by Ruth I. Kellogg

Two six month old littersisters with similar personality profiles at six weeks have evolved into two different styles of bitches. One is a lady – even at this young age – and the other is a "arty girl" who verges upon being out of control. In analyzing the four months that the littersisters have been apart, there are some strong similarities. Both pups are well loved and cared for. They are stimulated mentally with a variety of toys, activities, and playmates. But there is a crucial difference in their upbringing. The little lady’s upbringing has been focussed toward future behavior while the party girls’ upbringing is the all to familiar ‘let the puppy be a puppy.’ The little lady’s owner has adopted a particular mindset and utilizes some basic tenets to lay the foundation for future ladylike behavior.


The mindset of the owner is crucial to how a pup will develop. The expectations do not have to be voiced or in many cases even thought about for the new pup to understand. Much of our communication to our dogs is non-verbal and much of that can easily be ‘missed’ by the average owner. But the dog doesn’t miss messages. If we have the expectation that our puppy will become a lady, then this expectation seeps into all of our interactions with the pup. A lady is well behaved – so she is educated as to what sort of behavior is acceptable. Conversely if we have the expectation/believe that our pup is a party girl/wild thing/ exuberant puppy etc. then any behavior that the pup does – whether desired or not – will unintentionally reinforce that belief until it becomes a reality in an uncontrolled adult.


Early puppy education consisting of basic tasks (sit, down, give, leave it, come when called), housetraining, and only playing with her own toys must be started the minute the pup joins the family. Perhaps the pup has already been exposed to some of these lessons by the breeder. If so – great! Build on what the breeder has started with the pup. At eight weeks of age, the pup’s Central Nervous System is fully developed to the point where she can learn many tasks. All of this early learning becomes a foundation that future education and behavior is built upon. This simple but crucial fact is usually missed by people who have six month old party girls. The teaching in this four month period after the pup joins the family is intense but highly critical.

Canine education is really a 24-7 experience. Twenty-four hours a day – seven days a week. Of course concentrated sessions – perhaps with a clicker in hand – should also be done at least daily. But know that a pup is always learning. These early ‘lessons’ – good or bad, intentional or unintentional – form the foundation for future behavior. Channel their behavior positively and the pup becomes a lady. Ignore the importance of the first six months in a pup’s life and an undisciplined adult emerges.


Teaching the pup to accept confinement in a crate, on a tether, and in a kennel run as being part of the daily routine, is, I believe, imperative for the psychological well-being of both the pup and owner throughout the dog’s life. Even after the pup matures and earns privileges such as being loose in the house at night or during the day, there may be times when she must be crated, tied, or kenneled. If the dog has become comfortable with confinement as a pup, confinement during illness, for example, will not increase the stress level of the dog thus delaying or interfering with the healing process.

Crate-training is a familiar way of confining a pup indoors. I am an extremely strong believer in the use of crates in early teaching of housemanners. The pup learns that the crate is a safe place/den for them. Even after the need for crating has passed, my older housegirls frequently seek out a crate for a quiet nap. The easiest way to crate train a pup is to make the crate a good place to be. Each time they go in the crate on command, they are rewarded. Thus, all my dogs (even the adults) are fed in their crates. If a treat is forthcoming, there is often a run to position themselves in their crate to receive it. Pups sleep in their crates until they are at least six months old and have earned the privilege of not being confined at night.

Tethering the pup to a solid object with a short leash is another form of confinement. When I started (out of necessity) tethering pups in the house, I was amazed at how effective it was. The pups figure out that fighting the leash is ineffective (which makes walking on a leash a breeze!) as well as how to cope with minor leash tangling. The pup is easy to grab if it looks like she is going to eliminate thus helping the up to learn how to ask to go outside to eliminate.

A variation of the static tether is to tie the leash to a belt and the pup is always confined close to the handler. This is an extremely effective method with one pup. It also has the benefit of teaching the pup to watch where the handler is going so she doesn’t get accidentally stepped on or tangled. This style of tethering is very effective in remedial behavior modification work.

Kennel runs are another form of confinement that some owners use. Teaching polite kennel manners as a puppy builds a foundation for the times when the adult must be kenneled. Ideally, the pup should be introduced to the kennel run in a positive manner so that the run, like the crate, becomes a pleasant place for her. Short periods in the run with safe toys while the owner is home will reassure the pup she isn’t abandoned. This is the foundation for accepting periods alone and thus avoiding separation anxiety. Giving the pup a small treat when she goes into the run on command will reinforce that the kennel run in s a good place to be.

For the new addition to the family, confining the pup’s environment in the beginning will aid in housetraining and rapid understanding of the house rules (housemanners). I do not advocate blocking one area of the house and leaving the pup there alone while the family is elsewhere. That will surely create a foundation for future negative behavior. If the pup cannot be tethered safely where the family is, then put the pup in a crate in the same room. (Crates can be moved, that’s why they’re referred to as portable dog kennels!) She’ll feel part of the family but won’t be able to get into mischief. I teach and practice the principle of pups earning privileges. As the pup shows me that she is starting to understand the house rules, her confinement is lessened. If she errs, confinement is reinstated.

