These Top 5 Puppy Tips will make everything easier!
🎨 The Art of Dog Management
🐕 Learn Their Body Language
🎡 Socialization— Quality > Quantity
🧩 Canine Enrichment
👀 Engagement & Name Recognition
As a certified dog trainer who specializes with puppies, I get asked all the time...
"What are the most important things to do?" Here are the key areas that you need to focus on:
1. Learn the often neglected art of Dog Management
If you find yourself saying “no, no, no”, then let’s set up the environment so you’re happily saying “yes, yes, yes”! Crates, leashes, baby gates, and exercise pens (x-pens) are extremely useful for blocking access to situations that our puppies are not quite sure how to handle yet.
Establishing good management sets you and your puppy up for success. When you create an environment such that unwanted behaviors are unable to occur, there are so many benefits. Your socks and underwear don’t disappear, your dog does not jump on every guest, your couch is in one piece, and over time your Pup learns how to settle out of the way while you’re making dinner.
When you manage their environment you prevent a lot of future headaches! The less your dog practices unwanted behaviors, the easier it will be to teach the behaviors you want to see instead!
2. Communication & Body Language
Dogs learn our body language much faster than we learn theirs. If we take a bit of time to understand their body language, our ability to communicate with them improves.
Here is an example: If you want your puppy to love getting pets and seeing new people experiment with Pet Pause Respect. It’s a great way to ask your Pup if she wants the attention! Pet your puppy for three seconds and then take a break.
What does your puppy do after the break? Does she walk towards you asking for more? Does she ignore you and start sniffing the ground? Sniffing the ground, disengaging and walking away, scratching, and yawning are all signs that your Pup might need a break from the attention.
If we ignore these signs and force attention on the puppy, this can create a dog who avoids snuggling. How would you feel if you told someone you weren’t a hugger, and they ignored you?
On the other hand if your puppy believes her communication will be respected (because it has been in the past), she may start settling beside you to get closer for the affection so many of us crave, when we're comfortable.
3. Socialization— Practice The Goldilocks Principle
While socializing at a young age is most beneficial, it’s never too late to start the socialization process! It will just take more repetitions at your Pup’s pace after the first few months.
When it comes to socialization the quality of the experience is much more important than quantity. Putting your Pup in over his head can be just as damaging (or even more so) as under socializing. It’s essential that you expose your puppy to new things at his pace!
Distance is your friend when putting your puppy in new situations. You will be teaching him that new people, dogs, animals, etc are interesting to look at but he doesn’t need to approach until he is ready and/or until you CUE.
Is your dog going nuts, because he wants to run towards a new situation? Wait until he calmly sits or looks at you and then let him “GO SEE”! You will be teaching your pup that politeness and focus on you will get him what he wants.
Training cue and puppy training classes can also help your puppy develop good social skills in a safe environment.
4. Canine Enrichment
Canine Enrichment engages our dogs senses & improves their lifestyle. You can get creative and it can be so much fun to provide a range of puzzle-like challenges and engaging activities to improve your dog's physical and mental well being.
Enrichment inspires natural behaviors, such as: sniffing, foraging, playing, shredding, licking, chasing, & chewing. There are so many low cost and no-cost DIY activities that encourage our dogs to problem solve & learn new skills.
Not only can they give you a break, but they also build your puppy’s confidence with every tiny victory leading to long term calming effects. Anytime you expose your puppy to something new, your praise and creative support in a step by step process can prevent frustration and add to the fun.
Something as simple as adding a variety of safe puppy chew treats is a go-to enrichment activity. By supplying them with something special on a nearby mat, bed, or crate, they will not only decompress, but will also become accustomed to the place where you want them to relax.
PRO TIP - chewing and licking something delicious:
✓ releases endorphins
✓ is self-reinforcing
✓ encourages relaxation
5. Engagement & Name Recognition
In order for your puppy to learn to sit, down, stay, or come, first teach her that you are worth her attention. Asking a puppy whose focus is elsewhere to sit is equivalent to asking a squirrel to sit!
The name game is a great place to start and it's so easy! Grab 5 - 10 treats.
Say your Pup’s name and give her a treat. After she eats it, say her name and give her a treat. Repeat until you’re all out of treats. Positive reinforcement training can help encourage positive behaviors. When you first start playing, it doesn’t matter if she looks at you when you say her name. Lots of repetition will create that!
Your job is to be close enough to give her a treat right after you say her name no matter what she is doing. As you play she will pay attention when you say her name because you've conditioned this response over time. Keep at it even when you think you don't need to do this, it will make a big difference.
If you’ve only played the name game in the house but not outside, she’ll be really great at responding to her name inside but not outside! Remember if your puppy is struggling listening to you, that’s not her fault. She may need more time to get acquainted with the new environment or to explore the area further.
Now that your environment is set up for success and you have the big picture in mind we can dive into all the puppy training tips. There is so much to discuss— what should we dive into next?!
House training, crate training, puppy biting, potty training, basic manners training, sleep schedules & routines, recall, relaxation, loose leash, leash walking and so much more!
CPDT Certified Dog Trainer
The Puppy Care Company