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The First Six Months of Pug Ownership

When you get a new Pug puppy, there are a lot of things you need to train it to do. You have sitting, staying and coming as basic commands for example. This article isn’t about that. You also have things you have to train your Pug not to do. Things like training them not to jump on you, bite your hands or feet, fight with your other dogs if you have them, and so on. That’s what this article is about, but it isn’t going to teach you how to train your Pug not to do any of these things.

Now, you’re probably asking what the point of this article is, so I’m going to tell you; This is a basic concept article designed for anyone who will eventually add a Pug, or another Pug to their home. What is the primary concept? The first 6 months of your Pugs life sets the table for how well trained, or not, your dog is.

What is so special about the first 6 months of your puppies life? This is the time when all dog owners unwittingly train their dogs to do all the things they don’t want their dog doing as adult dogs. Am I telling you that you really train your dog to jump on the couch? Or, am I telling you that you really do train your dogs to fight with each other? Am I actually suggesting that you train your dog to bite, bark and beg for food? You better believe it! That’s exactly what I’m telling you.

From the second your new Pug first sets foot in your home, its training period has begun. The first time it jumps on the couch, and you do nothing about it, you begin to train your Pug to jump on the couch. The first time it bites you while playing, and you just keep on playing, you begin to train your Pug to bite. The first time your dog barks because it hears a strange noise, and you say "good boy", you begin to train your Pug to bark. And you know what happens after the first 2 or 3 times your new dog does one of these things and you do nothing about it? Every time thereafter that you allow this behavior, it becomes more and more ingrained in their training. Yes, the dog becomes trained to do these things, and once that happens, it’s not as easy to undo this training, as it was to train them to behave this way.

The importance of the 6 month time period becomes crystal clear when you consider the frequency of puppies doing all the things you don’t want it doing. A puppy will bite, jump on the couch, fight with it’s fellow Pugs in the house two, three or four times a day at least. This gives you a very limited window of opportunity to train your dog to behave the way you want it to behave. Considering that you won’t normally get your Pug until it is 2, hopefully 3 months old, you only have about 3 months to quash negative behavior. Three months of biting, jumping or fighting and you’ve got yourself a world of trouble.

If you’re wondering how all this negative training happens, the answer is very simple. When you bring your puppy home, everything it does is "cute". When it nips away at your hands with those tiny little mouths, it’s cute. When it jumps on the couch it’s cute and you say "hey, look at Pugster, he just jumped on the couch"! Adding to this problem is that beyond simply allowing this behavior which encourages it, your reaction to the behavior can encourage it even further. If Pugster jumps on the couch and you ignore him, he’ll jump up there again because he has no reason not to. But if Pugster jumps up on the couch and looks so cute that you actually pet him when he’s on the couch, you’ll be giving him a reason to jump up there!

Because all puppies look cute even when they’re doing "bad" things, we tend to shrug it off, ignore it, let it go, say "hey, he’s just a puppy" and so on. But each time we do this, we are training Pugster to do these things, and he’ll be doing them well into adulthood at which time you’re not going to find it cute anymore. A 6 pound puppy taking a big running leap into your lap as you sit on the couch isn’t going to bother you. But a big, 20 pound adult Pug bounding into your lap is going to hurt, and you’re not going to be too thrilled with it.

So for all of you who are going to bring home a new Pug in the near future, ask yourself the following questions the FIRST time your new Pug does something like jump on the couch:

OK, that was cute but do I want him doing that for the rest of his life when he’s a adult and weighs 20 pounds?

Or how about this one when your new puppy and adult 5 year old Pug rough-play for the first time:

OK, it looks like they’re just playing, but do I want them doing this for the next 10 years?

Try this one on for size; When your new puppy gnaws away at your hands and feet:

OK, this is funny, but will I be laughing a year from now when his teeth are like needles and he does this to everyone in the house for the next 15 years?

These are the questions you absolutely have to ask yourself the first time your puppy does something like this. Ask yourself the question, and seriously consider the fact that if you let it go and negatively train your dog, that it will do these things for the rest of its life. These are things that will be extremely difficult to train out, that may require a professional trainer, that may lead you to consider giving up your dog. These are things that could go on for 12, 13 or even 15 years. Every day, every week, every month, every year. Think about this long and hard.

Photo of Haley submitted by pug forum member GotPugs.