Adopting a puppy is fun and exciting, but it can also be daunting. There are a lot of responsibilities that come with caring for a young dog, and a lot of training that must be done to teach concepts and behaviors that usually are already in place in a mature dog. The earlier you start, the easier it will be for your puppy to learn what it needs to know. Read on to discover everything you’ll need to give your puppy a solid foundation on which to build a happy and healthy life.
PUPPY-PROOF YOUR HOME
Conscientious expectant parents normally baby-proof their homes to make them safe to live in for curious infants. Like babies, puppies spend a lot of their time hurting themselves due to their own curiosity and complete lack of appreciation for safety. It’s your job to keep your puppy alive, and that means making sure your pad is safe before even bringing the dog home. Food, medicine, chemicals and other hazards: You’ve got to put them away, cover them and lock them up. Read our guide to puppy-proofing your home for more information.
WATCH OUT FOR OTHER PUPPY “PLAGUES”
In order to keep your new puppy safe, you need to know what things are dangerous to it. This includes everything from worms and other parasites, to dangerous foods, pills and chemicals like antifreeze and lawn treatments. Refer to our guides to puppy plagues and unsafe people foods for pets to help keep it all straight.
CRATE TRAIN THAT PUPPY
Crate training is an essential part of owning a dog, and a base for a lot of other important training, particularly housebreaking your puppy. Dogs are den animals by nature, so using a crate should come naturally to your puppy, and when properly crate trained, he will come to view his crate as his “room” — not a place of punishment, but a comfortable, safe space where he can relax and have privacy when desired. And of course, when you have to keep your puppy in the crate for any reason — overnight or when you are away from home, for example — he’ll feel comfortable being in there. For a complete guide to crate-training your puppy, refer to “Crate Training for Puppies” on PawNation.
HOUSEBREAK THAT PUPPY
Housebreaking is the first great hurdle you and your puppy will negotiate together. As stated, crate training is an important step in the process. Dogs naturally will not want soil their “den,” so training your puppy to be in his crate will help him learn when and where is and isn’t an appropriate time or place to eliminate. And timing is very important. Getting your puppy on a tight pee schedule early will help him avoid accidents. Also maintain a consistent location where your puppy can pee and poop, so it knows not to do its business in other, inappropriate places. Establishing a verbal command to signal your puppy to do its business will also tighten the routine. Read “Housebreaking a Puppy in 7 Steps” on PawNation for a complete guide.
ESTABLISH THAT PUPPY’S WALKING ROUTINE
Establishing routines for your puppy is part of training and developing good habits for a lifetime of healthy behavior, and adopting a dog of any age means you’ve signed up for daily walks for the rest of your dog’s life. As with other routines, you want your puppy to acclimate to a regular walking schedule as early as possible, both to establish a routine “bathroom” time and to allow the puppy to learn to walk on a leash. Rule No. 1 for walking your puppy is to maintain control. You’re walking the dog, not the other way around. Don’t allow your puppy to lead the way. Good leash training is essential. Read our leash training Q & A with behavioral specialist Neika Smessaert for a detailed guide.
ESTABLISH THAT PUPPY’S SLEEPING ROUTINE
Your puppy may want to sleep in your bed with you, and you may even welcome that, but it’s probably better for your puppy to sleep in its crate at night. It will only help its overall crate training, and it will allow more restful sleep for both of you. However, it is true that being near you at night will soothe your puppy’s anxiety, so as a compromise, you can keep the puppy’s crate in your bedroom while you sleep. In order to help your puppy settle down at bedtime, be sure to take him out for one last bathroom break before sleep, and engage in one last brief but lively play session to use up your puppy’s energy. Finally, try to maintain a consistent sleeping schedule, not just for your own health, but also for the sake of your puppy’s routine.
TRAIN THAT PUPPY NOT TO CHEW
Chewing is a normal, yet frustrating and often inappropriate puppy behavior. Puppies explore the world with their mouths, and that means chewing or swallowing just about anything they can get their faces on. Obviously, this can be a problem, either because the puppy is putting itself in danger, destroying things you don’t want destroyed, or just being difficult to control in general.
Because puppy chewing is natural and even necessary in the right context (during the teething process, in particular), the trick is to focus your puppy’s chewing to appropriate channels. Offer a variety of chew toys; your puppy will pick its favorites. Avoid rawhide, real bones and sticks, as these can injure your puppy. Choose toys that are appropriate to your puppy’s size. When your puppy chews on inappropriate objects, use positive-reinforcement techniques to redirect her attention to her chew toys, offering praise and treats when she gets it right.
TRAIN THAT PUPPY NOT TO JUMP
When a puppy jumps on you, it can be cute at first. What’s cuter than a happy puppy that’s excited for your attention and affection? But the jumping can be obnoxious at the wrong times, and if you don’t nip it in the bud, it can turn into a real problem when that tiny puppy grows up into a much bigger dog. The best way to curb your puppy’s jumping is to ignore it. It is an attention-seeking behavior, so do not reward the behavior by offering attention. Don’t pick up or pet your puppy when he jumps. Don’t even yell or push the dog away; this negative attention is still a kind of attention. Break eye contact and walk to another room. Soon enough, your puppy will learn that jumping doesn’t work.
SOCIALIZE THAT PUPPY
Socializing your puppy is important, both for its own happiness and comfort and yours throughout the dog’s life. It means the difference between a dog who is comfortable in a variety of different situations and environments, and with people and other animals, as opposed to one who is frightened and confused by the world. The younger your puppy is, the more comfortable she will be taking in new experiences, so it’s important to socialize a puppy as much as possible, as early as possible. Take your puppy for walks in different environments. Bring it to dog parks where it can interact — safely! — with other dogs. Enroll the puppy in classes, and look online for puppy socialization meet-up groups. The ASPCA has more puppy socialization tips, including a fun and thorough “exposure checklist” to help you maximize your puppy’s socialization.
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PLAY WITH THAT CUTE PUPPY
Socializing your puppy to make it familiar with other people and animals is important, but don’t forget about yourself. No relationship your puppy can have will be as important as her bond with you. Foster the human-animal bond between yourself and your puppy with frequent and varied play sessions. This is the best part about owning a puppy! It’s not only fun for you both, but it’s also crucial to your puppy’s behavioral development. Check out “5 Games Your Should Play With Your Puppy” on PawNation for the activities that will help you make the most of puppy playtime.