Welcoming a new puppy is a special time - your cute bundle of fluff will entertain you with their funny antics and hopefully grow into a well-trained, happy adult dog. But puppies are not born knowing our rules and how to behave in our lives; it's up to us to manage and guide them. Your actions in the first few months will influence your puppy's behaviour for life.
Here are my top tips to help you through the crazy puppy phase.
Socialise your puppy
The first 18 weeks of your puppy's life are the most critical developmental period in your dog's life. During this time, it is crucial to socialise your puppy by exposing them to as many people, places and 'things' as possible – other animals, children, trucks, skateboards, veterinarians, slippery floors, loud noises etc. Handling is an essential of their socialisation as you want your puppy to be comfortable being handled by lots of different people over their lifetime, including their vet. Spend five to ten minutes each day touching your puppy and reward them with their favourite treats each time you touch them somewhere new on their body- touch their tail, feet, ears, mouth, belly and face.
Enrol in puppy class
Puppy classes run for 3 or 4 weeks at vet clinics and dog training schools, and they are helpful for socialisation as your puppy can interact with other puppies and meet new people. You can ask lots of questions about basic puppy training. Puppy classes are a great place to meet other people who are on a similar puppy journey and organise safe puppy play dates.
Teach your puppy to be comfortable alone
All puppies need companionship and playtime, but it's also essential they are OK to spend time on their own. There will always be periods when a puppy will be left by themselves, so they must learn to be able to cope with this from the start. Crate training or using a puppy play pen for periods of confinement are very helpful for this. The Snooza 2 in 1 Convertible Training Crate is a great one to start with because it’s designed to convert into a cosy retreat with removable doors and optional cover. Once crate trained, it can be used like a bedroom for your pup, that they enjoy spending time in by choice. Click here to read more about crate training.
Provide chew toys for your puppy
It is natural for puppies to chew, and you must provide them with safe chew toys as an alternative to your household belongings. This will save a lot of angst! Chew toys must be made from materials your puppy cannot destroy easily, as these can pose a choking hazard. Ensure all toys are of suitable strength/size for your puppy, and rotate the chew toys regularly to maintain your puppy's interest. Teach your puppy to use their chew toys too by placing their favourite treats inside to start.
Use lots of rewards
Set your puppy up to win by being very generous with your treats and praise
whenever they do a desired behaviour. You want their training to always be a positive experience for them, so reward all the good. Puppies have a short attention span, so keep sessions short – 5 - 10 minutes each time is plenty.
Don't give up!
Problems often arise when puppies become adolescent dogs from 6 – 18 months. Common issues include jumping up, pulling on the lead, barking, food bowl aggression, chewing and digging. You need to continue training your puppy well after the completion of puppy classes and expect some challenges as they become teenagers.
By Dr Katrina Warren