What a privilege, a new dog! A pet is a privilege, not a right. A pet is also a responsibility. Be sure you are prepared to meet a pet's physical and emotional needs. With just a little forethought and planning, introducing a new dog into your home can go smoothly. Starting your puppy off on the right paw, is much easier than correcting problems you have created. Raising a pup to be a well adjusted, mannerly adult may be one of the most rewarding endeavors of your life. A pet's purpose is to enhance our lives with the unique joy only they can provide. It is not to be a burden that an untrained, disobedient dog too often becomes. A little doggie sense (that's common sense from your dog's point of view) and an eye to the future will get you and your pup started off on the right paw.
If you have not selected your puppy yet, here are a few words to the wise. Choose a breed or mixed breed of dog based on it's personality, not appearance. Please use the breed counseling questionnaire to prevent a mismatch between you and your future dog. Buy your pup form a reputable breeder. A breeder is a person actively involved in the improvement and the well being of their breed. A reputable breeder will also guarantee their pups beyond 48 hours. Ideally the guarantee will cover temperament as well as physical problems.
Pick your puppy up when it is seven weeks old where the law allows. Do not pick up your pup prior to seven weeks of age, there are important lessons best taught in the litter in the first seven weeks such as how hard and often mouthing is acceptable. The next best age for optimum adjustment is nine weeks. Never pick your pup up during the eight week of age as it is a critical fear imprint week. The trauma of being removed form one's litter mates and mom during the eighth week could permanently scar your pup's temperament resulting in shyness. Have your pup vetted within a few days and follow your veterinarian's program for vaccination and deworming (wormy pups are difficult to housebreak).
One more preliminary, if everyone in your household is gone during the day, seriously consider getting an older dog. It is unfair to a young pup to try to raise it in a working household. Older dogs adjust beautifully and become adoring companions. If you already have a young pup in a working household, you will have to make some special efforts to be fair to your pup and realize that training is going to take twice as long.
In order to enhance health and house training, your puppy should be fed a high quality meat based dry dog that is naturally preserved. Ideally the food should not contain any soybean (cheap, indigestible source of protein), dyes, byproducts or sugar. I do NOT recommend puppy formulas except in special situations. 22% protein is good for most dogs and puppies. The high protein levels of puppy formulas can cause increased urination (excess protein is cleared from the body through the kidneys), hyperactivity, overweight which can increase the likelihood of the development of clinical hip and elbow displasia, and skin problems among other things.
House training, teaching your pup to eliminate outside, cannot formally begin until a pup is 10-12 weeks old. If cage training is attempted when the pup is too young, it may not have the physical capacity to keep the cage clean. Having to stay in a dirty cage may destroy a pup's instinct to keep its den clean and make house training difficult or impossible. Until your pup is old enough to begin cage training, confine the pup to a small room with the floor completely covered with newspaper and walk your pup outside on a regular basis. When the pup begins to show some physical control ( usually 10-12 weeks), confine it to a cage both at night and when you cannot keep an eye on it. The cage takes advantage of the dog's natural instinct to keep its den clean. They do not dislike their cages unless you use them for punishment or isolation.
Walk your pup first thing in the morning, and about every 2 hours throughout the day, also walk the pup after meals, playtime, other periods of excitement (company arriving, departing, etc.), and last thing at night. Confine your pup for 10 minutes prior to every potty walk. Only allow your pup 3-5 minutes for a potty walk or she may forget why she's outside. If your pup completely eliminates, reward with supervised freedom in the house for 1-2 hours. If your pup does not completely eliminate, confine it to its cage for 15 minutes and walk it again. Accidents should be few if humans follow this program. The occasional mistake should be cleaned up with club soda on carpet and white vinegar on hard surfaces. Don't rub your pup's nose in accidents or beat the pup!!! As your pup grows and develops more bowel and bladder control, you can increase the length of time between potty walks. At six to eight months of age, most pups develop complete bowel and bladder control. Now you can begin gradually weaning your pup out of the cage gradually or begin expanding the space your pup has access to if you are paper training.
