In week 1 of class we will be looking at what is typical for a domestic dog and how to meet their basic need for safety.  The most important initial step with your puppy is to build a strong, stable bond to your puppy so they feel attached to your family. This will be achieved by:

  • Providing a stable and predictable social group – we are going to focus on how to socialise your puppy this week. This will mean not continually meeting new dogs and people – contrary to popular opinion – but to have a smaller, stable more predictable group of people and dogs initially.
  • Being well habituated to an environment – slowly introducing the puppy to new environments and allowing them to take the time they need to watch and explore, rather than taking them to new places which are really up close and personal for the puppy
  • Minimal experiences which your puppy finds negative. This can be achieved by ensuring they don’t get overwhelmed in a new experience but have time to stop and look and investigate. For some dogs just 1 intense experience can make them very afraid and this can be long lasting into adulthood
  • Minimal social isolation – your puppy has evolved over tens of thousands of years to be a social animal with humans. Enforcing isolation on your puppy makes them feel unsafe – teaching them how to be alone is a whole different thing and something we will start this week.
  • All dogs (like humans) feel safer when they have some autonomy in their lives. We will look at simple ways of giving your puppy choices (all of which you like) which will help them have more autonomy
  • Time to watch at a distance, evaluate and then explore. Your puppy will then be able to choose if they feel safe to move closer

There are some games we can play which support calm attachment and we are going to look at one this week. As part of the safe attachment, these games can help reduce the likelihood of your dog developing ‘separation anxiety’ which is an umbrella term for dogs which struggle being left.  Research suggests that gundogs can be more susceptible and male dogs, particularly neutered males can be higher risk for developing anxiety around being left.

Game 1: micro absence
  • Make a list of household tasks of increasing time taken to do them – such as going to the toilet, putting a wash on, unloading shopping bags, plumping up sofa cushions, sweeping etc
  • Work your way down the list of tasks over the week, starting with the shortest first by throwing a handful of food on the floor when you do the task – start to move away slightly from the puppy – or close the door. Having the food in the floor gives your puppy something to focus on whilst you are busy or absent