April 10, 2018
It's really easy to forget how much trouble puppies are. I know they are cute and no one is more of a sucker for a squishface Lab or golden than your's truly, but they are also a lot of work. And they can reach levels of annoyance that are almost unbearable. I'll never forget asking dog-training guru Tom Dokken one time how his five-month old Lab was doing and he looked me in the eyes and said, "You can almost, almost, stand being in the same room as him."
That made me feel better because I was pretty deep into the puppy stages with my current dog then as well, and my sentiments mirrored his. Now, they aren't all bad. Sporting dog pups are chock-full of potential and obviously provide plenty of furry awesomeness. Especially if you manage their energy correctly.
This involves plenty of structured and unstructured exercise, obviously. All of which should be designed to tucker your puppy out while including some early lessons on obedience and life in general.
Here are five ways to do just that.
This isn't a story about who my wife married, but is instead a simple rule about pups — make them love their training dummies. Don't let your dog chew his dummy or have access to it throughout the day. Bring it out when it's time to do a few simple retrieves, all of which are used to coax out the retrieving desire and natural hold and carry, and of course, burn off some excess energy.
This might occur in the hallway of your house or in the yard, but should not last more than a minute or two for a young puppy. As the puppy grows, you can add in some extra throws but make sure to always keep the dog wanting more. And always, always, work in the commands and obedience training that you're trying to get the dog to lock down.
Every dog trainer out there who is worthy of the title will tell you that the importance of instilling confidence in a dog can't be understated.
New environments, where they get to sniff the world's olfactory offerings and see new things does wonders to encourage a pup to come out of his shell. Think about the neighborhood parks you have access to, or maybe the woodlot where you hunt grouse in the fall. Think soccer fields, and school playgrounds. Pretty much anywhere will be new to a young pup, and they'll love running around taking big whiffs of a strange new place. This is also a great way to wear a pup out, which is an added bonus to exploratory sessions.
The Social Butterfly
You shouldn't just be taking your puppy to interesting forests and fields, but also the pet store and anywhere else where they might encounter lots of people and lots of other dogs. Naturally, you've got to be careful to not expose your pup to an aggressive dog, but otherwise new social situations can do wonders for a puppy.
They'll develop that much-needed confidence to handle new situations, and they'll learn to trust you when it comes to the unknown. And if you do it right, they'll take a snooze when you get home because they'll be wore out.
The Marathon (Sort Of)
When my dog was a couple of months old I started to teach her to run next to my bike while I held her leash.
I've got a park trail by my house where she can run on grass and I can ride on asphalt so she wouldn't pound her joints too hard. This was my emergency plan, mostly for my wife, so if we needed to get her quick exercise we could. Now, dogs aren't designed to run marathons, so our first attempts were very short. I just wanted my dog to get used to going all out for a little while for those times when we just wouldn't be able to get her a lot of exercise throughout the day. It worked, but we didn't use it very often.
Fun, Fun, Fun
When you're dealing with a puppy, you really want to make sure you don't overwork them. And you want to make sure they get to have plenty of fun. For my dog, that means I grab a frisbee and we head to the local soccer fields. I can wing that frisbee a long ways, and she loves nothing more than chasing it and bring it back. Over, and over.
When she was a puppy, we broke up our training sessions with fun all of the time, and it worked to keep her happy and fit. And to tamp down the energy. To this day, while we still run plenty of retrieving drills and brush up on obedience, at least once a day we go out and chase a frisbee just to have fun and take the edge off.