Some simple how-to puppy tips from start to finish. Including how to get a puppy, how to train a puppy, how to keep a hyper puppy occupied, and most important of all, having lots of puppy fun! Getting a puppy is always exciting, but first consider if a puppy will fit into your current lifestyle.
Puppies are a lot of work, and can cause a lot of property damage if not properly trained. Think carefully, do careful research on the best breed for your family, think some more, and make sure you have the time, patience, and money necessary before getting a puppy.
1. Finding the Right Puppy
After I made my decision to get a puppy, I wanted to rush right out and get one as quickly as possible. Instead of doing that, it is important to take a few deep breaths and calm down. Savor the happy feeling, and anticipation of a new furry addition; then the real work begins.
Puppy How-To Tip #1
Make sure we have the time and financial resources to commit to a puppy. A puppy is a 10-15 year commitment. They are a lot of work and they are quite expensive. The initial cost of buying the puppy is very little compared cost of maintaining the puppy, e.g. vet bills, toys, food, training classes, training equipment, and grooming equipment. Initial vaccine shots could cost from $500-$1000US just in the first few months.
Puppy How-To Tip #2
Do some research to find the right dog breed for our lifestyle. The most important thing to consider is the energy level of the breed. I try to get a dog breed with a slightly lower energy level than me. Such a dog will be able to keep up with most of my activities, but will also be happy to rest at my feet after a busy workday.
Puppy How-To Tip #3
Get a puppy from a reputable breeder or from our local shelters and rescue. Only get a puppy that is 8 weeks or older. Younger puppies should still be with their mothers and littermates. Resist getting a puppy just based on his/her looks. Ultimately, temperament is going to matter much more.
2. Puppy Training
So you have just bought a puppy, now what?
Well, now the fun begins. At 8 weeks or older a puppy is ready to learn, so I start training him right away. Remember that a puppy does not understand what the house rules are so it is up to us to teach him what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.
Puppy How-To Tip #4
Use reward dog training. Everybody thinks they know a lot about dogs and you will likely get a lot of advice from relatives, friends, and neighbors. No matter what anyone says, do not use physical force on a puppy. Physical force and dominance techniques are risky, and should not be used on young puppies. Such techniques can condition a dog to fear us and run away, or become aggressive.
Puppy How-To Tip #5
Our first puppy training challenge will be to potty train our dog. While doing this, remember that a puppy is young and has a very small bladder. He will make mistakes, and sometimes, he just won't be able to get to the door on time. The keys to potty training my puppy are patience and consistency. I make sure to reward my puppy well for pottying outside.
Do not push a puppy's nose in 'it' when he makes a mistake. This will only scare him, confuse him, and not teach him anything.
Puppy How-To Tip #6
A puppy will be very cute and very irresistible. However, we must not reward him for inappropriate behaviors. A common mistake is to give a puppy hugs and affection when he whines, jumps, or runs around. Rewarding these behaviors will teach our puppy that this is what we want, and he will keep repeating those behaviors because it gets him attention and affection.
Instead, I get my puppy to sit and politely ask for attention before I give him attention, scratching, and tummy rubs.
Puppy How-To Tip #7
A great way to establish leadership is through the control of resources. I don't give anything to my puppy (including attention and affection) unless he does something for me first. For example, I ask him for a Sit before I give him food, toys, or freedom. I also reward my puppy for being calm, relaxing nicely on his bed, or for just being good around the house.
Puppy How-To Tip #8
Leash train a puppy early, while he is still small and easier to control. First of all, I let my puppy get used to a flat collar by pairing it with good treats. Next, I fasten the leash on and let him get used to the feel of the leash on his collar. At this point, I do not hold the lead or try to walk him yet.
Once he is comfortable moving around on his own with the leash, I practice some Recall exercises with him. After this, I start leash training. I go slowly and always pair training with good treats, affection, and fun.
3. Puppy Care
In addition to training our puppy, it is important to make sure that he is comfortable, and in good health. I take my puppy to the vet as soon as I can. Make sure there is a health clause in your puppy contract so that the breeder is responsible for any pre-existing health issues. At the vet, I schedule my puppy for his vaccine shots and put him on Heartgard when it is appropriate.
Puppy How-To Tip #9
Do not let a young puppy play or meet random adult dogs if he has not been fully vaccinated. Adult dogs may carry diseases that are dangerous to a puppy. Do not let your puppy smell, taste, or touch dog feces and/or urine before he is fully vaccinated.
To be safe, I train and walk my puppy in my own backyard until he has had all of his shots. At the vet, I transport my puppy in a crate so that he is not exposed to anything on the floors of the parking lot or waiting room area.
Puppy How-To Tip #10
Socialize a puppy to a wide range of people, dogs, and objects, but in a safe environment. I enrolled my puppy in a class so that he can safely start socializing with other puppies and people after he has had his second round of shots. I make sure that the class focuses on socialization and interaction exercises. In addition, they should also check all the puppies attending for vaccination records. This ASPCA article has more on the importance of puppy socialization.
Puppy How-To Tip #11
Start getting a puppy used to handling and grooming as early as possible. Dogs are more open to new experiences when they are young, so show our puppy that grooming is a fun experience, with lots of yummy treats. A confident dog, that is comfortable with handling, will be much easier to care-for, for the rest of his life.
Puppy How-To Tip #12
Feed our puppy a healthy, balanced, and nutritious diet. Do not overfeed a puppy and do not give him too many dog treats. I divide up my puppy's food into 3 or more meals and feed him at regular times during the day.
4. A Busy Puppy is a Good Puppy
It can be challenging to keep our puppy engaged and well exercised. And we all know that when left to find his own "entertainment", a puppy will come up with many ingenious ways to cause great property damage. To prevent this, provide a puppy with fun, and sufficient physical and mental activity every day.
Puppy How-To Tip #13
I make my puppy work for all his food. Rather than just handing food to him on a silver dog bowl, I use his daily food rations for obedience training sessions, handling sessions, and stuff the rest of it in interactive food toys. I make sure to give him many opportunities to get all the resources he wants, and make sure he can easily get food out of his toys, so that he stays motivated. As he matures and learns, I can slowly increase the toy and training challenge.
Puppy How-To Tip #14
If we will be away, all day, at work; consider hiring a dog walker or putting our puppy in daycare (only after he has had all of his shots). A good dog walker or dog daycare will be fun and engaging for a puppy and it will help socialize him to a range of people and dogs. It will also tire him out. When we get home, our puppy will be happy to just cuddle with us and lie calmly by our side.
Puppy How-To Tip #15
Remember to have fun, take lots of pictures, and bond with our puppy!
Share some of your favorite puppy photos or just share a fun story.