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Homecoming!

Wheaten puppies are ready for their new homes at about 7-10 weeks.  Two people are a must for the trip to collect the puppy.  It may be his first experience of car travel and the puppy will feel more secure if he is being cuddled.  It also keeps him safe and out of mischief.

Leaving familiar surroundings and being on his own for the very first time can be upsetting.  Let the puppy sniff around and explore his new home quietly.  His natural curiosity will overcome his fear and he will settle more quickly if allowed to go at his own pace and isn’t overwhelmed by noise or too many people.  Let him make friends gradually as he is at a very impressionable age.  Small children should be reminded that a puppy is not a toy, while older children should be shown how to pick the puppy up safely.

Before you bring your puppy home, there are a number of things to be done...

  1. Obtain the SCWT Club of GB’s ‘New Owners Guide’ from your breeder, or from the Club Secretary.  Read it through, making notes of any queries you may have.

  2. Contact the vet of your choice to make an appointment to take the puppy for a check-over soon after you pick him up.    Your breeder should have informed you if the puppy has already had his first inoculation and what brand it was.  This information will be important for your vet to know so he can advise you on a course of inoculations.  The vet can advise on a course of inoculations at that time.

  3. Possibly most important, check that your garden fencing and gate are secure.  Puppies wriggle through, or under, amazingly small gaps.  They dig and climb and the escaping truant can meet a tragic end.

  4. Look around your garden and home for other dangers – objects that would be dangerous if chewed or swallowed or items that would be poisonous if sampled – the list is endless.  One need to be as vigilant and careful with a puppy as with a toddler.

  5. The puppy will also need a quiet corner with a bed prepared for him.  A cardboard box, with staples removed, does very well for the first period of puppyhood or you could purchase an ‘indestructible’ type of bed.  (Wicker beds and the like that can be chewed into bits are dangerous to a puppy and are not suitable at this stage).  He will need a larger bed when he is fully grown.

Diet

The breeder should provide a diet sheet for your puppy.  It is important to keep to the same food and biscuit initially as change may upset the puppy’s digestive system.  The breeder will gladly provide several days supply of food if you are unable to obtain the same brands.  Once the puppy has settled in, you can change a small amount of the new food, while correspondingly decreasing the amount of the original food, over a period of several days.

Any dog should be fed in its own clean bowl and always in the same spot.  A puppy usually has 4 to 5 meals a day, which are reduced, one by one, to two meals by six to nine months of age.  As the number of meals become fewer, the amount fed at the remaining meals must be increased.  Fresh water should always be available.

 

For maximum physical fitness and disease resistance, a dog’s diet should contain good quality protein, the correct balance of vitamins and minerals as well as energy rich foods.  Growing dogs need a higher proportion of the latter and of calcium-containing foods than do adult dogs.  Commercially prepared dog food is carefully researched to contain a balance of those nutrients your dog needs to keep him healthy.  Read, and follow, the feeding directions on the label of any food you use.  Resist the temptation to add extra vitamins and minerals without consulting your Vet.  More is not necessarily better and can cause problems!

Exercise

Young puppies get all the exercise they need running about in the house and garden.  They tire quickly and need a lot of sleep.  No puppy should be allowed to run in a public place until he has had his full course of vaccinations:  the risks are far too great.

However, he can go out carried in your arms.  This gives him the opportunity to see and encounter all sorts of sights and sounds while feeling secure.  The few weeks your puppy is confined to walks in the garden can be used to advantage in getting him used to a collar and lead and walking at your left side.

Once he is able to get out and about, do things gradually.  Remember that your pup is still developing and that his young bones and joints are still forming.  Do not take him on a long hike!  He may keep up with you, but it certainly won’t do him any good.  Take as your motto ‘little and often!’ for the first six months or so.  Start off with short walks for the first three or four months and gradually increase the length thereafter.

There’s a whole new world out there for your dog to experience, so walk him in as many different environments as possible, bearing in mind that he may be afraid of large trucks thundering past, the sound of a train, or crowds of people.  Resist the temptation to comfort him too much.  He’ll take it as confirmation that fear is the correct reaction.  Just jolly him through the situation and he’ll soon accept these as normal.  Do use common sense however.  Forcing a puppy to face a situation of which he is really frightened may shatter his self-confidence for months.

Introducing your Wheaten to other dogs requires some care, as Wheatens are boisterously sociable animals and not every dog takes kindly to an exuberant puppy throwing his paws around its neck.  Ascertain whether the other dog is friendly before letting the two meet and romp.  It will only take a couple of times of being growled or snapped at to give your pup the idea that this is proper dog behaviour.

Once this notion is ingrained in a terrier it’s difficult to stop.  Pulling the lead taut every time the puppy meets another dog will send the message that there is something here to beware.

The importance of socialising your dog while he is still young with many people, dogs, animals and situations cannot be stressed enough.

