Winter Puppy Blues
The outside thermostat dips below zero. Spilled coffee runs down my face, clothing, and furniture. I am surrounded by four excited German shepherds. And Oshi, our five month old puppy, has positioned herself squarely on my lap. Her innocent enthusiasm, impossible to contain, comes with slobbery tongue, destructive tail and playful barks. Am I crazy for raising a winter puppy?
Spring puppies and spring puppy owners have it easy. Spring puppies love to romp outside when the weather is warm and inviting. They easily learn to complete their bathroom duties outside. Excess energy is channelled by racing across the lawn and exploring a myriad of spring time smells.
Winter puppies, and consequently winter puppy owners like me, have a more challenging time. Teaching a puppy to walk across a frozen deck, through a snow covered yard, to go to the bathroom is time consuming and frustrating. Neither puppy nor owner wants to brave the cold and snow to find a suitable outdoor site. All too often a winter puppy will sneak to another room and relieve themselves.
Contending with puppy energy is more difficult during the winter months. Winter puppies will express many creative and mischievous habits when they are bored. They will jump up on guests. They will chew table legs and furniture. They will chase the family cat, play tooth tag with the children, and hunt for food on the kitchen counter. All of these bad behaviours increase when a puppy is bored and stuck indoors.
The only way to counter the 'winter puppy blues' is to be proactive. Bundle up and get out there. Brave the cold to take your puppy for a short walk. Bring along a few special treats to reward puppy for relieving themselves. Puppies will happily hold their bathroom duties until your daily walks if they anticipate a treat reward for going outside.
When indoors allow for frequent puppy play times. Your puppy will eagerly engage in obedience training as a way of relieving boredom. Use treats to reward your puppy as you command them to 'sit', or to 'down' or to 'come'. Teach puppy to retrieve a toy or to hold an object. This will channel puppy energy towards positive behaviours.
If your puppy, like my Oshi, gets carried away and jumps onto your lap once in awhile, calm your anger and frustration. Remember, she will only be a puppy for a short time. She doesn"t mean to be bad; she just loves you to bits.
Be firm and fair in your discipline, but always love your puppy. Someday you might need a slobbery tongue and a wagging tail to get you through the day.Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists