If your dog is a puppy, you are in luck! By beginning your training at an early age and acquiring the tools to guide and lead your puppy properly, you have powerful information for your puppy’s future as an adult dog. And you can protect the future of your counters, furniture and tables.
Understanding Puppy Thinking
Puppies are so cute, and I love the way they smell. No matter the breed, they all grow and change so fast. It is tempting to always be in their face, kissing and hugging them like crazy. This seems natural to us, but for a puppy it is not a natural thing to experience.
Once your puppy has had a lot of face time with you, he begins to associate your smell with comfort. This in a limited amount is OK and can help ease a puppy through one of his biggest fear periods in life, leaving home and joining a new family. However, if you continue to remain face-to-face with your puppy, you will create a puppy monster who will jump on you, your guests, your counters and your furniture. Not to mention anything else that your puppy feels will soothe him. This could mean chewing and swallowing socks, undies, dishtowels — and anything that retains that comforting smell they were taught to desire with face time.
To help remedy this, begin by limiting time when you are face-to-face with your puppy. Too much face-to-face time only encourages him to strive to remain within close range of your face on a daily basis for comfort, no matter how big they grow. Can you imagine a 180-pound dog in your face or counter surfing?
Lessons From One Dog’s Training Journey
I began training Aspen as a puppy along with her owners. Aspen is an American Mastiff, a newer breed in the United States that is a mix of English Mastiff and Anatolian Mastiff. Her owners knew that fully grown, their new puppy could reach a weight of more than 180 pounds. Even though this breed drools less than the typical Mastiff, we definitely didn’t want any drool on the kitchen counters. A plan had to be put into place immediately.
American Mastiffs have an amazing temperament, so we knew she should be very responsive to our training. Despite her temperament, however, her expected size would require strong leadership. We decided that if the owners kept her off of the counters from the beginning, life would be easier for them and lessen their possible future vet bills from accidental ingestion of dangerous items.
Don’t Tempt The Dog
Aspen grew from 25 pounds to 125 pounds within one year. Without a doubt, we knew that she would not only be hungry on a continual basis, she would also grow tall very quickly, reaching nose to counter height. We did what we had to do, and what has a 100 percent guaranteed success rate — we followed my rule of “don’t tempt the dog.” This simply means to keep the counters and tables clear of anything that the dog could want or could be potentially harmful. If you cannot keep your counters clear and you have a puppy in the home, consider placing baby gates in doorways to secure the kitchen area, as it is a potentially harmful place for your pets.
Now, there is another side to this that I feel the need to address, because it is important for your puppy’s development. If you feed your dog people food, which is mostly likely something not good for your puppy, your puppy will think that anything on the table or counter is fair game. If you are handing things down to him, especially if you have violated the rules of too much time spent face to face, you are setting yourself up for a multitude of dog problems on more than just the counters and the furniture. Not feeding from the table is especially important during holidays, including birthdays or special occasions where there is a special meal prepared at home or even brought in from outside sources that is ultimately shared with the dog. Kids and dads can be the biggest violators, and they seem to love giving the “under the table treat” during mealtime.
For Aspen, as mentioned, we kept the counters clean. We also worked as a family unit, with the kids being a large part of our team. We taught Aspen all of the commands she had to know in order to become a service animal. We knew that she was going to be so big and have a lot of love to give, so we began immediately training her to lie down and maintain composure for at least three minutes, usually in a spot designated for her, but we chose other places as well. We trained her to walk by our side, allow friendly people to approach us and keep her composure while we talked to someone she didn’t know. The kids would form a triangle in the living room all spread out and each child would take their turn calling Aspen to them and asking her to sit for them and focus. The kids were small and Aspen quickly outgrew them. Being so large, I had to ensure that she would take the lead from smaller kids. And because the kids were so good at following my instructions, Aspen listened to them with the intent of following through, and I saw puppy training magic happen.
We crate trained Aspen. Knowing that she was going to grow so large, we had her on a structured training, feeding and sleeping schedule. Aspen was never allowed to sleep anywhere where she felt like she was the one protecting the home. We additionally didn’t allow her on any furniture (OK, once in a great while she sat on the couch). She had her own bed to snuggle on and that was where we gave her various chew toys to help with her teething and chewing.
No matter how large or small your puppy will grow to be, make sure you understand the purpose that your dog was bred for and train your puppy to follow your lead. That way the whole home will be happy, and your puppy will have the best life and longest life possible for you all to enjoy.