age when owners are likely to acquire them.

Owners should be made aware that there may be enormous difference between puppies in terms of genetic make up and brain development as a result of experience, even at such a young age, making it essential that they select their new puppy very carefully.

Many owners buy a puppy quite quickly after they have decided they want one.

Our job is, firstly, to make them aware of the reasons for taking their time to choose carefully and, secondly, to make information available which will help them find a good puppy.

Owners need know how to choose a breed
which will be right for their family.

People often choose a breed because they like its appearance. Persuading them to consider the characteristics of a breed and what they will be like to live with in practice is important.

Since many owners who buy puppies are complete novices, it is important that the genes they acquire are designed to be as fool-proof as possible, since selling a first-time owner a puppy which has genetics which makes it difficult to raise successfully is more than likely to end in disaster.

Having selected the right breed, making them aware that there will be tremendous differences between different lines or strains, or the same breed, will help them to realise how important it is to go to the right kennel.

How will they know which breeders to approach and how do they find the right genes for them when they are faced with a bunch of fluffy puppies and someone who wants to sell their stock?

Since the critical age for socialisation is between 3 and 12 weeks, after which fear begins to outweigh the enjoyment of novel experiences,

owners need to be made aware of the important of
conditions under which puppies are kept by the breeder

They should know that puppies kept permanently under the stairs or out in the shed will not have had such a good start as those living as part of a busy household.

They should know what to look for, and why they are looking for it, before they begin their search for their perfect puppy.

Once the new arrival comes home, owners' attempts to educate and train their puppy are likely to be based on how they were treated as children, or on what they have seen others do.

Consequently, owners will benefit from good advice at this stage.
They need to be told about the importance of socialisation and how to continue the process, how to train their puppy using reward-based methods, how to teach it good manners and, how to tackle other problems without resorting to punishment.

Letting owners know that aggression displayed to the puppy
at this stage is likely to be returned in kind
at a later date as the puppy matures,
may help to change the way they deal with problems.

It will also be essential that owners know about species-specific needs and about the importance of providing an outlet for natural behaviours, especially as the puppy develops into an adult.

The need to run, jump, play and explore is an obvious one.
Owners often fail to provide enough activities for their dogs, which leads to many behaviour problems.

The need for some dogs to climb to the top of their social hierarchies is one which is often overlooked by doting owners, and the need to reproduce can cause difficulties as the dog enters puberty and becomes a young adult.

Even provided all goes well during the puppy stage, most owners go through times of crisis during adolescence.

Being there to help owners through this stage and to provide support when things appear to go so wrong is essential.

Problems at this stage, and indeed, in later life will be so much easier to deal with if the right puppy was selected in the first place and its education in the home has been of a high standard.

Finally, it should be remembered that it is difficult for a first time owner to deal with things that the more experienced of us would not consider to be a problem.

Holding a puppy still for grooming, walking with it on the lead without tripping over it or stepping on it, getting hold of it to lift it into the car and teaching it to sit for a titbit all require sophisticated handling skills which most of us take for granted.

Practice makes perfect and it important to try to be tolerant with new owners who may, one day, become the dog trainers of the future.

Also see Gwen Bailey's article on Socialising your Puppy

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Training for Life - Puppy/Dog Training Classes in a box!
The Rescue Dog/ Adopt the Perfect Dog by Gwen Bailey
The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey
What is my dog thinking? by Gwen Bailey
What is my cat thinking? by Gwen Bailey
Good Dog Behaviour/The Well Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey
The Puppy Handbook/ The Ideal Puppy by Gwen Bailey