One of the most heartbreaking experiences for us at Palmetto Animal League is when an innocent, adorable puppy leaves our adoption center only to be returned months – or even years – later due to behavioral issues.

Most frustrating behaviors start at the puppy stage, which is good news because that means they’re entirely avoidable.

When you adopt a new puppy, it’s important to create an environment where the pup can thrive. Here are some tips for you – the adopter, the caregiver, the rescuer.

1. Be honest. Ask yourself, “Do I have time for a dog in my life?” Dogs have basic needs that need to be met every single day.

“A dog is not a human and never will be,” said PAL dog trainer Natalee Marick. “Dogs don’t think like humans and they have very different needs.” If you are willing to embrace a basic dog routine, you will enjoy a rewarding, lifelong relationship.

2. In the early stages, socializing your puppy is far more important than training. You want your dog to be welcomed in public along with other well-behaved dogs, so go ahead and sign up for a puppy class. Your new pup will gain important social skills and may even learn a little basic training at the same time.

3. Consistency is the key to any good relationship, right? It’s no different for your dog. They like to know what can be expected of them every day. This starts the very first night you bring your puppy home and continues for their lifetime.

“Reward your dog the same way every time,” said Marick. “They will be much more willing to cooperate if they have a sense of satisfaction. They will avoid cooperation if they feel shamed and scolded for making mistakes. Who wouldn’t?”

4. Read everything you can get your hands on before bringing a new puppy home. Every move you make can leave a deep and lasting impression on your dog.

“TV shows are great, but they are not reality,” said Marick. “The reality is that your dog needs to practice a behavior for several months in order to get good at that behavior.”

PAL is deeply committed to supporting dogs through all stages of life. It is never too late to address behavioral and socialization issues.

We have a trainer and behaviorist on staff dedicated to giving our puppies and dogs the skills they need to be adopted into lifelong homes. We begin socializing puppies the minute they arrive at our adoption center in Okatie’s Riverwalk Business Park, so they’ll grow up to be confident, calm, well-behaved dogs.

Amy Campanini is president of Palmetto Animal League.