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Hello, me again. Before getting a puppy I never thought I would be posting on here so often looking for advice, tips, reassurance etc but here we are! I hope this doesn’t make me sound/look like a careless or clueless owner, I’m just a natural worrier! I promise I did a lot of research before getting a puppy, despite the fact it probably seems like I just went out to get one on a whim.

I’ve been looking back on some of my old posts here and everything I posted about back then has improved so much. And that’s greatly because of all the insight and support I received from people on this forum - so thank you!

That being said, I’m back again. I’m discovering that everything new I learn about puppy ownership often leaves me with even more questions. A few of which I wanted to ask about here… Some might sound silly, I’m sure some things will be ‘issues’ that may just resolve with time or be completely normal for a 14 week old spaniel and first time owner.

1) First and foremost, how can I feel more confident believing that I’m doing enough for my puppy each day? This might sound strange but - I work flexible hours from home, so I have most of the day to spend with my puppy, because of this I feel like I have to be constantly doing things with her and feel bad if I’m not super focused on her despite supervising. If we’re both in the living room but I’m not giving her my undivided attention she will whine and bark. Because I’m so present, I have more time to worry it seems. Most of my friends with dogs go out to work so the dogs have to settle or entertain themselves for a portion of the day so I can’t really ask advice from them. My day with puppy commonly consists of (in no particular order): a relaxed morning & evening with cuddles on the sofa, frequent trips out to the toilet (she often goes out to do this alone now, but sometimes needs some encouragement or a reminder), play together inside, play together outside, encouraged solo play inside (or outside depending on weather), meal times (including training for the meal, using slow/puzzle bowl and snuffle mat), nap times in pen/crate, socialisation, 1-2 short walks with lots of sniffing, training indoors (commands like sit, down, stay, off etc), outdoor training (come, stay, let’s go, leave it etc), puppy is given something to chew (frozen carrot, frozen knotted cloth, nylabone, natural chew etc), often also at some point is given an activity such as a lickmat, kong, toppl or hidden treat toy and is brushed/washed or groomed to get her used to it (only washed if very dirty). A lot of the games we play include short, small games of fetch, tug when earned as praise, ‘hiding’ a toy and encouraging her to find it, using cardboard boxes to hide toy/treat and allowing her to tear it apart as long as she doesn’t eat the box. Does this sound okay? Obviously this isn’t all at one time of day, it’s spread out. She naps in her pen/crate 2-3 times a day at similar times to help build a schedule, as well as napping on the sofa in the morning and before bed. I just worry that I’m not doing enough when she’s awake! But also sometimes I worry that I’m not exciting enough when we play.

2) Is there any way to distinguish between normal puppy behaviours and early signs of separation anxiety? My puppy is 13 weeks so I know is still a baby. I know I’m the person who keeps her safe so seeing me leave her must be daunting. However, I’m starting to notice that even if I leave a room for a second she will whine (she doesn’t seem like she’s in a panic or trying to get to me, she just sits by the baby gate and whines and sometimes may bark or do a tiny howl. Not the whole time I’m gone, but for a minute or so, not always consistently) even if there are other family members in the room. I get that I’m her person, but I’m worried that because I’m at home so often I could be encouraging separation issues without knowing? She’s fine in her pen/crate, she only whines a little for a few minutes on the odd occasion. She’s fine waking up with me not there and once she’s in and settled, when she wakes she will lie down in the pen and eventually just sit quietly when she wants out. I probably am overthinking this one. But is there anything I could do to make her more at ease when I leave a room? I only come back in when she’s not barking or whining, even if she’s paused for a second. I could try giving her a treat or telling her to stay before I walk out?

3) Preventing resource guarding. Now, I never really feel the need to take things away from my puppy most of the time as for the most part she only has access to things she can actually have. We do practice ‘drop it’ and ‘leave it’. However: sticks. She LOVES sticks. I’ve tried my best to take as many potentially dangerous things out of the garden, but I can’t remove my tree so naturally there are a few small sticks that fall, as well as sticks from dog safe plants we have. And frustratingly we have pebble/rocks in areas of our garden that I can’t remove. I know sticks can cause issues if they splinter or get stuck etc. But - if I take every stick or rock off her will this cause her to eventually get defensive? I try to trade it for a toy or treat but the stick usually wins. When she has a rock I try to use a treat that’s a little crunchier to mimic the sensation of her chewing on the rock. She’s getting better at accepting treats and dropping the stick or rock though. I have read a lot of people experienced this with their puppies too, so maybe it’s just her curiosity getting the better of her and she’ll grow out of her love for sticks and stones.

4) Lead pulling. This is something again, I’m not sure if it’s just because walks are so new right now and everything’s so exciting; it might be something she’ll grow out of? Or might end up be something that I’m reinforcing if I don’t nip it in the bud now. She doesn’t pull all the time. I let her do a lot of sniffing where appropriate. I was practicing walking with her in the garden before she was allowed outside. I’m trying to praise her when she focuses on me and checks in with me outside, and when she does pull I’ve been trying to either stop or change directions to show her I should be the one leading the walk. But then as soon as we get back on the right direction she sometimes starts pulling again. She wears a harness, just because I was worried about her neck if she pulls wearing a collar. I don’t expect her to walk to heel the whole way, or keep up with me all the time. I’m happy for her to lag a little behind to sniff, or be in front of me as long as she isn’t pulling.

