It’s okay to burble along to your pup as you take care of it, just don’t expect it to understand anything except for the tone of your address. Dogs can learn a number of word cues (“commands”) – even hundreds of them – but they are just that, word cues. A pup can, and should, be taught at least a few words of human language. In English, “Sit!” and “Dinner!” are a couple that might be useful on occasion. But if you tell the dog, “Sit in your Dinner”, the meaning is lost. Dogs do not have a language center in their brains, like humans and cannot fathom syntax. Use one word commands when communicating, say them clearly, say them once and importantly….Reward the desired response immediately.
Do not use the pups name when addressing it (unless it is at a distance), and do not repeat commands. Dogs hear even better than we do: Their “deafness” is usually not through not attributable to poor hearing, it’s selective through their choice of not to obey. By the way, remember that if a dog does not respond to a verbal cue it should not be punished (see above). The opposite of reward is not punishment – it is no reward.
It comes as a surprise to many people to learn that children and puppies, though both cute, cannot be trusted alone together. Bad things can happen. The most obvious one is that the child will do “something bad” to the pup by way of experimentation, exercising their natural curiosity. In one case, a dog bit a child and had to be euthanatized. On post-mortem it was found that the child had jammed a pencil into the dog’s ear and had snapped off then end after penetrating the dog’s ear drum. If accidents like this are to be avoided, complete supervision is necessary. It’s not usually the dog that starts the trouble, it’s the child: If you can childproof your dog, there should be no cause for concern.
Puppy food is best for pups (AAFCO approved, is most desirable). Adding who-knows-what quantities or an assortment of human foods will not only detract from the optimal (proprietary) food but will encourage fussiness. Also, if the human food is fed from the table, you will wind up with a dog that mooches around the table at mealtimes, always begging for food. Start out the way you intend to continue. Set limits and be firm about them.
Although it is very tempting to always give young pups all the love and attention their visage seems to implore, it is also important to set limits of acceptable behavior. This is especially important as they go through the canine equivalent of “the terrible twos” at about 4-5 months of age. Bad behavior, like excessive or hard nipping, should be punished by immediate withdrawal of attention (following sharp exclamation of a word like, Ouch or No-bite). This is how puppies communicate their likes and dislikes to each other. Spare the Ouch and spoil the dog!
One simple rule is to make the pup work for food and treats. What’s work, you ask. It’s having the pup Sit or Down in order to receive them (like Grace). This will make sure that the pup always views you as it true (resource rich) provider and, therefore, leader. Problems of owner-directed aggression downstream can be all but completely addressed by this simple measure. Don’t give everything away. Insist on good puppy manners: Manners maketh pup.
Work hard to remind yourself, whatever happens, that this is a baby you are dealing with. If you loose your cool, you will act incorrectly, your puppy will think you have gone crazy, and you will loose its respect and trust. Be a good puppy parent. Think cool.
Following these 10 simple rules can help create the dog of your dreams as opposed to a canine nightmare. The basics are the same as in child raising. Be fun, be fair, but be firm (the 3 F’s) and set limits. Children are happier when their parents are obviously at the helm, and so are dogs. Dogs need strong leaders if they are to be model canine citizens. The moral of this story is “As you reap, so shall you sow.” Pay attention at the beginning and the rewards will be unimaginable.