The world’s greatest puppy, as any dog owner will tell you, is the one sitting by your side. For me that puppy is Brady, our four-month-old Labrador Retriever.
However awesome our pup, Brady still needs obedience school training. So at the age of three months, we enrolled him at PetSmart for private classes. Our instructor, Elaine, has been teaching us invaluable tips and training techniques.
Hollowed be thy Name
As far as I can tell, most puppies do not pray before they eat. If they did, it would have to be a short invocation, as many seem uncontrollably anxious to dive into their kibble.
Brady is no exception. He often dives feet first into the bowl for a meal that lasts less than a New York minute. As stated by the ASPCA, food gobbling may lead to stomach bloating and discomfort.
Our trainer, Elaine, offered an excellent solution to the problem.
To tame the fast-eating habit, mix the puppy’s food with a quarter cup of mashed pumpkin or squash and place the fusion into a hollowed natural bone. The barrier, Elaine explained, will force Brady to hit the brakes, as he meticulously digs out the concoction.
The suggestion works perfectly. Now Brady spends one hour eating a meal that would normally be scarfed down in 30 seconds.
Ignorance is Bliss
Nipping and biting is a trait shared by many puppies, including Brady. Need proof? Just look at the scars on my wrists and fingers.
To curtail the unwanted behavior, Elaine suggested we ignore Brady.
If Brady starts to nip and bite, Elaine recommended we stand up and face away from him for 20 or 30 seconds.
After the time-out, return to playing; if the attack recurs, stand up again and ignore.
The technique, as I read on pets.webmd.com, mimics the bite inhibition learned from other puppies. If a puppy bites his playmate too hard, the victim of the nip may pull away and cease the activity.
Now, ignoring a puppy may sound mean, but it works brilliantly.
When Brady starts to lunge and bite, I stand up and turn my back toward him. He calms down and looks disappointed. When I begin to play again, Brady stops his malicious behavior and all is right in the world.
Puppy Recites Gettysburg Address (well almost)
The main reason Brady was enrolled in obedience school was to learn the basics – sit, stay, lie down, fetch, and speak. Through positive reinforcement, Elaine taught Brady those basic commands 20 minutes into the session.
Positive reinforcement, as detailed by The Humane Society, uses praise and treats to reward your dog for performing a desired behavior.
Elaine used short commands and immediate treats to gently coax him to perform a variety of commands. She was so proficient; I’d bet she could get him to recite the Gettysburg Address.
As that is a lot of pressure for all involved, I’ll gladly settle for the basics.
Brady and I took “Puppy Education” with Elaine Chan-Whitlow at PetSmart in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Elaine can be reached at 248-737-8728.