Training a Puppy in 12 Easy Steps!

Sometimes, I wish there was a book, or a secret handshake, something that would let me in and tell me all the secrets of raising the Perfect Dog. You know. Your neighbours had one when you were a kid. Maybe he was a Lab, or a Golden retriever, or a toy poodle. He was the dog who would lay out on the unfenced front yard for hours, only getting up to greet his master when he came home from work, and his children when they got off the bus.

The Perfect Dog doesn’t bark excessively, only when burglars are about. He doesn’t chew or mark on the furniture, or chase cats, or bite the mailman. He requires no crate-training or finagling to be left at home unsupervised. He can be trusted with infants, teenagers, and your elderly grandmother. He is calm, stately, a little gray around the muzzle, and wise. You know you can trust him with anything.

I know everybody thinks back to that Perfect Dog they knew, and wonders how the heck those people did it. Nowadays, if your puppy isn’t in every pre-K puppy class, doing six sports, and telling you via sign language that he has to urinate, he’s going to end up one of those crazy dogs that jumps on everyone, pulls your arm off on a walk, and happily disintegrates your furniture with his teeth.

I’ve yet to find the secret, and I read everything about dogs all day long. If I had more shelf space, I’d have more dog books. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the secret to the Perfect Dog… But I think I may be close.

My dogs have all had various levels of formal and informal, home and class training. It’s taken a lot of time, but I think I have part of the formula for the Perfect Dog figured out: it’s life. Dogs who live in crates most of the day to avoid house-training accidents, who are constantly leashed to their owners to prevent chewing accidents, or who are stuffed into several overwhelming classes at once, don’t learn to be dogs. They don’t learn the invaluable social things they need to learn when they have freedom. I’m not saying let your dog run loose and wild, but easing up can do wonders.

My second Pom had a super strict house-training schedule, and wasn’t actually off of umbilical until she was five months old. That’s three months lost, learning how to live in a house. I decided to go the extreme opposite with Peach, and she has not been on umbilical for over a week. She has a bed-time, and goes out every hour or two depending on her activity level, but that’s it. Peach has lots of freedom. And for it? I have a dog who, today, for the first time ever in my dog-owning life, went and whined at the door to be let out to potty. I have a dog who understands her name out of the context of “look, and receive a treat”, and a dog who will navigate doors, feet, and comes when called, simply because she understands how humans interact with space better than her predecessors do.

Peach is enjoying life as a puppy. And because I am vigilant, I don’t have to worry about having an un-housetrained, unholy monster of a crazy dog. To help myself get the Perfect Dog, I gave myself tools. A second part of the formula is the human… I’m still working on that part.

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