Congratulations! You have just become a new pawrent of a furry bundle of joy!
With the joys of a puppy comes responsibility. What you do early on in your puppy’s life can make a HUGE difference. It can make the difference between your puppy growing up to be a fearful, anxious or reactive dog or growing up to be a happy, confident and well-adjusted dog.
So what can you do to help your puppy become confident, friendly and well-adjusted?
Cuddle your puppy and touch them all over
Puppy cuddles are the best! However they also teach your puppy that it is OK to be handled and touched. All dogs need to be comfortable to be handled. They will need vet examinations, nail trimming and smaller dogs may need to be picked up at times for their own safety.
Cuddle and touch your puppy all over including their paws, ears, mouth, back of their neck and gently pull their legs and tails. Why the gentle pulling? Children will often try to grab a dog. While the children should be supervised at all times with a dog, if your dog has grown up being handled and touched all over then it won’t be such a shock to them and they are less likely to react in an aggressive way. Your puppy will also be more confident and calm when it has to go to the vet, groomer, have its nails trimmed, or meet new people that touch and pat it differently to you.
Take your puppy out and about
New and strange environments can feel overwhelming to dogs as there is a lot of movement, noises and stimuli. Take your puppy to as many different environments as possible and meet different people including the elderly and children. Have your puppy see people with sunglasses on, wearing hats, riding bicycles, riding skateboards, carrying backpacks etc. The more you can expose your puppy to the better it will be in different environments, different situations and with different people.
If your dog is still getting all its vaccinations, talk to your vet about the best approach to socialize your puppy as they will know the risks in your areas. There are low risk ways to socialize your dog. For example, you can carry your dog, pop it in a stroller and some shops will even allow dogs inside if they are in a trolley or cart.
Sound socialize your puppy!
Many puppies are naturally noise sensitive and hence become scared or even overexcited when they hear particular noises.
So many dogs are terrified of all sorts of sounds including fireworks, thunder, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, traffic noises, blenders etc. I’ve even known a dog that was scared of croaking frogs! Noise phobias can cause a great deal of distress and anxiety for your dog. Some dogs even require medication to deal with the anxiety.
Other dogs become over excited when they hear some sounds such as the doorbell, birds chirping or children playing at the playground which can leading to problem behaviours such as lunging on the lead or excessive barking.
Stop these problem behaviours developing by sound socializing your puppy. It is often difficult to expose your puppies to all the different sounds they will encounter in our busy and noisy world, and to do so in a controlled way so that you can train them to relax and be calm when they hear the sound.
A great free sound socialization tool is the Brave Puppy app (available from https://brave-puppy.app/) which has over 85 different sounds ranging from crying babies to fireworks, thunder and even yodelling! You can use Brave Puppy to gently train your puppy to hear a wide range of sounds so that it learns to accept all kinds of sounds as normal and nothing to be scared or overexcited by. It will help your puppy grow up to be a confident and calm dog no matter what is happening around them.
Train your puppy by taking it to puppy classes.
Training your puppy is not an option but an obligation! The vast majority of behavioural problems in dogs are caused by a lack of training.
The more you train your dog the better the experience you will have with it…the more places you can take your dog, the less stress and embarrassment your dog will cause you, and the stronger the bond you will have with your dog.
Training helps your puppy learn how to learn, develop problem solving skills and gives your puppy the mental stimulation it needs to be a happy dog. Training helps your puppy develop confidence. Puppies love to learn new things and make you happy!
The advantage of puppy classes is that your puppy learns the basics such as sit, drop, loose lead walking and recall while there are lots of other people and dogs around. You are giving them a solid foundation to focus on you when you are out and about and to learn to listen to you. It will also equip you as the handler with the skills you need to train your puppy.
Look for a certified and balanced trainer in your local area. You will need a treat bag, good buckle up collar (the plastic clips on collars can snap) and a good strong lead. If there are any hints of any problems emerging in your dog, a good trainer can also help you nip it in the bud before it becomes a big problem.
Most of all… Have fun with your puppy and be patient! Your puppy is like a toddler who is still has so much to learn about the world! Enjoy the puppy stages and helping them to grow up to be happy, friendly and confident dogs!