Each year an influx of new puppies, whether bought or adopted, seems to happen around the holidays or just after. We call this New Puppy Season. The holidays are trying enough for families, but the excitement of acquiring a new puppy adds chaos to the excitement. The good news is that around 9 to 10 weeks is the ideal time to begin your pup’s obedience and behavior training. Just prior to embarking on that, the family should be attending local free potty-training seminars.
These are designed for proper crate training to mold early habits for the family and dog. Making sure your pup does not imprint permission to potty in the house is one of the most important things families should do during the first few weeks of ownership.
Other things to address early on are: eliminating nipping and biting; redirecting chewing to positive items; good manners, including not jumping and proper greetings with children and adults; socialization with puppies and dogs; and exposure to new things.
Positive training begins young with a reward system based on treats, toys, praise and touch. Your leadership skills are critical, so the puppy learns to respect as well as love you.
Ideally, I recommend that you and your pup attend group classes at less than 12 weeks of age for the best results. Knowing what to do and NOT do early on might make the difference between a healthy, balanced relationship and one that is fraught with difficulties.
Preschool or elementary school lessons for the pup include Sit, Recall Come (the most important safety command), Down, leash walking, Leave It and more.
Social skills and solving many behavioral issues need to be incorporated into your earliest plan with both puppies and dogs. Adopted dogs, whether adolescent or older, might need special, dedicated attention because their early months or years might not be known to you.
Making a plan on how to spend your time introducing the dog to its new life will help not only the dog adjust, but your family as well.
I know the holidays are time consuming and stressful, but look at it from the pup’s perspective: new home, environment, schedule, children and other people, perhaps even other dogs or cats and visitors. It is difficult to make the time, but this time is critical to your dog’s adaptation to all these things.
Personally, I look forward to the New Year. Meeting the new people and dogs that will become part of my life, as I become part of theirs, is as extremely rewarding as it is challenging.
Giving a family confidence that their new dog, with work and patience, will indeed become the dog they want is truly rewarding.
Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Training Academy. AlphaDogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com