Friday, July 24, 2009

“The breeder said not to train my dog until she’s 6 months old.”

I have recently welcomed some new clients in my pet sitting business: Three goldendoodles, all from different families, two from the same “breeder.” I would like to reserve the great debate about designer breeds for another time. My focus today is what breeders and vets tell new pet owners.

At first I thought the breeders were a bunch of crackpots, especially after hearing the advice that came from the pet store where one of the dogs was purchased. The owner said, “This breed is special; you can’t train them until they are at least six months old.” As a result, the dog that arrived at my house has never been in a crate or in a car, doesn’t know how to walk on a leash and doesn’t allow the owner to brush her. This is “special” all right– a recipe for a special kind of disaster.

Playing catch-up on all these training issues will be challenging for a novice dog owner. Quite frankly, I believe no experienced dog owner would listen to such advice (or buy from a pet store, but that’s another great debate). Puppies are capable of learning from the second they enter your home at 8 weeks old. They are more receptive before they reach those dreaded teenage months. They are still small and easier to handle; they also do less damage when they chew or misbehave. What was this “breeder” thinking?

After asking some careful questions of the dog owners, I found out more. I asked why the breeders and pet store personnel believe this– what reasoning did they offer? The owners were told that because the dog hasn’t had all her shots, she should be kept at home for her own safety.

That’s different. What I think really happened here is the owners misinterpreted what they were told. They were TOLD not to take their dog out in public for several months. They HEARD: don’t train my dog for several months. Big difference.

Not just doodles

Another client recently purchased a miniature dachshund. Their vet told them not to let him on the grass until he’s had all his shots.

Huh? How do you housetrain this dog? I called the vet. What he meant was “Don’t let the dog on grass out in public (like the dog park), where there are lots of unknown dog germs, until he’s had all of his shots.” But that’s not how they interpreted it.

Listen Up, People!

So vets, breeders and pet sitters: be careful how you word the advice you give new, inexperienced dog owners. People can only absorb so much information at a time, so don’t overload them. Be very, VERY clear about what you mean.

Okay pet owners, your turn. Buy books, call trainers, look at reputable web sites (I’d be happy to provide some resources), talk to friends. If something you hear defies logic, ask for an explanation. You don’t want to damage your future with your dog because you got bad information, or heard it wrong.

And to the rest of us: I am not a vet; you are not a vet. Be careful what advice you give.

Photo above: Goldendoodle and bloodhound fun in the summer. Did I mention that goldendoodles get really, really dirty?

© copyright Terry Albert. All rights reserved.


puppynerd said...

I've been reading Bones Would Rain From the Sky recently, and the author mentions that advice as something she heard a lot too, so apparently it is (or was) common.

Her take is that training used to mean something different. Housetraining, bite inhibition, walking on a leash were just manners. The stay-at-home mother taught those just like she taught the children manners, they weren't something special you had to go to school for. Instead, training would mean formal obedience, with lots of heeling, and long stretches of very focused behaviors. Which does sound like something that would be rough on a young puppy.

Terry Albert said...

Thanks for your comment. Yes I agree that "training" means different things to different people, and the person who recommended that the owners wait probably meant wait to take classes.

But people sometimes don't interpret what we say correctly, and that's the confusion that leads to problems. I like your analogy about teaching children.