Training Your New Puppy
Bringing a new puppy into the household is always an exciting and fun time. Everyone wants to play with, cuddle and hold the little ball of fur. The last thing on the minds of most new puppy owners is training the new addition, but it is important that puppy training and socialization begin as early as possible.
In some ways training a puppy is easier than training an adult or adolescent dog. One reason is that the puppy is essentially a “blank slate”, untroubled by past training techniques and other issues. In other ways, however, the puppy can be more difficult to train than an older dog.
One challenge to training a new puppy is that puppies are more easily distractible than adolescent and adult dogs. Everything is new to a puppy, and every new experience provides a new chance for distraction. For this reason, it is best to keep training sessions short when working with a puppy, and to end each training sessions on a positive note.
Socializing a new puppy is a vital part of any training program, and it is important for socialization to begin early. The window for socialization is very short, and a puppy that is not properly socialized to people, dogs and other animals by the time he or she is four months old often never develops the socialization he or she needs to become a good canine citizen.
Socialization training is vital to making your new puppy a good canine citizen, as dog aggression is a growing problem in many areas. A properly socialized dog learns how to play properly with other dogs, and overly aggressive play is punished by the other dogs in the play group.
This type of play learning is something that happens among siblings in litters of puppies. As the puppies play with each other, they learn what is appropriate and what is not.
Inappropriate behavior, such as hard biting or scratching, is punished by the other puppies, by the mother dog, or both.
Unfortunately, many puppies are removed from their mothers and sold or adopted before this socialization has fully occurred. Therefore, puppy play sessions are a very important part of any puppy training session. Most good puppy preschool training programs provide time in each session for this type of dog interaction.
Introducing your puppy to new experiences and new locations is also an important part of puppy training. Teaching your dog to be obedient and responsive, even in the face of many distractions, is very important when training dogs and puppies.
One great way to socialize your puppy both to new people and new dogs is to take it on a trip to your local pet store. Many major pet store chains, and some independent ones as well, allow pet parents to bring their furry children, and these stores can be great places for puppies to get used to new sights, sounds and smells. Of course you will want to make sure the store allows pets before heading over.
Learning how to interact with other dogs is something that normally would occur between littermates. However, since most dogs are removed from their mothers so soon, this littermate socialization often does not finish properly.
One vital lesson puppies learn from their littermates and from the mother dog is how to bite, and how not to bite. Puppies naturally roughhouse with each other, and their thick skin protects them from most bites. However, when one puppy bites too hard, the other puppies, or the mother dog, quickly reprimand him, often by holding him by the scruff of his neck until he submits.
The best way to socialize your puppy is to have it play with lots of other puppies. It is also fine for the puppy to play with a few adult dogs, as long as they are friendly and well socialized. Many communities have puppy playschool and puppy kindergarten classes. These classes can be a great way to socialize any puppy, and for handler and puppy alike to learn some basic obedience skills.
When socializing puppies, it is best to let them play on their own and work out their own issues when it comes to appropriate roughness of play. The only time the owners should step in is if one puppy is hurting another, or if a serious fight breaks out. Other than that the owners should simply stand back and watch their puppies interact.
While this socialization is taking place, the pack hierarchy should quickly become apparent. Some puppies are ultra-submissive, rolling on their backs and baring their throats at the slightest provocation. Other puppies in the class will be dominant, ordering the other puppies around and telling them what to do. Watching the puppies play, and determining what type of personality traits your puppy has, will be very valuable in determining the best way to proceed with more advanced training.
As the socialization process proceeds, of course, it will be necessary to introduce the puppy to all sorts of humans as well as all sorts of puppies. Fortunately, the puppy kindergarten class makes this process quite easy, since every puppy gets to interact with every human. It is important that the puppy be exposed to men, and women, old people and children, black people and white people. Dogs do not see every human as the same. To a dog, a man and a woman are completely different animals.
It is also important to introduce the puppy to a variety of other animals, especially in a multi pet household. Introducing the puppy to friendly cats is important, as are introductions to other animals the puppy may encounter, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and the like. If your household contains a more exotic creature, it is important to introduce the puppy to it as early as possible, but to do it in a way that is safe for both animals.
It is often best to start by introducing the puppy to the smell of the other animal. This can be easily accomplished by placing a piece of the animals bedding, like a towel or bed liner, near where the puppy sleeps. Once the puppy is accustomed to the smell of the other creature, he or she is much more likely to accept the animal as just another member of the family.
It is important for puppy owners to structure their pet’s environment so that the puppy is rewarded for good behaviors and not rewarded for others. One good example of this is jumping on people. Many people inadvertently reward this behavior because it can be cute. While it is true that jumping can be cute for a 10 pound puppy, it will not be so cute when that puppy has grown into a 100 pound dog.
Instead of rewarding the puppy for jumping, try rewarding it for sitting instead. This type of positive reinforcement will result in a well behaved adult dog that is a valued member of both the family and the community at large.
This type of reinforcement can also be used in potty training the new puppy. For instance, teaching a puppy to use a unique surface such as gravel or asphalt is a good technique. The theory is that the puppy will associate this surface with going potty, and therefore be reluctant to use other surfaces (like your kitchen carpet for instance) as a potty.
It is best to introduce a new puppy to the household when everyone in the family is present, and when the household is as calm as possible. That is why animal care experts discourage parents from giving puppies and kittens as holiday presents. The holiday season is typically much too busy, with far too many distractions, for a young puppy or kitten to get the attention it needs. It is best to wait until the holidays have passed before introducing the new family member.
Once the puppy is part of the household, there are some things he or she will need to learn. One of the first challenges of a multi-story home will be learning to climb up and down the stair. Many puppies are afraid of stairs, and that usually means that they do not know how to climb them properly. It is important for the puppy’s owner to slowly build the confidence of the dog, starting off at the bottom of the stairs. In general, a wide stairway will probably be less frightening to the puppy.