Excessive destructive chewing is unfortunately taught to most pups by humans. Don't overwhelm your pup with toys or shove something in it's mouth every time you want to pacify it. Chewing toys should have two qualities. They should not be confusing and they should be indestructible. Do not give your pup rawhide chewies if you do not want them to chew your shoes and other leather. Do not give your pup old socks with knots tied in them if you do not want her to chew other fabric. Acceptable toys are Nylabones or the softer puppy version, Gumabones, a solid rubber ball or a "Natural Bone" (purchased at pet shops, these are real bones that have been treated so they will not splinter). By following the aforementioned house training program, your pup will have few opportunities for destructive chewing during the teething stage since it will be supervised, outside or in its cage. Grannick's Bitter Apple may be used to discourage your pup form chewing the wrong things. Bitter Apple is extract of sour apples in an alcohol base. Apply it when your pup is not present to effect a cure. Otherwise, she will not chew when she sees you spray things but will merrily chew away when objects are left untreated. DO NOT punish your pup for chewing. Punishment often feeds the problem because dogs often chew when bored or lonely. Negative attention (punishment) is better than no attention to many pups.
Dogs jump to get attention and to give affection. Resist the urge to pet your pup when she jumps up. It teaches a behavior that will not be so cute when your pup is an adult. Instead gently place your pup in a sit every time she approaches you or you approach her. This teaches your pup to politely ask, "Pet me please?" instead of demanding your attention by jumping. The sit in front also develops a positive attitude of having your pup looking for ways to please you and earn attention. This is opposed to the spoiled brat that demands a lot of attention for doing nothing.
Do not feed your pup from the table if you do not want a little beggar. Little pups should not be given human food because it may upset the bowels causing house training problems. Feed your pup only from her bowl. Do not allow your dog to lick plates on the floor if you do not want her to lick them on the table. Giving dogs human food can also contribute to dominance problems. In the wild, the pack leader gets the choice food and the rest of the pack get the leftovers. The translation of this law into the human household is, dogs eat dog food, humans eat human food.
Do not allow little pups to sit on your lap when you are sitting on the furniture if you do not want your adult dog to get on the furniture. If you do not mind them getting on the furniture that is up to you. However, this too can cause confusion in the pack order. Pack leaders get the best places to sleep. Translation is humans on the furniture and dogs on the floor. Also think about the dirt an adult dog may track on the furniture.
Mouthing, grabbing and biting your hands and legs, is a normal puppy behavior that can get out of hand. Do not play slap-around-the-face games with your puppy. And worse yet is x. These games can cause severe mouthing problems and much worse, aggression problems. The best game to teach your pup is fetch. Fetch teaches your pup to come to you and the reward (your throwing the toy again) is built in to the game.
Start teaching your pup to accept grooming and examination of her feet, ears, and teeth at an early age. Your veterinarian will appreciate it and your dog will get better health care.
Do not call your pup and then punish it or do anything it considers unpleasant (such as bathing, putting in a cage, etc.) This will teach your pup NOT to come when called. Go get your pup in these situations. Always have coming to you mean a pleasant reward of praise (occasionally a food treat).
Basic obedience training is a must for every dog to be a truly enjoyable companion. Training establishes a basic language in which you and your dog can communicate and perhaps more importantly, training develops self-control in your dog when done properly. It also prevents or resolves most canine behavior problems. I recommend training under the guidance of a qualified professional. Group classes provide some socialization. Private instruction is more successful than a group because you get individualized attention and it moves at your pace. Well taught classes and private lessons should include basic obedience training and lectures on typical problems such as house training, chewing, etc. Boarding school is the most successful training program because all you have to do is learn how to handle a professionally trained dog. This form of training has many advantages for folks with busy schedules, handicaps or difficult dogs among other things. If such guidance is not available in your area, get a copy of The Koehler Method of Dog Training by William Koehler (published by Howell) and follow it to the letter (with the exception of the hole digging correction which I do not recommend). Puppies can begin training at four months of age (teaching can begin as soon as you get your pup).
This chapter is just meant as a primer to get your pup started on the right paw. Please read on, especially the chapters on house training, chewing, and jumping!
A pet should enhance your life, not be a burden as a misbehaving dog can become.
- Sue Clauss