Control the Environment or Control the Puppy?

My baby granddaughter, Clara, has been staying with me for the past week. She’s just ten months old.

She is crawling top-speed, standing up and walking with support. She is into everything. She is like a little octopus. Everything goes into her mouth.

We constantly watch not to tread on her or to open a door on her. She gets anywhere that’s not blocked.

The high coffee table ended up on the sofa after she tried to pull herself up on it and it fell on top of her.

Coffee table on the sofa

Coffee table on the sofa

She loves to open a drawer with one had, put her other hand inside and then shut the drawer.


The desk drawers are stacked up in another room now.

We watch her constantly she’s awake; we lift her out of trouble’s way if she goes near danger. If she gets hold of the remote we gently take it off her and give her something else.

We don’t mind what our house is looking like because Clara is more important. It’s not forever.

All the time Clara was with me I couldn’t help comparing her life with the lives of some of the puppies and young dogs that I have been to.

There can be huge and unrealistic expectations made of puppies.

Many people are simply unwilling to put themselves out sufficiently. How many times do we hear people say that the puppy has to learn to fit in with their lives?

Drawers removed from desk

Dogs are expected to enter the world (our human world after all) knowing that chewing furniture and wrecking remotes is naughty. Any ‘accidents’ are naughty too.

Anyone knowing me will know that I have too many ‘things’ and am not particularly ‘house-proud’ – I have four dogs after all. However, I go to many houses that to me are unbelievably cluttered for having a dog in – with all sorts of things including boxes, papers, even cigarettes, pills and food, on the floor, on low tables, in open bags and so on – with hardly a space to stand or sit – irresistible temptation and probably dangerous to their young or bored dog.

Instead of tidying up a bit and creating a safe and controlled environment, they try to control the puppy.

At the other end of the spectrum are house-proud people with immaculate houses.

Instead of moving things about, blocking areas with unsightly gates and covering furniture or floor in a way that may not look so attractive – disarranging themselves a little by controlling the environment – they too try to control the puppy.

Intimidating warning sounds, being chased and cornered with a forbidden item and so on can result in people then wondering why, when they have tried so hard to control and discipline their puppy, they have an increasingly confused and badly-behaved dog that develops aggression problems.

Imagine if we smacked Clara for picking up the remote, got angry with her for chewing something we had left about or punished her for soiling on the floor? I guess this is the awful kind of start in life some children do get and I’m sure it totally wrecks their future.

Just as how we treat our babies and toddlers will have an immense impact on how they turn out later on, so it surely is with puppies.

Management is so simple.

Surely it’s easier to find somewhere other than the radiator to dry socks – out of puppy’s reach – and give him something better to chew, than chase and retrieve them? Surely it’s simpler to keep remotes and spectacles out of reach than the trouble and expense of replacing them? Surely it’s simpler to put shoes away than to be left with just one and to stop wearing the panda slippers with pompoms for a while than to have feet chased and nipped? Surely it’s simpler to block areas they don’t want puppy to go than to end up angry, frustrated and shouting?

Keeping my Pickle out of trouble when young

Keeping my Pickle out of trouble when young

In a carefully monitored environment the equivalent to that which my daughter ensures for Clara, savvy dog owners teach their puppies by using encouragement, rewards and distraction that doing certain things and not doing others makes them all happy .

Here is one case I went to with a very cluttered little room and a large seven-month-old pup. The dog gets the man’s socks and other items of his clothing. It would be ‘letting the dog win’ to change the places he put his clothes just for a dog.

Here is sad story of a young dog where the human toddler is well-understood and catered for but the pup’s needs aren’t seen in the same light at all.

About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist C.C.B (Certified Canine Behaviourist) INTODogs). I have helped over 3000 dog owners over eighteen years. In addition to online consultations all over the world, I cover Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks for home visits. A 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a full member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site:
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4 Responses to Control the Environment or Control the Puppy?

  1. Pingback: Control the Environment or Control the Puppy? | Paws for Thought

  2. Donna Elliott says:

    This is a wonderful article! Just shared it with a client. Thank you!


  3. woofers53 says:

    Well this seems like common sense to me…..its what we have always done with our dogs….that sounds critical of the post which is not the intention…just a bit shocked that it needs to be said…and on from your post, the rather unpleasant trend of the crate or playpen used for too long instead of modifying the environment and proper supervision 😦


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