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Puppy Raising 101
by Rebekah James

Sometimes it seems I counsel endless people on puppy training issues. People ask for help with eliminating in the house, chewing problems, and all sorts of other issues that would be prevented by proper early puppy handling and training. Here is a short synopsis on how to raise a puppy that will be a good canine citizen and be ready for learning all you want to teach him by the time he is 4 to 5 months old.

BABY TALK. The single most important decision you will make is the selection of the breeder from whom you buy your puppy. Take your time, do your research, and choose well. Once you have decided on your breeder, and you know about when your new pup is coming home, it's time to do some shopping. Here's a list of things to have on hand:

FENCING. I cannot say enough about how important good secure fencing is for your puppies and dogs. Invest in good material and have it installed properly. 5' is a minimum height. 6' is better. Gates must always be locked. Rottweilers are heat sensitive dogs. They must have access to deep shade and plenty of cool water at all times.

CRATES. At least 1 for the house and 1 for your vehicle. I prefer the plastic type for the vehicle, and wire ones in the house. If you have several crates in the house, it will simplify your life. I keep 1 in the kitchen, living room, and bedroom when I am starting a baby puppy.

BABY GATES. Get several, they are not very expensive and can really save you a lot of headaches.

PADLOCKS. For all your gates in any yard your dog will occupy. Gates must be locked at all times.

PATIENCE. Puppies and puppy training can be very frustrating at times. Anger has no place in dog or puppy training. If your temper is short, or you are losing your cool, take time out. Put the pup in the crate. Start again when you are feeling better.

RESPONSIBILITY. Owning a Rottweiler is a serious responsibility. Inform yourself. Get books. Talk to people in the know. Surf the net. The more you know the better off you will be. Keep your dog fenced when on your property and leashed when off your property. Train early and often. Encourage manners and friendliness. Spay and neuter your pets. Take good medical care of your dog. Take supplies to pick up after your dog EVERYWHERE YOU GO. Simple grocery bags work fine and fit easily into a pocket. This is one reason why dogs are not welcome in a lot of places. NEVER leave feces lying anywhere.

Puppy personal items....

Collars -

NEVER EVER leave ANY collar on your dog unless you are training or walking it on leash. Collars, even ones that do not slip, can be deadly if they get snagged on something. Your puppy could easily die. NO collars when unsupervised, and NEVER in a crate.

Leashes -
4 ft and 6 ft leather, and 26 ft retractable.
You will probably need a 2 ft leash later on during training

Stainless steel bowls -
2 quart size works best for me
Stainless steel buckets -again I like the 2 quart size
Double end snaps -These have many uses. I use them for hanging buckets in crates. Get several. Brass is best.

TOY BOX OR BASKET -Important. Decide where it's going to stay, and stock it well withinteresting puppy toys and chews.

Now is the time to find your puppy kindergarten class. Find as many as you can in your area. Go to classes to observe. Join the one that has happy instructors, puppies, and handlers. Other criteria that help are advanced classes offered, and the ability to take classes to prep your dog for the obedience ring if you want to do that later.

If you don't have a regular vet, this is the time to set that up. Visit around. Find a practice and a vet you like, and make an appointment for your first visit. If your puppy does not arrive with a microchip for permanent ID have that done at your first visit.

Now you have your place all prepared with puppy paraphernalia, and the big day is at hand. Try to pick up your puppy in the morning when you are going to have a couple of days off. This will really help the puppy in his adjustment period, since he will have someone with him for at least a couple of days while he is learning the ropes. It will also help you, because there are going to be at least a few sleepless nights with almost all puppies.

There are several key rules to follow once you get your puppy home.

1) SUPERVISION IS SWEET. If you cannot be actively watching your pup, he should be in his crate, or tethered to your belt with a 6 foot lead. Puppies who are not completely supervised learn inappropriate behaviors that can cause problems later. Supervise, or confine. Use the baby gates to keep the pup in the room with you when he is not confined or tethered.

