Puppies are in their developmental foundation stage and depending on what they experience, and how they experience it, this will create the dog they become. Most idiosyncrasies that dogs have can be often be traced back to things that happened as puppies, in particular fear and aggression.
If a puppy has a bad experience and nothing is done to counter-condition him, chances are this experience will mold him for life. This is why it’s critical to expose puppies to as many positive, safe experiences as possible. In this guide, I’d like to focus on some simple things you can do with your puppy to form foundations that will last a lifetime. I call it the Rules of 9, but you may add as many experiences to your puppy’s positive experiences as you like.
- Expose your dog to different people early on. Include people of different sizes, races, male, female, children, people in uniforms, etc. Use treats to make the introductions positive.
- Introduce your dog to at least 5-10 different places in the first few weeks your puppy is with you. Use treats to make the introductions positive.
- Introduce your puppy to many different sounds as possible. Use gradual introductions and go slow. Also take your dog to places where strange sounds exist including shopping carts, parking lots, etc. Always protect your puppy.
- Feed your dog in several different locations. This can be in the park, outside, in a shopping center, in different rooms, etc.
- Introduce your dog to different surfaces during the first few weeks he’s with you. Examples include: concrete, grass, carpet, polished floors, gravel, etc.
- Take your puppy for car rides and teach him to be calm in the car. This can be done by feeding him in the car and/or using treats.
- Crate train your puppy. Teaching your dog to be happy and relaxed in a crate is one of the best things you’ll do for him.
- Introduce your dog to several “safe” dogs so that he knows dogs are ok. If possible introduce him to different breeds and sexes. BE sure these are dogs you know and have no aggression. Also make sure these dogs are up to date on vaccines.
- Take your dog to your vet before he needs to go there. Make going to the vet a good thing. I take my puppy to the vet to get treats and love before he ever needs to go there for anything else. **be careful not to let your un (or under) vaccinated puppy smell or run around on the floor. Carry him in and hold him till you meet the vet.