I wanted to write to discuss training and its role in helping your young puppy fit into your home and routine. I think that new puppy owners can become overwhelmed with the challenges their new furry loved one poses.
For some, they face challenges with crating, with anxiety, with chewing or biting. They face challenges being able to leave the room for even a few minutes.
I have said that the keys to a well adjusted Lagotto are mental and physical stimulation. That said, I would like to take a few minutes of your time to offer specific solutions or ways of implementing that and it all starts with food.
For most puppy owners food is placed in bowls and given once or twice a day. Physiologically, this is less than ideal for the dog. While dogs have and do eat in this way around the world it is actually better for the dog to eat smaller meals at greater frequency. Second, dogs are often capable of vacuuming up their allotted kibble in under a minute and are then left with hours of time thereafter with little to keep them interested. While mentioned and recommended previously, I would like to draw your attention back to the KONG. This is a small snowman shaped training tool that should be used in your routine as it addresses SO MANY of the problems that new owners and young puppies face.
Your kong can be stuffed with the morning meal and handed to your puppy. Because your kibble is loose and dry, it will readily roll out as the puppy bats it around, paws at it and reaches in with his or her tongue to get his or her meal. This extends the time to eat from under a minute to several minutes - a several hundred percent increase. After trying this for a few days, take it to the next step by moistening your kibble - allow it to absorb some of the water or chicken broth and get soft. Now stuff it in the kong and hand it to your puppy. It will take more work and more time to get it out and this allows your puppy a project that may last up to 15 or 20 minutes. All this time, he is 'working' on a project, is mentally stimulated and is occupied with something other than the corner of your furniture. After several days of this, try soaking the kibble, adding it to the kong and then freezing it the night before. Your puppy may take an hour before he or she has fully extracted his breakfast (and later on, dinner). The advantages are several. He takes longer to eat, he has a project to work on, and he is working his teeth over and satisfying his need to bite something.
Finally, do each of these things by taking your kong, drilling a hole in it and attaching a clip to it so that it is fastened to his crate! In this way, you multiply the benefits because now he eats in his crate - creating a positive association, he learns to calm himself in his crate and he is already learning to deal with the separation anxiety that is often seen between 6 - 12 months.
The other time to use kibble is as a training tool. It i always useful to have high value, highly desirable treats to train with, but if you wake up each morning and set your puppy free to go straight into (after relieving himself) a training session where he gets his meal handed out by working for you - come, sit, down, etc. - he again is highly motivated as he is hungry, he is eating more slowly and he is bonding with you - the source of his meal.
The kong is an underutilized tool. Its simplicity is overlooked or discarded by most, but don't be fooled as to how valuable this can be in helping your young puppy. This single tool is useful for:
- slowing food intake
- giving your puppy a mental challenge
- accommodating your puppy to his crate (if kong is fastened to it)
- Predispose your puppy to enjoy chewing on toys - helpful for the rest of his/her life!
I'd love to hear your stories, feedback and successes