Welcoming a puppy into the family is an exciting and busy time spent getting to know the pup, building a bond and of course lots of puppy cuddles!
It’s easy to get caught up in house training and basic obedience training, such as learning to sit and walk on the lead, that teaching important puppy life skills might be missed out on. The following life lessons will help your pup to grow into a happy, confident and stable adult dog who is a pleasure to own.
Early puppy socialization between 12-16 weeks old is the most crucial stage of development for your pup. Puppies should have pleasant and positive experiences with the following;
- People of different genders, ages, races and appearances
- Animals – puppies, adult dogs, other pets, farm animals and wildlife
- Surfaces – wood, tile, carpet, grass, sand, water, gravel, metal grilles and unstable surfaces
- Noises – household, construction, vehicles, fireworks, thunder
- Environments – parks, forests, beaches, towns, cities, vets, groomers, car rides
- Any scenario or experience that your dog will be expected to cope with throughout his life – this will look really different for a dog living in the city compared to a dog living on a farm!
It’s important that a puppy learns to enjoy handling and grooming from people as it will make vet visits, administration of medication and grooming much more calm and stress free. Positive associations with handling can be created by working slowly in small steps, using high value treats like small tidbits of meat or cheese and turning it into a game with lots of play, praise and breaks. You can prepare for vet visits by holding your own mock exams – look at your dog’s ears, eyes, mouth, tail, feet and feel all over their body. Grooming such as brushing, bathing, drying, clipping nails, clipping fur, cleaning ears and teeth should all be practised regularly so that it’s not a struggle when they are fully grown.
As much as we would like to think otherwise, all dogs are capable of biting including our own! For the safety of whoever interacts with our dog it’s crucial that the dog learns bite inhibition, this means that they learn to release bite pressure as soon as their teeth touch our skin.Puppies learn this by playing with other puppies and sensible adult dogs, removing attention from our pup when they nip us too hard and redirecting biting onto toys and chews. It is best to not encourage mouthing by avoiding rough house play and games that involve chasing our hands as well as stopping games when the puppy gets overexcited and nippy. It’s also important that we don’t physically punish or shout at pup for biting as this can make the problem worse instead of better and teach our pup to fear us.
Being Left Alone
As many of us will have to leave our dogs alone at home at some point it is vital to teach our dogs that it’s okay to be left alone for periods of time without company. Separation anxiety is an extremely difficult behavioural issue to manage and modify so prevention is definitely much easier than a cure.
The puppy’s time alone should be built up slowly to build their confidence – remember the puppy always had constant company from their littermates so this is a big adjustment. Using chews and a variety of toys including interactive food toys can help a puppy cope when alone as it gives them something to focus their energy on and promotes good chewing habits. Puppy pens and baby gates can be used to instill good habits and prevent bad habits from forming such as raiding the trash, counter surfing and chewing valuables.
I hope these puppy lessons are useful and above all make sure you have fun and positive experiences with your puppy, their brains are like sponges at this age so make sure they are absorbing positive life lessons which shows that the human world isn’t so big and scary!
Hi guys, I’m Laura McIvor – self confessed animal lover, aspiring dog trainer and creator of Bonnie’s Dog Blog NI. I am passionate about positive reinforcement training techniques, and animal welfare and enrichment. I live with my partner and together we have a rescue border collie, four degus and soon will be welcoming a rough collie puppy into our ever growing family. We reside in Northern Ireland, UK and love to support the growing number of local and independent dog friendly establishments, products and services in our “wee country”. As well as covering dog friendly locations in NI (with our handy interactive map) the blog also covers Bonnie’s daily life, training progress, product reviews and more. You can also follow our adventures on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter