The early weeks, called the socialisation period, is a special time for young puppies. Up to about 20 weeks of age, your puppy is a learning sponge! All the good experiences and training that you give your puppy will be learnt easily, and you have the opportunity to give your pup a good start in life through introducing different people, dogs, cats and experiences.
Lessons are easily taught to your puppy that will require much more work if delayed: wearing a puppy collar and walking on a loose lead, paying attention when you call its name, coming when called, keeping feet on the floor to greet people, keeping teeth off humans and other essential skills for living in a human world are most easily taught to your puppy over a two- or three-month period in early life.
Puppy schools can give you and your pup a great start together. People with limited dog experience benefit tremendously from well-run puppy classes, where instructors explain the mysteries of puppy behaviour and teach handling skills. Unlike training classes for adult dogs, puppy classes tend to include instructions on house-training, setting boundaries for pups in the family and general care. Even if you have trained a dog before, the puppy needs the experience. Chances are, though, that you’ll learn new things, too!
- Ensure your puppy is wearing a comfortable puppy collar, and get the pup used to being led around the house for short distances on a lead.
- Puppies learn quickly by being praised and rewarded for doing things right. They do not learn from being growled at and punished, and this may result in a poorly socialised and badly behaved pet.
- Puppies need stimulation and attention. Lots of games, exercise and gentle handling result in a happy and well-balanced pet that wants to please you!
- ‘Come’ is the start of puppy obedience. Call your pup several times throughout the day around the house and yard. Say its name in an excited voice, and crouch down to it if you need too. When it comes, praise verbally and reward with a puppy treat. The puppy will think coming to you is terrific!
- Never call a puppy to you then growl at it. This teaches it to fear you and not to come when you call.
- ‘Sit’ is another simple command. Move a puppy treat from a position in front of the puppy to a point up over its head. The pup will probably raise its head to follow the treat and in the process, lower its bottom to the floor – at that moment say the word ‘sit’, praise it exuberantly and give it the treat as a reward.
- Puppies have short attention spans. They learn better with many short lessons of a few minutes every day.
- Make learning fun. Keep it upbeat, reward their progress, and always end the session before they get bored.