Building a relationship with your new puppy
First, you should know that you cannot simply bring a pup into the household and expect him to find his own way around your house and your property. He will need your guidance and protection, because he is still a little baby that has been adopted by you, and he comes with exactly the same amount of responsibility as a new baby, This is the reason why I advise people to make absolutely sure that they really do want a pup before they actually go ahead and buy one.
Next, you have to understand that the pup has been suddenly taken away from his mom without him having any say in the matter, and he will probably resent the situation. That is normal, and it is up to you to make sure he doesn’t begin to resent you. Just as important, it is up to you to give him a reason to want you as his owner, and provide him with enough scope to accept you as his parent.
Once you understand and accept these two facts and are ready, willing and able to take on the responsibility that comes with a pup, you are ready to own a dog.
So now that you have chosen a puppy and introduced him to the household, the next important thing is to build a relationship with him. In order to effectively build a relationship with him, you need to understand how a dog/handler relationship works, and in order to understand that, you need to know how a dog’s mind works.
There are two basic categories of differences between dogs and humans. These categories are physical differences and mental differences.
One would think that because the physical differences are so obvious, dog handlers would automatically take that into consideration when dealing with a dog. But humans are not so clever after all, it seems. I will only mention the most fundamental physical difference which is height, without going into differences such as the fact that dogs have fur coats and a few more teeth than humans do, and have grooves in their palates in order for water to be transported towards their throats so that they can swallow the water, which is part of another discussion entirely.
Difference in height is an obvious result of the dog walking on all four of his legs, while his handler walks only on his “hind” legs. This causes the handler to appear to the dog as being enormous. Size matters a lot to dogs. You might have noticed when two dogs of the same gender meet each other for the first time and start to “size each other up”. They would raise their tails and hackles, and their manes if they have any, and they would stretch their legs to as long as they can… all in an effort to try and look taller. The fact that we appear so large to dogs give us a significant advantage over dogs. Our size is intimidating to them, and they will obey our commands purely based on that.
Other advantages include being able to see a lot further than dogs. For instance, we can see clearly where an article lands when we throw it out for a dog to retrieve. However, the dog may have only his sense of smell to rely on when looking for the article he has to retrieve. To a miniature Dachshund your lawn may appear like a jungle, and his field of vision is not nearly sufficient to see a small ball, if that’s your retrieve article. We can also use our hands to leash and unleash the dog, and to deal out love or punishment. (Personally, I detest humans who use their hands to punish dogs and/or children).
As far as mental differences are concerned, we need to consider that dogs mainly act on instinct and conditioning. All will agree that humans are infinitely more intelligent than dogs, and that it will probably remain that way. We cannot reason with a dog, because the dog will not understand. No matter how hard we try to get the dog to understand our language, such an effort will always fail miserably. In order to get a dog to sit, for instance, you need to repeatedly show him exactly what you mean by uttering the sound “sit”. Dogs understand sound, not words. For instance if you teach him to respond to “sit” uttered in a whisper he will not respond when you shout “sit” because he will not understand. Shouting “sit” represents to the dog a sound that differs from “sit” as a whisper. He has subsequently learned to associate the whispered sound “sit” to the action of sitting. In canine terms, this is called conditioning.
In order to make the training a bit easier, you can draw on the natural instincts of the dog by adding food in the form of treats. To eat is one of the basic instincts of any living organism. So using treats by feeding the dog a treat at the exact moment his backside strikes the floor (or grass or soil, depending on where you train the dog) he will associate the action of sitting with food. So the moment he hears the whispered sound ”sit”, which he has also began to associate with the action of sitting, he will automatically sit without contemplating, because he will expect a treat coming his way because of the action of sitting.
Now I know this sounds easy. Trust me, it’s not. It becomes second nature when you do it a lot, yes, but training your first pup can be a mission. And this is where the building of a relationship comes in.
You build a relationship with your pup by loving him, and showing him that you care. During training this is done by perpetually encouraging him to do the right thing, and by praising him and feeding him treats when he does. I will include a full article on training at a later stage. For now just a bit on building the relationship.
The first thing I would like to accentuate is the fact that puppies should never be punished by hitting them. As I stated earlier, your pup has been taken from his mom without his initial consent, and if you are going to make a habit of hitting him, he will associate you with the situation of being away from the only being who was so close to him that he literally fell asleep at night to the sound of her heartbeat. He will learn to resent you, and while he will soon forget the reason why he resents you, he will still associate you with something negative, and might never get over that. So it is for your own good as well as for the pup’s good not to hit him.
Getting him to do what you want is done by encouragement, praise and treats up to certain point, after which you can use a harsher method of correction, but never by using violence. Do it this way, and you will soon discover another of his basic instincts, which is to please his master/mistress.
The encouragement/praise/treat method is used for literally anything you would like your pup to do, from sitting or lying down, to waiting for his food until you command him to eat, to potty training, to tricks. The moment the pup realises you have become his all, the scope is endless. Dogs are more intelligent than some people would like to admit.
Other great ways of building relationship is to take him for walks, to sometimes pick him up and let him lie on your lap while stroking his head and back. Some pups also love having their tummies tickled. And taking him to the vet can be a regular highlight to him, believe it or not. Choose your vet wisely… some of them are just in it for the money. If you cannot find a vet who is a Pagan, make sure you choose one that adores dogs, and is probably a dog breeder.
Include your pup in outside family games. Dogs love to retrieve balls and Frisbees. In general, love him, and show him that you do. The rest will follow. And don’t forget to let him have access to plenty of cool, clear water, especially after exercise.
Until next time, take care!