By Jonathan Klein, Guest Blogger and Dog Trainer at I Said Sit
The unconditional love of a puppy is one of life’s great pleasures. Their curiosity, innocence, and joy for life are inspirational and bring out the best in us. If you’re considering bringing a puppy in to your home, it’s important to give careful consideration to such factors as breed traits, how big the dog will be as an adult, access to exercise, your personal schedule, and the long-term cost of caring for your pet.
A dog’s personality is largely shaped by its early experiences and with proper care and planning, both dog and owner can thrive. Following are 5 steps to help ensure a lifetime of happiness for both your and your puppy:
1. Prepare Your Home
Puppies are naturally curious; so setting up your home in advance is essential. Lock away all household chemicals, keep any potentially poisonous houseplants out of reach, try to tie back any electrical cords and keep doors closed. It’s also important to create a specific “home base” for the new puppy by using portable gates or an indoor kennel to keep the puppy away from trouble as well as helping the puppy to feel safe without the sense of abandonment that comes from being locked alone in a room. Don’t give in to the occasional whine and mix solitude with together time.
2. Diligence Now Brings Happiness Later
Dogs have incredible memories and they’ll never forget something that is fun or rewarding. It only takes one time getting on the couch or finding scraps in the garbage for them to learn that the sofa is really comfortable or there’s free food in the trash. If they do, they will remember those pleasant things forever; so it is better if your dog never learns the wrong things at all.
3. Stay Positive
Right from the start it’s crucial to always use positive reinforcement to train your puppy. A reward and praise for waiting at the door will be a lot more effective than chasing them down the street trying to teach them they shouldn’t have run out. Showing puppies things they have done wrong, especially with an angry voice, makes them hide and virtually eliminates the ability to teach them what’s right. So remember, avoid letting them learn to do something wrong and praise them immediately for a job well done.
4. Proper Socialization
A young puppy must have enough positive, happy, and fun experiences with a wide variety of different life experiences before it is 3 months old. Although your vet might have told you not to take your puppy out due to risk of disease, it is critical for your dog to be socialized before the shots are completed. The truth is that more dogs are euthanized due to behaviors that stem from fear issues than are lost to illness. Proper socialization will ensure that you have a balanced, well-adjusted pet as an adult. So don’t hesitate to take your dog to different place, introduce them to a variety of environments, and meet lots of people, but be safe and careful choosing how to introduce your puppy to other dogs. Play dates and puppy classes are great, but dog park visits need to wait until all vaccinations are completed.
5. Be Patient
Puppies are products of their environment and will behave in accordance with what they see and hear. Your early days and months with your new puppy will be filled with teaching moments. And while there will be moments of frustration, like that “present” you find in the middle of the kitchen floor or a well-chewed slipper, just remember that how you react now will make a huge difference later. Patience, love, and guidance go a lot farther than aggression, anger, and unrealistic demands.
If your puppy is experiencing any level of fear or aggression, seek the help of a qualified, positively oriented trainer or behaviorist. It is possible that doing the wrong thing will make the problems worse and harder to fix in the long run.
Expert dog trainer and behavioristJonathan Klein has successfully trained more than 6,000 dogs, and their owners, over his 20-year career. He is the founder of the Culver City-based, dog-training center “I Said Sit!” Personalized Dog Training and was voted 2009’s #1 Dog Trainer in Los Angeles by KTTV-FOX L.A. He is also a trainer with Truly Dog Friendly.