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The First Things to Teach Your Puppy

You’ve done it! You’ve brought home an adorable, sweet, precious little puppy. You’ve gone to the vet for puppy’s first visit, you have the best food, a bed, a crate, and of course toys, but now what? Sometimes knowing where to start when it comes to training your puppy can seem a bit overwhelming. Over the years we have found four main areas of focus to start with our new puppies, which are more like life skills rather than obedience skills. Each area really deserves it’s own individual blog, so that’s what we are going to do. Keep an eye out for the following blogs in this series! For now, we will briefly discuss the key points for each area to get you started on the right track!

  1. House training! This is usually the first thing on people's mind, and understandably so! Nobody wants poop and pee just happening anywhere around their house, but remember you brought a puppy into your house so have some patience and know accidents are going to happen, and arm yourself with some good cleaner. I love Eco 88. The first step in house training is setting up management to protect your house and the things you like from your growing little pup. Baby gates, exercise pens and crates are some of the best tools to help you when puppy proofing your home. Here is a great site that discuss all the different types of baby gates out there. Be sure to find one that fits your needs and not just the cheapest, you will likely be living with these up for SEVERAL months! A schedule is the next important part to successful housetraining, specifically a feeding and potty schedule. Although, it never hurts to be organized so feel free to add in daily exercise and training time to your schedule. When setting up your puppy’s potty schedule there are certain times you should be mindful to take your puppy outside to give them the chance to eliminate in the appropriate area. These times include; any time they come out of their crate or designated puppy area, after waking up, 15-30 minutes after each meal, and after a vigorous play session. Feeding your puppy on a schedule can also help you know when they will need to go. Remember, what goes in must come out. Lastly manage your puppy’s free access to the house. If your puppy has not pottied yet there is a really, like really good chance they will potty at some point. If you are not careful that will likely happen inside when you aren’t paying attention. A helpful way to remember this, if your puppy is empty they get to hangout if they are full back to the crate or confined area, then try again 20 minutes later.

  2. Handling and grooming are another big area to start working on from the beginning. Several different dog breeds have coats that require them to get professionally groomed on a regular basis. This experience might include but isn’t limited to bathing, brushing, combing, trim with scissors and electric clippers around the whole body including the face, ear cleaning and nail trims! Several of these can be pretty scary for our puppies. All dogs need to go to the vet throughout their life, so learning to at least tolerate handling can help make both your life and your pup’s life less stressful. Our first job is to recognize which things our puppy is ok with and which ones make them a little more nervous. As with just about everything when it comes to training our dogs, there is no one way that works for all dogs, which is why we like to hit handling from a few different directions. One way we like to work on handling with our puppies is by pairing handling with things the puppy REALLY likes for example food or play time. We might also start by letting them check out and explore the different grooming tools, brushes, combs, nail trimmers, clippers, etc. Another way we might start working on handling is by teaching our puppies to opt into handling and grooming versus having to bribe or force them to tolerate all the strange things we want to do do them. By teaching our puppies to opt into grooming and handling we are creating a more fun and certainly less stressful experience for both puppy and person.

  3. Patience. This is a huge area to work on with our puppies (and ourselves to be honest). This also tends to be something that gets overlooked frequently until the adolescent age, but if you can start working on it from the beginning you will be in much better shape when those teenage years come around. There are several different training exercises you can do with your puppy to help them build their patience skill. For example working on “Leave-its” can be one way to help your pup exercise their impulse control. We will also cover more training exercises that can help in the future. There are also things you can practice in everyday life that can help your puppy begin building their patience skills. When I think of patience work with puppies this also includes helping our puppies learn to self settle and be ok for chunks of time on their own. Ways you can help your puppy practice this is by carving out small amounts of time throughout the day that they go into their crate or puppy area with a chew to work on like a KONG stuffed with lots of yummy food. For more info on using KONGS and for some great KONG recipe ideas check out this link, 39 Healthy Treats You can Stuff in a KONG. You can also begin to work on patience with your puppy coming out of their crate or puppy area. I think of this like the “Red Light, Green Light” game. If my puppy has four feet on the floor and they are quiet, that’s a green light I begin to approach the gate, but if my puppy is whining, barking, and jumping around that’s a red light, I simply stop moving. Quiet with four feet on the floor I start moving again. I encourage you to remain quiet and calm as well when working on this. These are a couple small ways you can start working on your puppy’s impulse control and ability to self settle, which both go a long way in helping your puppy develop good life skills.

  4. Lastly, socialization. This is one that I find most people are aware of, but maybe not sure of all the different ways to work on it. When thinking about socializing their puppies most people focus on the people and dog side of things which, while important, are not the only factors when it comes to socialization. Also important, is exposing your puppy to as many different things as you can from big trucks to school buses, people in uniforms, umbrellas, kitchen sounds, different textures, while trying to maintain positive experiences with these things. This does not mean they have to have direct contact with the item in question. Even just working with your puppy on settling or focus games at a park bench a little ways off from the busy play ground can be a nice way to expose your puppy to the sound and energy of children, without being quite as overwhelming or overstimulating as having several little kids touching and talking to your puppy. Sometimes when puppies find something seems scary we might overreact or try to force them into going and seeing that it's not really so scary. However when working with our puppies, whether it's handling or socialization, we don't want to force our puppies to do things they don’t have to do. We want to give them a chance to ma

ke the choice on their own. This is empowering for our puppies and this can give them the opportunity they need to build confidence. These are also great times to watch your puppy’s body language and begin learning how they communicate. It can also be a great way to learn about your specific puppy’s personality and temperament. Even when you have done everything you can when it comes to socializing your puppy, it’s good to remember that genetics and temperament play a huge role in who your puppy is. They may play with other puppies when they are young, but as they get older they might not like playing with new dogs as much, and that is ok. Each dog is an individual and comes with their own set of likes and dislikes, sometimes we can sway those feelings and sometimes we can’t, which is why it is really important to learn your dog’s body language (this is their main way of communicating) and remain flexible with your expectations for your puppy.

That is our quick puppy start essentials, while sometimes it may feel a little overwhelming, try to take time to appreciate each new stage of your puppies life and development. Keep your eyes out for the following blogs that will cover each one of these areas and delve into much more detail!

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