Welcoming a puppy to your family is a fun, new adventure, but the experience can also be challenging. Puppies are adorable, squishy fluff balls, but they are also adult dogs in training. Your puppy looks to you for guidance and boundaries, and from day one, you must begin training and socializing them. Of course, no puppy is perfect, and problem behaviors will arise. Our Companion Veterinary Clinic team knows that caring for a puppy can feel overwhelming, so we provide five tips to help you prevent your puppy’s behavior problems, helping them become a happy, healthy, and well-behaved pet.
#1: Consider your lifestyle when adopting a puppy
Before adopting a puppy, evaluate your lifestyle, and research breeds to ensure you and your new puppy are a good match. Of course, if you adopt a puppy through a shelter or foster-based rescue, you may not always learn your puppy’s specific genetic makeup, but having an understanding of breed characteristics can help you choose a puppy who will thrive in your home. Questions to consider when considering puppy adoption include:
- What is your activity level? Are you an active person, or more laid-back?
- Do you have, or plan to have, children?
- Are you in a financial position to support a dog throughout their life?
- How much time do you have to socialize and train a new puppy?
- How long are you away from home each day?
- How often do you take trips? Who will care for your dog while you are away?
- Do you prefer large dogs or small dogs?
- Do you have allergies?
- How much time can you commit to a dog’s grooming?
- Are you looking for a dog to join you for a specific activity (e.g., hiking or running)?
Answering these questions thoughtfully can confirm that you feel ready to accept puppy-raising responsibilities, and to help you pare down your breed choices.
#2: Prepare for your puppy before you bring them home
Falling in love with the puppy of your dreams is easy—preparing to bring that puppy home requires a lot of preparation. Before you introduce your new puppy to your home, think about how your house is arranged, and consider your daily routine, determining what your puppy will need on day one. Set up your puppy for success by having necessary supplies on hand, removing potential dangers from your home and yard, and establishing a training and socialization plan that the whole family understands. Before you bring home your new puppy, purchase these essential items:
- Food and water bowls
- Collar and identification tags
- Leash and harness
- Comfortable bed
- Nutritious pet food
- Baby gates
- Chew toys
- Paper towels
#3: Start socializing your puppy early
During their prime socialization window—3 to 14 weeks of age—introduce your puppy to new sights, sounds, people, pets, and places to help reduce their nervousness and fearfulness in new situations, or to prevent them from developing anxiety as they age. To build a positive behavioral foundation, introduce your puppy to new situations gradually, and reward them with high-value treats. Once your puppy has started their vaccinations, enroll them in a puppy class, which is a great way to introduce them to other puppies and people, new environments, and new experiences. At these classes, your puppy will learn basic commands, and you will learn how to train them appropriately.
#4: Address puppy problem behaviors with training
Before you bring home your puppy, research basic puppy-training strategies, so you are ready to train them right away. Ensure you use positive reinforcement methods, which reward—with treats, praise, and toys—desired behaviors. Be prepared to address the following common puppy problem behaviors:
- Accidents — You must demonstrate patience and consistency when house training your puppy. Take your puppy outside at least every two hours, immediately after they awaken, during and after playtime, and after eating or drinking. Always leash your puppy, and take them to the same spot to relieve themselves, using the same command, such as “Go potty,” and immediately rewarding them with a high-value treat and praise. If your puppy does have an accident in the house, avoid scolding or punishing them, but immediately take them to their potty spot outside, and clean the soiled area in your home well.
- Biting — A puppy’s playful nipping may be cute, but you should not tolerate this behavior. If your puppy starts biting while playing, immediately put an end to playtime and ignore them, which sends the message that you discourage such behavior. If your puppy begins chewing your clothing, avoid pushing them away, because you do not want them to think this behavior has escalated to a tugging game. Encourage appropriate chewing by providing your puppy with high-quality chew toys.
- Hyperactivity — Puppies have a lot of energy and need physical activity and mental stimulation. If they do not burn enough energy, they are likely to engage in problem behaviors. Ensure your puppy gets plenty of daily exercise and engagement through daily walks, obedience training, and play.
#5: Give your puppy a healthy start
Ensure your puppy gets off to a healthy start by scheduling regular veterinary wellness exams. Your puppy’s initial exams may include:
- Heartworm and parasite preventive treatments
- Behavior and training advice
- Permanent microchip identification
Raising a puppy can be an extremely rewarding experience, and we hope these tips will help you lay the foundation for your new furry family member’s wonderful, healthy life. Contact our Companion Veterinary Clinic team to schedule your puppy’s wellness exam.
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