Seven Pointers for New Puppy Parents
by Barbara De Groodt
The most important thing over all that you can do for your new puppy is to establish a relationship that is fair and positive. Your puppy should be able to look to you for guidance and security at any time during her life. This should be started from the very first day she comes home with you. I treasure this with my dogs and cultivate it every chance I get.
The seven most important things for you to teach your puppy are:
1. Name - Teach your puppy her name in a positive way. To do this, say her name and when she looks at you, smile and give a treat. Repeat this many, many times. Call her name when you are ready to feed her. Call her name when you want to play. Associate her name with lots of fun things such as treats, toys, food, affection, and playtime.
2. Ouch! Gentle - You must teach your puppy that biting is unacceptable. A little biting with very young puppies is natural. This is how they explore their world. When they play roughly with littermates, they learn how to temper their biting by the feedback from their littermates. They must learn—and quickly—that humans are not to be bitten.
When your puppy bites you in play or to get your attention, cry out like a littermate would. Your puppy should back off and show that he is sorry with his body language.
3. Crate Sweet Crate - Crate training your new pup will give her a place to go when she is tired or wants to remove herself from the household activities. You will find a crate a great benefit when the puppy gets too mouthy and needs some time to calm down. Again, as with all training, crate training should be done positively. You want your pup to associate her crate with all things good: treats, bones, meals, comfort, security. Please consult a professional for assistance if you are new to crate training. Puppies should not be crated for more than four hours at a time.
4. Wait - Waiting to go out doorways is essential for the long-term safety of your pup. Knowing she needs to wait until invited to go out with you will prevent your puppy from squeezing through doorways for a dangerous game of “catch me if you can.”
Have your puppy on a leash and begin to open the door. If he moves toward the door, calmly close the door. Repeat and be patient. This may take several attempts. When he remains in place, give him your command, such as "outside" or "let's go," with you leading the way.
5. Come - Teaching your puppy to come can be a lifesaver. Begin by showing your pup a treat; then call her name, back up, and encourage her to follow. When she comes, smile and let her know that was a great thing she just did. Try not to pull on a leash, this will only teach her to wait for the pull. Most puppies like to follow guardians in the beginning. Be sure to reward that behavior over and over again because as her world expands, you want to continue to be the center of her universe even amongst distractions.
5. House-Training - Having a solid housetraining program may prevent your puppy from being relinquished to a shelter. Not being housebroken is one of the most common behavioral reasons dogs are surrendered to shelters.House-training begins on day one. Puppies need a routine, and they need to be taken out frequently. It helps to take them to the same spot repeatedly to do their business and add a command like “go potty,” then reward and praise them when they succeed. All puppies make some house-training mistakes. Do not scold your puppy for this. Up your vigilance about taking him out on schedule and praising him. Be patient.
6. Puppy Class - Puppy training starting at 10 weeks of age, in a class setting will help your puppy begin his foundational training for life. Puppies are like little balls of clay, ready to be molded into the future dog you will enjoy living and playing with for a lifetime. Puppy classes should be taught by the most experienced trainer; after all, you are laying the foundation for your dog. This is where your dog can be socialized and also learn basic commands like sit, down, stay, and maybe even a few tricks!
This article is meant to pique your interest in training your puppy. These seven points could fill a book, so please ask for assistance before you have a problem. All dogs need regular exercise and mental stimulation, and puppies even more so. Beginning on the right paw can make puppyhood easy and adulthood an absolute joy. And don’t forget to hug your pup every day—I do!
Barbara DeGroodt is the owner of From the Heart Animal Behavior Counseling and Dog Training (www.fromtheheart.info) in Salinas, and has been an animal behavior counselor for over 30 years. Barbara was one of the original founders of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She’s a member of International Association of Canine Professionals, as well as a certified animal trainer.