Did you know, the first 16 weeks of your puppy’s life are the most important in shaping their behaviour for the rest of their lives. Now stop. Read that again.
It’s not a very big window, really, is it? Not when you don’t get your puppy until at least 8 weeks, sometimes later. So it’s really important to ensure that before you buy your puppy you know that you have the time and knowledge to prepare them for the big wide world because what you do in that time will shape the dog that you have for the rest of its life.
Don’t reward bad behaviour
Most people take time off work to settle in their new puppy. We all know that that new puppies squeak and it can be adorable and it’s just so tempting to pick puppy up, or goo and gah over them when they whine. Oh, puppy needs cuddles? Did you miss mummy? We all know we do it. But - did you know that it is simply reinforcing to your puppy that whining = reward.
So, tip number 1….
1. Teach puppy to be alone
Only reward your puppy when it is doing something you want it to keep doing. Reward can be touch, talk, eye contact. We are all going to need to leave the house at some point. So, we need to start giving your puppy the tools it needs to feel safe and secure on its own. This means starting by separating yourself from puppy while you are there. Start for short periods and only reward puppy when they have settled entirely.
It is recommended that you separate puppy where they cannot see you, but its ok if they can hear you. That way they are entirely on their own. Do not go back to the puppy and give it attention while it is crying, this reinforces they get rewarded for the crying. Only go to it when it has stopped and settled. Try not to make a big deal when going back to puppy as we are showing puppy that it is not a big deal when we come and go.
Another big tip is to ignore puppy when you are back in line of sight, until they have sufficiently calmed down, to ensure we do not reinforce that our departure and arrival is a big deal, that they are safe with or without you
2. Expose them to experiences
Exposing your puppy to all types of experiences is really important to reduce fear associated with new experiences as they get older. Think big, so maybe you don’t have children now, but will you have any in the child’s lifetime? Maybe its winter and you don’t feel like heading to the beach, but do you want puppy to like the beach during summer?
What noises and experiences do you need to prepare puppy for? Trucks? Cars? Horses? Umbrellas? Vacuums? Pools? Think about how long you are going to have your dog and what you might encounter in those 10-20 years and then expose your puppy to all of those things.
3. attend a puppy school
You might think you know all tips and tricks for teaching your puppy to sit and stay – maybe you do. But the benefit of puppy school is having a period of time where you commit to spending time with your puppy for the betterment of its health and wellbeing.
Life is busy and time can fly by and it is so easy to miss those important first 4 weeks of your puppies’ life. That small window where you can best prepare your puppy for the remainder of its life. Puppy school is a great platform to remind you to take the time needed to mould your puppy into the dog you want it to be, for your family.
4. Find a trusted doggie day care
Now, doggy day care can be expensive, but finding a trusted doggie day care, that focuses on the enrichment and care of your dog is a great way for you to help prepare your dog to be independent and adaptable. Your puppy doesn’t need to go every day, but going randomly can be a great idea!
Another benefit is, that it trains your puppy to understand being left at a stranger’s place with a bunch of other dogs is a reward as opposed to something to be feared and that you will always come back! This means that puppy won’t fret the first time you head off on holidays and need them to be cared for by someone else. Remember – we are thinking big here! There also has the added benefit of one tired hound when you pick them up! So, it’s a great idea for wine and movies night…
Having a healthy, happy, puppy, who grows in to a healthy, happy and well-adjusted dog, who fits into your family, starts from the day you bring your puppy home. We so often bring home the cute cuddly puppy and then the novelty has worn off and what we have is a dog – who maybe we don’t like so much - that we have to care for, for a loooooooong time.
Failure to implement a structured training regime, exposing the puppy to experiences and being alone, like we suggest above its a big factor in why lots of puppies are rehomed after the honeymoon phase of pet ownership – when the realisation sets in that it isn’t always as easy as it looks.
Puppy are not a today choice, they are a forever choice, So chose wisely.