2) PENCIL IT IN. A regular schedule will help everyone. Get up at the same time, put the pup to bed at the same time, feed at the same times, and keep track of how many trips outdoors you are making. Puppies will need to go as soon as they wake, and depending on age, as often as every 2 to 3 hours during the day. It is YOUR JOB to see to it that the puppy is outside in the proper area each time he needs to eliminate. This sentence is so important, I'm going to write it again. IT IS YOUR JOB to see to it that THE PUPPY IS OUTSIDE in the proper area EACH TIME HE NEEDS TO ELIMINATE. It is not the puppy's job to let you you know. You must NEVER be unhappy with the puppy for eliminating in the house. IF this happens, it's your fault. Watch closer. Keep records of the puppy's elimination habits. Have the pup outside as often as he needs to go.

3) PERUSE THE POTTY PERIOD. Yes, this means that EVERY time you MUST go outside WITH the puppy. Keep tidbits of some sort in your pockets at ALL times when you have a puppy. YOU are the source of all things good, and the sooner your baby learns this, the better for all. EACH time you go out with the puppy for elimination, say excitedly, just before you open the door, "Do you want to go outside??" Once outside in your chosen potty area, keep quiet. Be still. Let the puppy concentrate and sniff. The INSTANT elimination starts, you should say your chosen potty word. I use "pee pee" for urinate, and "poop" for defecate. If you will name the action as it is occurring, your puppy will perform on command in a matter of days. This is permanent learning, and will come in handy for the life of the dog. As your puppy is urinating, for example, stand close, and quietly say Go Pee Pee. Good Pee Pee. Way to go PEE PEE. Until the pup is finished. Once finished, immediately stuff a nice tasty treat in his mouth, go back inside, and have play time, etc. If you have a normal puppy, and if you supervise, food reward, and verbally name all elimination, most puppies will be at least urinating on command within 10 days. Sometimes less.

4) ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN. Don't worry about them. Clean up matter of factly, and move on. If you catch the puppy in the actual ACT of eliminating, clap your hands, say AH AH!! OUTSIDE!!, pick the puppy up, and rush him outside. If he finishes out there, PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE, and then go inside and clean up. If not, oh well. The single most important thing with housetraining is to reward outdoor elimination, and supervise indoors, trying as much as possible to have the puppy outdoors when he needs to go. Punishing mistakes inside will only teach the puppy to go hide when he has to go.

5) CRATES ARE KIND. A crate trained dog has many advantages that his untrained counterpart does not. He can travel with you easily. He'll be welcomed back as he can be quiet and out of the way in his crate when visiting in a home or hotel. Crate trained dogs have less stress and recover more quickly if they have to be confined due to illness or surgery. They can relax and recover since they are happy in a confined area. Be a strong leader for your pup. Help him learn to relax in his own personal space. I like to keep several crates in the house. One in the kitchen area, one in the living area, and one by my bedside. Bedtime is the time to learn about the crate if the pup does not already know. When it's time for bed, put the pup in with a tasty treat, close the door, and go to bed. Make sure you have treats IN THE POCKETS of whatever you are going to put on when you get up. Keep the crate right beside the bed where you can dangle your hand and let pup sniff your fingers if need be. Correct all vocalizations. Corrections with puppies should be the VERY least required to interrupt the behavior. Start with verbal corrections. If correction for vocalization in the crate is necessary, say AH AH!! Immediately when the puppy is quiet, praise. GOOD QUIET. Puppy is learning a new word. Quiet. Good puppy. Covering a crate can sometimes help with whining or crying. As in all other training areas, be kind, firm, strong, and consistent. Never release the puppy from the crate when it's whining or crying. If you have to wait for him to take a breath, never open the door unless he is quiet. If verbal corrections have no effect, go upwards to crate tapping or thumping. As a last resort, use a spray bottle. In the morning when it's time to come out, PICK THE PUP UP (as long as you can) and CARRY him straight to his potty area. Most puppies can't hold it and will squat as soon as they are out of the crate if you don't.

6) BE A LAUDABLE LEADER. Dogs do not and never will understand or live in a democratic society. There IS a hierarchy. If you don't assume the leadership role, many of your smart puppies WILL. Be kind. Give your puppy the structure he needs to grow into a well adjusted canine companion. Get in puppy training EARLY. NO LATER than 16 weeks, and 12 weeks is better. There are large numbers of good articles and information available about the "Nothing In Life Is Free" program, and how to structure your household so that your puppy understands where he fits in. Read up. Be informed. Ask questions. Take the leadership role. Your puppy AND YOU will be so very glad you did. Dominance issues are much better prevented than treated. Structure and leadership in your puppy's life will prevent most dominance issues.

