What to expect when you’re expecting…a puppy!

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So you’ve decided that it’s time to get a puppy. You may have read some of the books and browsed a few of the websites. You may have even seen some dog training video tutorials, but what you’d like is to prepare yourself mentally so you can feel more confident in knowing exactly what to expect when you bring home that puppy, and how to deal with it. First of all, let me suggest that you thoroughly consider whether a puppy is the right thing for you at this time. Not only will this make you feel more self-assured as you take this leap, but it will also be in the best interest of your new friend. But assuming that after considering all other options, you have decided this is the path for you – let’s proceed.

Mistakes: The behavior of a puppy can be unpredictable, but the one guarantee I can almost certainly offer is that puppies make mistakes. It is important not to get caught up in the fantasy of owning an obedient and well-trained dog that understands house manners. While that is surely the goal, it is rarely accomplished without months of accidents. Accidents can and often do include: toilet training mistakes, play biting hands, chewing inappropriate items, difficulties getting along with other pets, anxiety and undesirable barking, and much more. Having said that, there are two particular goals to keep in mind during this early training phase:

1)    Minimize the opportunity for accidents: Provide frequent toilet visits, teach and reinforce biting on appropriate items, limit access to areas when supervision cannot be provided, address daily physical and mental activity requirements, capture and reinforce positive behaviors correctly, utilize appropriate confinement areas, and discourage problematic behaviors correctly.

2)    Create opportunities for success through training: instead of focusing on how to correct problematic behavior, pay attention to teaching suitable alternative and rewarding them. For instance, if your puppy likes to chew on the leash, show him how much fun it is to chew on his toys instead.

Frustration: If you are human (the chances of which are quite high), you will likely experience frustration during moments when your hard work seemspuggy dog to be falling short. Remind yourself that if you are doing everything that you know is needed to raise and train the puppy, you are on the right track. It sometimes takes time for the fruits of our labor to flourish. Share your concerns with others in your puppy training class, a pet trainer, or other people who have dogs (like on our Facebook page). It’s important not to be overwhelmed by this frustration to the point where it interferes with your ability to stay committed to your plan.

Attention: There is nothing more magnetic than the sight of a cute 12-week old puppy trotting along in an effort to keep up with their new parent. People will approach you and be interested in petting your puppy and talking to you. The reason this is worth mentioning from a dog training perspective is that these are opportunities for you as a trainer to conduct some real-life training. Be prepared for this ahead of time and ensure that it does not become an event where your dog is reinforced for unwanted behaviors, such as jumping up to greet strangers. If you find yourself unprepared or unable to manage the dog’s behavior at a given time, you may choose to politely explain that the dog is in training and your preference is not to engage in a greeting at this time. Also, there is no obligation to have your dog meet and sniff every animal they encounter on the walk. Socialization is extremely important, but it needs to be managed. You don’t want to set up an expectation for your dog that they need to greet every dog every time. That’s a pulling-habit waiting to happen!

Dog training classes:There is no substitute for a good dog training class. You can teach your dog hundreds of behaviors by yourself, but a solid group class will provide you the opportunity to work with distractions and properly socialize your dog in a controlled environment. Having said that, not all dog training classes are created equal, so be sure to do some research and ask questions before you enroll until you are comfortable that this will be a positive experience for you and your dog.

The thrill of success: Raising a puppy is an incredible experience and not without its magical moments. You will be amazed by how quickly and intelligently your dog learns new behaviors when we make the task of training fun and enjoyable. Remember that the effort you put into nurturing your dog during their first year with you will unfold long into adulthood.

In the case of puppies, the expectations we have are crucial. It is obligatory that we are holding ourselves and our dogs to a standard that is appropriate to their developmental level. While puppies come into our lives knowing what may seem like nothing, be assured that they are extremely capable of communicating, if we only take the time to establish clear lines of communication. They are pre-programmed to take cues from our non-verbal body language and emotional states. Therefore, if we want to truly raise a puppy to their full potential, we have to accept that 2-3 training sessions may total on average 60 minutes. But what are we doing to enable their learning the other 23 hours of the day?

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With a background in psychology and behaviorism, I have combined my professional expertise and experience to promote positive dog training. As a strong supporter of a scientifically informed approach to training dogs, I produce educational dog training content to help people train their dogs more effectively.

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14 comments on “What to expect when you’re expecting…a puppy!
  1. Felicity Cooper says:

    Do you have any opinions on using something like the Vollhard Puppy Aptitude Test to help select the right puppy from a litter?

  2. dr.rahulnpatil@gmail.com says:

    hi i havi 2&1/2 month old gsd puppy
    when i teach her certain task she does’nt fallows immediately but after some time she does it on her own

  3. Tina says:

    where can i get a clicker under 5$?
    A pet store?
    garage sale?
    Flea Market?
    Online?
    Which one do you suggest?

  4. Hazel says:

    iv just found your website and i cant get enough of it. your calm and easy to understand manner is great. Thank you so much. Your dog is fantastic too. I have a saint bernard who is very stubbon . He is graet but when out in park the biggest reward for him is sniffing and swimmimg so he totally ignores my comand to come. He was great at traing schhool and at home. He does ent pull on the lead or bother other people or dogs,so i must admit iv let his ignoring me behavior go for three and a half years. But as im getting a german shepard puppy nest year(iv always had shepaeds before and cant be without one any longer) i thought i should sort this problem out,so he doesent pass his bad behaviour on. can you help please.

