Introducing rules and discipline into the life of a new puppy
Having a brand-new puppy can be really wonderful, but it also involves a lot of responsibility. When you make the commitment to care for another animal, this means taking care of all of their needs – not just for food and shelter, but for socialisation, training, and generally raising a good canine citizen!
However, managing a new puppy and teaching them the rules and boundaries of their lives with you can be challenging, for a lot of reasons. Firstly, you might not really know how to begin introducing commands and rules into your pup’s life, and the fact that pups are so adorable and good at appealing to the nurturing instincts of humans also means that many of us are a little lax with the rules when our dogs really turn on the charm.
But failing to establish a framework of rules and limitations for your pup’s life, as well as failing to correct them in the right way if they get things wrong can hamper your pup’s emotional development and lead to an unruly or disobedient adult dog.
This is why it is so important to introduce your pup to rules and discipline early on, when they are the most open to learning and have not already begun to establish bad behaviours. If you’re not quite sure what this should involve or how to do it – and how to introduce rules and correct mistakes in the right way – we will explain the basics in this article. Read on to learn more.
Make and stick to the rules
Before you bring your new puppy home for the first time, you and anyone else who lives with you should already have decided and agreed upon the rules.
These rules might be where your puppy will sleep, furniture they’re not allowed on, rooms they’re not allowed in and so on – as well as behaviours that will need to be avoided or stopped, such as jumping up at people. Ensure that everyone in your home knows what the rules are, and that they must be enforced consistently.
Begin as soon as you get your new puppy
The priority when you bring your new puppy home should be to get them settled in and begin building your relationship together – and many first-time puppy buyers make the mistake of thinking that the pup should have a period of settling in time before the rules and boundaries are introduced.
However, it is much more effective, as well as kinder on the pup to keep to the rules from the get-go – otherwise your pup will begin to get settled in and get used to their new living situation, only for you to change the parameters and introduce restrictions later on, which will confuse your puppy and can make them feel anxious and insecure.
Correction rather than punishment
If your pup keeps trying to do something they shouldn’t be doing, it can be hard to know what to do about this. Letting issues slide early on creates problems for later, but how do you discipline a new puppy without scaring or upsetting them?
The key is to think of it in terms of guidance and correction rather than punishment or discipline.
Tell your pup “no” firmly but calmly, if necessary, remove the source of the issue (such as a shoe or something else they shouldn’t have) and pointedly ignore bad behaviour aside from the firm verbal correction until your pup stops because they’re not getting the desired reaction out of you.
Never shout, physically chastise your pup or otherwise cause them to be scared of being corrected, not only because this is upsetting for your pup, but because they don’t make the same connections we do in their brains, and they will know that you are mad with them but concentrate on this, rather than why.
Puppies think in the now
Puppies and adult dogs too think in the now – so if you need to correct your pup for a mistake, it has to happen at the time. Telling your dog off later or trying to show them what they have done wrong is meaningless to your pup, and they won’t understand what you are cross about, or what they’re not supposed to do.
Diverting bad behaviour
If your pup starts getting that certain look in their eyes that they are about to do something they shouldn’t, try to learn to recognise this and divert your pup before they get going, offering an alternative source of stimulus.
This may mean giving them one of their own toys in place of something they have taken, or simply playing with them or paying them some attention so that they forget what they were doing or about to do!
Provide for all of their needs
Any pup will soon become unruly, disobedient, and hard work if they aren’t getting all of their needs met, no matter how strict you are. A pup that doesn’t get enough exercise or attention, that spends too much time alone or that doesn’t have enough appropriate toys will seek other ways to get their needs met, which will generally be bad!
For instance, you can’t realistically stop a pup chewing things when they are teething, and chewing is an important part of teething – so provide appropriate chew toys, which will help to avoid inappropriate chewing.
Correct, ignore and reward
When your pup does misbehave, correct them promptly, ignore them until they calm down or stop, and then provide them with a reward when their behaviour is diverted. This will help to condition your pup to follow your directions because the reward is valuable to them, as well as teaching them the rules and boundaries in place within your home.