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Raise Your Puppy to Be a Confident, Balanced Dog

May 03, 2011 | 21,956 views
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Two Cute Pet PuppiesTips to avoid behavior problems with a new puppy:

  • Bring your puppy to the vet as soon as possible for an examination. A sick pup won’t adjust well to his new environment, even if the illness is minor. It’s also hard to gauge a new dog’s real temperament and personality if he’s feeling under the weather.
  • Crate train your puppy. It’s much easier to housebreak and supervise a crate-trained puppy. Dogs are natural den dwellers, so if you make all your new pet’s crate experiences positive ones, he’ll quickly come to view it as his ‘bedroom’ – his own quiet, safe space.
  • Make sure your new puppy gets plenty of rest and quiet time in her crate or another enclosed, safe area of your home. Puppies are babies and require lots of sleep. In addition, your new pup needs to learn to be alone and not to expect constant attention from human family members.
  • Socialize and train your puppy. In order to create a balanced, well-behaved adult dog, puppy owners must be extremely conscientious about socialization and training. There is nothing more important in raising a healthy, well-adjusted dog than insuring she is thoroughly socialized and receives basic obedience training, at a minimum.

Dr. Becker's Comments:

For most dog lovers, there’s nothing quite as exciting as welcoming a new puppy to the family.

What many people don’t realize (or tend to forget), however, is molding that bundle of adorable energy into a good canine citizen requires a considerable investment of time and energy.

First Things First: Get Your New Pet to the Vet

Regardless of where you acquired your new puppy – whether from a shelter, a breeder, or some other source – you should make immediate arrangements for a veterinary exam. In fact, I recommend you make that all-important first vet appointment as part of your preparation before bringing a new pet home.

If you don’t already have a veterinarian in mind, you should give the subject some thought ahead of time. Choosing the best vet for your pet requires research.

You’ll want to insure the DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) you select has a practice philosophy that meets your needs and goals as a pet owner. There are vets who practice strictly traditional, Western veterinary medicine. There are holistic veterinarians. And there are DVMs who combine allopathic veterinary medicine and alternative therapies to treat their patients.

You’ll probably also want to visit prospective vet practices to get a feel for both the facility and the staff. It’s good to know ahead of time what services a vet clinic does and does not offer, as well as the average fees charged for exams and tests. Does the staff seem competent and caring? Is the facility well-organized and clean?

Ideally, your pet will have a lifelong relationship with the vet practice you choose. Your veterinarian should take a proactive approach to keeping his or her patients healthy, and should encourage you to bring your new furry family member in for regular wellness exams.

Bring a quarter-sized stool specimen in a plastic baggie with you when you go. Your vet will check your pup for internal parasites.

The Key to a Confident Canine: Crate Training

Contrary to what some dog owners seem to believe, a crate is not an unnatural environment for a canine.

Your puppy is a den dweller by nature. If he lived in the wild, he would be driven to find a small, dark, out-of-the-way spot to call his own.

A puppy in a new home will exhibit similar behavior to a dog in the wild. He’ll try to find a ‘den’ to tuck himself into. You might find him napping under a table or chair for example.

If you’ve purchased a crate ahead of time and it’s there when your puppy comes home, as long as he hasn’t had a bad experience with confinement in the past, it will be a snap in most cases to get him acclimated to his little ‘den.’

Draping a blanket or other fabric over the back half of the crate creates a dark, den-like environment which your pup will gravitate to.

Supplying your puppy with a crate of his own appeals not only to his den dwelling instincts, but it can also help tremendously with housebreaking. Puppies are programmed by nature not to soil their dens. Now, that doesn’t mean the little guy can hold it indefinitely, but if you’re providing frequent, consistent potty trips outside, chances are he’ll wait until he’s in the right place to relieve himself.

Two very important things to remember in crate training any dog are:

  • Never force your dog into or out of a crate
  • Keep it positive

Forcing your puppy into her crate can create an aversion to it. Likewise, you never want to force (pull, yank or shake) her out of her crate, because then her secure little den can start to feel unsafe to her, defeating the whole purpose of crate training.

Everything about your puppy’s crate should be positive from her viewpoint. Put treats in the crate. Also chew toys, dental bones, and treat-release puzzles. Even after your dog is using her crate regularly, continue to make it an enticing place for her with treats, toys and other items she values.

The goal is to have your puppy voluntarily go into her crate, both on her own and when you ask her to.

Helping Your Puppy Be Okay Alone

As difficult as it can be to leave your adorable, playful, attention-seeking puppy alone, it’s a routine you should establish early on.

Not only do puppies and young dogs need lots of rest and quiet time, they also need to learn that being alone for short periods of time is nothing to worry about.

This is another reason why crate training is so valuable.

A dog accustomed to spending time alone in his own ‘bedroom’ even when you are home is much less likely to develop separation anxiety or other phobias/panic disorders.

Putting your pup in his crate, or otherwise removing him from the action for a nap or some quiet time also helps him learn not to expect constant attention from his human family members. This strategy coupled with basic obedience training will set the stage for a secure, balanced adult dog that is pleasant to be around.

Socialization: The Secret to a Sensational Dog

Unfortunately, there are many dog owners who remain clueless about the critical importance of socialization for puppies.

A puppy cannot be socialized by staying inside the house or the backyard. She can’t be socialized by the occasional ride in the car, walk down the street, or visit to the dog park. The presence of other dogs in the family doesn’t mean your puppy is being socialized.

Proper socialization requires exposing your puppy to as many new people, animals, environments and other stimuli as possible without overwhelming him. Over-stimulation can result in excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior, so knowing how much is enough is important.

Well-socialized dogs are:

  • Handled from birth and learn to accept touching of all body parts
  • Exposed to as many people, other animals, places and situations as possible
  • Encouraged to explore and investigate their environment
  • Allowed to experience a variety of toys and games, surfaces and other stimuli
  • Brought along often on car rides to new environments with their owners 

It’s also extremely important to socialize your pup during her first three months of life, before she’s 14 to 16 weeks of age.

That is the period when sociability outweighs fear, and her brain is primed to accept new experiences. What your puppy is exposed to during this critical time in her development will mold her behavior, character and temperament for the rest of her life.

Puppies that aren’t socialized during their first three months are at dramatically increased risk for behavior problems like aggression, fear and avoidance. Dogs with problems stemming from lack of early socialization fill animal shelters and rescue facilities in every city and state across the country.

Don’t allow your precious little bundle of love and energy to grow into an unmanageable, unhappy adult dog, banished to the backyard or the local animal shelter.

Make sure your puppy is adequately socialized and trained in basic obedience. Take advantage of organized puppy classes and puppy play groups. Find opportunities for her to interact with other people and animals. Expose her to unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells. Bathe, groom and handle her routinely.

Make growing to adulthood a positive experience in every way for your pup. You’ll be richly rewarded by sharing your life with a confident, balanced, well-mannered pet.

If you already have a pet or pets in the home …

Do your homework, including consulting an animal behavior specialist if necessary, before bringing a new puppy into a home with existing pets.

There are right and wrong ways to introduce a new canine family member to an older dog or cat, and you want to get it right from the start.

[+] Sources and References
  • Clinician’s Brief March 8, 2011