When we got Sandy we were overwhelmed with all the information about training a puppy and everything that was involved in taking care of them.
Our second blog post inspired by Sandy is all about bringing home a new puppy. Written by Peach on a Leash owner and head trainer, Alex Sessa, (formerly Andes) CPDT-KA, VSPDT, a professional dog trainer and pet behavior expert, she writes about everything you need to know on training and settling in your new addition to the family.
Do you have a new four-legged addition joining your family now or in the future? You’ll find loads of information and advice online, but sorting through it all (and determining the sound advice from the not-so-sound) can be overwhelming. So here are our top tips – right from a trainer’s mouth – for bringing home and successfully raising a happy and healthy puppy.
1. Choose wisely.
One of the most important decisions you’ll make as a pet guardian is where you get your puppy.
It’s easy to be lured in by the adorable faces and clever marketing of a pet store, but a vast majority of pet store puppies come from puppy mills, which are commercial puppy farms where pups are mass-produced with minimum standards of care in order to make maximum profits. Many of these puppies are sick and don’t make it past puppyhood, and can even spread illnesses to humans. But perhaps worst of all are the conditions in which the breeding parents are kept. Most will spend their entire lives confined to a tiny cage.
So where should you get your pup from? Rescues and shelters offer a wonderful assortment of dogs and puppies of all ages, sizes, and breeds. Or if you’d prefer to go the route of a breeder, just make sure they are a small-scale business that follows high standards of care for both the parents and puppies, and go to great lengths to ensure the optimum health of all dogs in their care.
2. Start socializing immediately.
Socialization doesn’t begin after your puppy is fully vaccinated. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s position statement on puppy socialization states that the risk of serious behavior problems developing due to lack of early socialization far outweighs the risk of your puppy contracting a deadly illness.
Long story short, don’t wait!
- Enroll your puppy in a safe, well-managed puppy class right at eight weeks of age.
- Have as many people of all ages meet your puppy in a gentle, controlled setting.
- Get them used to handling, to objects and surfaces they’ll need to be comfortable with as adults, and make sure all experiences are overwhelmingly positive.
- The critical socialization window closes at about 16 weeks, so make sure that little sponge of yours is soaking up all the best experiences.
3. Manage your expectations
Even if you do everything right with your pup from day one, remember that you have the canine equivalent of a toddler in your home. They aren’t born out of the womb knowing to potty outside, knowing to walk on a leash, or knowing what words like “no” and “sit” mean.
We must be their guardians and their teachers, and how we conduct our teaching will be critical to the ongoing success of our puppies. That means rewarding when your pup gets it right, and setting healthy boundaries while avoiding the use of physical force or punishment.
4. Potty Training 101
So how does the training I described above work in practice? Potty training is a perfect example.
- When your puppy potties outside, praise and reward.
- When your puppy has an accident inside, interrupt it (a sound like “ah-ah!” is usually effective) and immediately get them outside. If they finish outside, praise and reward. The key here is that the interrupter isn’t scary. It’s just enough to get them to stop and look at you.
- If your puppy is loose in an area of your house, you need to be watching them like a hawk. You can even use a leash to tether them to you.
- Use a confinement area like a crate or a playpen to house your puppy when you can’t be actively supervising them, or if you think they might need to potty but didn’t go outside.
- You’ve got to catch accidents as they happen; a missed accident is not a learning opportunity for your puppy.
- Important: make sure the crate or pen is a happy, fun place for your pup. You can feed meals in the crate, toss treats in the crate, and hide treats in there when your pup isn’t looking. Don’t ever use it as a punishment.
5. It’s never too early to start learning.
Learning can begin as soon as you get your puppy. In fact, the earlier you begin, the better! Even just starting with foundation behaviors like sit, down, and touch can help boost your puppy’s confidence, teach them how learning works, and grow the bond between the two of you. Keep sessions short, fun, and focused on just one or two things at a time.
Having a puppy is a massive responsibility, but it’s also a whole lot of fun! Just remember that the humane training and socialization you work on now will lay the foundation for your puppy to grow into a friendly and confident adult dog.