Adopting a new puppy is one of the most exciting experiences possible. A new, fluffy member of the family is definitely worth celebrating! However, it is important to remember that the first few months with a new puppy are also vital for ensuring a well-behaved pet in the future.
Taking the time to train a new pet appropriately can save a significant number of headaches in the future.
The first task to work on is housebreaking. While there are several possible housebreaking techniques to use, one of the most reliable is crate training. To start, the puppy needs an appropriately sized crate. This should be large enough that he can stand up and turn around, but small enough that that he cannot eliminate in one location and sleep in another. Dogs naturally appreciate having a den, so most will learn that their crate is a safe and desirable location. This can be encouraged by feeding or giving special toys or treats only in the crate. Additionally, puppies should be placed in a crate after recently eliminating, so that they are not forced to hold it for prolonged periods of time.
The key tenet of housebreaking is that a puppy must earn the right to be unsupervised. Until a month has passed without an accident indoors, a puppy should always be closely watched in the house. When not directly supervised, the puppy should be in the crate. When out, it may help to attach the pup to you with a long leash, so that he cannot go out of sight. If you see him start to posture to eliminate inside, tug sharply on the leash, and then immediately scoop him up and take him outside.
As far as regularly scheduled potty breaks, a puppy should initially be taken outside about once an hour.
As a general rule, a puppy can hold urine about their number of months of age plus one hour (e.g. a two month old puppy can go about three hours without urinating). Most puppies can hold it somewhat longer at night, when sleeping. At the beginning, to set them up for success, he or she should be taken outside much more frequently than that maximum number of hours. Puppies often need to eliminate after eating, playing, or when waking up, so make sure to take them out at those times as well.
Always take the puppy outside to the same area, the one you want them to associate with eliminating. It can help to have a cue phrase such as “go potty,” that you always repeat when taking them out. When he or she does urinate or defecate outside, be sure to immediately respond with praise, or even a small treat.
So what should you do when a mistake happens? If you do find urine or feces inside, do not punish the puppy. Yelling or rubbing their nose in excrement does not help the process but will confuse and upset your dog. Make sure to thoroughly clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner to help eliminate the odor, to reduce the chances that this will become a regular potty area.
While housebreaking is an important aspect of new puppy training, there are other areas of behavior to address as well.
One of the most important is
socialization. Dogs have a critical
period of time,
from about four to fourteen weeks,
in which they are very open to new experiences.
At this age, curiosity typically outweighs fear. If puppies have positive interactions with a variety of stimuli at this age, they will be more likely to respond calmly to these stimuli later in life.
After about sixteen weeks, dogs are more innately fearful of new objects or situations.
During this time period, it is critical to expose your pup to a variety of sensations and experiences — other dogs, cats, children, men, umbrellas, bicycles, men with beards, cars,
It is also important to focus on making these experiences positive, not just throwing the puppy into a scary situation.
Praise and encourage curious behavior or moving towards new objects.
Make sure that the puppy always has an escape route and can choose to move away if he or she wants. If he is stressed or scared, you may need to take a break and come back to that challenge later.
It is vital to balance the need for socialization with protection from infectious diseases.
There are several diseases to which young puppies are susceptible, and appropriate vaccination can significantly reduce the risk of contracting these. Some groups recommend not allowing puppies to interact with other dogs prior to completing their full set of vaccines. However, since vaccination will not be complete until about sixteen weeks, the period of time for socialization will be over by then. And since behavior issues are the number one cause of death in dogs less than three years of age, appropriate socialization can be lifesaving.
To minimize the risk of infectious disease, make sure you discuss your puppy’s vaccine schedule and socialization with your vet.
Appropriate vaccination plans should start at about six to eight weeks. Until the entire series is complete, puppies should not go to high density dog areas, such as dog parks or doggy day care. It is fine for them to interact with other dogs, but only adult dogs which are known to be up to date on their vaccines.
In a controlled setting, your dog may also interact with other puppies.
Puppy classes can be a great way to jump start the socialization process. These are often hosted by obedience trainers or some large pet stores. The goal of the class is to introduce puppies to a variety of other young dogs and people in a controlled setting. Puppies should be at least seven or eight weeks old to attend these and have received at least one distemper parvovirus vaccine at least ten days before the first class. The hosting organization should require all puppies to be appropriately vaccinated for their age and ensure that all the puppies in the class appear healthy.
If both housebreaking and socialization are started early and properly, your puppy will have the best chance to end up a happy, confident dog.
Although these areas require time and effort, they will have immeasurable benefits in your dog’s later years.
AVSAB Position Statement on Puppy Socialization [Https://avsab.org/resources/position-statements/]. (2008).
Davis, K. (2015, January 16). Housetraining Basics for Dogs. Retrieved May 19, 2018, from https://www.vin.com/doc/?id=4951732&pid=19239.
DePorter, T. (2017). New Perspectives on Canine Socialization: Why, When, and How? Wild West Veterinary Conference. Retrieved May 19, 2018, from https://www.vin.com/doc/?id=8216454.
Landsberg, G. (2002). Housetraining 101–Quick, Effective and Accurate Advice. Western Veterinary Conference. Retrieved May 19, 2018, from https://www.vin.com/doc/?id=3844531.
Martin, K. (2015). Puppy Socialization – Preventative Behavior Services for Your Practice. Wild West Veterinary Conference. Retrieved May 19, 2018, from https://www.vin.com/doc/?id=7432330.