Michael Baugh, CPDT-KA, CDBC
Puppies are great fun. But there’s work to be done too. Here are four essential things you need to teach your puppy right away.
- Poop and Pee here not there. Here are the rules of potty training. Never ask yourself “where’s the puppy.” The little tike should be right there with you under your watchful eye. Or the puppy should be safely confined in his crate. Take him outside every hour or two and lead him to the place you want him to “go.” Once he’s done, give him three tiny treats right there where you stand. Give him a chance to go again before you come back inside.
- Chew this not that. The same rules apply. I you have to ask yourself “where’s the puppy,” chances are he’s chewing your furniture in the next room or peeing on your carpet. Supervise or safely confine him. Provide your puppy with some interesting chew toys. I like stuffed Kong Toys. But don’t leave them all out at once. I recommend rotating toys in and out of service.
- Humans are fragile. Certainly you can and should avoid puppy biting. However, some trainers believe there’s a developmental reason puppies have those sharp teeth and why they bite us so much. They are gauging bite strength. Specifically, they are figuring out the minimum force needed for the maximum effect. So, we can actually teach them to bite more softly. Accept a few gentle bites. When the hard bite comes, yell “OUCH” and leave your puppy alone without a playmate for a minute or two (in his crate if need-be). Sure enough, you’ll get a puppy who uses his mouth more gently. Better yet, you’ll have an adult dog who won’t do any harm even if he feels he has to bite someone.
- The world is safe. Dogs who don’t feel safe often don’t behave well. That’s why it’s so important to show your puppy that the people, other pets, places and events they might encounter in life are safe. That means introducing them to the world in a joyful and pleasant manner while protecting them from disease. You have a limited amount of time. The imprinting period in puppies (often called the socialization period) ends around 18 weeks of age. After that a lack of experience can develop into fear.
If you’re thinking about getting a puppy I highly recommend the book Life Skills for Puppies by Daniel Mills and Helen Zulch. If you already have a puppy, the very best thing you can do for him and yourself is to enroll in a puppy class. The best classes will cover the important points above in detail.