How to raise a puppy
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How to raise a puppy: the definitive guide

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Few things are as exciting as welcoming a new puppy to your home. It’s an important moment, and one that you need to consciously prepare for. In this guide we’ll cover all the important points to help you train him with love right from the very first day.

Arriving home

If you’re getting ready for the arrival of your new puppy and you’re not sure how to go about it, we would say that the single most important thing is empathy. Put yourself in his shoes, and everything will seem simpler, and more intuitive.

Remember that a new puppy might feel a bit confused during the first few days because he finds himself in completely new surroundings. So you’ll need to: 

  1. Respect his natural rhythm as he explores and adapts to his new environment.
  2. Ensure he has a suitable safe space to settle down, relax and feel comfortable.
  3. Make him feel part of the family right from the first day.

Find a safe, quiet place for your puppy (well away from any wires or electrical sockets) where you can put his bed, carrier and toys. Remember that he’ll want to be near you, so don’t put him in a room that’s hidden away from family life.

Dogs are social animals and enjoy company, so you puppy will thank you for making him a part of your family life from the very beginning.

And we have some more important tips for you on how to train your puppy, and to give him a warm welcome to your home:

  • Don’t overwhelm him with too much attention during the first hours and days: he hasn’t got to know you yet, and so could perceive your constant presence as a threat.
  • Don’t introduce him to too many new things all at once: try to keep the welcome calm and friendly.
  • Don’t scold him if he does something he shouldn’t during the first few days: he’s only just arrived, and you haven’t yet had time to let him know how you’d like him to behave, so it wouldn’t be fair to tell him off. And if you scold him, you might make him frightened of you.

The first night

Bear in mind that being separated from his mother and from the rest of the litter isn’t easy for a puppy. His new home is an alien, unknown environment, and it could make him feel insecure.

For dogs, as for other gregarious species, the social group is a source of security and protection. For this reason, we recommend not leaving your puppy alone for the first few nights, at least until he’s settled down in his new home.

The myth of the clock under the be

It’s often said that it’s a good idea to leave a clock under his blanket to remind him of his mother’s heartbeat. In reality, the effectiveness of this method is unproven. In some cases, puppies could even feel uncomfortable or frightened.
 

Socialisation stage: raising a puppy from three weeks to three months of age

From three weeks to three months of age (four, according to some experts) is the stage that ethologists call the ‘sensitive socialisation’ period.

At this stage, all the experiences the puppy has with other dogs, people, other animals, and stimuli in the wider environment will leave a deep impression on him. So, take advantage of that window of opportunity to get your puppy used to dealing with all those things he'll have around him as an adult: from the noise of a bus or a dustcart to the sound of a firework or contact with other dogs, people, small children, etc.

Dogs learn throughout their lives, but the impact of experiences during the socialisation period (from three weeks to 3-4 months) is particularly intense.

Socialisation plan

Some practical ideas on how to train your puppy during the socialisation period:

  • Make a list of all the things you’ll need your dog to get used to: buses, motorbikes, an umbrella being opened, bicycles, walking sticks, different types of people, etc.
  • Always carry edible treats and/ or toys that your puppy likes with you.
  • Whenever you're out and about or on walks with your puppy, take every opportunity reward him with a scratch behind the ears, a treat or a game when he comes into contact with any of the things, animals or stimuli from your list. The aim is to create positive associations for him.
  • Keep a close eye on your puppy’s reactions, and lead him away from anything that you think is making him uncomfortable or frightened. Try again later, using a guided, step-by-step approach.
     
How to raise a puppy

Good habits from the start

Knowing how to train a puppy means developing good habits from day one. There are a few essentials that you should bear in mind:

Toilet training your dog

If your puppy is less than 8 weeks old, he won’t yet be ready to learn that he needs to do his business in a specific place, but from this age onwards you can start to explain to him where his toilet is. 

The key to toilet training a puppy is:

      Encourage + Reward + Supervise

Encourage: your dog to ‘get it right’ as often as possible. Take him to the place where you want him to do his business (to the puppy pad if he’s at home, or directly in the street if he can already go out for walks). Do this very often, especially at the most opportune times: after he’s eaten, or he’s been playing, or when he wakes up after a nap.

Reward: him well when he does his business in the right place, so that he makes a clear association between the action, the place and the extra treat.

Supervise: your puppy at all times, because if not, if he feels like urinating or defecating, he’ll just choose anywhere that takes his fancy.

Teach him how to be on his own

Any guide on how to train a puppy must include a section on how to prevent what’s known as over-attachment. Some dogs can become so dependent on their human families that they can’t bear to be at home alone, developing behavioural disorders such as separation anxiety.

To prevent over-attachment problems, start leaving your puppy at home on his own pretty much from the first day. Make sure that he’s in a safe, comfortable place; start off by popping out for a short time, maybe as little as 5 minutes, and then very gradually increase the length of time he’s alone for.

If soon after adopting your puppy you have to go back to work and leave him alone for much of the day, get a dog sitter in, or ask a member of your family or a friend to keep him company.

Impulse control and frustration tolerance

Another key to learning how to train a puppy is to be clear about the importance of working on his frustration tolerance and impulse control.

In the same way as a child, a puppy needs to learn to accept it when things don’t go the way he’d ideally like them to. When it’s not the right time for him to go and play with another dog, or when he can’t use your slipper as one of his toys, for example.

Physical and mental exercise

If you puppy’s going to be part of the family from now on, you’ll need to give him the time and the attention he needs. Both his body and his mind need daily exercise, so you’ll need to make sure that: 

  • You take your dog out at least three times a day, giving him the freedom to explore his surroundings, meet other dogs and play and run around as much as he needs to.
  • Give your dog some mental exercises to challenge his mind. A simple example could be hiding his favourite toy, and getting him to find it by smell.

A well-trained puppy = a happy adult dog

Learning the essentials of how to train a puppy is a responsibility. If a dog is going to be part of your family from now on, you need to aim to train him to engage with his environment in appropriate and positive ways.

A well-trained puppy will be a balanced, happy adult dog. You now have the chance to lay down the foundations for his education.
 

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