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nick ruddock Feb 18, 2018

On January 1st, as a belated Xmas present, I got Leonni a pair of Pomeranian puppies. We only intended to get one, but I couldn’t bare to separate them all and not have a puppy pal for one of them.

I was warned about how much hard work it would be getting two new puppies, particularly with me being overseas on international duties about 60% of the time.

Little did I know that it wasn’t just hard work, but educational too.

I’ve realised that there are many comparisons between raising two young puppies and working with a group of young athletes. It has been so educational, that I thought that it would make a valuable read for you, acting as a reminder for your coaching and I’m sure you’ll resonate with many of these points:

They are incredibly excited, almost all the time, unless they’re tired. Then they just sleep.

They LOVE positive attention.

They LOVE to play.

They respond very well to praise.

They are very unique, with entirely different behaviours and personalities.

They are ridiculously competitive. My living room looks like a Toys R Us store, but they only care about the one toy that the other one has. That’s all. It’s all about winning.

Training them to do tricks requires daily, regular practice.

The more I ignore them, the more they'll try and gain my attention. Including trying to eat my feet. Yes, really.

99% of what I say they do not understand. They gain more from reading my non verbal communication than they do listening to the human gibberish coming out my mouth.

What they do understand has been learnt through repetitive, short bits of information, such as ‘sit!’, ‘good girl!’ and ‘paw!’ (Leonni tells me off when I say ‘sitting’ instead of ‘sit’ as it’s new language they won’t understand.)

They need me to behave in a consistent manner to avoid confusion, build trust and rapport.

‘The squeaky wheel gets the most oil.’ It’s important to give them equal love, not just those who cry out more for attention or are more fun to play with.

But amongst all the fun and games and super cuteness, there is the inevitable challenges faced with raising two pups.

Like eating the expensive sofa that has only just been paid off.

Crapping on the carpet. And the kitchen floor. And the sofa. Actually, just about anywhere.

Climbing on the table and eating my leather Hugo Boss wallet.

Crying and howling in the mornings when we’re trying to get some sleep.

But this leads me to perhaps the most valuable insights and comparisons with our young athletes.

They don’t know any better.

Punishing them won’t change their behaviour. It will only suppress their behaviour.

I can shout with frustration all I like, it won’t change a thing.

It’s up to us to educate them.

I don’t want compliance through fear. I want it through understanding.

It’s not easy doing this all the right way, but it’s certainly worth it. It’s far easier to get it right in the first place, irrespective of how hard that is, than to try and change undesirable reinforced behaviours later.

The dogs they become in the future will be as a result of how they are treated now, when they are young. When they are impressionable.


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