Last Tuesday we were at a new Home Dog Training client in Johns Creek helping him with his new Bull Terrier puppy named Pappy.  They were first time dog owners and had just brought Pappy home from the breeder in North Carolina two weeks ago.  He was coming along quite nicely with his potty training and had only made two or three mistakes in the house during the prior week.  We had reviewed all Pappy’s immediate socialization needs and had worked through some chewing and focus training exercises.  Only being ten weeks old, we couldn’t introduce a lot of obedience exercises, but we did initiate Come and Sit.  We also demonstrated the proper correction methods for misbehavior.  They were very happy with our session and also excited that they would be getting our on-line training addendum specifically designed for puppies and new parents.  As we were finishing up, they offered an “open-ended question”.  Is there anything else we should be watching for or remembering for Pappy?

Make every moment a teachable moment and everywhere you go an opportunity for socialization with your new puppy

We told our client that there are many things you need to remember with your new puppy.  Even though there is “a lot of stuff” to remember, almost everything is based on common sense and rules we already maintain for our kids and other family members.  Just like “bored husbands” or children, leaving your puppy with nothing to do is always a recipe for disaster.  Whatever you may “assume” they would never do will always be the first thing they try.  With so many possibilities of what could cause problems, we could never provide a full list of precautions.

We gave it a thought for a moment or two and came up with some thoughts based on what many of our previous clients had “simply thought would never be a problem”.  Some of our comments included:

THE LEASH:  We always teach our clients that the leash is a great teaching tool for them to calmly and directly teach their new puppy.  It can be used for many obedience exercises, as a safety measure when walking, and a redirective tool when enforcing good behavior.  The problem arises with the client’s “leash management” with their puppy.  After actively working with their puppy and the leash, they often put their puppy back into their crate or pen with the leash still attached.  They may leave them in a situation where the puppy is wearing the leash and is not being actively managed.

We never want our clients to leave a puppy unattended when the are wearing a leash.  The puppy could easily get caught by wrapping the leash around a chair leg.  They may get the leach caught, start to tug, and pull a piece of furniture down upon them.  Even worse, they may get up on something high, get the leash caught, jump off, and hang themselves.

These are all bad things that could permanently make your puppy fearful, hurt them, or even kill them.  So, take the leash off when you are done working with your puppy or leaving him unattended.  Do that, and everything will be fine.

EDUCATING YOUR PUPPY:  We always hear the phrase “Make it a teachable moment.”  This is true for us and true for our puppies.  If fact, it is critical for our puppies.  When we bring them home, they are a “blank slate”.  Almost everything they are about to experience with us will be a new experience for them.  It is our responsibility to make sure that the experiences our puppies will encounter will help their “doggie development” in becoming great dogs and members of our family.  As puppies, the largest part of their initial experiences (and our chances for learning moments) will come in the form of socialization.

We must make sure that we are in charge of whatever they are about to experience.  We need to manage what they hear, see, and smell.  We need to guide their interactions with people and other animals.  Everything must be consistent and repeatable so that they will not only come to understand the world around them, they will feel safe in their role as part of our family.

Another part of early puppy socialization is simple play.  After you have worked in educating your dog about the broom, the doorbell, people coming into the house, etc., it is time for play.  Play builds up focus, creates positive bonds, and ensures a relationship of safety.  These are critical for a healthy and positive relationship between you and your puppy.

IMMUNIZATION:  This may seem obvious, but is an easy mistake that many new puppy owners make.  As you and your puppy are getting to know each other and you are helping to get your puppy accustomed to the world around him, keep him healthy. You may think that this means feeding him good food, keeping him warm and clean, and keeping dangerous things away from him.  It also deals with preventive immunizations.

Your veterinarian will be giving him four rounds of shots to help him cope with the natural diseases and sicknesses that arise with puppies and our environment. During this time, you should try and keep him “away from most outside stuff”.  So, keep your puppy home with you as he is going through his initial immunization routine.

YOUR PUPPY’S PLACE:  Don’t give your puppy full reign of the house.  Create a special place for him that you can easily manage and maintain.  This place should be somewhere that is part of the family’s normal activity area of the home (i.e. not the garage or a back storage area).

There are several reasons why you want to minimize your puppy’s initial living space.  The first reason is so that you can manage and guide his potty training.  Giving your puppy a smaller living space will enhance his natural instinct “not to potty in his place”.  A smaller area will allow you to make sure that there are no “bad things that he can get into” while you may have your eyes off him.  Minimizing his initial living space will  allow you a better ability to effectively socialize things for his sense of safety.  Decreasing his initial territory will also make sure that he doesn’t have the opportunity to “destroy all your stuff”.

HOME ALONE:  You don’t want to leave him alone for long periods of time.  Don’t leave him by himself when you are at work for eight to ten hours a day. “All day” is a very long time for a puppy to entertain himself.  As we were always told, “idle hands are the devil’s playthings”.

No matter how many toys you leave for your puppy, they will only keep his attention for so long.  If you are gone all day, your puppy will eventually discover that chewing the baseboards is really fun.  So, try and spend as much time as possible with him.  Engage him in play activities that involve his focus on objects that you fine acceptable.  “Hide and Find” games are often a very good tool for having your puppy believe that a specific object is very special and something he needs to find and focus upon.

When you are gone a long time, make sure that his area is clear of whatever may be dangerous for him, things that could make a big mess, or things you don’t want destroyed. If he has received all his shots, you may consider taking him to a doggie day care for two or three visits a week.  If he hasn’t finished all his required vaccinations, you may consider having a neighbor, close family member, or dog walker stop by during the day for a little play time.

We told our client that these suggestions are all based on guiding Pappy into our world in a way that he can understand.  Our actions need to be directed in a way that he always feels safe around us and happy in the environment me have created.

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over fifteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.