Raising a puppy:

Alabama Living Magazine

Nurture the mind, the body will follow

The holiday seasons are over, and many of us have acquired a puppy. Great fun! Now the hard work of raising a puppy begins. And yes, it is hard work. I have been there several times. There was a time about 10 years ago when four of our friends and I were raising puppies at the same time. These all were high-driven puppies and it was not easy. We used to talk on the phone and tell stories of our sorrows; how many ways these pups had challenged our sanity the week before!

Anyone who has ever raised a puppy and did not second guess their decision, in my opinion, is not being honest! But, as we all know, it is all worth it.

Now this is a good time for my usual plug. I am aware that I may rub some folks the wrong way, but that is not my intention. I (and many others) just do not want to see another throw-away dog. I have never bought a puppy; I’ve always rescued them. For our last two, I didn’t even go and look for them – one was picked up from a parking lot and the other one from a cold, desolate and dark road!

If possible, instead of buying, please rescue an unwanted, cast-away soul. Most rescued mixed dogs are intelligent, grateful personalities and are less likely to display breed specific diseases. Let the fancy people get their fancy vanity breeds! You and I are “real” and self-assured folks and we don’t need a pedigree behind their name to judge the value of our companions! And please don’t be mad at me – it is all about the creatures we love!

Back to the task at hand of raising a puppy. Some background info: We never had an outdoor dog and our dogs sleep on our beds, beg for food and jump on unsuspecting guests; thus by default “bad” dogs! But I can explain myself and my “bad” dogs. We are mostly happy with each other!

Love and patience

In the modern times, a dog is more of a companion to us than a guard or decorative ornament in the house. A happy well-adjusted dog makes a better companion. I think all companionships should begin with love and patience. When your new friend arrives home, remember the sudden isolation they feel coming away from their mother and siblings where they had 24-7 contact. This has to be a painful and lonely time.

I encourage people to forgo “discipline,” at least in the beginning. I suggest that in the beginning, we should work toward giving them love, lots of body contact and developing a trusting relationship. Training and discipline can come a little later. Assuming that we are seasoned pet owners, I suggest waiting for puppy training a little later than 12 weeks.

Many people crate train their dogs, but I like them to sleep with us. I believe that the more time we spend with them and the more body contact we give them builds confidence rather than creating a dog riddled with separation anxiety. Confident personalities make for easier training and create a deeper relationship.

From my comments, you could easily conclude that we don’t discipline our dogs at all. Of course, we do. It is an absolute must to have a good bit of control, especially if you have a large powerful dog like a 100-pound Rottweiler. I am just suggesting keeping the “no, no bad dog” to a minimum. 

When telling them what not to do, be sure to let them know everything they do that pleases you, thus reinforcing good behavior. One can exude kindness and exert control at the same time. When I adopted a 4-month-old Rottie Gandolf from Philadelphia SPCA about 23 years ago, I could not raise my voice at all as he would mope for half a day. Eventually he could care less how much I hollered at him for being bad. He understood my love and he also understood my mock anger. He walked by my side without a leash on our neighborhood streets and stayed by my side.

There are endless books on how to raise a puppy. My favorite at this point is The Puppy Whisperer: A Compassionate, Non-violent Guide to Early Training and Care by Paul Owens. A used copy of this book can be had for only about a dollar plus shipping on Amazon. Remember smiles.amazon.com and donate to your favorite animal charity. 

I’ll continue this discussion in March’s column.

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He owns High Falls Holistic Veterinary Care near Geraldine, Alabama. To suggest topics for future discussions, email him at contact@alabamaliving.coop

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