5 Tips for Raising Your Show Puppy
5 TIPS FOR RAISING YOUR SHOW PUPPY
Getting a new show puppy is exciting! Waiting for the new puppy to come home while daydreaming about the amazing show dog your puppy will grow up to be seems like the hard part, but the real work comes when the puppy arrives. Obviously it takes more than reading a single blog post to raise a successful, confident and happy show puppy, but with these five tips, you will be will on your way.
Teach stand first
Teach your show puppies to stand as their default behavior. A default behavior is the behavior that the dog offers you automatically. Most people instill a sit in their puppies first, which is fine, but if sit is the default behavior, this is what the dog will give you when he isn’t sure what else to do. In other words, sit will be his go to behavior. Instead, teach stand first and get that behavior being offered regularly before teaching sit. It takes nothing more than offering a treat whenever your puppy stands on his own or using a treat to lure him from a sit or a down into a stand and then giving him the treat. By teaching the stand first and continuing to reinforce stands you are setting your show dog up to stand in the ring rather than sit.
Potty on cue
One of the most beneficial behaviors you can teach a show dog is to go potty on cue. This means that when you give a verbal cue such as “go potty” your dog immediately goes potty. This is important because show dogs need to be able to easily relieve themselves at dog shows and hotels on different surfaces and in different environments. Simply say “go potty” every time you take your puppy out and give a treat as soon as he goes. Once he masters this in his regular potty location start to ask for it in other areas such as your front yard.
Show dogs need to be comfortable traveling in the car, possibly by plane and staying in hotels. While crate training is a great thing to teach all puppies it is critical for puppies intended to be future show dogs. Your show dog may spend extended periods in his crate and it is your best interest to make his crate a place he likes to be. Hopefully, your puppy’s breeder has already introduced the crate and your puppy is comfortable being in the crate for sleeping, resting and traveling. If your breeder has not done this, you will want to start this right away.
Create a comfortable space by putting a blanket, pad or mat in the crate. Make the crate a positive place by feeding your puppy his meals in the crate. That’s right, when you feed your puppy have him go into his crate and reinforce him by feeding his meals in there. When your puppy in his crate to rest or hang out offer him a nice chewy such as a bully stick or bone so he has something to keep him busy. Periodically toss a high value treat into the crate while he is chewing to ensure he doesn’t feel the need to guard his crate. Do not leave your puppy crated for long periods of time and make sure that you take him out often to relieve himself.
Socialize and Expose
This seems like obvious advice, but you would be surprised how many people don’t adequately socialize their show puppies. Show dogs are exposed to a lot and need to be raised to take these things in stride. The window of socialization opportunity closes at about 5 months. This means that in order to effectively socialize a puppy it must be done prior to 5 months of age. This doesn’t mean that you can’t expose a dog later on in life, of course you can, however, at that time the exposure does not offer the same benefit as it would in a younger puppy.
When socializing and exposing puppies it is important to not overwhelm the puppy. The exposure should be lighthearted, fun and positive for the puppy. If your puppy shows concern or worry over something, don’t force and pressure him. Instead, allow him to ease himself into it at his pace.
Puppy classes may or may not be the right choice for you, but they are an option for sure. I want all my dogs, regardless of their sport of choice to be comfortable around other dogs and people, but I don’t want them to want to visit other people and dogs constantly. For this reason, I generally opt for more real life socialization than group classes. I take them places including to dog shows, friend’s houses, the grooming shop where I work and to dog friendly shops and restaurants. All of this exposure is paired with treats, play, fun and a good time.
Teach manners and life skills
It is definitely a good idea to teach “stand” as your default behavior, but that doesn’t mean that your other training should take a back seat. Manners and life skills training should start early and will make your life easier when your puppy becomes an adolescent and then an adult. Positive reinforcement training helps to build a strong working relationship with your puppy as well as teaching useful skills. Use positive reinforcement training to teach these basic behaviors:
- Leave it
- Come here
Puppy raising is a lot of work, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! Enjoy your journey with your new puppy and have fun getting to know your new partner! For more information on puppy raising, check out our puppy course From Whelping to Winning!