Training your puppy
As with any other type of big dog, a Saint needs good socialization, as your divine little ball of fluff is going to grow up to become a huge dog, and you want it to be a pleasure and not an embarrassment for society, because you cannot control it. Most important is to get the puppy to socialization classes to interact with other dogs and children if you don’t have any of your own. This will be very important in the adult life of a dog.
Ideally training should start as soon as possible after you acquired your puppy. Especially if the breeder did not practice any form of basic obedience with the young puppies. Decide beforehand on “house rules” whereby everyone in the household should stick. The key would be to be consistent and consequent. To help you set up your rules, think of what you don’t want your 80kg dog to do. Don’t think of the quite little puppy. Things like jumping onto furniture, being allowed on the bed, jumping up to welcome guests (think of poor grandma). What about the car? The pool, or the fishpond? If you don’t think your furniture will withstand the 80kg dog, this must be discouraged from the start. Stick to it.
You don’t want to confuse your puppy.
Once the basic rules are understood by the pup and the family’ the rest comes easy.
How do you do it? Simply by correcting any wrong actions. E.g. if the puppy jumps up on you because it’s happy to see you, gently put it back on al fours and firmly say “NO!” And Mean it! Every time the puppy break the rule, follow the same corrections, until it’s understood as wrong. Another method is to pull up your knee as soon as the puppy jumps. This makes is very uncomfortable for the dog, and the habit should soon be something of the past.
Whichever method you choose, just be certain to always react in exactly the same way. The easiest way to spoil this whole procedure is for one family member to break one of the house rules…. This only confuses the puppy, and motivates it to rather always take a chance rather then to just obey. Just incase it can get away with it! Never let the puppy think it can have it’s own way!
Always use the same words for the same action. “Sit” for “sit”. Not: “sit puppy”, or “puppy sit” or “would you please sit”. Keep commands short and always the same by the whole household.
Housetraining would work on exactly the same principal… As soon as you catch the ‘little devil’ making a puddle, immediately correct it! Firmly pick the puppy up (if possible whilst in “action”) say “NO”, and take it out to the desired spot. Once the puppy does make the puddle outside, make sure you praise it loud and clear, and may be even give a doggie cookie for good behavior. Ideally you should take the puppy outside after meals so that it learn from the start that the wet business is reserved for outside. On average a puppy have the call of mother nature every hour for every month of it’s age…E.g. If the puppy is two months old, it should go outside for puddle making every two hours. If it’s three months old, every three hours etc. Usually one shift can be stretched. Meaning a 4 month old puppy should go outside every four hours, but can “hold it in” for 8 hours during the night if needs be. By starting a schedule like this you can always put the puppy outside in time, and this way it will quickly learn that it should go outside to do its business. Just remember this is just a guideline, and not guaranteed to work for all puppies. Be patient. Especially with very young puppies, and be prepared to clean up when a mistake does happen!. Have lots of newspapers handy if you cannot keep to the schedule during the earlier stages. Hopefully the puppy will make use of these.
Another important thing your puppy should learn as soon as possible is to wear a collar. Easiest way is to just put the collar on and leave the pup to get use to it, without making a fuss (but under supervision!). Some animals freak out, others get totally lame and cannot put one foot in front of the other, and others still, couldn’t be bothered. You’ll have to figure out witch dog you have. It goes without saying that if you’re the lucky owner of the latter, you have no further worries. You can go straight to puppy obedience class. If you have the freaker, you’ll have to be patient. First put the collar next to the puppy’s bowl at feeding time so that it can get use to it, and associate it with pleasantries like feeding. Eventually you can try to put the collar on again, but very loosely. Make a huge fuss if the puppy doesn’t freak out, and give it a cookie for motivation. This process will obviously take a bit longer, but eventually it will associate the collar with nice things, like a walk in the park etc.
When you have the “lame” dog. This is the challenger! Obviously there’s more then one way to deal with this problem but for all of it you’ll need lots of patience. You can try the same as for the “freaker”. But you can also try ignorance. This worked for me. Puppies turning lame only have a sort of “mental block” because of the strange situation. They have to figure out on their own that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them, and that the “thing” round the neck doesn’t influence the working of the legs. So by putting on the collar and walking away you give the puppy “time out” to think… Eventually it will get thirsty, or hungry, or mother nature will call. Eventually they will have to move. As soon as they make the first move it will kick in that there’s nothing wrong… But you’ll have to monitor the situation. Obviously you cannot leave the dog like this for an unreasonable amount of time. If you can’t get through with the first “ignorance” treatment, try again a couple of days later.
Once the dog can understand and obey simple orders, and can wear the collar with confidence, you’re ready for “leash training”… Three simple rules:
* Puppy should never leave your yard without a collar and leash
* Puppy to stay at your left side
* Puppy should never be allowed to pull on the leash
No 2 is easy as you’ll just have to repeat the same procedure over and over again. As soon as the dog strays to your right, Stop. Correct it, and proceed.
No 3 is a bit more of a challenge… Trick would be to start with leash training before puppy understands its own size and power… As long as the dog always think you are stronger, it should never challenge you to begin with. Ideally this should be imprinted by the age of 6 or 7 months. Otherwise the dog gets to big to be physically corrected.
As soon as the smaller pup try to pull on the lead. Stop… Every time this happen you should stop, until the puppy realize that by pulling it’s not getting anywhere.
For the more headstrong pup, try the following…. Once the dog can understand and obey simple orders, and can wear the collar with confidence, you’re ready for “leash training”…Fit the pup with a choke chain. Mark a mental square or triangle out for yourself of say 6 x 6 meters or so… Walk in a straight line to your first mental marker and make a definite turn to your next marker… Every time the puppy don’t look at you, and misses the turn the choker will kick in and the puppy will have to pay attention. Soon it will realize it’s got to look at you in order to see your movements… Then you can vary your steps… Turn left, turn right. Stop. Go slow, go fast etc…
The pup will figure out that it will have to keep watching you to predict your movements, in order to avoid being choked. Be patient! Some puppy’s catch on very quick. Others take forever, and others are just plain headstrong, and will try to manipulate you to get its own way.
Be prepared to spend time, and repeat all the time, and you will see the fruit of your efforts. Once this is imprinted you have to make your dog use to different noises, environments and people, depending what you planned for this pet.
Make a trip to the park, to the flea market, walk in the rain, in the sun, on tar, or gravel and grass… You don’t want to have a nervous dog when it’s confronted with strange noises or surfaces!
Obviously if you never plan to take your dog out his shouldn’t be a concern, but at least make it use to go the vet. You can’t really carry a 80 or 90kg male dog to the vet if it refuses to be leashed or walked into a strange building with strange people (Trust me, it does happen!)
If you plan to show your puppy you will have to take special care of above, but also train your dog to “stand” and show it’s teeth without panicking! If you don’t know how, ask your breeder to show you how this is done! There’s nothing as rewarding as a well-mannered dog