Puppy raising is a special but challenging time for dog owners. Your puppy’s early experiences can have an enormous impact on their personality, behavior, and how well they fit into your daily life. Well-behaved puppies are made, not born, so follow these four steps to ensure a long and happy life with your new furry friend.
#1: Well-behaved puppies are socialized
The world can be exciting, overwhelming, and frightening for puppies—and without careful attention, these strong emotions can become attached to everyday occurrences, such as the trash truck, vacuum, or the veterinarian’s office. Negative associations can make adult dogs more challenging to live with and care for, or worse—lead to behavior-related euthanasia.
Socialization is the key to shaping your puppy into a confident, well-adjusted dog. Introduce your puppy to new things, including people, sights, sounds, and activities, gradually, and in small doses to match their attention span, and always prioritize their safety and happiness. Do not continue if your puppy shows stress signs, such as retreating, barking, growling, or hiding.
#2: Well-behaved puppies are carefully managed
When raising a puppy, management is the essential training counterpart. Management involves carefully arranging and supervising your puppy’s environment and activities to prevent unwanted or dangerous behaviors. The practical applications of management include:
- Puppy-proofing — Remove potential safety risks from your puppy’s environment, including toxins, electrical cords, breakable items, choking hazards, and anything you don’t want sharp puppy teeth to contact. Because puppies explore through chewing and tasting, removing these items is better than expecting your pet not to engage in instinctive behaviors.
- Continual supervision — If your puppy is awake, you should be too! Keep your puppy out of trouble by directly supervising them when they aren’t in their crate. This is easily accomplished by tethering the puppy to you with a hands-free leash.
- Confinement — For naps and times when you cannot supervise your puppy, use a crate or exercise pen to restrict their movement, and any access to potential dangers.
- Routine — Puppies thrive on routine, and a consistent schedule can also expedite house training. Keep your puppy’s feeding, playing, and nap times on a schedule as much as possible.
#3: Well-behaved puppies receive positive training
Training begins the day your puppy arrives home. Using scientifically proven positive reinforcement-based methods and careful management, you’ll find that training is fun and fast when you reward your puppy for good behavior, rather than discipline them when they are “bad.”
As soon as your puppy receives their first vaccinations at Creature Comforts Veterinary Service, sign them up for a group puppy class with a trainer who uses positive reinforcement or reward-based training in a happy and healthy learning environment. In the class, you’ll also learn how your puppy learns and how to teach them important life skills, such as sitting to be petted, coming when called, and loose-leash walking.
#4: Well-behaved puppies are appropriately exercised
Puppies have boundless energy, and while you may be tempted to play fetch or chase until they’re worn out, prolonged physical exercise can damage a puppy’s developing joints. Appropriate puppy exercise should be low-impact to protect growing bones from jarring forces, non-repetitive, and should avoid sharp turns and high rates of speed. End physical activity if your puppy voluntarily leaves the game, starts to play too rough, or seems more clumsy, which can indicate fatigue.
Because many undesirable puppy pastimes, such as chewing, digging, and other destructive behaviors, stem from boredom, mental enrichment can naturally create a more satisfied—and therefore better behaved—puppy. Some starter games that are easy and fun include:
- Foraging — Challenge your puppy to sniff out their food or treats by scattering a handful on a snuffle mat or in the grass.
- Puzzle toys — Dog puzzle toys help your puppy learn critical thinking and problem solving, by requiring them to manipulate an object with their nose or paws to access hidden treats. Food-stuffed toys such as Kongs are a great way to encourage slow eating, and to preoccupy your puppy while they are crated or the family is eating dinner.
- Trick training — Teaching silly tricks such as “Roll over,” “Play dead,” and “Shake” build your bond with your puppy, as well as their confidence, coordination, and body awareness.
No matter what games you play, ensure your puppy takes lots of breaks and that you reward them frequently with toys, treats, and praise. Ask our veterinarian for more specific guidelines on when to begin more intense physical exercise (e.g., jogging, hiking, or dog sports).
Perhaps the most important tip for successfully raising a puppy is to keep your patience and sense of humor handy—you’ll need them as your adorable, innocent puppy grows up into a rambunctious adolescent. When problems arise, as they most often do, don’t be discouraged—Creature Comforts Veterinary Service is here to coach you with helpful advice, training tips, and comprehensive puppy care. Contact us to schedule your puppy’s next appointment.