7) GET OUT THERE AND DO SOMETHING! Socialization plays an extremely important role in the development of your good canine citizen. Socialization MUST happen between the ages of 7 and 20 weeks. There is NO redoing this socialization period. If you miss it, you will be playing catch up for the entire life of the dog. You and your puppy should be out and about away from your home, including a car ride, at LEAST 3X per week. Take cookies. Go where people are. It's easy to get people to pet an adorable puppy. Do this often. Incorporate a little fun obedience play/work. Shape your puppy's behavior with visitors. During this time I teach puppies "SIT to visit". Good puppy. "NO TEETH on visitors". Good puppy. "Watch me when I say your name." GOOD PUPPY. You are building your good foundation for training later, and teaching the beginnings of attention under distraction. Control the interactions. Take every opportunity to mark behaviors you want, (YES, Good puppy!) (treat) and to extinguish those you don't. (AH AH!) (redirect and reward.) Reward the good. Verbally correct, or gently physically control your puppy from those you don't. Corrections with puppies should be the VERY least required to interrupt the behavior. This is easy when the puppy is 12 weeks. Not so easy later when the puppy is 6 months and 85 lbs. Keep in mind always the size your puppy is going to be. Do not encourage cutesy things in the little puppy that will not be so cute when the dog is 100 lbs. Don’t teach your puppy to pull his head away from you by grabbing for things he might pick up that he should not have. Some gentle upward pressure on a buckle collar will make the puppy release anything he has in his mouth. Watch closely. As the puppy spits out whatever it is he has, say “OUT”. Puppy is learning another important command.

8) REV UP THE RECALL RIGHT. If you do so, your dog will come when you call it, even in the face of severe distraction. Play recall games with your pup often. Set up groups of people with treats, have each one call the puppy and give the treat when the puppy arrives. One person holds the pup, and points it head first towards the one who is going to call. The caller has the tidbit in his/her hand. When the puppy is looking, call PUPPY PUPPY PUPPY, smile, clap your hands. When the puppy is racing toward you, and ONLY THEN, say the puppy's name, and the recall command. For example, "Fluffy, COME!" Hold the hand with the treat up next to your body. Do not reach out for the puppy. Puppy may not have the treat until you have your hand on the collar. This prevents the "snatch the treat and run" game. Once the pup has the treat, pet and praise, and then point the pup towards the next person. Puppies and people LOVE this game. Play it as often as possible. NEVER call your puppy unless you are SURE the puppy is coming, or you have it on lead or a long line and you can make sure the puppy comes. NEVER call unless you have a treat to offer. NEVER call for something unpleasant. If in doubt, GO GET THE PUPPY. Calling and coming to you should ALWAYS be a pleasant experience. If you are careful, you can build a strong reliable recall that may even save your puppy's life one day. It only takes one or two mistakes to ruin a cheerful recall on a dog. Be careful. Practice daily. Always make it fun.

9) TRAIN, DON'T COMPLAIN. You can start training your puppy the very day you get it. Reward the puppy each time he looks up at you, especially if you have said his name. Rewards can be many things. Praise. Smiling. Treats. Physical petting. Seek out eye contact from the puppy and reward it often. Teach sit and down and stand early. This is VERY easily done even with tiny puppies using food. No hands allowed. Put the tidbit between your index finger and your thumb so the puppy can smell it but not get it. Let him get interested in it. Put your fingers with the treat right ON the pups nose, then move it slowly backwards toward the puppy's tail. As the nose comes up, the rear will go down, and the pup will sit. AS he is sitting, say SIT, good puppy, and feed the treat. Remember, NO TOUCHING except for praise after the puppy sits! Repeat 3X, and do this 3X daily. Once puppy is sitting fairly reliably, you can teach down. With puppy in sit position, touch the hand with the bait to the puppy's nose, and move it straight down the chest and then out forward towards the paws. SLOWLY. Be patient. Say nothing. It may take several tries. If the puppy loses interest, try again later. Most puppies will quickly lie down to lick your hand where the treat is. IMMEDIATELY say DOWN, good puppy, and give the treat. Now your puppy has learned 2 of the basic commands that much of later training is built on. Many puppies will learn these things in MINUTES. It's so exciting and rewarding to see them learning! Once you have sit, it's easy to teach STAND. With the puppy sitting, hold the treat on the nose, and gently touch or tickle the puppy just in front of the rear legs. You might have to assist at first with just a bit of lifting, and the puppy should stand. As this is happening, say STAND, good puppy, and give the treat. If you go to puppy training with a pup that can sit, lie down, stand, and come on command, and who has a start on attention, guess who is going to be the star of the class? YOU are!