Confinement is also a useful tool when a pup becomes over-excited or over-stimulated. In such times, their minds shut off which results in their bodies becoming difficult to keep still. Slow the body in a crate, for example, and the mind will settle. It is also an effective tool when the pup is having a temper tantrum. (Yes, they do have them!) An enforced quiet time in a crate away from the family teaches the pup that temper tantrums don’t work.

"Quiet Times"

When I moved to the Cariboo, I started an evening (and sometimes during the day) routine of ‘quiet times’. During this time, my housegirls rest or play with a toy quietly in their chosen ‘spots’ while I do my beadweaving. As I get very irritated when a nose ‘helps’ a collection of tiny seed beads to be scattered in the carpet, my girls quickly learn that being in my small livingroom is a privilege that demands lady-like behavior.

When a pup joins my housegirl pack, they are introduced to this concept. The pup is tethered with a four foot lead and buckle collar to a solid piece of furniture out of range of my beads. The pup is taken to her "spot", clipped to the tether, and then she must lie down for a biscuit. All the other girls have assumed their spots by this time so all receive a small biscuit. Quiet time has begun.

The pup has easy access to a variety of toys. Sometimes an older girl will play quietly with the tethered pup. Loud complaining is ‘rewarded’ with a strong squirt of water followed by a verbal "thank you" when the pup settles down and is quiet. The pup is tethered until five or six months of age depending upon the individual pup. If she becomes rambunctious during the transition time of tethering to full ‘quiet time’ privileges, an evening or two on the ether quickly reminds her of the expected lady-like behavior.


Young pups, like young children, must develop self-discipline in order to behave in a socially acceptable way. This trait can be difficult to foster without squelching the individual’s spirit. The boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior must be clearly taught and consistently adhered to. It is a necessity that all family members adhere to the same rules. This requires self-discipline of the owners to not "give in" to the pup "this time". Dogs, especially Malamutes, are opportunists. If the undesired boundary pushing behavior worked once (and the dog got rewarded in her mind) then it might work again – and again – and again….. Only with consistent reinforcing of the boundaries will the testing behavior become less frequent until it completely disappears. So self-discipline in this context applies to both the up and the owner!

Returning now to our littersisters, time has now passed and the party girl returns to "Grandma’s" for a weekend visit. In the interim between my last seeing Sadie at six months and now at thirteen months, her owners have received lots of help from her brother Ananda’s owner, from myself over the phone, and have attended a session of obedience classes taught by a well respected obedience trainer/judge. Sadie and Ananda regularly meet and play on a Vancouver beach with another littersister and other dogs. This has really fast-forwarded Sadie’s socialization. But Sadie is still a party girl in some respects.

Meeting Sadie’s relatives and staying in my small house with my pack of six housegirls was an eye-opener for both Sadie and her owners. They all got a crash course in pack behavior and pack management. I emphasized that they – two people and a dog – also comprise a pack and what they saw me doing with my dogs (and Sadie), they could do as well.

Sadie integrated extremely well into the pack. Although she had been crate-trained as a young pup, the enforced crating at night and when we weren’t in the same room with here was a routine she wasn’t used to. (Sadie’s crate was positioned so she could see everyone, just not physically touch.) A few well-timed squirts reinforced the verbal discipline and she "remembered" her crate training. I chose not to have her loose in my small house with my girls as it may have lead to an altercation. Playing with the housegirls outside in a large yard – which was a more neutral territory – was less upsetting for all.

The only time one of Sadie’s owners was concerned was when she bothered her grandfather who had a special toy. After Sadie ignored his warning, Geoffrey snapped at her and then ignored the ki-yii-ing and antics of the pup. When Sadie came to us, all she had on her side was a bit of dog spit! Shortly after, Geoffrey, Sadie, and her momma Maia, went for a long walk with us. All three dogs were perfectly behaved. Sadie truly got a "respect your elders" lesson from her grandfather. Her owners also got a lesson about the effectiveness of a well-timed and appropriate discipline which created respect.

Sadie’s owners and I had many talks about why she is different from brother Ananda and sister Zhouma. The biggest different is how the three pups were managed during their first six months. As I had both Ananda and Zhouma during that time, I know they received all of the mentioned aspects of high expectations, education, confinement, and quiet times which bolstered their self-discipline. Sadie’s soft-hearted owners now realize what they did – and didn’t – do with her.

Is it too late for party-girl Sadie to become a lady? Absolutely not! She is blessed with caring intelligent owners who want to learn how to bring out the best in their girl. They saw how pack management works and the resulting ladies and gentlemen. Sadie will probably always be a party girl at heart but with some remedial work and consistent reinforcement of desired behavior, the quality of parties that Sadie will ‘attend’ will change from a ‘rave’ to high society.

My puppy rearing methods may seem rather strict to new owners, but the owners who have followed exactly what I practice and teach do find that they have a lady or gentleman puppy as early as six months. The puppy still has all the delightful puppy exuberance but also has manners. To emphasize, using the principles and tools of expectations of desired adult behavior, education, confinement, and quiet times, an owner will raised a self-disciplined, mannered Happy Dog!

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