To be a happy, friendly and reliable dog he needs to have had a wealth of positive experience.  A dog who has not had these encounters may react with fear when he is confronted with something strange.  This fear can take the form of aggression.

Training

By training, we mean making your dog an enjoyable companion to live with, not making him into an obedience champion.  That comes later and only if you want to.  The kind of training we are talking about is essential and should begin immediately.  A lot of learning can be done in the course of a day by reinforcing acceptable behaviour with praise and attention.  Actual training sessions should be short (no more than five minutes) because a puppy’s attention span is short.

Never train when you are out of sorts, or the dog is off colour and, most importantly, never lose your temper.  If the pup is not getting the message, move on to something you know he understands and can do, ending the training on a successful note.  Don’t listen to people who say ‘’Wait until the dog is six months old.’  Many classes will not take dogs before this age, but this doesn’t mean you can’t begin training at home.  No one would dream of not teaching children anything before they were old enough to go to school and it’s much the same with puppies.

A puppy has been likened to a blank sheet of paper, on which all of his experiences from birth are written – make sure your puppy has good, positive experiences from day one.  Your dog can be an angel or a hooligan, depending on the time and effort you put into his training.

Dogs are creatures of habit.  Everything they learn is the result of repetition.  Bad habits are learned too, by the dog being allowed to do something.  This is often an action, like getting on the furniture, that normally is not permitted.  Dogs don’t understand ‘sometimes’.  Be consistent.  Most of all, remember that what is funny or tolerable in a puppy may not be quite so funny or acceptable in a fully grown dog, so start as you mean to go on.



If you have children make sure they understand this is a living animal with feelings and not a toy.  They should be taught to respect the dog.  Don’t let them wake him when he is sleeping or constantly handle him when he is awake.  They should never be allowed to tease him (or any other dog) with food, toys or in any other way.  If he retaliates in the only way he knows, by growling and then possibly snapping, the dog will get the blame.

If your children are young and boisterous, engaging in much running and shrieking, remember that such activity can be confusing to any dog and may arouse overly protective instincts or wind the dog up to a high pitch of excitement.  It is unwise to leave children of any age unsupervised with a puppy or adult dog, for both their sakes.

 

Dog training is largely common sense.  Teach by praising correct behaviour to reinforce, not by punishing incorrect behaviours.  Unless the punishment is delivered the instant the dog commits the misdeed, it is useless because the dog will fail to associate the punishment with what you consider he has done wrong.  Dogs have a very sharp awareness of your demeanour and that ‘guilty’ look is not knowledge that he wet the carpet or chewed your slipper two hours ago, but a reaction to your anger.

Many dogs run into trouble because they think and act like dogs!  Biting, growling, chewing, barking, digging and eliminating where they stand are natural behaviour to dogs.  They have to be taught these actions are not acceptable now they are part of your family.  Dogs are naturally pack animals and will defer to the pack leader, who must be you.  Some dominant dogs will try to usurp your position if they think they are in with a chance.  Don’t ever let them get this idea.

Miscellaneous topics

Name – it is very important that the puppy learns his name from the outset.  Everyone in the family must call him by the same name.  If Jane called the pup ‘Benji’, James calls him ‘Ben’, Mother calls him ‘Benjamin’ and Dad calls him ‘Scruff’, the puppy is likely to be totally bemused!  Pick a name and stick to it.

Commands – The whole family must use the same command words and phrases for each behaviour and as far as possible the same tone of voice.  You should aim to be able to stop your dog in his tracks in a ‘Sit!’ Stay!’ or ‘Down! Stay!’ for safety reasons.

Biting – should be discouraged from the start.  Puppies play together in the litter and this includes biting each other and their mum.  The bitch soon lets them know when they have gone too far and so must you.  A stern ‘NO!’ should help.  Try also putting your hand to your mouth and making a whimpering noise.   The pup should realise he has hurt you.  He doesn’t know you haven’t a protecting coat of fur!  If none of these are effective, instantly walk away from the puppy and leave him isolated in the room for several minutes.  Attention is important to a dog.

Growling – over food or toys should not be allowed.  The pup must allow you, as pack leader, to take anything from him.  Talk to the pup and pat him occasionally whilst he is eating.  NEVER take the bowl away from him, but occasionally move him to one side and add something tasty to the bowl before allowing him back to it.  Praise him as a good dog when he returns to the food without growling.  A dog should be able to tolerate all of the family being around whilst he is eating, but this should be a gradual process and he should not feel threatened in any way.  It is unwise to allow children to touch the dog when he is eating.

Jumping up – is a common Wheaten failing.  You must be consistent in your reactions to this, remembering that he cannot differentiate between your old gardening clothes and your best suit or dress, nor does he know the difference between clean and muddy paws.  Your family and visitors need to cooperate in your attempts to deter this particular behaviour.  The pup should never be encouraged to put his paws up by being fussed or patted.  He should be ignored until he is sitting down or at least has all four feet on the ground.  This often means getting down to puppy level.

