Second in a Series
In the last article, we gave you some ideas on how to select the right puppy for you and your family. Now that you have chosen your new puppy, here is a handy acronym to help you successfully raise your puppy and avoid some of the more common pitfalls that result in bad puppy behavior. We like to call these “Steps to Raising a Puppy…O.R. E.L.S.E.!”
O STANDS FOR ORDER. Bring your puppy into an orderly household. It’s tempting to play with and enjoy your puppy all day long, however, the first 72 hours the puppy is in your home is the critical period during which he or she will begin to understand important household rules and who is in charge. Have the entire family get together and plan the puppy’s entire daily schedule. Include everything: feeding times, potty breaks, and daily walks, as well as brushing and grooming sessions, play periods, and nap times. Teach your puppy early on that daily life involves a standard routine—OR ELSE it will be much more difficult for the puppy to ease into his or her new life.
R STANDS FOR RESTRAINT. Your puppy must learn to accept certain types of household restraint. Hands down, the most useful containment tools are portable crates and exercise pens. A crate provides a bedroom-like safe place for your puppy to rest without interruption, and helps with teaching your pup early housetraining and quiet-time habits. An exercise pen gives your puppy a larger area in which to play with appropriate chew toys, without too much freedom to roam unsupervised in remote areas of the house. Teach your puppy to ride in the car safely in a crate or seat belt for the first two years—OR ELSE you will miss out on the secret to teaching your pet to ride quietly and calmly with you for a lifetime.
E STANDS FOR EXERCISE. A key way to help your puppy look forward to periods of restraint and rest is to give him or her plenty of exercise beforehand. This doesn’t mean you should take up jogging with your new baby. Jogging should be avoided until your pet is at least a year old (and avoided altogether for some breeds) due to the repetitive concussion of the joints, which can lead to arthritis and other problems later on. Puppies need to run, careen, pivot, stumble, jump, and boing! Start with a half hour of walking and free play for very young puppies, and gradually increase the time as the puppy matures. Plan several exercise periods each day—OR ELSE your puppy could have a hard time settling down when you are ready for bed.
L STANDS FOR LOCATIONS. The locations where your puppy will both rest and roam are among the big secrets to raising a puppy who is easy to live with in the house. Although it is tempting to have the new puppy sleep in bed with you or the kids, doing so erodes your leadership by giving the puppy the impression it enjoys the same privileges as the humans in the family. Keep your pet’s sleeping quarters inside and close by – but in his or her crate for the first two years. And avoid the common mistake of raising a puppy loose in the kitchen area—OR ELSE your puppy could develop undesirable counter-surfing, food-guarding, and attention-seeking behaviors as a result of gaining too much freedom in this very high-value, tempting location. Use an exercise pen to contain your puppy in the kitchen.
S STANDS FOR SOCIALIZATION. Socializing—exposing the puppy to safe people, environments, and other animals—needs to happen within the first three to 12 weeks of a puppy’s life. After that, the socializing window closes, and an undersocialized puppy will have a hard time coping with new experiences later in life. So join a supervised puppy play group and/or puppy kindergarten class, designed to give your puppy the most positive social experiences. Try to meet 100 friendly new people in 100 days. Do not take your puppy to an off-leash dog park before he or she is six months old—OR ELSE you risk having your delicate puppy pick up an illness or, worse, encountering an overbearing, unsupervised dog that gives your puppy a negative social experience.
E STANDS FOR EDUCATION. Finally, don’t wait to start your puppy’s education! Your puppy is learning every minute of the day, so direct his or her efforts! There are plenty of books on puppy training, and lots of local classes to join. Training should always support your leadership—things like teaching “Wait” for the food bowl to be set down, “Heel” to walk nicely on a leash, and “Sit” to help your puppy greet new people without jumping up. Get educated on the newest, most positive training methods. Plan to be training for the entire first two years, and plan to have fun!
(This article published in the Mar/April 2011 edition of Issaquah Sammamish and Beyond magazine.)