TRAINING TIPS (Part One)
Puppy 3 - 6 Months
With so many of you welcoming a new whippet pup into their homes, I thought it a good time to have a chat about training.
Now, I’m an experienced owner but I’m not a professional trainer, which is why I called upon Gretta from The Pitter Patter of Tiny Paws to help me with this post. She is a behaviour expert who shares my belief that by setting your pup up for success you will have a happier and better relationship in the long run.
With so many topics to cover for new owners but we have decided to have a chat about three important ones: Recall, Introducing Pup to Another Dog and Teaching Boundaries.
Gretta’s top Tips:
- First of all – teach it! I know that sounds obvious but so many people don’t really ever teach their puppy recall. When puppies are really young, it’s easy to take it for granted that they will stay close by. This can make you believe that you don’t need to teach recall or give you the false impression that your puppy has learned it really well… until they hit adolescence! Set your puppy up to succeed by starting early and always helping them to get it right. Don’t put them in situations where they will ‘fail’ – use a long line as necessary and always pick your moment carefully when you’re practising (don’t call them if you know that they will ignore you – it just weakens their response to the cue… the same goes for repeating yourself).
- Reward them – generously. Coming back to you when you call them should pay off BIG TIME! A bit of praise and some petting might seem to work OK when they’re young but it very likely that it simply won’t cut it when they get a bit older – what you do now will impact on how they respond in the future. Use the learning opportunities that you have with your young puppy to teach them that amazing things happen when they hear their recall cue and they need to get back to you quick-smart to get them!
It is never too early to start recall practice AND it should never be something you stop doing. Whippets are usually interested in treats; make them high value – something like venison sausage and start in the garden before they even go out into the big wide world where distractions like moving leaves and squirrels will take priority over any treat. Work on recall in the house, when you know you can get their attention and always make it worth their while – whippets get bored quite easily!
Introducing to Another Dog
Gretta’s top tips:
- If you have another dog in the home, you need to manage your own expectations first. Some dogs will welcome a puppy with open paws, but most won’t. That’s ok – don’t expect miracles and take things slowly and, usually, the dogs will develop a nice relationship over time.
- In practical terms, don’t allow your older dog to intimidate your puppy or your puppy to harass your older dog. Feed them separately and manage resources over which there could be conflict very carefully. Don’t over-react to a ‘telling off’ but, equally, note what happened and avoid allowing your dogs to get themselves into that situation in the future until things are more settled between them. Pens and baby gates are your friend – manage the environment so that opportunities for the dogs to get on each other’s nerves or for either of them to have negative experiences is the most important thing you can do, in order to have success in the longer term.
We have had two whippets as puppies and two rescues at 9 months, so similar ages to the existing dog. Both occasions we took our dogs to meet the new one on neutral ground, allowed them to play and run together to see how they were with each other. On both occasions we had it relatively easy; Bruno happily accepted Frankie and George did Winnie. We were very mindful to not give the new addition all the attention as the existing dog can feel left out – we all know how sensitive whippets can be. We always fed them in separate parts of the room, and supervised meal times.
Bringing a puppy into a home with an older dog is something I have seen friends do successfully by pretty much taking Greta’s advice and allowing the older dog to get to know the pup in their own time. Reminding the older dog that they are still important and giving the older dog puppy time out.
Gretta’s Top Tips:
- The first step to teaching your puppy what behaviours you want from them is consistency. Everyone involved needs to follow the same rules or it is going to be really confusing for your pup.
- There are two key actions you need to take. Firstly, you must prevent your puppy from rehearsing behaviours that you don’t want, as much as possible. You can help to do this by managing the environment (and their access to it!) and meeting their needs (mental and physical stimulation, things to chew on, good quality food, attention, quiet time for resting and sleeping). Secondly, you need to capture and reward all the little things your puppy does that you do want – make good choices worth repeating and, eventually, they will be default behaviours. Try to ‘catch them being good’, instead of ignoring them until they do something you don’t like (it’s easily done!). Don’t wait for your puppy to offer something ‘genius’ level – just not biting your toes when they lie next to your feet, checking in with you when on a walk or keeping all their paws on the floor even though they’re excited about dinner being prepared are all brilliant choices that you want to reinforce so that they get repeated.
BEWARE: Whippet puppies are genius at beguiling their owners. They will turn on the charm and cuteness to a level that will have you giving into their every whim. It is all too easy to forgive them when they steal your shoe and start to chew the laces, or run off with a bit of cheese you have just chopped up ready for your sandwich, because it’s cute, but you need to be strong! Whippet pups can be very naughty, Bruno was and so was George. You have to adapt your behaviour to set the boundary here – put shoes out of reach, never leave food in pups reach.
If I could give you one really important tip, it is that you need to TEACH your pup how to rest. That it is OK to be in their bed ON THEIR OWN and that they CAN be calm. Stair gates are your friend here, put the gate between you and their bed, let them have some toys or a chew, ignore the whining for attention and the Jedi stare, they learn really quickly that this is their time and you are not far away – believe me you will be thankful for doing this when they get older. I think it helps minimise separation anxiety too.
I hope you have found this useful – you will find so many helpful tips on Gretta’s social media @thepitterpatteroftinypaws on Instagram, and you can sign up for one of her brilliant courses on her website https://www.thepitterpatteroftinypaws.co.uk/ - I really wish Greta had been around when I first brought Bruno home, I knew so little about his needs and we could have got off to a much better start if I had not been given outdated advice.