Congrats on your new pup!
Puppy is looking to you now for security & guidance. So begin teaching her your household rules as soon as you bring her home. This prevents unwanted behaviors from becoming bad habits to break later.
Follow these guidelines for a great start at raising a well-mannered dog:
- First, take your puppy to your veterinarian. Bring treats & a toy to help Pup have fun, and a list of questions for your vet. Your puppy will receive a thorough physical exam, and your vet will give you guidelines for Pup’s future health care, including a vaccine schedule. Follow your vet’s recommendations for a healthy, happy dog.
- Never encourage unwanted behaviors, no matter how cute they are. Example: Don’t scold, pick up or pet a jumping puppy. Reward calmness & 4 paws on the ground, instead. Be consistent. Think: Do I really want my full grown dog doing this? If you allow it with you, Pup will rightfully think it’s ok with guests & kids, too.
Praise Pup when she does something wonderful so she’ll do it again in the future. Don’t take it for granted when she’s a “Good girl!”.
- Keep all greetings & departures calm. If you’re excited, Pup will get excited, too. That leads to unwanted behaviors (jumping, mouthing, barking, departure anxiety, peeing – to name a few).
- Puppy proof your home. Pick up unsafe or valued items that can be swallowed or chewed. Puppies naturally investigate their surroundings with their noses & mouths, so you must take precautions.
- Supervise Pup at all times, unless she’s confined in a safe place.
- Consider crate training your puppy. Dogs love the security that den-like crates provide. You’ll love using the crate for quicker house training, calming breaks, traveling, & safe confinement when you can’t supervise. But NEVER use time in a crate as punishment.
- Teach Pup to potty outside. Walk her outside on leash to potty after waking; after chewing/playing; within 20-30 minutes after drinking/eating; and before bedtime. Stay with Pup, gently encouraging her to “Go Potty”. As she obliges, praise her calmly & warmly, “Good”. If you are treating her, do it outside after she’s completely done pottying. Give the treat too early, and she’ll forget she had more to do outside. Give the treat too late (after she comes inside), and she won’t associate treat with an outdoor potty. Or, she may skip the potty entirely & race inside for the treat – only to potty indoors afterwards.
- Exercise Puppy often. Fetch & hide-and-seek are fun games for Pup & the family. A tired Pup is better behaved.
- Don’t play games that encourage unwanted behaviors. Tug, wrestling & chase games are wonderful bonding play for you & pup. But be sure to teach them with rules. Teach “drop” before tug. Teach that mouthing during wrestling ends the game (walk away). Teach that jumping or nipping heels during a chase game ends the game (stand still). Small children are better off never playing these games with puppies. Since kids imitate adults, parents should focus on games that are safer for their kids to copy (fetch, hide-and-seek, find it & other games/commands).
- Keep chew toys handy for Puppy.
- Handle Puppy often. Teach her to accept & trust touch now, while she’s still small & easier to restrain. Handle her body everywhere: paws, ears, mouth, tail & rump. Practice when she’s calm. Keep sessions short & sweet, ending before she fusses. Incorporate, slow, gentle pets or treats (whichever’s more calming for Pup) into handling practice.
- Socialize Pup safely. Contact a positive trainer in your area who offers puppy social classes for pups as young as 10 weeks old. These classes are a safe way for Pup (and you) to learn proper, critical early socializing skills. Ask your trainer to visit your home, too. It’s more helpful than you can imagine. She’ll guide Pup’s age & vaccination status-appropriate socializing. As you socialize Pup with anything/anyone new in her environment, remember: Never force anything. Let her approach people; ask them to wait until she does. If she gets nervous, give her time & distance to relax & recover. Less is more.
Follow these general guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to a well-mannered dog. Enjoy your dog’s puppyhood as much as possible. Understand that puppy training is an investment into a wonderful adult dog. But it can be overwhelming. No worries: house training schedules, socializing & training techniques can be adapted to many lifestyles.