• Emma Johnston

Hands and Negative Associations

It is an excitable time bringing a puppy home, we tried to prepare as much as we can with beds, puppy pens, crates, chews, and toys.

some puppies, they burst into our homes with all the confidence as if they have lived here their whole lives.

Others are noticeably worried,

and others look somewhere between the two.

In time, confidence in the home increases, as they start to feel safe they begin to explore their new environment.

Puppies who have inappropriate toys and chews or a serious lack of them are more likely to boredom bite (which is another topic within itself)

The home often has so many things and places to get into mischief that we as puppies owners seem to be constantly shadowing our puppies and often picking them up to remove them from whatever it is they are doing that is undesirable to us.

Holding them back or guiding them in another direction when they are again doing something, we could rather they would not.

The puppy has no idea why they cannot chew the wire, nibble at the table leg, or dig in the flower bed.

What they can start learning though is frustration and prevention of choice

The frustration that when they are engaged in something, the approach of our hand, signals they are about to be prevented from what they are doing.

Frustration biting and growling can begin, and it is easy for puppies to learn that growls and bites gets the hand to back away.

Now I am certainly not saying leave them to it when in a dangerous situation.

However, I do believe we can help our puppies make better choices through being prepared.

Having some high value treats always to hand is a start, let them smell the treat (chicken, cheese garlic sausage all soft and smelly)

Start working on a fun recall where coming to you in the most wonderful of games.

However, before this you can regularly go and let your puppy sniff the high value treat you have, back away a few paces and feed the treat.

It is important to do this not only when you are wanting to distract them from an item but at random times during the day too.

By only bringing a treat out when you want to distract them, they will soon get wise to this and the treat will start to be a predictor that they are about to lose what they are doing.

Instead of using hands as barriers to cause frustration, use your voice, praise and treats or a new healthy chew to reward and distract them, this should prevent them from going straight back to the area or task you dint want them too.

You are not rewarding the undesirable behaviour but rewarding the coming away or exchange of item.

There are other occasions that our hands coming towards can be associated with scary things.

When people still sadly believe physical punishment works to correct a dog’s behaviour.

Maybe your puppy does not like being confined so it is the hands that lift and place them in a crate or pen?

Maybe the dogs are fearful about being lifted onto a grooming table or vets table or car.

I have seen puppies be picked up under their armpits which can cause them pain.

Our hands can take away so many of our dog’s choices, it is easy to see how they can be seen as a negative rather than positive.

Learning to pick pups up correctly, calling them away and rewarding them from undesirable activities, learning how to stroke and massage your pups that is rewarding and relaxing to them and exchange stolen goodies are just a few things we can do to reinforce hands are good.