I think that’s about it haha. She’s actually doing amazing, I’m just a worrier. For some positivity: she hasn’t had an accident inside for around two weeks now, her training is coming along great, she’s started to like treats which has made a lot of things easier, she’s happier in her crate and sometimes goes in by herself to play/nap, she sleeps all night and is simply a lovely, funny, intelligent, charming puppy. I might seem super paranoid, I promise I am enjoying life with her right now I just can’t help but worry a little at times (I try to save up my worries for when I go to bed so puppy doesn’t feel my stress) whether I’m doing things right. I don’t expect perfection from her - she’s a baby! She’s doing things great, making so much progress every day. I just worry that I won’t do things right or reinforce certain behaviours without meaning to and she’ll grow into an anxious dog or one with guarding issues or who demand barks.

I know training classes would likely help me a lot, but ones local to me are all full right now and have been for a while. I’m on waiting lists so hope to start sometime soon.
 

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I will address concerns by your #'s above:

1.) Sounds fine. You probably could do less and still be fine. Puppy might need more sleep.

2.) Your puppy needs to learn to be alone without you. If you can gate her in a puppy safe room, do that. Give her something to do (like a classic Kong frozen with low fat plain yogurt or a raw meaty bone). Then LEAVE. Do not go back even if she whines. When she is SILENT, go back. Do not make a big deal out of leaving or out of coming back. When you come back a single praise sentence like "Good Girl!" NOT LOOKING AT HER. Be very boring for a bit then go on about your day.

IOW's this is training to, so train it.

3.) Always carry food on you. Teach the trade game and trade for the object you don't want her to have. Teach the trade game with toys too where you trade food for the toy and then give the toy back. This way she learns she does not always lose the item.

4.) Leash pulling. As you walk on leash as she gets near the end of the leash turn and go the other way. As she catches up to you tell her good girl and give her a treat. Your "job" is to not pull back. Once you start the tug of war, oppositional reflex kicks in and you end up with an escalating situation. Leash pulling is a thing a dog will not grow out of. It is part of training. A dog pulling on the leash is no longer connected to you mentally.
 

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1. You're doing great! It's important for dogs to learn how to relax and/or entertain themselves while they're awake, so please do not feel like you have to entertain/engage with her every second she's conscious. This can actually lead to more problems as your pup grows up and starts needing less sleep - they start expecting to be doing things with you constantly, and struggle to just settle down if you're otherwise occupied. Giving her time with a chew, lickimat, etc as you're doing is a great way to start on this, but it's also okay for her to learn how to just hang out while you're doing other things!

2. It's definitely good to start letting a puppy experience separation from you at this stage, and it's also normal for there to be some mild distress/fussing over this. You'll find a lot of different approaches - some people start very slowly and work on the puppy being in the same room, but gradually farther away, then barely in the next room but still able to see the person, etc. Others leave for short periods, coming back when the puppy is quiet, and gradually lengthening the time out. Others have to leave the puppy for work/school purposes right away and essentially have to hope for the best - doesn't make them bad dog owners, just limits their options for separation training. But it's important to listen to your puppy if a method isn't working (eg puppy is becoming increasingly distressed, not decreasingly), and to be consistent once you decide on a approach that works for you.

I like Kikopup's video for some basics on starting separation training:

I also want to point out that separation anxiety is on the extreme end of the spectrum. There's a lot of dogs who fall between "totally okay with being home alone" and "clinical separation anxiety". SA is essentially a full-blown anxiety disorder, which is why it's so, so difficult to manage and work with. The good news is that most dogs with separation related problems that do NOT have SA, and they have a much better shot at improving with appropriate training and behavior modification! Try not to panic if your puppy struggles at first - it's normal and not a sign that they're going to wind up with full blown SA unless you're seeing really extreme, worrying behaviors (like hurting herself trying to break out of her crate).

3. I recommend the book Mine! by Jean Donaldson. It covers not only how to work with a dog showing resource guarding behaviors, but how to prevent them as well! Trading games are a huge part of that, as 3GSD already mentioned. Bonus, it's available as an e-book so you don't have to wait for shipping if you can't find it locally.

4. Pulling really is just training, training, training. Respect that a puppy has a short attention span and poor impulse control (which it sounds like you're already doing!) but other than that, it's picking a method and being extremely consistent with it. Sometimes you might have to tweak something if you're not getting results - for example, 'be a tree' didn't work well for my youngest, because he just learned that leashed walks include a lot of stopping for some reason. I have to ALSO praise/reward him for walking nicely, so he understood that there was a different behavior I was looking for that would prevent the constant stopping and starting. He also prefers to keep moving, so I use a lot of U-turns and circles instead of coming to a full stop when there's leash tension.

Another help has been the Silky Leash method, which is all about teaching a dog to respond to leash pressure by giving in, rather than resisting. Lots of videos on YouTube! I haven't been as consistent as I should (a frequent problem for me), but even a little work on this method really helped Frodo go from trying to haul me forward with all his strength to hitting the end of the leash and then releasing the pressure.

I totally understand you're worrying! I'm the same way. No matter how much preparation I did, I wasn't ready for what actually having a puppy was really like - both times! Part of this was I went from a companion bred, out of standard mini poodle to essentially a working breed dog (Lagotti aren't a Working Breed the way that some of the really intense shepherds and hunting dogs are, but they're more on that end of the scale than your average pet dog for sure!), so my boys had very different challenges and learning curves. Out of concern for your sleep, have you tried writing down your worries in the evening? Sometimes I find putting my worries on paper helps them get out of my head - I can deal with them later because they're written down, but I'm less likely to spend all night staring at the ceiling thinking about them. Then I can go back later and decide which of them I can do something about, and which are out of my control and I need to work on letting go. I totally understand that different coping methods work for different people, so ignore this if it isn't for you.
 
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