Are you thinking about getting a puppy? You might already be a puppy owner or know someone who is.
If so, I think you’ll find this interview with dog trainer Dominic Hodgson really helpful as it’s about his new book, the Perfect Puppy Project.
Bringing a new puppy into your home is a huge responsibility and the more prepared you are, the better.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a puppy in my world. My parents got our gorgeous Cocker Spaniel Charlie when I was 18 and away at uni.
I would go home and giving him cuddles and enjoy walks but never was involved in any of the training – although I remember being peed on a lot.
Since, I’ve always had older dogs, so I’ve never been a full on puppy mum.
I’ve always found the thought of it so daunting, so it was really interesting to chat to Dominic about his advice on how best to cope.
Why did you decide to write a book about puppies?
A lot of my previous books have been written to help fix common problems that exasperated dog owners suffer from, but with the The Perfect Puppy Project I wanted to do something preventative, that would help new puppy parents to prevent problems before they start!
When it comes to puppies there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there, and not all of it is helpful to new owners, in fact some of it is downright dangerous, so I wanted to put my common sense stamp on the subject of puppy training, and help reassure and guide the petrified first time puppy owner.
You’ve done other training books, what is the difference with the puppy book?
I guess the main difference is this book is more prescriptive than my other books.
With The Perfect Puppy Project I’ve tried to lay out a fool-proof strategy that takes new owners by the hand, and guides them from the minute they bring the puppy home until the puppy is around six months old.
Let’s be honest, raising a puppy is difficult, and it doesn’t matter what kind of puppy you get, or even if you’ve owned a dog in the past, it’s still difficult.
I think when it comes to bringing a puppy into your home, where you may have young children, new owners want to know exactly what they need to do to avoid the minefield of mistakes.
Can you give a brief overview of the steps you cover?
Everything in the book is designed to make life as easy and as enjoyable as possible for the first time puppy owner. Key phrase being ‘first time’.
So I teach them how to get the puppy settled in his crate the ‘first night’, how to handle the ‘first’ introductions with kids and any other pets you might own, what to do with your puppy on his ‘first full day’, how to teach your puppy his ‘first’ trick, how to make sure the ‘first’ vets visit is a success and how to handle the ‘first’ socialisation walks with your new puppy. It’s all designed to ensure the inexperienced owner is confident and feels capable of providing lots of safe and enjoyable experiences for their new puppy.
With puppies, what would you say are the most crucial things that owners need to get right at the beginning?
So, the book starts from the moment you bring the puppy home. Actually, let’s back it up a bit, because it really starts just before that point.
I encourage the reader to really think about what kind of dog they want their puppy to grow into, because that will have a huge impact on what behaviours they allow their puppies to practise.
As an example, I’m not a fan of modern day ‘puppy parties’ which usually involve the puppies wrestling and play fighting on the floor of the training hall or the vets surgery.
These puppies parties often progress to dog park raves and often you can end up with a dog who is obsessed with running off to play with other dogs all because they were allowed (and even encouraged) to play with other dogs when they were puppies.
This can lead to the many recall and reactivity problems that you need a dog trainer to help you fix.
Ideally, I think most owners want a puppy who is going to be easy to look after, and that’s what this book will give them.
We mustn’t forget too, that lots of dogs are give up for rescue at around 8-10 months old which is usually when they stop becoming cute balls of fluff and enter the teenage tearaway stage of their lives.
That tricky period is going to come round a lot quicker than you think, and doing the things I talk about in the book will mean you avoid ending up with a dog who is too difficult for you to control.
And what are the things lots of new puppy owners get wrong?
The classic mistakes are not using a crate or a pen to enforce some rest time, AND downtime for the new puppies.
Puppies need a lot of sleep and they also need to learn that it’s ok to be left alone, and they will learn that if you use a crate.
Some people still wrongly think crates are cruel, but they really provide a safe space for the puppy to relax, chill and sleep in. Most dogs learn to love the crate.
My cocker spaniel Sidney still sleeps in his crate and he’s 8! He actually prefers it.
Crates also help prevent separation anxiety problems in the future, and more immediately they help new owners to quickly house train their puppy, and prevent a lot of unwanted chewing of slippers, television controls and handbags.
In the book I give the reader a simple ‘Play, Eat, Sleep, Repeat’ formula that shows them how to use the the crate to prevent separation anxiety, weeing in the house, unwanted chewing and jumping up.
The other big mistake that owners make is not taking the puppy outside early enough.
You have a very small window of opportunity to get your puppy used to seeing all the different sights, smells and sounds in your neighbourhood.
It’s literally just a few weeks. This means you need to get your puppy outside, experiencing everything your community has to offer.
Now then, your vet will correctly tell you not to walk your puppy on the floor until his injections have inoculated him against diseases, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take him out at all, and you can (and you SHOULD) carry your puppy around and let him observe the world safely inside of your coat.
There’s so much information out there and it can be confusing. As the Canine King of Common Sense, what does your book give the reader?
I think it gives them a simple, straight-forward, jargon free guide that will (if followed closely) eliminate all the major problems that sadly lead to owners spending a fortune on dog trainers, or worse, sometimes lead to the puppy being given up for rescue.
If you want a happy dog who is easy to look after on and off lead then this book will give you that.
What are your top five tips for puppy parents?
1 Get outside with your puppy from day one – The owners who make the effort to get outside with their puppies, and show them that the big bad world isn’t so scary after all…usually end up with calm, confident dogs who are happy in any situation.
2 Don’t allow your puppy to enjoy doing anything you don’t want him to do as an older dog – It might be cute when your 10 week old puppy jumps up to greet you, or funny when he runs away with something he’s stolen from you, but fast forward a few months and you’ll find trips to the park will be a nightmare if he’s jumping up at strangers or you can’t get him back on lead. Think long game with everything you allow your puppy to do.
3 Use a crate – They are the best invention ever, and WILL prevent a ton of problems like house-training and separation anxiety.
4 Throw away the bowl – You should be using your puppies food to bond, connect and build a relationship with him. Food can be used to train tricks, to teach your dog to walk to heel, to reward for doing a recall, for scent game and for stuffing in Kongs to keep your puppy entertained while you get on with other jobs.
5 Finally, just enjoy your puppy. Puppies are hardwired to enjoy playing, and you’ll become your puppies best friend if you teach him to enjoy playing with (and being with) you!
Thanks so much Dominic, where can readers find you?
You can find me almost everywhere. Just google Dominic Hodgson Dog Trainer and you’ll find a ton of content out there.
Or you can check out my other books my own website www.mydogssuperhero.com
* this post contains affiliate links meaning should you click through and purchase, I will be paid a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay and helps fund this blog.