  5. Noura says:

    Hello!
    I have a papillon dog that I’ve trained senice he was a puppy and he is very obedient and nice dog. A month ago I bought a chihauhau puppy (15 weeks). I practice a lot with him but it dose not work, he is much more difficult than my papillon. He refuses to pee outside, even though I go out with him every hour, he just and go and go and do nothing, and this is making me very tired. He bites very much and I have tried to stop this behavior but it does not work. He runs like an idiot in the house so that he often hits his head so I have to constantly keep an eye on him so he does not hurt himself, and feel very tired. I had a puppy before and he was n´t like this!
    Please can someone tell me what should I do? and when he gets older, can he learn to pee outside?

    Greetings from Sweden!

  6. Aw, this was a very good post. Spending some time and actual effort to
    create a top notch article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and don’t seem to get anything done.

  7. Ana Catarina Miranda says:

    Hello. Loved your article and the whole site for that matter.
    Thank you so much for sharing this information with us.

    Two questions:
    – should a training session with a puppy be under 30 minutes long?
    – does the same applies for older dogs (e.g. 2 years old)?

    Thanks!

  8. Siloh says:

    I just wanted to add to those reading that dog vests of all kinds are available and are often very affordable. Many might have a Red Cross or another symbol that implies they are a service animal. People will seriously not approach you or will approach timidly if they believe your dog is currently working or training to be a service dog. It’s a great way to mark your dog as one people should not engage!

  9. Siloh says:

    Hi Tab,

    I decided to leave a question about puppy mouthing here as I do not have a YouTube account.

    My puppy has been home only one week, but because of his breed (large/giant–he’ll end up in this size spectrum), I am particularly concerned about his mouthing habits. Also, this is really the only “bad habit” I’m having trouble with.

    I have watched your tutorial on this topic, but my main concern is that the puppy practices severe mouthing when he is tired. It is unavoidable, obviously, that there are times he is tired and still active (not yet “put down” for a nap in the crate). Frankly, the ratios of his daily activities are roughly as follows: 40% sleep, 5% eating, 15% play, 25% exercise, and 15% training exercises/structured mental discipline. All of his walks are highly structured and use positive reinforcement for loose-leash walking and abrupt sitting or otherwise maintaining a calm body posture or steady gait while passing pedestrians and other dogs (as well as traffic distractions such as loud trucks).

    Sometimes he has severe mouthing in the house when coming back from a walk or completing play and then training (I always let him sleep a little while directly after feeding). But the real problem is the last leg of our walk. There’s this one large grassy hill I often take him up close to my home, and although he generally becomes unruly when approaching the house (but never as he is entering–there is a regimen for entering calmly behind me), this hill just sends him into a mouthing frenzy that goes from excited to what I think could be early aggressive behavior. Yelping is totally ineffective.

    He only responds to positive reinforcement really, which is great, but this hill makes the treat unappealing. My only hope is a particularly good stick that he may want instead of the treat to keep him on track. Today a man approached us very quickly and rewarded puppy’s excitement before I could correct the human or dog, and he was lost to me after this.

    Is this a matter of serious concern, or totally normal? He is 17 weeks now, and I worry about how to effectively curb this behavior using positive reinforcement although I’m sure it’s a byproduct of fatigue. His milk teeth are awful sharp and have given me three bleeding wounds.

    Maybe a water spray bottle? I am currently concentrating on getting him up the hill to the house in a calm and focused manner. Walking backward while holding the kibble to encourage a very slow gait as well as frequently asking him to sit when I suddenly stop seems to be helping, but any distraction seems to be too much. Sidenote: it is in this area only that he has also exhibited any fearful, anxious, or suspicious (of surrounding humans) behavior?

    Any response would be greatly appreciated. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a similar story!

    • Siloh says:

      PostScript: all three of my dogs are 100% effective at curbing his mouthy behaviors, so I feel like I am failing and it is not a problem with him. Of course, I cannot correct him the way that they do and am doubly lost about what may be effective (they typically whine or growl a little before snapping and ignoring him until he is calm–no contact whatsoever).

  10. PRASANNAKUMAR says:

    Your videos and posts are awesome i have idea to get a pup after learning tricks from you i ll get new pup…. Thanks for your valuable and easy tricks…..

  11. Sheepiegal says:

    Have you tried adding time outs?
    If you’re i doors you can hook leash over a door handle and shut the door with o e of you in and the other out; if you are outside. simy step on his leash so he can’t go anywhere, turn your back on him and freeze so he gets no feedback. I think theatre is about as aversive as I
    ‘d be with any dog.
    Timeouts should be heralded by a No Reward signal (to bad) divered calmy with. no evidence of anger or frustration
    Train him it’s inhibition at home for a whe, or at least somewhere with no distractions. When he is more reliable, move your training leave it e er uses are useful if he isn’t in a biting mood. and gradually train closer and closer to the hill. If he starts biting. Back up to a distance e where he for forms reliably and progress from there
    One more thing – always end a training succession with success as in. cue him to do something he knows thoroughly. and reward him with Happy time.

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