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Teaching People

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Dog Training

Pups Need

. . . . . . training

I saw a lovely quote the other day “if you think money can’t buy love, buy a puppy and you’ll change your mind”. It is a pity some of you don’t share those thoughts, rather than thinking a pup is another addition to your farm machinery.

Pups are very like children. They are born, through no fault of their own, innocent and loving, trusting devoted and totally dependent on those whose care they are under.

It is your responsibility, like any parent, to nurture, care for and guide your youngster through to adulthood, with the best of your ability. If you can’t, because you don’t know how, or won’t, because you are too lazy - don’t get one.

Not all pups turn into champions, just as few of us make the All Blacks or Silver Ferns, but with proper care and guidance can lead a very productive working life.

The point I am making is, very few pups are born that truly deserve a bullet. A perfect example of this is in a conversation I had with a friend (one of our country’s best sheepdog trainers) a few weeks ago. Someone had recently asked him for a pup because “the last eight were all useless and I had to shoot them”. Possibly one out of the eight was no good, but all of them, no. It was very much the man at fault and I pity every dog he ever owns. Rest assured my friend won’t be selling him a pup.

It became apparent to me quite a few years ago, that many of you think, if you get a very well bred pup, from a knowledge and experienced person, that it has been born with a complete understanding of “sit, right and left, run, steady, head, hunt, following at heel, noise or eye at the right time, miles of distance and not forgetting running out on the blind (when there are no sheep or cattle in sight) and every other command you could ever wish for.

Of course you don’t expect this from a pup Joe Blogg gave you. But if you paid $300 you expect it to be fully trained and a joy to own at twelve months old, and with no help from you except leaving it in an enclosure and tossing it half the amount of food that it needs in order to grow.

You may think all that sounds a bit extreme, but sadly it’s not. I have seen it all too often.

With the correct rearing and training most of the pups born, whether they have the best bloodlines in New Zealand or are just a useful farm dog cross, are capable of doing an honest day’s work. You may rear a pup that doesn’t suit you or the type of work that you do, but it will suit someone. If you have done a good job getting it to that point and another responsible person takes over from you, then it should have a worthwhile existence helping someone with their stock work.

I would strongly advise rearing one pup at a time. It will get more of your attention and will bond with you, rather than another pup, plus get into less trouble on its own. One pup, when it is let out, will happily potter around with you and not venture too far, two or more will go exploring, and not only can it be dangerous for them, but they will also cause havoc together.

When you get a pup it should be at least seven weeks old and weaned from its mother for a minimum of a week. It is vital that you find out what it is eating and feed it the same diet for the next few days.

It is a very stressful and harrowing time, to be taken from litter mates and the secure environment that it has grown up in. So if the diet is suddenly changed, on top of the stress of strange people, car journeys, kenneling and other dogs, you can get a very sick and unhappy pup. Don’t be concerned if it is off its food for the first day or two, but if it is anymore consult your vet immediately.

Ideally it would go into a grassed enclosure no smaller than six square meters (the bigger the better) that is well fenced and safe from dangers e.g. glass, sharp/protruding objects, small objects that maybe swallowed or lodged in the throat, poisons – plants or lead paint, and anything that an inquisitive or bored pup may hurt itself with.

Unless the area is particularly large, you will need to keep it clean by regularly picking up bones and faeces. I would call it cruel when a pup has nowhere to walk, lie, play and eat that isn’t clean and dry (not muddy). The enclosure also needs to have good shade and sun, both.

The kennel needs to be warm, dry, clean, sheltered from the searing sun and the entrance needs to be facing away from prevailing winds. If all you can afford is an old metal drum then you can’t afford to feed a dog and pay for the necessary vet bills.

It is perfectly ok to keep a pup in a motel providing it is clean and dry etc and that the grating is good enough for it to walk on safely. I would suggest that you put a sheet of ply down until it is a lot bigger as this would be better for the development of its feet.

I like to put something for pups to play with in their area, especially if they are reared without a playmate. At present there is an old, nylon horse halter tied to the rails as well as a very sturdy, well washed, dishwasher washing powder container that I have put a dozen small stones into before securing the lid, in the pup pen. One is great to pull on, the other makes lovely fun noises. If they are tied to something, in a clean spot they don’t get fouled. Make sure whatever you put there is safe and can’t be swallowed when sharp teeth try to kill it.

