Guest blog post by Steffi Trott
New puppies bring so much joy into our lives - they are small, clumsy and incredibly cute! But while you snuggle and play with your new best friend, keep in mind that he will soon grow up to be an adult dog that needs care, guidance and manners. As a professional dog trainer, I frequently see adolescent dogs that have behavioral or medical issues which could have easily been prevented.
In this article I share 7 puppy-raising tips so that you can have the perfect addition to your family!
Potty Training Troubles
It is normal that young puppies cannot hold their bladder for long and might have accidents here and there. If owners are not conscientious about setting the puppy up for success though, long-term potty troubles can ensue.
A common mistake is putting the puppy into a crate for 10 or more hours throughout the night, and then waking up to a soiled crate. This is really problematic as it teaches the puppy that it is ok to poop and pee where he sleeps.
For puppies that are under 12 weeks old, expect to get up at night to let them out to potty, or take them out last thing at night and first thing in the morning. They usually cannot go for more than 6 hours without relieving themselves.
Taking them out to a particular spot in the yard, teaching them where to "go" will make your life much easier in the long-run. Most dogs will learn to respond to a particular command to do their business quickly.
Many owners train their dogs to use washable piddle pads inside. This can be especially helpful when traveling, as they can easily be used to avoid accidents while staying as a guest in someone's home or at a hotel.
One of the most common complaints among dog owners is that their dog pulls on leash. The best way to avoid this problem is to start with walking practice when your puppy is still young. Put a collar or harness on your puppy and take him for short walks. Just 5 or 10 minutes is enough for a young pup, as long as you do it every day.
Take treats along to reward your dog for walking nicely and staying by your side.
You should absolutely avoid giving your puppy a “leash-pop” - this could easily damage his fragile neck and throat.
Puppies need to be introduced to a variety of people and dogs in order to develop a friendly and social disposition to the world around them. Neglecting to let your puppy interact can and will result in future reactivity or anxiety in social situations. Nearly all reactivity that I see in adult dogs can be traced back to lack of socialization as a puppy.
Proper socialization can come in different ways. You could take your puppy to a puppy playgroup, a training class or along to outings at a park. If you are running errands, visiting friends, going to a picnic … take your puppy along and let him meet and greet everyone around! Your puppy should only interact with healthy dogs, as his immune system is not yet fully developed.
I do not recommend dog parks for puppies - there are often very high-energy dogs that can and will scare a young puppy with their rough play. Specific puppy playgroups that only contain young pups are a better choice.
If you have a long-coated dog, especially one of the popular Doodle breeds, you need to get your puppy used to being bathed and brushed early on. Many adult dogs refuse to stand still for bathing, brushing and combing. This often becomes a major problem as the dogs’ coat mats and becomes unmanageable. By getting your puppy used to being brushed right away, you set yourself up for a much easier time when he is grown up.
Your puppy should allow you to open his mouth and touch his feet. Handle both areas daily to teach your puppy to allow you to brush his teeth and trim his nails in the future.
If you are planning on having your puppy groomed by a professional groomer, you should take him to meet the groomer early on as well. The younger your puppy is while he gets used to being handled and groomed, the easier he will accept it as just a normal part of life.
Puppies can seem invincible when they rough and tumble with each other. Their bodies however are fragile and an injury during puppyhood can have major consequences. If your puppy breaks a bone (which happens more often than you would think!) or tears a muscle, the recovery can be drawn-out and often result in lifelong problems.
A fracture near a joint can lead to a puppy always walking with a limp. In order to prevent this, never let a puppy play on slippery floors or with dogs that are much larger than him. You also should instruct small children to never pick up a puppy and carry him around. The danger that they might drop him is too high.
Don't Delay Training
Everyone wants a well-behaved adult dog, but few owners start working with their puppy the day they come home. Make sure to begin teaching all life skills to your puppy early on!
The longer you delay training, the harder it will be. If your puppy is allowed to jump up on visitors for the first 3 months of his life and then suddenly he is supposed to sit while greeting them, he will be confused and unsuccessful!
You need to help him learn all expected manners from day 1. It is much easier for your pup to learn everything right away than to have changed rules after a couple months of living with you!
Your puppy will need to see a veterinarian regularly during his first year of life. You will need to discuss your pup's lifestyle with your veterinarian to determine which vaccines might be appropriate. Have stool samples checked for parasites.
Be sure to consider the cost of veterinary care when deciding to purchase or adopt a puppy.
You should also take your puppy to the veterinarian whenever you are concerned about any unusual symptoms, such as repeated vomiting or diarrhea. The longer these go on, the sicker your puppy will become and the more involved the treatment will be. You need to be proactive in taking care of your puppy’s health!
The Bottom Line
Raising a healthy and well-mannered puppy is a commitment and big responsibility. If you have any doubts or questions you should consult a professional dog trainer, groomer or veterinarian. Their advice can help your puppy get back on the right track and grow up to be an awesome companion.