It's so exciting the night that puppy comes home! It's thrilling. A week or two after the honeymoon phase wears off of
bringing that puppy home, reality sets in. They are a LOT of work! The puppy is biting, digging holes, eating EVERYTHING! Gahhhh!!!
It's easy to get overwhelmed. There is so much information out there. The most important thing to remember is that you are raising a dog. You are raising the dog that you want. A puppy is a clean slate! While these rules are a great idea for new older dogs, they are essential for puppies!
Watch your puppy like a hawk! If you can't watch them, they should be kenneled. Get them used to taking naps in their kennel. Do not allow them to sleep with you. SOOOOOO many dogs get separation anxiety because they sleep with their owners and when their owner leaves, they kennel them. The dog or puppy associates kenneling with you leaving. You have to treat the kennel like their bedroom for at least the first year or two. As they get older, you may be able to wean them off of their kennel. But don't start with full freedom. You will set yourself up for failure.
Puppies have to earn freedom, just like children do. The biggest goal here is to stop behaviors we don't want before they become a habit. (Notice I didn't call them bad behaviors - dogs are doing what's instinctual. They don't know they are bad. We invited them into our world, remember?) Once these behaviors become a habit, it's insanely hard to get them to stop. Start them off right!
Keep your puppy on a leash attached to you, back tied, or let them drag it - make sure they are always in your sight or in the same room. If you can't watch them because you are too busy, utilize a back tie in the same room as you (loop the leash over the rail, under a chair leg, or step on the leash. This still requires some level of supervision) or kennel them. I also recommend leashing in the back yard so you can teach them where to go potty and help them feel comfortable and secure in the yard.
Keep some treats or kibble or a favorite toy in your pocket. If you see a behavior you like - such as sitting, laying down, not jumping, or before the puppy jumps, say "YES" and reach in your pocket and grab a goodie or start a game of play. Establishing this marker word is essential for a well mannered dog. (Similar to clicker training but without a clicker.)
I am a firm believer that every puppy should learn their basic commands: Come, Sit, Down, Off, Stay, Place, Leave it, and Drop it (I use Out.) Everything dog training boils down to these commands. If you haven't taught your puppy these commands, do it now. No excuses. There are a million YouTube Videos where you can learn to train your puppy. Free help is everywhere. I offer a free 30 minute consultation session. I can do a video session or an in person session.
Along with the basic commands, every puppy should learn leash walking - which is pretty much paying attention to the handler and where they are, yes, and NO. Yes. I said NO. Every living being in this world has to learn what No means. There are ways to teach no in a positive way, but I always implement a leash pop once the dog understands the command. This is important. If there is no consequence for no, the puppy won't take you seriously - or you may get the puppy that goes around and picks up everything it's not supposed to have just so he or she can get a treat. I saw this a LOT when I worked at a major pet retail store because they didn't believe in teaching No. Just like YES has a positive consequence, no should be something that makes the puppy stop and think.
Before we get too far, I just want to clarify. Appropriate corrections are not abuse.
Corrections are an essential part of life. Anyone who says differently is lying to you. Mom dogs correct their puppies. Other dogs correct each other. That dog or puppy learns really quick not to do that behavior again. I'm simply telling the puppy that I don't allow something in a way that puppy can understand. We are teaching our language. So many people fail at puppy raising because they don't teach the puppy "no." On the flip side, if you have to tell your puppy "no" all the time, you didn't spend enough time teaching them what you want using "yes."
Puppy biting is normal. Everyone gets annoyed by it. Just like babies put everything in their mouth, so do puppies. See if you can redirect their energy on a toy or a chew instead of you. I use the high pitched "OUCH" and ignore for teeny tiny puppies. If it doesn't work, you may have to come up with an alternate plan. Typically for most puppies, it does work. Be aware that over petting may cause biting due to overstimulation.
Don't free feed. Use their meals to teach them to pay attention to you and to work on training throughout the day. Every good thing comes from you. Water is ok to leave out.
Most puppies enjoy cuddly things in their kennel - as long as they don't chew it up. Check blankets frequently for signs of chewing and soiling. I recommend fleece instead of towels or blankets. It doesn't have strings and is safer to eat if they do eat it. I highly recommend the donut cuddler beds if your puppy likes cozy things. They are furry and snuggly. Not every puppy likes cozy. Some like cold floors better. If your puppy likes to rearrange their bedding, opt for a fleece blanket instead of a bed - they will just destroy beds if that's the case.
If your puppy is afraid of dogs or people, don't force interactions, that may make it worse. Introduce them to polite, respectful dogs and people. If a puppy is afraid, ignoring is the best way to build trust. Stay away from dog parks. That is not an appropriate place to socialize dogs.
Affection is a human thing and too much is not good for puppies or dogs. Dogs show very little affection to each other. A pat or massage here or there is good. Puppies often bite and get agitated if we try to cuddle them or pet them too much. They get overstimulated by it. They can also get overstimulated by too much talking. You are teaching language. Use one word ONCE to teach your puppy to do something. Sentences confuse them. If your puppy is scared, it will overwhelm them.
Be sure to keep your training sessions short - 5-10 minutes at first. It doesn't take much.
Just remember that every interaction you have with your puppy is training, whether you mean to or not.
Raising a puppy is such a fun experience. You are building a relationship. Use play
to reward good behaviors. Supervise like crazy. Expose your puppy to as many new situations and scenarios and people as you can. Be patient. Establish a routine. Be ready for set backs. Have a goal in mind and work towards it! Most importantly, BE CONSISTENT! If everyone in your household does things differently, you will struggle. Make sure everyone is on the same page. I'm always here if you have questions. Don't hesitate to reach out to me. ~Johanna Kumm
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