A whole lot more benefits come your way if you train your puppy “before he grows up” than if you wait. If there’s one thing that I know from all my years of training dogs it is that dogs are learning even if you are not teaching which is why the following is important to know:
Your puppy will form life-long behaviors (good or bad – your choice) within the first 2 weeks to 4 months of his life with you.
A big problem is that puppies are so cute they are hard to resist and we ignore behavior we’re not crazy about. When we bring them home we just want to love on them and we let them get away with everything. New puppy owners find it difficult to set boundaries and place restrictions on their new puppy often times thinking, “he’ll out grow it.”
Many, maybe even you, tend to take a “wait and see” attitude thinking training will be easy I’ll start tomorrow. After all, how hard can it be to raise a puppy? It’s just a puppy! Well….that cuteness doesn’t last forever. It has a limited “shelf life” as my wife likes to say! That new puppy will eventually grow up and develop bad habits – habits that will be harder to change as an older puppy or dog. Days quickly turn into weeks and months.
That’s right about when people give up and many times wind up dropping their “new puppy” or teenage dog off at the shelter. Let’s not let this happen to you okay?
Trial and error or training?
Because all puppies and dogs do what works, they can learn either by trial and error – figuring things out as they go along or they can learn by being trained.
A good example of trial and error is jumping. It’s hard to resist a jumping puppy – so you pet, cuddle or pick him up and it begins to get him the attention he wants. That’s the “trial and error” part working for the puppy.
Every day you and/or the kids reinforce the jumping, it is fast becoming a permanent behavior and much harder to control when your puppy becomes a larger adult dog.
Training on the other hand would work like this. If you take the time to train a sit every time your puppy approached, that too could work for the puppy. And, if you worked it right, you could say you’d be applying “reverse psychology.”
Your puppy may start to think that every time he sits, he gets something from a human. He’s starts thinking, “These humans are easy to train! If I want to go outside, I sit and they open the door. If I want my dinner, I sit and they give me food. Wow! This is cool.
I can get what I want by training my humans!”
Like our family, friends and others we meet
Although it a great start, there’s more to puppy training than teaching a sit. Always being on alert and micro-managing a biting puppy around your family or friends should not be what you have to think about all the time.
Start the day you get your new puppy. There will be many opportunities for your new puppy to willingly accept pets, hugs and belly rubs.
So that your puppy conforms to “your” personal need of close contact, you should immediately begin to socialize him to children and adults alike. There can never be too much socialization.
Remember, the window of socialization closes somewhere between 3 ½ to 5 months of age. Plan to map out a strategy to achieve maximum socialization by 5 months of age. A good rule of thumb is: 90 kids and adults in 90 days. Sounds like a lot but trust me, it’s well worth it.
Now, I probably don’t have to remind you that puppies naturally play with their teeth so you should also teach your age-appropriate children how to play with your puppy.
Instead of playing chase and activating his prey drive (run, chase and bite) teach them to play a game of fetch or hide and seek – all with rules. Teach your children that their puppy should always sit to start the game. If your puppy gets mouthy, simply end the game and crate your puppy. It’s that simple.
Confidence in being alone
Puppies are “pack animals” and that is probably the one trait that closely resembles our family orientation. Puppies don’t naturally like being by themselves.
While he may adapt to the crate when you are gone, he may not like being in the crate when you are home. So an important part of raising your puppy is to teach and condition him that being alone is okay – even when you are home. In fact, humans may not be at their disposal 24/7.
Condition your puppy to being “okay” by himself by randomly crating him for varying lengths of time when you are home – nights and weekends. When we were training our lab, Sammy, we would crate him in a bedroom, shut the door and let him stay there for 30 minutes, an hour or sometimes we stretched it to two hours. We also downplayed our leaving and coming back home. It’s important to build on the amount of time you leave your puppy in the crate. He did great and he has never had a problem being alone.
The most important message is that we always came back and let them out. One other note – never let your new puppy out of the crate when he is whining or barking. Once your new puppy is quiet, then let him out of the crate.
Setting your puppy up to succeed will provide you a lifetime of enjoyment with your pup. Don’t let your puppy learn by trial and error on his own. It will be far better to start setting rules to follow and boundaries to respect when your puppy first comes home. Obedience training in a fun way with treats (as long as you wean him off the treats) is a good way to train and it will be easier for the kids as well (all age-appropriate of course.)
If done correctly dog behavior problems will be avoided. This will assure him the family is the provider of all good things in life he wants. All he has to do is sit! How easy is that!
I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinions on this. How long will you wait to train your puppy? – I’m here to help.
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Nose to Tail Puppy Training DVD is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your puppy understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home. Make him a great puppy!