Yesterday I met a new client and her three month old Labrador retriever. Such a lovely dog. (And I don’t say that because she is a Lab; in fact, it’s honestly been quite a while since I’ve met one who the average person would find easy to live with.) She is people-oriented, even keeled, energetic but not out of control, loves to play, loves to learn new things, and has good “bounce-back” (that quality that allows a dog to be initially cautious about something new or startling, but to quickly recover and investigate).
As we were setting up the appointment on the phone, it came up that the puppy was a yellow Lab. I wondered aloud if the pup reminded the owner of the one on the Cottonelle T.V. commercial. To which the owner replied, with a combination of exasperation and worry in her voice, “Actually she is starting to remind us more of the puppy in Marley and Me!”
Well, I can understand her feeling a little overwhelmed. As with many puppy owners, house training and puppy biting were on her mind. I devised a plan for her that will get the pup housetrained quickly and includes no more indoor accidents. And here is the main take-home message from our appointment: puppies this age are too young to just hang around the house with you. They may decide to duck around a corner to pee or poop, therefore you (and your family members) must prevent this by keeping your eyes on the pup, crating the pup when needed, and setting a timer if that helps you get your pup out on time. Puppies also have short attention spans. They get bored, curious, and before you know it they chew on you or your things. While that’s normal, it’s your job to set them up to behave how you’d like. So always have a plan before you get the pup out of the crate. Ask yourself, “After her potty break, where will she be? What do I have planned to keep her mouth busy?” Speaking of her mouth, one game this little pup will be playing from now on will prevent those shark teeth from meeting her owner’s skin. The owner will entice the puppy to chase a plush toy on a light rope, dragged along the ground. That way the pup can chase, bite and tug at the toy rather than her owner’s pant leg or arm. It’s all about preventing the behavior you don’t like, so you can reward the behavior you do like.