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Copyright 2005, Caryl Wolff, All Rights Reserved

Taking My New Puppy Home

You’ll want your puppy to feel comfortable and at home when he gets to your house.  So to help him, bring something from his old home to his new home.  Take a cloth towel and ask all the people at his old home (or shelter) to rub the towel on their arms and hands.  Then rub the towel on your puppy’s littermates and on his mother.  Now your puppy can take with him all the smells that are familiar to him.  Put this towel in his bed when you put him to sleep at night. 

The best place for him to sleep is in his own bed, preferably a crate next to your bed.  Dogs are pack animals, and you are now your puppy’s pack.  Pack animals feel secure when they sleep near each other.  And it also helps with potty training.  You can hear him if he tells you he has to go out.  Your puppy will like his crate and consider it a safe place to be.  So you never want to use his crate for any kind of punishment.

How should I potty train my new puppy?

Potty training your puppy may take some time and does not happen overnight -- especially the night that you thought you would be getting a good night’s sleep!  There are no magic rules or magic potions.  Your involvement is essential.  Routine is the key, and you play a very big role.  Feed him on a set schedule rather than leaving the food down.  What “goes in” on schedule “comes out” on schedule.

You can predict when he needs to eliminate and take him to his potty area immediately

  • Upon awakening
  • After eating or drinking
  • After (and sometimes during) a play session
  • If he smells the ground or asks to go out

There are four basic rules to potty training your dog which should be followed until he is trained: 

  • Keep him in an enclosed area or crate if you can’t watch him.
  • Take him out to his designated toilet area.
  • Stay with him and wait for him to eliminate.
  • Use your command word for him to eliminate and praise him when he does eliminate.

Your puppy should be potty trained by the time he is six months old.  If he is not, he may have a medical condition which should be checked out by a veterinarian.

 How does my puppy learn?

There is an old belief that you can’t train your puppy until he is six months old.  That is because many of the training methods were based on fear, force, and intimidation. 

Your puppy is learning every day whether you teach him or not.  He learns through performing a behavior over and over.  He learns by watching you and trying to predict your behavior.  He then thinks, “Aha, I know what they are going to do next.  How can I make it better for me?”  Then he will try to do one of several things:  he may bark to get your attention, he may bite you, he may steal something, or he may be much more creative!  Or he may not care what you do at all and just lie down and go to sleep.  

Puppies have two types of behaviors:  innate behaviors which they are born knowing and learned behaviors which they acquire through their experiences.  They don’t instinctively know what you want them to do in a given situation unless you teach them

You can influence how your puppy acts by either rewarding him or punishing him within two seconds (it’s that quick) after he does a behavior.  He must associate his punishment or reward with what he did.   If he was rewarded, chances are he will repeat that behavior.  If he is punished, odds are he won’t repeat it.

But if he keeps doing something you think you are punishing him for, he is being rewarded in some way for doing whatever he did, and he’ll do it again.  If he jumps up on you and you tell him “no” and you push him away, you are actually rewarding him in three different ways:  you are looking at him, you are talking to him, and you are touching him.

So how do I train him?

Instead of letting situations arise haphazardly and trying to deal with something that is out of your control, set things up where you are in control of the environment, your puppy, and his reward.  Teach him how to sit and have him sit for everything he wants.  He doesn’t get anything for free -- think of it as his way of saying “please.”  You get what you want (a sit) before he gets what he wants (his dinner, a walk, a ride in the car, etc.)  If he doesn’t sit and say “please,” he doesn’t get his dinner, his walk, etc.

How do I get my puppy to walk by my side?

The old way of training was to put a leash on your puppy and let him drag it around so he could get used to it.  What that taught him is that he could go wherever he wanted when the leash was attached!!!  So what happens when you pick up the other end of the leash and want him to walk next to you?  He has learned that the leash is meaningless, and he pulls you wherever he wants to go.  Then you get upset as he grows and gets bigger because he is pulling your arm out of its socket.

So, to prevent your puppy from pulling you all over the place, before you attach a leash to his collar, attach the loop end of the leash to a large stationary object such as the leg of your couch.  Then you can handle him by grooming him or examining him like a veterinarian would.  Just ignore all the wiggling and release him when he is calm.  Then put the leash on him and take him for a walk.  You stop if he pulls.  You have now taught him that if he wants to go for a walk, he must walk by your side.  If he tries to get ahead of you, you stop and he goes nowhere.  Be consistent and do this every time his leash is attached.  He will soon learn to walk by your side easily and happily.

How do I socialize my puppy?

Socialization cannot be overemphasized.  It does not mean just letting your puppy being around other dogs and people.  It means getting him used to walking on novel surfaces, seeing all sorts of shapes and movement, hearing new sounds, smelling different smells, and a whole lot more. 

Your puppy learns so much by the time he is 16 weeks old.  He was born blind and deaf.  All he knew how to do was nurse and move around a bit.  He couldn't even go to the bathroom by himself -- his mother had to stimulate him.  By the time he is 16 weeks, he can see, hear, walk and run(although he still is a little clumsy), and he has learned a lot.  He has begun to explore the world.  His experiences in these first four months of his life will last him a lifetime. 

He needs a lot of experiences in his early life so he can use them as a foundation or anchor for the rest of his life.  The more experiences he has, the more well adjusted he will be.  And the easier he will be to live with.  Why?  Because he will already be familiar with the sights, smells, sounds, etc. that he will encounter in his adult life.  If he doesn't have this base of reference, then novel experiences very probably will be frightening.  And there is an additional benefit for you:  it will make living with him much easier and more enjoyable.

Remember that your puppy is learning every day whether you are teaching him or not, so please begin training and socializing as soon as you can so that he learns what you want him to do.

Article submitted by Caryl Wolff,

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