My New Puppy

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Say hi to Bruna! She’s a 3-month old standard-sized american eskimo (eskie for short).

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Isn’t she cute? :3

I am beyond excited about this. For the last couple of days, I have been researching everything there is about dog behavior and successful dog training.

This is the first time I am going to be the primary caretaker of a dog, so I need all the info I can get my hands on. I already have a cat and he’s awesome, but taking care of a dog is way different. The cat and dog have already gotten into fights, and I’m struggling with the puppy barking and chasing the cat, and the cat feeling hurt and left out because of the new addition to the family. But I am determined to make this work.

Let’s start with what I’ve learned regarding properly caring for a dog, and circle back to the dog & cat subject later.

Theoretically, taking care of a dog should be simple, but in practice this is rarely the case. Every dog is different and they have different personalities according to their breed. But one thing they all have in common is that they are descended from the wolf.

Dogs, as descendants of the wolf, are pack animals that behave best when following the authority of a confident and reliable pack leader. This pack leader should be their primary caretaker and owner. For a dog to trust his owner as pack leader, he should seek to display the following characteristics most of the time.

Characteristics of a Pack Leader

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  • Happy or good-natured

A pack leader should be happy or good-natured. Domestic animals desire happiness and love and companionship just as much as humans, if not more. If you act happy around your pet and are a generous, doting and loving owner, he will respond to you by acting the same way. A happy dog is also an obedient dog; he has no cause to rebel.

  • Consistent

Dogs trust people they can predict. Apply the same rules and the same words all the time when you’re training a dog so he doesn’t get confused. This means every time the dog does something right, reward him with verbal praise, petting, or a treat. Be generous. If the dog doesn’t acknowledge the command, try again, but don’t chastise him. Dogs respond better to positive reinforcement. Chastising them with words or hitting only makes them more nervous and aggressive.

  • Concise

Be sparing with words. Give your command just once, don’t repeat yourself if your dog doesn’t acknowledge the command. If you start repeating the same command over and over like a parrot, your dog will tune you out and it will become harder for him to listen to you in the future. Also, repetitions of commands teach your dog to ignore you because it makes him feel like you don’t care whether he obeys or not.

  • Smart

Don’t give your dog a command when he’s not in a position to understand you and execute the command correctly, or if you’re not in a position to help him out. This way your dog will learn that you are a reasonable pack leader and that he can always rely on you for help.

All of this is important, but maybe the most important thing of all is to give your dog lots of love. If you don’t, they can quickly grow aggressive or resentful of you. Dogs have a-lot of love to give, but they must also be loved in return.

Bruna is a cute little eskie. Supposedly the American Eskimo loves to learn tricks and is very intelligent, so she should be fairly easy to train. I’m working at building a fluid communication with her every day. Communication is the basis of every successful relationship, and dogs are no different.

If you get your dog when it’s still a puppy (the dog should be at least nine weeks old), then you really should think about doing House and Obedience Training as soon as you can.

House Training

It’s important that puppies learn nice bathroom manners from early on, so they form a habit that will last them a lifetime. If you have a backyard, like we do, it’s better if the dog learns to always go potty outside.

I’m taking my puppy on a walk first thing in the morning, so she relieves herself and has her bowel movements outside. She’s also taken out into the patio every hour and a half or so. She’s had accidents inside the house, and I’ve had to roll up my rugs, but this is normal. Puppies are going to have accidents. It’s all a part of the training.

If you don’t have a backyard, I suggest placing some newspaper or pet diapers on the floor in specific places of the house and teach your puppy to always go potty on those places. That way you won’t have to worry about cleaning up after the dog every time he relieves himself wherever inside the house. If you see your dog is going to go potty in a place he shouldn’t, quickly take him outside or to his special place inside the house so he learns to always relieve himself there.

If he has an accident, take him to the place of the accident, let the dog smell it, gently but firmly say ‘No’, and then take the dog either to the backyard or his special place inside the house.

For many dogs, successful housetraining takes several months.

Some things to remember:

Dogs don’t like to eliminate in the same spot where they sleep, so every morning they will be eager to head outside or to their special place to eliminate.

Remember to commit to a regular routine so your puppy learns that his chances to eliminate occur on a schedule. These trips outside should include first thing in the morning, at least once every hour during the day, and right before bedtime.

Walking your dog

Besides housetraining, puppies need 45 min of daily exercise to maintain their health, promote growth, and expend their extra energy. This means taking your dog on daily walks. Having a dog that can walk nicely beside you makes the experience of walking your dog much more pleasant and enjoyable.

When it comes to leash training, the most important thing is to reward good behavior. If your dog is walking next to you and the leash is slack, congratulate him with a treat or verbal praise. If your dog gets impatient and pulls you somewhere, it’s smart to stop walking and wait until the leash goes slack again. When it does, reward your dog profusely.

This way he’ll learn that a slack leash means good behavior. Whenever he walks next to you, reward him. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in leash training. Also, when you’re walking the dog, it’s important to remember you’re always the one in control. No matter how much attitude your dog gives you, or if he won’t stop barking or pulling, you can put a stop to this behavior simply by not continuing your walk. Not giving in to bad behavior and rewarding good behavior are the two tricks that will ensure pleasant walks both for you and your dog.

Mastering loose-leash walking takes a dedicated owner who allows the dog to make mistakes and has the patience to teach him proper behavior.

Obedience Training

Teaching your dog ‘obedience commands’ is important because it means you will always be able to control him, and it also gives you a great opportunity for bonding. Puppies have short attention spans; so don’t expect to keep their attentions for long periods of time. Keep your sessions short at first to minimize distractions, and then you may gradually increase the amount of time spent on training each day.

