When you bring a puppy home the first thought on your mind is probably having fun! Afterall, the reason we get dogs is that we love them so much and they bring untold joy to our lives. Our goal as dog trainers is to ensure that clients and their dogs have the best possible lives together. To achieve this goal we focus on helping people raise a puppy correctly from the start so that they never develop problems that can lead to stress, fear, or aggression. The three main areas we ensure our clients address are socialization, training, and handling exercises.
Socializing your puppy is absolutely crucial, but it is often misunderstood. Socializing a dog entails introducing them to the various types of people, animals, sights and sounds they will encounter throughout the rest of their life. The good news is that this is a lot of fun! Get out in public and introduce your new pup to your neighbors, your friends and other animals. It will bring a smile to their faces and help your pup get used to new people. Health, safety and stress levels do need to be considered so please read our Socialization Article for more information on this topic. Also, be aware that puppies have a critical socialization period that ends around 16 weeks so it is important to start early!
Training is something else that should be started early with your puppy. This doesn’t need to be formal obedience training, we generally recommend you start with addressing housebreaking, jumping, nipping, and other things that might be happening around your home. Many people enjoy their puppy less than they should due to these types of behaviors and the sooner you stop them, the sooner you can start having more fun! Teach your pup right from wrong and make sure they have plenty of positive experiences and fun things they are able to do. When young puppies have an accident, bite, bark or jump it is crucial to have a set of rules and a plan in place that everyone in the family follows. It is very confusing and unfair to a puppy when each person responds differently to the puppies actions. Set them up for success with a clear set of rules!
Handling exercises are also extremely important to work on with puppies. We break handling exercises down into two groups, handling the puppy and handling the puppies resources. Handling the puppy includes things such as brushing their fur, touching their paws, clipping their nails, cleaning their teeth, cleaning their ears and a full examination of their body. When started early this can be a fun experience for you and your puppy. They will enjoy the process and will never know that this isn’t simply a fun thing you do a few times a week. We see way too many adult dogs that show aggression in these types of situations and our goal is to prevent your puppy from getting to that point.
Handling resources is similar to the handling exercises discussed above. The difference here is that you are handling your puppy’s food, bones and toys. It is important that they know it is not a big deal when people pet them while eating or chewing and that humans taking things away is ok. Again, if you start early it will be a fun game. While they are eating or chewing you simply walk up, pet them, take the resource away, give it back and then walk off.
There are three main keys to think about with everything in this article. The first is to have a good plan in place and to know what you are doing. Take the time to really learn how to socialize a puppy, how to train them, and how to perform the various handling exercises. Learning from a professional is definitely recommended. The second key is to make sure and start early. If you miss their Critical Socialization Window or you allow negative behaviors to develop your workload will sky rocket. It is so much easier to prevent issues than to fix them. The third key is to continue all three of these tasks throughout your dog’s life. Never stop socializing them, training them or performing your handling exercises. If you take a year off from handling your dogs bones you might be in for a surprise when you try taking a bone from your “teenage” dog. If you follow the guidelines laid out in this article you and your pup will have so much more fun together and you will prevent a lot of stress for both of you!