A little too often I think we may demand too much of our dogs. It’s about expectations. If we push too much, we may ultimately push too far, and this is not good with an animal who soaks up what we give him like a sponge and internalizes everything around him.
I sometimes see owners with young dogs and puppies become despondent and, while it’s fabulous to have goals, owners also need to remember that they have a young dog, and that other things can take over when you’re tiny…like chasing leaves and wanting to chew mud and stones! Being distracted when you’re 14 weeks old is completely normal. As an owner, if you’ve got goals to attain championship level skills in any discipline, they will come – IN TIME, but please don’t be frustrated by your puppy’s desire to play and interact with other puppies in class or outdoors. This is a hugely important time of social interaction when your dog is learning new social skills.
Recognize His Efforts!
Yes, he does try! I see many dogs, particularly puppies in class who really do try to do what their owner wants them to do, but their efforts are not rewarded. What you have to do here is make sure you focus on what your dog is doing, and capture exactly the moment he does the RIGHT thing, because the more you capture and mark that good thing, the more he will repeat and repeat that behaviour and do less of the stuff you don’t want.
Time with our dogs is wonderful but there’s no doubt there are times of frustration. Always stop if you feel your session isn’t going as you’d planned and you can feel yourself getting frustrated, or if the dog is distracted/not focused for some reason. There’s nothing worse than taking your frustration out on your dog or resorting to harsh words or punishment to try to force him to comply. This will only result in fear or pain.
Quit While You Are Ahead!
If you’ve had a few good or excellent results in whatever you’re trying to achieve with your dog – stop. It’s much better to quit here rather than push things further so that your dog may begin to tire and then his attention may waver or he may become bored. You may not have been able to have as long a session as you’d hoped, but a short and positive session is much better than a long and sporadically good one.
Understand It’s A Rocky Road
Having a dog, especially from a puppy, is not an easy ride – its a turbulent one. You must understand that it’s normal to have periods of regression, in terms of house training, basic training cues etc. This may because of lapses in the available time you have, breaks in your routine, environmental/family circumstances, hormonal changes etc. Again, it’s all normal – don’t panic, keep calm – move on.
He Doesn’t Do It On Purpose
Being distracted, regressions, wanting to play etc. is absolutely normal for a young dog. He is not behaving this way in order to challenge you, punish you, or dominate you. He is not trying to be “alpha” or pack leader, or any of those other outdated terms! He is a perfectly normal, bright, happy and intelligent puppy – love him for it!