10) TRUMP UP THE TOY BOX. Puppies MUST chew. They must have access to good interesting items for chewing at all times. Even as puppies, you must be selective about what items you allow your Rottie to have. Rottweilers are very hard chewers. Items must be selected that may not be destroyed. Some puppies can never have soft fabric type toys, and many types of balls INCLUDING TENNIS BALLS ONCE PAST ABOUT 20 weeks, as so many items can be choking or intestinal blockage hazards. Good things to select include larger solid rubber balls (MUST be larger than a tennis ball), Kong toys, Raw beef marrow bones, Nyla bones, and the all time favorite around here is empty plastic soda bottles. Be extremely careful and supervise any fabric, string, or other toys. I do not recommend rawhide, and never give it to my dogs.

When your puppy is looking for something to chew, take him to the toy box. SMILE at the pup, and in a happy tone of voice say "Ohhh, look at all these TOYS!", or "WHERE is your TOY BOX??" This is something else the pup will learn quickly. For the first several weeks, make sure each time the pup goes to the box he finds a toy with a little smear of peanut butter or cheese whiz on it. It just takes a dab to make an impression on the puppy. Each time the pup looks at, sniffs, or puts his mouth on anything he should not have or chew, correct him verbally. ("AH AH! Leave it!") Corrections with puppies should be the VERY least required to interrupt the behavior. Then cheerfully take him to the toy box. Help him find a toy and a goodie. Most dogs learn about the toy box really fast. They will still need occasional help or reminding, but this will drastically decrease your odds of the puppy chewing the wrong thing. I also correct any looking up or sniffing at table or counter tops. Redirect to the toy box. Combine this with crating at all times when you are not supervising the pup, and you will soon have a well housetrained dog who understands where to go for something good to chew. Do not give your puppy ANY opportunities to make mistakes and chew inappropriate items in your home. Keep things put away. Close doors. Use baby gates and crates. Many puppies and dogs get a bit of anxiety when you leave. Chewing is their method of choice for relieving this anxiety. They naturally tend to select things to chew with your scent on them because they are comforted by this. This type of chewing to relieve anxiety is called a "self rewarding behavior". Punishing or correcting a dog for anything that happened when you were not looking is useless. It will only destroy the trust you are trying to build, and it will not influence the behavior. Remember, once an act has occurrred, You can NEVER take away the reward the dog got from making his anxiety go away. Each time a dog is allowed to chew inappropriately, it is more likely to happen again. Don't take chances. Set your dog up for success. Use your crate and keep your puppy safe when you are away.

11) EXERCISE IS EXCELLENT. A tired puppy is a GOOD puppy. Forced exercise (running, jogging, conditioning) should be left until after 18 months of age and preliminary hip and elbow exrays, but your puppy needs plenty of time to play and be active. Fresh air and outdoor fun is very important for a young growing puppy. Go for short casual neighborhood walks. Toss toys for him using the retractable lead. Have several of the same toy, and teach the pup to come back and play "trade" for what he has in his mouth. You can also trade for treats. Don't reach out to the dog, or try to take anything out of his mouth. Instead, offer him another toy or a treat to trade. Hold the article you are trading close to your body so the dog has to come all the way in. Make a point of touching the collar each time you trade. Each time he releases an object to you, say "OUT." This is a marvelous exercise that teaches the retrieve, the release, helps with the recall, puts you in a leadership position, and is great fun and exercise for the pup. Once he is coming back reliably, you can reduce your useage of the lead if you are working in a safe fenced area. Keep in mind, working on a leash or a line gives you an immediate way to help your pup make the right choices.

