Choosing a puppy to bring home to your family is a very exciting time. Unfortunately, in that excitement, we sometimes overlook the key elements that can make this a more successful experience- not only for the puppy, but also for the family dynamic. Removing the puppy from its mother and siblings also means removing them from their set routines. It’s in that previous situation in which all of their needs were being met in a familiar way. Once they arrive to their new home, they experience: constant affection, the excitement of getting to cuddle in bed, and the unexpected freedom to “figure out” their new role around the house. While so many of these things sound great, they can also make the beginning stages of “puppy hood” harder to deal with. Here are some common reasons puppies can be overwhelming and end up developing undesired habits around the house:
- Create a successful puppy environment: When people are expecting a baby, they spend countless hours researching and preparing for the incoming newborn. They set up baby gates, put locks on cabinets, and baby proof the entire house. When bringing a new puppy home, people often fail in properly preparing the environment. It’s important that we think everything through when looking at the environment and make management plans before bringing the puppy home. Using baby gates and/or crates can help you keep a close eye on your puppy and create a daily routine to help with potty training. Consider how a Montessori School is set up for the children. This is an environment advantageous to learning that invites the students to explore, play, and learn in a controlled setting. Your home should be like the Montessori School for puppy education. For example, have a place where the puppy’s toys are in a box while hiding higher drive toys, such as stuffed KONGS or bully sticks, around the play area for interactive engagement. Then, focus on making crate time a peaceful experience of rest by using it correctly as opposed to only exposing the puppy to the crate when you leave the home or it has misbehaved. You can make the crate a positive experience by feeding and having water in their crate so this discourages a puppy from wanting to use the bathroom in there as well as having a structured routine prepared that is based around potty routines, feeding and playtimes. This is an environment that is set up for the puppy to be successful.
- Set some boundaries: Too often, people bring home a new puppy and give them full access to the house. But truly, it’s important to keep a close eye on the puppy to keep bad habits from forming. If you are finding things chewed up or potty accidents in the other room, your puppy probably has too much freedom. If the puppy’s toys are constantly left scattered all around the living room, then how will the puppy be able to know what is their toy vs your favorite pair of shoes? As mentioned before, utilizing baby gates and a crate will help you set up boundaries so that you are able to supervise your puppy and control their environment. Do not feel guilty when using a crate with your puppy but think of it more as a crib to use for nap time and a safe place for the puppy to go when you can’t monitor him. Puppies need a lot of rest, and their crate is a perfect place for that downtime.
- Keep it real: It’s important to keep realistic expectations and standards for your puppy’s behavior! Although it would be too much to expect a 12 week old puppy to have a 5 minute “sit-stay”, behaviors such as biting and jumping shouldn’t be excused. Don’t mistake biting for teething, and don’t write off jumping as simple puppy excitement. When you hold the dog accountable for behaviors early on, you will save yourself a lot of trouble once the dog is older. Too often, individuals excuse behaviors such as these as acceptable because “it’s a puppy, that’s what they do!” This is rarely the case. Instead, it is your job to show your puppy what acceptable behaviors look like. Not letting other people pet them if the puppy is mouthing and jumping all over them can go a long way! When you do allow the puppy to pet while exhibiting these behaviors, all you are teaching it is that those behaviors get them attention.
- Know the true meaning of “socialization”: Many people will take their puppy to pet friendly places thinking they are doing the right thing by socializing the puppy. However, these people are misinformed as to what proper socialization looks like. Though it is important for your puppy to be exposed to different places and meet different people, the environment and strangers should not be the most exciting thing to the dog. Ideally, proper socialization is reflected by the puppy being indifferent and neutral to others around them and instead engaging and paying more attention to it’s handler. After all, you don’t want your puppy to love anyone more than you!
- Provide proper motivation: Instead of feeding your puppy every meal from a bowl, create work ethic from an early age by placing their food into a treat pouch you can wear around your waist. This will encourage the puppy to check in and engage with you throughout the training sessions while also allowing you the ability to easily reward your puppy in the moment: such as when your puppy goes potty outside, is relaxing calmly on the floor, or is generally obedient around the house. The more we reward and acknowledge desired behaviors, the more likely your pup is to repeat them.
Bringing home a new puppy can be overwhelming. Especially when it is so tempting to just spoil them rotten! But focusing on positive behaviors and creating an environment and routines that are conducive to training makes a huge difference in your dog’s mannerisms as it grows up and will create a stronger bond with you. And not to worry, if you find yourself having trouble implementing these strategies, or if you are worried that your dog is too far past the puppy stage for them to be as effective, we are happy to help you! Come check us out at www.thedoghousellc.com
I have also created a YouTube playlist with some puppy tips that can help you along your journey.