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Meet Cassie the Papillon – Karen Phillips

November saw the arrival of a new furry addition to my family.  Not a border collie this time but a papillon puppy called Cassie.  I’ve wanted to train a small breed of dog in agility for many years so when little Cassie became available I knew she was meant for me. 

Bringing a new puppy home for the first time in four years meant facing all the puppy training challenges that I’d forgotten about since my last puppy Sonic joined us.  On top of that Cassie is extremely “full on” (a trait I look for in an agility dog but not recommended for the faint hearted) so dealing with such a livewire can add additional training hurdles.

Before bringing a new puppy home I can’t emphasis enough the importance of being organised and prepared to help make the transition easier.  I’m fortunate in that Cassie is my fourth puppy so by now I’ve a pretty good handle on the most successful methods as well as knowing about what types of accessories make successful puppy-raising more likely.

On my list of “must have” puppy raising accessories is a puppy pen.  This should be set up in the main area of your house where most of the family’s time is spent.  Inside the pen there should be comfortable bedding, assorted chew toys and a bowl of fresh water.  The pen will provide a safe space for puppy to play when no one is available to give them direct attention or the family needs a break from having their pant legs tugged on, shoes stolen and furniture chewed.

A perfect example is when I’m in the kitchen cooking dinner and not in a position to supervise what Cassie’s up to I will put her in her pen where she can see me but is safely secured and unable to get up to mischief.  If, like me, you have older dogs who don’t appreciate being jumped on constantly by over-exuberant youngsters the pen also provides a time out where puppy has her own toys and chewy treats to entertain herself.  I also feed my puppy all her meals in the pen.

A pet crate is next on the list.  When my puppies first come home they sleep in a pet crate next to the side of my bed.  They have just left everything they’ve ever known to come to a strange house with new people so I want to make that first couple of weeks as stress free as possible.  Having them next to me at night provides them with comfort and security allowing everyone to have a good night sleep right from day one.  I find that after a few weeks when they have settled in and gotten used to their new surroundings the crate can be moved to elsewhere in the house.  I never let my puppies sleep loose in the house until I know that they have grown out of wanting to jump on the other dogs to play in the middle of the night, are fully toilet trained and no longer want to chew things.

Toilet training can be one of the most frustrating things to establish with your puppy.  I am happy to admit that like most people I have spent long periods of time standing outside with my puppy waiting for her to go to the toilet only to give up and go back inside and have her wee on the floor within minutes of doing so!  It is important to know that puppies take time for their toilet habits to regulate.  I tend to spend the first few days monitoring when my puppy is likely to want to go to the toilet.  For Cassie it is pretty much every two hours or so during the day including when she wakes up, after meals and after playing.  Luckily Cassie makes it through the night without needing to go to the toilet however some puppies initially may need to get up at least once during the night.

A useful tip for toilet training is to always take your puppy to the same spot to toilet outside.  The smells will help them to remember what they are out there for.  I also recommend that you keep your puppy on lead to keep access to distractions minimal.  If you have other dogs put them inside while the puppy is outside.  When they do toilet in the correct spot outside reward them for doing so, ideally with a tasty treat to help reinforce the behaviour that you want.  The only time I don’t reward is at night time as I don’t want to encourage them to wake up during the night.

It is natural for puppies to want to bite and chew, particularly when they are teething at around four to five months of age.  I have no problem with puppies chewing as long as it is directed to their toys and not my hands, clothing or household furniture.  One of the biggest mistakes people make is that, when a puppy bites fingers and hands, they pull their hands away quickly.  This effectively turns your hands into prey which in your puppy’s eyes makes the game even more appealing.  Most likely this will encourage them to bite even more.  The best way of resolving the problem is to stop moving when the puppy bites and stay very still.   With Cassie this method has been very successful and within seconds she gets bored with it and stops.

If you find that it hurts too much another option is that any time puppy teeth meets skin go totally still and emit a high pitched yelp.  This is what a puppy sibling would do if a litter mate was getting too rough when playing.  This is generally pretty effective and the puppy will let go straight away.  If I use either of these methods and Cassie continues to bite I will give Cassie a time out by picking her up and quietly putting her in her pen.  Never smack a puppy for biting or whack them across the nose.  Apart from the fact that it isn’t a nice thing to do to a puppy it normally doesn’t work and can often make things worse if she just perceives it as part of the game.


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