11 smart ways to help your puppy become the dog of your dreams
By Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Whether your new puppy is your very first or the latest in a long line of family dogs, a little advice on bringing him up can help ensure that he has a great start in life. Sometimes we forget what puppies are like, especially if the last one was 10 or more years ago, and if you’re new to puppies, they can be a mystery. The following tips can put you and your new pup on sound footing.
1. Start as you mean to go on. “What’s cute at 18 pounds isn’t cute at 118 pounds,” says Bernese mountain dog owner Adam Conn. Teach young pups to sit instead of jumping up when greeting people, especially if they are going to be jumbo-size as adults. If you don’t plan to allow your dog on the furniture when he’s grown because he’ll be too big or furry or drooly, don’t make an exception when he’s a small puppy.
2. Introduce puppies to being brushed and combed and having teeth brushed from day one. Even if a pup doesn’t have much coat yet, becoming used to the grooming process will save both of you stress in the long run.
3. Live by a schedule. “They poop and pee a lot more than you’d expect,” says beagle owner and dog trainer Denise Nord. Set a timer, and take them out every hour during the day until you get a handle on their personal schedule. Every pup is different.
4. Don’t take them out to potty and then go right back in. Let them have a little fun outside first. Sniffing and exploring are important to dogs.
5. Speaking of exploring, puppies need plenty of socialization — exposure to new people, places, objects and experiences — but in a positive way. “The more new experiences you can introduce your puppy to under calm, controlled conditions, the more likely he will be to accept new situations with a confident attitude,” says Fear Free Pets lead trainer Mikkel Becker. New situations should be fun, not scary, with the pup having the option to investigate at her own pace.
6. Don’t miss your puppy’s peak socialization and learning period (3 to 12 weeks of age) by keeping him at home until all his vaccinations are completed. “If you wait until your dog is 10 months old and 75 pounds before you take them anywhere except the vet, you will have issues,” says dog trainer and Labrador owner Liz Harward. It’s safe to take your pup to a socialization or “kindergarten” class as long as he has had at least one set of vaccinations and the other puppies have had vaccinations as well. Avoid places where unknown dogs gather, such as parks and pet stores.
7. Exercise appropriately. Puppies are active, no doubt about it, but they aren’t ready to become jogging partners until they are 18 to 24 months old. Running with them too early during bone development can cause permanent damage and pain, says English springer spaniel breeder Linda Prouty. Talk to your veterinarian about when your pup’s growth plates will close.
8. Schedule downtime. Puppies need plenty of rest, or they’ll become cranky, just like a toddler. Use a crate, exercise pen or puppy-proofed room for naptime — and for any time you can’t actively supervise your puppy’s activities and whereabouts.
9. Too much freedom too soon makes it difficult for puppies to become housetrained and learn house manners. For instance, they can learn to chew on the wrong things, says trainer Liz Palika.
10. Puppies need guidance, but it’s important not to push them too quickly. “I encourage people to let their pup grow up and take that time to build a solid working relationship that will pay dividends in the end,” says flat-coated retriever breeder Xan Latta.
11. Most important, enjoy that first year. “It goes fast,” Harward says.