Dr. Michael Amsberry Training His New Puppy – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Last summer, my wife and I made the decision to bring a new puppy into our lives with the hope we can get back into nursing home and hospital pet visitations once again. Though we have been through this “routine” a number of times, it never fails to amaze me how much there is to do as a new puppy owner. Maple, our precious new girl, is a Golden Doodle. That is – she is a Golden Retriever mixed with a Poodle…meet the doodle!

We brought Maple home on my birthday in late November. Life has not been the same since on many levels. Reminds me of a movie title….The good, the bad, and the ugly. It has been a blast, but not without a few potholes. I remember sleeping on our couch that first night, dear little Maple, not the 23# she is now, but only 7#….she cried both her and I to sleep. Like bumped-knee child, she would whimper, take a deep and hesitant breath, and whine a little whine, and repeat. She had me. We bonded that night. Here, I had told so many of you to pup your puppy in their “den” (crate) and let that be their place of comfort, their refuge. Well, that was not going to work that first night and we took a detour. She just needed some help that first night missing her canine family. I am happy to report that after that rough first night, she now loves being in her den and this has really been great when she teases our yorkies or the cats and needs a “time out” or when we take her in the car.

Many of you have gotten the “new puppy speech” from me over the years, but going through it again – well let’s just say I really appreciate all that you do for your beloved pups and there is never just one way to deal with all the various issues that may arise with any one pup at any one moment. Housetraining, food and feeding, proper play, behavior shaping, bathing, sleeping, separation anxiety, teething, toys, property destruction….did I mention house training…..and that’s not even considering all of the preventative medical care a puppy needs!

We began clicker training her immediately. This is a super way of shaping your pups behavior. Bottom line, there are no short cuts. We have to come to terms with the reality that we can only expect success if we are willing to put the effort and time in. Consistency is king and reward-based training is the queen. Three minutes of daily focused training is a thousand times more successful than 21 minutes on the weekend. I am relearning this too.

Here’s a few tips that I found myself re-learning these past few months…

Housetraining – this is a biggie. I thought Maple would be on auto-pilot in this category. Not so. She has had puppy vaginitis which has made it very difficult in these last few weeks. This will resolve with time and a course of antibiotics. But until then, we are back to ‘Den Training’ again. Consistency is the name of the game. Follow a schedule – puppies generally need to “go” after they play, eat, and drink. Know the signs – circling, sniffing around, and whining. Many people find saying a command (“Go potty!”) as the puppy does their business helps down the road as they will associate the command with what you expect them to do. Use positive reinforcement. Use words of praise and gifts of treats or food to reward “going” in the right place. Punishing for accidents usually only leads to having a puppy that is fearful of urinating anywhere, much less in the appropriate location.

Energy and Behavior. I have found these go hand in hand. The more opportunities for playtime and exercise that we give to Maple, the better behaved she is. Of course, this may be because she is too tired to go looking for trouble, but that works for me! A tired dog is a good dog. Now is also the perfect time to begin formal puppy training to teach important commands such as sit, stay, down, and come.

Teething. Puppies spend their first 6 months teething. Just like human children, this means they naturally look to chew on things. Provide appropriate things to chew on, and quietly remove inappropriate things (like hands). If you make a big deal about the off-limits items, sometimes it becomes a game. As you remove the inappropriate item, supplement with the desired chew toy and eventually, puppy will learn this is appropriate to chew on. Once teething is finally over with, you and your hands should see relief – but it’s important to address the mouthing issue in those first few weeks so that mouthing doesn’t transition into a behavior which remains long after teething is said and done.

I love puppies and working with new puppy parents. The playfulness, curiosity, exploring and naïve nature of our pups is so refreshing and fun. Can’t help but bring a smile to your face and hope in your heart. There are so many details and responsibilities that come with a new puppy, but the other beautiful reminder we have had is that a new puppy comes with unconditional love. For my readers who are new puppy parents please don’t hesitate to write or call me with puppy questions – even non-medical ones. We’d be happy to give you helpful suggestions.

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