My puppy is 3 months old, and I’m spending no more than 5 minutes per trick, and training him to walk nicely on a leash in all our daily walks (which are 15-20 min each and 2 per day maximum).

Here are the 5 basic obedience cues for your dog to learn:

  • Come

This command will help the dog come to you. To successfully teach the ‘come’ command, you may do the following:

  1. Clip a light leash to your dog’s collar.
  2. Hold the leash as you follow him around the yard or somewhere. As he gets used to this, he’ll begin to understand that the two of you are attached.
  3. Walk backward, encouraging him to follow along. When he comes toward you, praise and treat. Tell him that he’s the cleverest dog in the world. He may not intellectually understand your words, but animals pick up on these types of feelings much more than humans realize.
  4. Repeat, and begin pairing the behavior with the world ‘come’. Every time he responds, praise and reward him.

The most important thing is to praise and reward and never chastise. The ‘come’ command should be a fun game that your puppy always wants to play.

  • Sit

Sit is one of the most helpful and basic obedience commands, and one of the easiest to teach. To train your puppy to sit, do the following:

  1. Hold a treat close to the puppy’s nose and let his head follow the treat as you more your hand up.
  2. As the puppy’s head moves up, his butt will lower.
  3. When his butt hits the floor, release the treat to his mouth and praise him immediately.
  4. Repeat multiple times a day, and pair the behavior with the word ‘sit’.
  • Stay

Stay is one of the most difficult commands to teach a puppy, who usually only wants to hang out with you, but it’s also one of the most important. A dog that is taught to stay won’t chase a stray cat or go fight another dog. The dog that understands ‘stay’ can also go on to more advanced training.

Here’s how to teach ‘stay’:

  1. Put a leash on a dog and have him sit comfortably next to you.
  2. Wave a flat palm towards his muzzle and say ‘stay’.
  3. Step in front of your dog, wait a few seconds, then step back.
  4. Reward him for not breaking his stay.
  5. If he moves, calmly say ‘Nope’ or something and put him back where he was initially.
  6. Repeat and practice multiple times a day in different locations.
  7. After rewarding him with praise, teach him a release word for when it’s time for him to be released from the stay. A good release word is ‘okay’.
  • Down

The down command is difficult to teach to many dogs because it’s a submissive posture. That’s why it’s important to reward him with extra treats for this one. To teach down, practice the following every day:

  1. Hold a tasty treat in your closed hand and place it at your dog’s muzzle.
  2. When he notices the scent of the treat, move your hand toward the floor. He should follow the hand that leads the treat.
  3. While the dog’s head follows your hand, move your hand along the floor in front of him. His body will follow his head, and once he stretches out into a down, open your hand to let him eat the treat.
  4. Repeat multiple times daily and pair the behavior with the word ‘down’.

If your puppy lunges towards your hand, say ‘Nope’, take your hand away before he can get to the treat. If he tries to sit up, break away and start again. Never push him into a down. After a successful attempt, always release your dog from the down and run off to play with him so he understands its all for fun.

Cats and Dogs

 Cats and dogs are very different. They have different ways to express themselves, so it’s natural that dogs grow wary of cats and vice versa, just because they can’t understand each other. What’s happening in my home is an evolving situation. My puppy is getting used to this type of animal that she has never socialized with before, and my cat is working on accepting the newcomer.

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The important thing is to always treat both the dog and the cat nicely. I made the mistake of reacting negatively to the cat once, who lunged at the puppy when she was peeing at the yard. I yelled at the cat, and the dog immediately saw I reacted aggressively and blew everything out of proportion. She started chasing the cat around the yard and barking and snapping at his tail, and I felt like it was all my fault. I have been extra careful to always react nicely and good-naturedly to any incident, so the animals don’t grow wary or distrustful. I figured I shouldn’t add to their stress.

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I also try to give each of them affection (both separately and when we’re together), so they learn that I love both of them and that they will just have to learn to tolerate each other.

So far, it’s better. Every time I acknowledge the cat by calling out his name or whatever when my puppy is with me, she gets rowdy and excited. So now I work on acknowledging him and petting him whenever he’s on a raised surface, so he can enjoy these pettings in peace without a dog getting up in his face.

My cat is super territorial, but he’s also very loving. He sleeps with my husband and I in our bed, or even curled up on top of my husband’s chest. He continues to do this, while the dog sleeps under the bed on my side.

I want both our pets to feel like equally important members of the tribe and for us to be one big happy family. But it’s a day-to-day situation. It could be worse, and I have the feeling that it will get better. But like everything, it takes time. Right now I have to focus on raising a puppy right and on giving enough affection to the resident cat so he doesn’t grow sour.

I haven’t mentioned it but all of this takes up a-lot of time. My life is basically divided between work and home now, but it’s all right. Overall I feel like having a puppy is giving me so much more structure in my day-to-day. I have to wake up early every day to walk the dog, for example, if I don’t want her to relieve herself inside the house (and I don’t). I have to come straight home after work to play and train her and overall just be with her.

It’s worth it, though. I’m shaping the lives of living beings. And when I see the cat and the dog, both of them relaxing together in the same room, the hard work pays off. Everything seems more harmonious for some reason. I am sure I will encounter more obstacles down the road, but the act of overcoming an obstacle comes with many rewards as well.

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I will keep you posted on my puppy as she grows. Every day I fall more in love with her.

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What are some of your tricks for raising dogs (or cats)?

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