Many readers will be volunteer puppy walkers for police dogs, guide dogs, assistance dogs and so on and will almost certainly be bound by the advice from that puppy scheme. Here are our top 5 Tips for the first few weeks as some of these pups can be really challenging and any help and advice may prove helpful.
If you’re supplied with a crate, use it if not consider one. Make the crate a safe place and a good place to be. Never use it for punishment. Used properly it will give your pup a secure space to rest and you a respite. Use food to enhance the crate as a good place and consider covering it with a sheet to create a den and to counter that early morning light.
Toilet mats are a great tool for house training and can even be used for conditioning a dog to use a specific part of the garden as a toilet area.
Teething, always a tough phase. Be careful at this stage with any tug of war games. A pup’s mouth can be sensitive and a ‘bad mouth’ experience could hamper future development especially if your pup is destined as a GP police dog. Be gentle, have a toy box with your pup’s toys in and move anything you don’t want damaged.
Recalls are easy to train at this stage and create a fun way for any walker to engage with their pup. Think of these as exercises to be practised but keep them fun, use food as a reward. You can divide this into three distinct phases, kitchen exercises, garden exercise and outdoor exercises. Time put in at each stage will pay dividends as you move on to the next and a reliable recall can be achieved even before you leave the safety of your garden.
Positive re-enforcement. If you do not already use or understand this method then find out. If you do, then I am preaching to the converted. It is straight forward and can be used in a simple format that will transform the way you manage your service puppy. Many puppy schemes will have restrictions on how a walker should deal with unwarranted puppy behaviour but this will occasionally leave a walker confused. Let’s be honest all puppies will be naughty at some stage but is it naughty or just natural puppy behaviour, either way it can be difficult for a walker to deal with within the confines of a scheme. Positive re-enforcement will give a walker the tools to deal with this. I doubt very much any scheme would discourage its use and it will, in most cases, improve the pup’s trainability at a later date.