Cute puppies are more difficult to train – from a Markham veterinarian

By January 10, 2013Uncategorized


Just irresistible. (this photo is not Dr. Marsig’s dog. His puppy didn’t keep still enough for a decent photo)

With holiday gift giving over, some of you may have been lucky enough to have found a cute little puppy under the tree. They are a wonderful enrichment to everyone’s life. We humans, whether it’s children or adults, must have a biological “you-are-so-cute-and-cuddly-I-can’t-help-but-love-you” reflex. Every time a cute little bunny, puppy, kitten, or anything small comes through the front door, inevitably the entire staff team streams forward to try and get the attention of the little one so they can hold and cuddle it.

And because they are so cute and innocent, we love to forgive them. In the fall, my daughter wanted a hamster for her birthday. Being a veterinarian in Markham and growing up with hamsters, gerbils, birds, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and all other animals, I was the typical child. My children aren’t any different. Since we lived in Markham have had goldfish, rabbits, dogs, cats, we knew that after a while the novelty for our kids would wear off and I would be stuck having to clean the hamster cage. Instead, I gave her a puppy. Another dog was on my wish list anyway, and I was fully ready to care for the dog myself after the excitement wanes.

When my Border Collie puppy was 4 months old, he continuously grabbed our shoes, hiding and chewing on them. He dug into the garbage chewing and scattering plastic all over the place (though I hate to admit that our garbage can was sometimes uncovered), and then he came to us with this proud look on his face and a wagging tail to show us what a great job he did at making a mess!

Nobody – at least in our family – can withstand this happy puppy-dog face. I guess this is a survival mechanism for the puppy, to ensure that he will be cared for. However, it sure is no fun having to buy new shoes and pick up millions of pieces of garbage from all over the yard. We are busy enough as a family that we don’t need to spend time on these clean ups to keep ourselves busy. Rationally, we should never have adopted a dog with bad manners. However, because he is so cute, he gets away with murder because we hide the evidence for him. But who gets a puppy for solely rational reasons? We do it because we love them.

And because we love them, they get away with misbehaviours. I see this problem in the exam room all the time, whether that is in the vet clinic in Markham, or in Scarborough before. The cuter the dog, the less training they get. The little cuties soon become “teenagers”, graduate to “dictators”, and end up as “monsters”. Some little guys get away with nipping their owners until there is a serious bite. Small, innocent misbehaviours sometimes mature into very unpleasant situations, which can then not be righted anymore.

We have to be aware of that so that bad habits never reach that level. Just like with raising children, loving parents need to set rules and insist that they be followed, no matter how cute the little ones are. My children know this – at least that’s the elusion my children give us parents. And my puppy is learning the rules through gentle persistence: Garbage is off limits, even when the lid is open, and shoes are for people, not for dogs. So, we pick up the garbage, give him toys he can play with safely and put our shoes out of reach.

That’s why puppy training classes are so important. A well-trained dog is a happy dog and has a much better chance of being loved by his family just as much, or even more, at a ripe old age than he/she was as a puppy.

Dr. Ernst Marsig

PS: I am writing about Border Collies because that’s the dog breed I currently have, however all puppies are cute and many smaller breeds are even more irresistible.

Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic serving Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966.

Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.

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