When you acquire a new puppy, things that you do, or don’t do, can make a big difference to the way the puppy turns out. Happy and confident adult dogs don’t just happen but are the product of good decisions and correct treatment of the puppy from birth right up until the juvenile period (around six months of age).
A pup’s genetic makeup may be out of your control once you have selected the right breed and individual for you, but you can sculpt or distort the raw clay of the pup’s genetic legacy by how you look after him and act toward him. If you do the right things – and, most importantly, don’t do the wrong things – the pup will turn out to be (as the US Army jingle goes) “all that he can be.”
The so-called sensitive period of development for puppies is between 3 and 12 weeks of age. The sensitive period has been defined as a time during development when the puppy is dependant upon (the correct) environmental influences for its development to continue normally.
This is a time when primary social relationships and emotional attachments develop between dogs and people and between dogs and other dogs. Note that only half of this sensitive period has elapsed at the usual time for adoption, which is why it is so important for owners to get a grasp of the essential features of proper puppy socialization and training.
How to raise a good puppy has been discussed almost ad nauseam by numerous authorities though the message has still not penetrated to all new puppy owners. In essence, for training a new puppy, new owners need to concentrate on being patient and considerate while using primarily positive reinforcement with, if necessary, negative punishment (withholding benefits) as a consequence for any deliberate, unacceptable behavior. But even informed owners sometimes fail to appreciate the absolute no-nos of puppy raising. True, some of the biggest of them is simply the converse of what should be done, but it doesn’t hurt to include these items in the list for even greater clarity.
- No Yelling, Threatening, Or Physical Punishment.
Punishment teaches a dog nothing, except how to avoid the punishment. It is far better, and far more humane, to teach the pup what to do rather than punish it for something it is doing. Also note, that punishment after the fact is not only inappropriate; it is pointless. The only type of positive (direct) punishment that might, on occasion be acceptable is that delivered remotely by some anonymous contraption. E.g., some kind of booby trap arrangement to discourage pups from “counter surfing.”
- Don’t Expect Too Much.
Setting one’s standards high is one thing, but a puppy cannot do what it is physically incapable of or doesn’t understand. For example, young pups cannot hold their urine for long periods of time. They are like children and need frequent opportunities to empty their bladder.
The general rule is that pups can hold their urine for some hours (“N” hours) equal to their age in months (“A”) plus 1 (up to about nine months of age). [I.e., N = A + 1] To punish a pup of 3-months old for urinating on the floor when you have not taken it out for 5 hours is not fair. To instruct a pup to Come from a distance, and get angry with him for not coming to you is unfair if you have not practiced and honed off-lead recalls at a distance. Temper your expectations. Think.
- Do Not Keep Your Pup Shut In A Crate For Anything Other Than The Briefest Time (20 Minutes).
Some folk who acquire new puppies don’t have the time to take care of them properly. There’s no getting around it, raising a puppy properly takes time. If you haven’t got time, don’t get a puppy. As a solution to their puppy’s … well, puppy behavior, they lock it in a crate for hours on end. It is shut up while they are out, while they are busy, and while they are asleep. Some pups are crated for almost 20 hours a day for this reason. Of course, when the pup is let out, it goes ballistic, and the owner is horrified. The Catch-22 solution, to put the puppy back in the crate: This is all wrong.
Most puppies do benefit from having a crate, a place of comfort and security where they can engage in occasional self-imposed time-outs. A crate can come to be viewed by the pup as a den, of sorts, but note: Dens don’t have doors. It is not bad to use the crate for house training, confining the pup in the crate for 15-20 minutes between “bathroom breaks” to ensure to requisite deposition of urine outside but long periods of confinement are counterproductive, leading to a type of kennel dog syndrome of hyperactivity, excessive reactivity, compulsivity, and introversion.