If a pup is in a secluded enclosure and experiencing very little of anything, it will more than likely grow up to be nervous and timid. The more it experiences the better. If it is raised near the house or busy sheds with all sorts of noises, cars, motorbikes, tractors, chainsaws, people etc then it should grow up to be well adjusted and confident. Just be very careful that it doesn’t get hurt or badly frightened by anything. Something traumatic can affect it for life.

The more a pup is handled the better it will be for both of you, not only will you bond but it makes training easier. And try to introduce it to strangers. This is important for developing confidence. A pup needs to feel happy and comfortable with other people. It also makes vet visits less hassle. And a dog that isn’t used to being touched will tense up and make examination and diagnosing difficult, vets need to be able to feel tension and reaction in order assess the illness.

If a pup has an enclosure that is big enough for it to run in, stretching and developing muscles, then you can get away with not letting it out as much. But if it is a motel or small enclosure it really needs to play outside for at least 10 minutes twice a day. Not only is it needed for physical development but it also gives you a chance to clean the area as well as handling the pup.

Supervise children with puppies. Children can be rough, sometimes cruel.

If you are thinking eww, it’s dirty and smelly and I don’t want to touch it, then get your act into gear and clean its enclosure. My pups don’t smell and yours shouldn’t either. And if you don’t like touching dogs, full stop, grow vegetables rather than sheep and cattle.

How you feed your pup is very important. As you know it is vital to feed your calves and lambs quality feed, and it is just as important to feed a pup well so that it grows and develops into a strong, well muscled adult. Stock work is hard and very physical, much like rugby and I don’t think someone bought up on a handful of rice would make the All Blacks, just as an underfeed, half starved dog isn’t going to have the strength and stamina to handle a day’s work.

I can’t stress this enough, I feed pups twice a day. There is enough food to eat their fill and leftovers for later. Pups requirements are different to adult dogs, as you would expect.

Raw, preferably, or cooked meat is great, though I wouldn’t feed horse or deer as I feel it is too rich. They do very well on cooked offal. There are some very good dog sausages available, and biscuits especially for pups. Also give variety, not only will it eat heartily but it is more likely to get a well balanced diet. Make sure everything you feed is fresh and good quality and be thoughtful as to where you put the food down (dogs may bury food but it isn’t near faeces).

While we are on the subject of poos, a healthy pup with a balanced diet should have a soft one that holds its shape. If it is dry and crumbly or so soft that it resembles a cows (too much milk or milk that is mixed too strong will do this) then something is wrong with either the food or its health.

Milk straight from the cow must be watered down – about one third water, two thirds milk. I find full cream milk powder from the supermarket bulk bins, the best. It mixes well, it’s yummy and pups do well on it. And make sure you keep the milk bowl clean or it will sour quickly and the pup won’t drink it. Give left over milk to one of your other dogs and give fresh milk twice a day.

There must also be a clean bowl of fresh water available at all times.

A pup needs to be in perfect condition, that is – no hip and rib bones showing and you also shouldn’t be able to feel them, a good covering but not obese as that will put too much strain on the leg joints. The skin on the neck and back should be nice and loose, and the coat shiny.

Hopefully your pup has been wormed at least 3 times (5 better) in its first 8 weeks and it will need regular worming thereafter especially in the first year. I bought a young pup once (Brooke) and she was very potty in the stomach so I wormed her immediately and I have never seen anything so awful.

She was so full of worms that big blobs of them on the ground weren’t even held together with faeces. A couple of days later her front legs bowed badly and I had to bandage them for several days. The vet told me this was a lack of nutrition as a result of the heavy worm infestation. So it is important.

She indecently turned into a brilliant dog though was sadly put down prematurely due to a huge cancer on the liver.

A wise breeder vaccinates pups a week before they go to their new home. Depending on the age of the pup and the vaccine used it will need at least one more shot before going onto an annual vaccination program. Discuss this with your vet.

It may seem like a lot of work and bother having a pup, it is, but you will never have a more devoted or hard working friend.