I’m sure you’ve heard of puppy proofing your home – and you probably start to think of things in your home that might be dangerous to your puppy, like wires lying on the floor or sharp table edges that need covering, for example. However, you might not know that environmental management goes much further than that! Managing your puppy’s environment requires small changes on a daily basis so they have the opportunity to practise appropriate behaviours and make great choices when interacting with their surroundings.
Setting up “Puppy Zones” can be especially useful, and is a smaller area that needs continuous management.
Kicking bad habits early
At first, our puppies have no moral compass (and no idea just how much you spent on your new shoes!) so it’s important that we help them out during the early training stages. It’ll make things easier on both of you if they don’t even have the opportunity to discover how amazing socks are, or how tasty the bin contents can be. Dogs repeat behaviours when they find rewarding results, so if the first time your pup jumps up at the counter and there’s a roast chicken in reach, he’s scored big time! Afterwards, he’ll continue to jump at the counter in search of more tasty food, but if the first time he tries it there’s nothing to be found it’s much less likely that he’ll keep trying. The good news is that we can channel this positive feedback system to teach your pup the right things.
Understandably, it can be really frustrating if your puppy damages something of importance – but we need to be honest with ourselves too, if they managed to get hold of such a precious item were we managing their environment properly? I am the first to admit that I used to be really lazy about putting things away until my puppy came home! Several pairs of socks and some earphones later…and miraculously my puppy has trained me to pick up after myself. Along the way I’ve provided him with some soft toys to replace my socks so now we’re both happy.
Tips & tricks
Here are some environment management tips that have helped me effectively train my pup:
Establish boundaries with your puppy by using stair and baby gates or puppy pens to keep rooms secure and designate confined spaces. Try using separate spaces for short term or prolonged confinement so your puppy will know the difference. Stock any designated puppy zone with engaging toys and chews. A long lasting chew, snuffle mat or treat ball can help keep your puppy stimulated and give them something to do when you’re not around!
Be sure to provide your puppy with plenty of outlets for their natural behaviours! Puppies need a way to fulfil their instinctual needs in a safe way that isn’t destructive or distressing to them or us. For example, if your puppy has a habit of chewing the skirting boards, use a puppy pen to limit their access to the walls, and provide a root chew as an alternative gnawing source. Root chews are a great alternative as they have a similar texture!
Over time, and with consistent training, your puppy will start to establish appropriate behaviours and you won’t have to be as hands on. They will naturally begin making better choices for themselves and recognise a mutually positive reward system. Putting in the time and effort at the beginning will help you form a lasting bond with your furry friend!