When you get a puppy, you might be in love with the cute little bundle of fur that they are at that age! However, there are a few things you MUST do if you want your puppy to grow up into a stable and well-adjusted dog.
DO: Socialize your puppy!
Proper socialization is extremely important. Puppies have a critical socialization window, where they learn about what is safe and what is not safe in their new world. This window is only open until they are 12-16 weeks old, so early socialization is critical.
For proper socialization, follow these tips:
- Socialize your puppy in a way where they are comfortable. If you notice any signs of fear or anxiety, don’t push your puppy. Puppies are going through a fear period during this time as well and scary situations can leave long lasting fears.
- Feed treats and teach your puppy that new things mean food! This can help your puppy feel more comfortable if they are nervous.
- Expose your puppy to a wide variety of people, dogs, places, and things. Socialization doesn’t mean that your puppy has to interact - hanging out in a parking lot is a great way to see a lot of people.
DO: Start training your puppy!
Some trainers recommend waiting until a puppy is 6 months old to begin training. However, that is an outdated thought based on the use of harsh methods for training. Using positive reinforcement, you can and should begin training your puppy right away. Focus on household manners and behaviors that you know you want your adult dog to have, even if it’s “OK” because your puppy is little right now.
DO: Crate train your puppy!
Crates make potty training and puppy training in general way easier than not having a place for your puppy. Feed meals in their crates and teach your puppy that their crate is a great place to be - even if you end up not using the crate much at home when your puppy is an adult, a crate trained puppy will be much calmer at a vet clinic or groomer if they have to wait in a kennel.
DO: Teach body handling!
Teach your little pup that having their toes, ears, mouth, and entire body handled means great things. Pair touching toes with treats, and soft brush strokes with food! If you don’t teach your puppy that it’s no big deal at a young age, grooming and vet care can be difficult in the future. Make sure to introduce body handling in a way where your puppy is comfortable and go slowly or reach out to a professional trainer if your puppy is worried. Also, make sure to play with each individual toe, front and back feet, look into their mouth at their teeth, and look into their ears - sometimes, it’s easy to teach puppies that petting of their feet and ears is acceptable but the actual grooming and vet care behaviors can be worrying if we don’t consciously teach them it’s OK from the start.
DO: Reach out to professionals!
If you have any problems with your puppy, now is the time to reach out if you need help. Contact a positive reinforcement trainer or behaviorist for training and behavior questions, or your puppy’s vet for any health questions. Don’t procrastinate if you need assistance!