To build confidence, the owner should go up the first step, and then encourage the puppy to join them, using their voice, treats or a toy. After the puppy has joined you on the first stair, go back down and repeat the process until the puppy will go up that step on his own. It is important to build confidence slowly and not rush the process. Taking a one step at a time approach is the best way to teach the puppy to not be afraid of stairs.
Another thing every new puppy must learn is how to accept the collar. Learning to wear a collar is important to every dog, but many puppies are baffled, frightened and bewildered by this new piece of equipment. Many puppies constantly try to remove their new collar by pawing and pulling at it.
Fit is important when choosing a collar for your new puppy. A properly fitted collar, chosen for your puppy’s size, is more likely to be comfortable and accepted. While choke, slip and training collars can be good training aids, they should never be used as a substitute for a sturdy buckle type collar. And of course that collar should have an identification tag and license attached. This identification will be vital in having your puppy returned if she becomes separated from you.
The best way to introduce the puppy to the collar is to simply put the collar on and allow her to squirm, jump, roll and paw at the color to her heart’s content. It is important to not encourage this behavior by trying to soothe the puppy, but it is just as important not to punish or reprimand the puppy.
The best strategy is to simply ignore the puppy and them her work through her issues with the collar on her own. Introducing distractions, such as food, toys or playing, is a good way to get the puppy used to the color. Getting the puppy to play, eat and drink while wearing the collar is a great way to get her used to it. After a few days, most puppies will not even know they are wearing a collar.
Teaching Your Puppy Proper Socialization Skills
Teaching a puppy or a dog with proper socialization skills is vital to the safety of both your dog between other dogs and people with whom he comes into contact. A properly socialized dog is a happy dog, and a joy to be around for both humans and animals. A poorly socialized dog or one with no socialization at all, is a danger to other animals, other people and even his own family.
Socialization is best done when the puppy is as young as possible the socialization lessons a young puppy learns are difficult to undo, and it is important to remember that the socialization skills the puppy learns will affect his behavior for the rest of his life.
A dog that is properly socialized will be neither frightened of nor aggressive towards either animals or humans. A properly socialized dog will take each new experience and stimulus in stride, and not become fearful or aggressive. Dogs that are not properly socialized often bite because of fear, and such a dog can become a hazard and a liability to the family who owns it. Improperly socialized dogs are also unable to adapt to new situations. A routine matter like a trip to the vets or to a friend’s house can quickly stress the dog out and lead to all sorts of problems.
Socialization is best done when the puppy is very young, perhaps around 12 weeks of age. Even after 12 weeks, however, it is important that the puppy continues its socialization in order to refine the all-important social skills. It is possible to socialize an older puppy, but it is very difficult to achieve after the all-important 12 week period has passed.
There are so definite do’s and don’ts when it comes to properly socializing any puppy. Let’s start with what to do. Later in this article we will explore what to avoid.
❖ Make each of the socialization events as pleasant and non-threatening for the puppy as possible. If a puppy’s first experience with any new experience is an unpleasant one, it will be very difficult to undo that in the puppy’s mind. In some cases, an early trauma can morph into a phobia that can last for a lifetime. It is better to take things slow and avoid having the puppy become frightened or injured.
❖ Try inviting your friends over to meet the new puppy. It is important to included as many different people as possible in the puppy’s circle of acquaintances, including men, women, children, adults, as well as people of many diverse ethnic backgrounds and ages.
❖ Also invite friendly and healthy dogs and puppies over to meet your puppy. It is important for the puppy to meet a wide variety of other animals, including cats, hamsters, rabbits and other animals he is likely to meet. It is of course important to make sure that all animals the puppy comes into contact with have received all necessary vaccinations.
❖ Take the puppy to many different places, including shopping centers, pet stores, parks, school playgrounds and on walks around the neighborhood. Try to expose the puppy to places where they will be crowds of people and lots of diverse activity going on.
❖ Take the puppy for frequent short rides in the car. During these rides, be sure to stop the car once in a while and let the puppy look out the window at the world outside.
❖ Introduce your puppy to a variety of items that may be unfamiliar. The puppy should be exposed to common items like bags, boxes, vacuum cleaners, umbrellas, hats, etc. that may be frightening to him. Allow and encourage the puppy to explore these items and see that he has nothing to fear from them.
❖ Get the puppy used to a variety of objects by rearranging familiar ones. Simply placing a chair upside down, or placing a table on its side, creates an object that your puppy will perceive as totally new.
❖ Get the puppy used to common procedures like being brushed, bathed, having the nails clipped, teeth cleaned, ears cleaned, etc. Your groomer and your veterinarian with thank you for this.
❖ Introduce the puppy to common things around the house, such as stairs. Also introduce the puppy to the collar and leash, so he will be comfortable with these items.
There are of course some things to avoid when socializing a puppy. These socialization don’ts include:
❖ Do not place the puppy on the ground when strange animals are present. An attack, or even a surprise inspection, by an unknown animal could traumatize the puppy and hurt his socialization.
❖ Do not inadvertently reward fear based behavior. When the puppy shows fear, it is normal to try to sooth it, but this could reinforce the fear based behavior and make it worse. Since biting is often a fear based behavior, reinforcing fear can create problems with biting.
❖ Do not force or rush the socialization process. It is important to allow the puppy to socialize at his own pace.
Do not try to do too much too soon. Young puppies have short attention spans, and continuing lessons after that attention span has passed will be a waste of your time and your puppy’s.
Do not wait too long to begin. There is a short window in which to begin the socialization process. A young puppy is a blank slate, and it is important to fill that slate with positive socialization skills as early as possible.