Tell the dog to ‘Sit!’ when he jumps and praise for compliance.  Ignore incorrect behaviour or tell the dog ‘No!’.  Do not punish – there are various reasons for this.  Rough games which tempt a pup to jump or grab should be discouraged.

Toilet training – involves you.  Be aware of the puppy’s times of need immediately after eating, on awakening and after play.

Go outside with the puppy, set him on the grass or wherever you want him to perform, have a command such as ‘be quick’ or ‘be clean’.  As soon as he begins to eliminate, say the command and praise him as a good dog.

Don’t just put the pup out into the garden and close the door on him.

He will be bewildered and he certainly won’t know what he has been put there for!  Accidents and lapses will happened.  If the pup wets indoors by all means tell him ‘ No!’ if you catch him in the act, but pick him up and put him in the correct place immediately and issue the command ‘Be Quick’ or whatever you have chosen.  Do not punish the dog.  He will associate punishment with what he has done, not where he has done it and confusion will arise again.  He will think he is not supposed to do it at all!

Once the puppy has become used to his collar and lead, it is worthwhile to put the puppy on his lead and take him outside to perform.  He can then be let off the lead for a short romp before going back inside.  If a dog will ‘perform’ on command, it is extremely useful when travelling or when you are in a hurry for any reason.  The game coming after he has eliminated is a reward for this behaviour.  A dog who is whisked inside as soon as he has performed learns to delay this so he can enjoy being outside with you.

Teaching your Wheaten to come when called can be a trying experience.  Persevere.  Again, teach by praise, not by punishment.  If the dog refuses to come and you get more and more irate, punishing him when he does eventually approach you will teach him to associate coming back to you with punishment.  He won’t want to do it.  Would you?  Teach him to ‘come’ indoors first, enticing him with a favourite toy, a tasty morsel of food and then a game.  Praise him as a good dog for responding correctly.  You can progress to calling him from one room to another and from the garden to indoors.  When you put his meals out for him, always call him to you and tell him he’s a good dog as you put the dish down for him.

All of this will stand you in good stead for the day you first attempt it outdoors in a public place.  Have him on a long line initially for safety.  Patience is essential.  There will be exciting smells, people and other dogs to take his attention.  When he has learned to come when called out of doors, don’t always put him on his lead and take him home immediately he returns, or again, coming to you will have undesirable associations.  Try calling him to you and fussing him, or giving him a treat.  Occasionally pop the lead on for a couple of minutes, but then let him go again to play.  Never be tempted to chase him:  he will think it’s a game.

 

Being alone – A puppy should not be left on his own in a house or car for very long.  Wheatens are particularly keen on human company and become frightened, bored and naughty if left.  Your dog does have to get used to you not always being with him however.  Initially leave him in a different room to the one you are in.  You can then start leaving him alone in the house.  Again, it is a matter of common sense.  Start with short periods (5 minutes) and work up to longer ones.  Be matter of fact but reassuring when you leave and happy (but not over the top) to see the puppy when you return.

 

Summary

This is just a brief outline of what you should be aiming to do, to train your dog.  The training should be fun for both dog and owner.  A well trained dog is a delight to live with and a joy to own.  A badly behaved one is an embarrassment, a worry and a trial.

There are lots of good books (and some not so good) on training with more being published all the time. See the ‘New Owners Guide’ for some suggestions and watch the club bulletins for book reviews.

Training classes are usually a good idea.  They socialise the dog and make you both practice various commands.  There are good and bad classes however.  A badly run class can be counterproductive and harmful so ask around.  A well-run ‘puppy play group’ with puppies of approximately the same age is beneficial too, if one is available in your area.

If you are experiencing problems with your puppy’s training, ring the puppy’s breeder for suggestions.

He or she will usually be pleased to help.  It’s better to ask for advice, than to soldier on just hoping.  The sooner a problem is tackled the easier it is to sort out.

Health

Your vet will recommend a regular programme of injections against parovirus, distemper, hard pad, leptospirosis and hepatitis.  These are essential to protect the puppy.

The puppy should have already been wormed by the breeder and worming should be continued on a schedule as recommended by your Vet.  This is usually every four to five months.  If your dog is wormed regularly, his faeces frequently cleared up from the garden and common sense used in personal hygiene, transmissible diseases, such as toxacara, will not be a problem.

Puppies need something to chew on, especially when they are losing those needle-sharp milk teeth and getting their permanent teeth.  Many dog toys are not safe for older Wheatens as they seem to have particularly strong teeth and jaws.  Discard any toy as soon as it shows signs of wear.  When a puppy is chewing something he shouldn’t, distract him with something of his own.  Saying ‘No!’ is not enough.  Tug-of-war games may distort the puppy’s mouth while this is developing and are not recommended.

The SCWT Club of GB ‘New Owners Guide’ discusses common ailments and other problems of puppyhood.