Who doesn’t love watching a puppy act like a puppy? That said, both veterinarians and professional pet trainers will tell you that certain actions must be discouraged or encouraged to ensure the puppy grows up into a well-mannered dog. Get started on training as soon as possible in the following areas.
First, understand that crating does not equal punishment. When in his crate, your puppy remains safe and secure. He also finds comfort in the den-like qualities of a crate. Those same qualities also discourage him from going to the bathroom in the crate and help speed up house-training. You must train him to the crate properly, though, to ensure both his comfort and its success as a training tool.
Before you introduce your puppy to the crate, make the space as comfortable as possible. Place old towels at the bottom — once your puppy has been fully house-trained, replace the towels with a proper crate bed — and toys. You can also drape a towel around the crate to add to the den-like atmosphere. Place the crate where the puppy can see you. During the day, this might be in the living room or kitchen; if you work away from home, come home to let him out for a potty break midday or have a pet sitter stop by. At night, move the crate into your bedroom for best results.
Leave the door open and allow the puppy to explore on his own. Place treats in the crate and pet him while he’s inside to associate positive experiences with the crate. Once your puppy gets comfortable, close the door and leave him in there for brief periods of time, building up to longer sessions. As soon as you release him, take him outside to go to the bathroom so he learns the appropriate place to go potty.
Feeling comfortable in a crate not only gives your puppy his own “room” in your home, it also helps him adapt if you must leave him at a pet day care and boarding facility for extended periods of time. Never use the crate as a form of punishment.
Socialization & Behavioral Training
Some veterinarians believe puppies should stick close to home until fully vaccinated. Others say early socialization proves vital to learning how to deal properly with the outside world. Your puppy starts his socialization during visits to your vet’s office, and adding experiences such as nail clipping and ear cleaning by a vet tech helps set up good behavior at a pet grooming facility in the future.
You also want to socialize your puppy to various sounds, sights, people and pets. The best way to do this involves taking a puppy class and doing all of the assigned homework. A puppy class puts you and him in a variety of situations, and it also includes basic behavioral training in using commands such as “sit,” “down” and “stay.” A homework assignment might require you to take the puppy to a store that sells pets and pet supplies and to sit upon command when a person or another pet approaches.
While adult dogs can be trained to overcome a puppyhood without the above structure, why wait when you have the tools and such an eager student from day one?