12) DON'T LET DOMINANCE DO YOU IN. Take the lead with your puppy. If YOU are a kind, firm, consistent, and benevolent leader, your puppy will not feel he needs to control an out of control situation. Here is how to be your puppy's adored leader:

Take charge. Control the things in the puppy's life so he can relax. Until he is quite a bit older, sleep should be inside a crate each night, so puppy is safe and sound and so are your household articles. Teach puppy not to exit the crate until you say OK. Some well timed door closing does this in a flash. Work this each time puppy is coming out of the crate. Use the wait command. Open the door slightly. If the puppy starts out, close the door hard enough to make a little noise (making sure not to catch the pup inside it), and say WAIT. When the puppy is waiting, release him and let him come out. Same with doorways or gates. Puppy has to wait until you say OK. Take every chance you get to praise the puppy for doing what you want. Ignore or interrupt and redirect unwanted behaviors. Corrections with puppies should be the VERY least required to interrupt the behavior.

Feed to succeed
. The leader is a good provider. Food comes from you. Puppy should learn to sit before you put his bowl down. Don't allow puppy to beg while you eat. If he is too small to learn to behave, crate him while you are eating. I growl and make direct eye contact to teach puppies not to beg, and it WORKS. If your pup is staring while you are eating, Make direct eye contact and freeze. Sit up tall. If the pup is still looking, lean forward, narrow your eyes, and growl while keeping the eye contact. I have not seen ONE dog that this does not work with. They will look away and find something else to do.

Train that brain.
Leaders command respect, and must be obeyed. Be a fair and consistent trainer.

Walk this way.
Leaders walk where they wish and subordinants must get out of the way. Don't walk over or around your dog. If he is in your path, he must move.

Tooth and Nail.
Don't allow mouthing or jumping up. Teach the puppy to sit when being greeted. Redirect early mouthing (before 12 weeks) with verbal correction (OWWEEE!!) and redirection to the toy box. After 12 weeks or so, I allow no mouthing. I stop it earlier if it's out of hand. Verbally correct and redirect with toys.

If this is not working.....

Take it to the top. Of the neck that is. Correct your puppy for mouthing or other serious infractions by taking firm hold of the loose skin at the underside of the top of the neck under the chin, forcing eye contact, and scolding in a low firm tone of voice. "NO BITE". Look for signs of submission such as licking out of the tongue, ears flat back, looking away, a fore paw raised. Control the puppy's head until he relaxes and gives you at least one of these signs. Then release the puppy and ignore him for a few minutes. No making up or saying "I'm sorry". Do not use this correction except for the most serious infractions. Corrections with puppies should be the VERY least required to interrupt the behavior. The alpha commands absolute respect, and corrects according the the level of the insubordination.

Head it off at the pass. Head control is dog control. Teach your puppy to allow you to control his head. Grasp the muzzle very briefly, then reward. Gradually increase the time you can hold the muzzle. Later combine this with a slight upward pressure on the collar and slight downward pressure on the muzzle with your other hand. Head control is important for so many things, but especially for vet visits and exams, and if you are going to the breed ring with the pup. Teach mouth handling the same way. Start with a tiny short "lip flip" and work up to the point that you can examine all the teeth and the entire inside of the mouth. The same desensitization methods work for handling of the feet, ears, and testicles on male dogs. Dogs should be accustomed to having all parts of their body handled early on.

Training your dog to be a good canine citizen takes time and dedication. Every puppy is entitled to the education it needs to grow into a well adjusted young adult. They don't all get it. Many thousands of dogs die each year simply because no one took the time to teach them how to behave and get along in our human world. Please research carefully and understand before you get a puppy that good dogs don't just happen. They are MADE. If you have chosen the right breeder, you are getting a puppy who has the built in genetic abilities to be a marvelous companion and working dog for you. It is up to YOU to develop these traits. The dog you end up with will depend solely on how you control the first year or so of the dog's life, and his early training and socialization experiences. There is an old saying, and it has a lot of truth in it, that goes something like "You always end up with the dog you deserve". This article is a bare bones primer on how to get started. Welcome to a wonderful journey. Be advised it will be over so very soon, it will seem like the blink of an eye. They give so very much and ask so very little of us in return. Enjoy the ride. Take lots of pictures. Bite the bullet and work hard the first 18 months. You will see your reward each time you look into those gorgeous deep brown eyes.

Suggested reading:

How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With by Rutherford and Neil

The Complete Rottweiler by Murial Freeman

Sirius Puppy Training, by Dr. Ian Dunbar

Who's In Charge Here?

American Rottweiler Club Home Page

Free for use by anyone as long as proper author credit is given.
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