Bringing home a new puppy is both an exciting and overwhelming experience no matter how much experience you have with training dogs. We are quick to imagine the adorable moments. Over-sized paws that pounce all over the house, adorable naps, affectionate cuddles, and the playful antics that keep you entertained for hours. It's easy to overlook the hours of training, middle-of-the-night trips for potty breaks, the frustration of having your belongings chewed up, and the looming worry that your dog will become an unmanageable creature with age. Then there is the reality of the ticking clock reminding you how your puppy is constantly getting bigger, stronger, more stubborn, and more capable of finding the gaps in your training to exploit you for their needs and interests. All of this is, of course, to be expected and normal.
If you've decided to get a puppy or find yourself in the position of sitting across from a young dog, it's time to develop a plan. No matter what your ultimate goals are for your dog, without a roadmap in place you are likely to find yourself running into more problems than you need to along the way. For most people living busy lives, time is a limited resource that we have to make the most of. Assuming that you cannot spend all day working with and training your dog, how you spend your time matters. Although your particular goals will inform what you choose to focus on over time, there is a need for foundational training that I believe is essential for ALL dogs to begin quickly if they are to become happy and healthy members of the family.
The key to succeeding in training is first accepting that your puppy is a dog. Dogs are driven by basic needs. You've likely seen or even owned other dogs who seem to know the 'rules'. We quickly forget where we started and how we got there. In light of this, perhaps a basic reminder is needed. Spending the first few months helping your dog learn these basics will pay off and set you up for any years of quality time together. Here are some tasks to prioritize in your first few months of puppy training, ranked in order of importance.
3. Appropriate mouthing (using chew toys)
4. Settling calmly
7. Alone training (using proper playpens and boundaries)
9. Socialization to novel objects and situations
10. Accepting handling and grooming by different people
You will find links to relevant tutorials that I have created on these particular topics. If you are new to dog training or would like a primer on where to begin, check out this video as a first step. Let us know what you are working on and what you would like to learn more about.