How to Raise a Puppy: The Complete Guide

Raising puppies is a full time job – a job filled with joy and laughter, to be sure, but still a full time job. You may just be asking yourself how to raise a puppy.

Puppies are little balls of energy, and this energy, if not properly focused, can cause a whole lot of trouble – not to mention damage to your home. Nobody wants their puppy – meant to become the family mascot, an exercise buddy, a reliable friend, or even a service dog – to develop bad habits that could hinder its development.

If you’re raising puppies, you’ll want to follow these guidelines to ensure your puppies grow into happy, healthy and well trained adult dogs.

Creating a structured environment, rewarding your dog for positive behavior, and puppy-proofing are among the concepts that need to be addressed in the raising of a puppy. Other desired behaviors to consider teaching your puppy include potty training, socialization behavior, basic obedience, proper leash walking, and more.

This guide will include the ins and outs of how to raise a puppy.

Basic Puppy-Training Concepts:

Ensuring Structure

Raising puppies well requires a structured environment. Puppies need structure and will look to their humans to provide it. To provide structure and consistency, you’ll want to determine the rules of the home in advance. For example, are they allowed to get onto the couch?  Are your puppies allowed to go upstairs? Are there any rooms that are off limits?

It would be a shame if Buddy, your adorable newest addition to the family, went into Dad’s office and damaged work material. Addressing these potential issues before obtaining a puppy (or puppies) will help to prevent confusion for your canine companions during the training process.

You’ll also want to create a schedule that includes what time they eat each day, when they go to sleep, when they go for walks and so on. As previously stated, structure is key in raising a healthy, happy dog. You may also want to schedule your training and play sessions so they know what to expect. This will ensure they learn and perform better. Scheduling times for everyday activities will help to establish a foundation for your dog and a steady routine that both you and your dog can rely upon.

One of the most important puppy training tips I can give you is that raising puppies also requires consistency. A steady, reliable lifestyle is crucial for your dog’s development. Consistency comes from not only following the schedule you create, but also not breaking your own rules. If you allow them on the couch once and your rule is to stay off the couch, your puppies are going to be confused. This confusion can breed fear and/or aggression in some dogs, and in others, it may teach them that you don’t really mean what you say. That’s certainly not something you want to instill in your puppies because they’ll use it against you and it can be dangerous for them. Imagine the situations that both you and your dog could be placed in if it doesn’t trust your authority or take you seriously as the head of the household.

Reward Your Puppy

Raising puppies requires lots of praise and treats. Puppies thrive on positive reinforcement. When they do something right or when they perform a behavior or a trick you’ve asked them to perform, be ready with a “Good boy!” and a food treat. It works so much better than punishing them for doing something wrong as a training method.

There are many studies that provide evidence that positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment as a motivator for dog training. They’ll strive to repeat the behavior because they adore you and they want those yummy treats.

Negative reinforcement, such as hitting your puppy or spanking, can cause aggression or fear in your dog. Your dog, even if it develops the desired behavior, could still struggle with trust and have issues in socialization due to the associations caused by negative reinforcement.

Many types of rewards can be used for training your puppy, and one of the most efficient is rewarding with dog food or treats. Often times, dogs will learn to associate the treat with both the desired behavior and the person who provides them, meaning that your dog will gain more trust in you as it gains experience.

Puppy-Proof Your Home

Even the best-trained puppies can have occasional hiccups in behavior as circumstances change and they are introduced to new things or you introduce new factors to the puppy’s environment.

Remember, many experiences will be new for your puppy, and until you train your puppy not to chew, anything that’s near the ground is fair game. It is critical to puppy-proof your home to prevent any potential damage that can be caused while your puppy matures and develops new behaviors.

Puppies and dogs explore with their senses of smell and taste. It’s a natural instinct to chew on things that are new, and until your puppy is trained, it is liable to chew. Your untrained puppy won’t be able to tell that your brand new shoes were very expensive, or that your tablet didn’t come with a warranty that covers bite marks from adorable puppies.

Even if your puppy doesn’t chew anymore, it will still explore with its sense of smell, sticking its face into all nooks and crannies that it finds as it explores its home. Searching for scents is a natural reflex for dogs. Your little furry ball of joy may just happen to leave a slobber in plenty of areas as it pokes around and smells every new thing you bring into its life.

It’s important to look at things from the perspective of the puppy. If needed, get low to the ground or on hands and knees and look around. Is there anything dangerous that your puppy could access? Is there anything easily accessible that your puppy could harm or even destroy?

It’s important to make certain that you’re keeping your puppy in an area that is both safe to your puppy and sturdy – but remember, your puppy’s safety comes first. Make certain that you don’t have any electrical cords low to the ground in your new dog’s designated area. Be sure to clear the area of small objects. Keep all chemicals stored away from anywhere that your puppy could possibly access.

Training Your Puppy:

Impulse Control

When puppies are born, they don’t automatically know that everything they want isn’t theirs. Much like with raising children, it is critical to teach your dog impulse control. You likely don’t want to live with a dog that steals your food, jumps on you, bites you or aggressively dominates, and/or does everything it wants. You will want a good canine companion, with manners and obedience.

Oftentimes, people will just throw food into their puppies’ bowls and then leave. Many times the puppies are leaping about wildly, and the owners find it adorable at this young age. Don’t be fooled; one day, your cute little buddy will be a large dog, and if it learns that it can jump about all over everything, then it won’t develop the impulse control necessary to be anything less than a nuisance.

Some dogs will bark and bounce and demand being fed. And, these owners just give the puppy what he or she wants no matter what behavior the puppy is showing. Rewarding these behaviors builds less control. The puppy learns that by getting excited and showing bad behavior, he will be rewarded.

As an alternative, you can teach the puppy to show good behavior. I get my puppy’s food bowl out and wait for him to sit. If it continues sitting, the bowl will slowly be lowered toward the ground. If its butt pops up, the food bowl is raised.

A similar approach can be used with treats. Retrieve the treats and wait for the puppy to sit. When it is steadily sitting, give the treats to the puppy. If it tries to snatch the treats, raise them. Feed the treats to the puppy when it is behaving without any hiccups.

I don’t even use a lot of commands. I just want the puppy to realize that if it controls itself in an appropriate way, it will be rewarded – whether with food or treats. This teaches the puppy to control it impulse to spin or jump or show other excited behavior in a very simple manner. Once it learns to control a few of these impulses, it can learn to control more of them.

The next step is to teach the puppy not to steal food out of my hand. I put a mediocre treat in one hand (bland biscuit) and a really good reward in the other. I open the hand with the mediocre treat, flat palm, and show the puppy. If the puppy attempts to grab the treat, then I close my palm. Keeping it at the same level, don’t snatch your hand away. When it looks away from the treat in your hand or shows an appropriate behavior, mark it, and reward it.

The idea is, if you show good behaviors you will get a better reward! Once he figures this out, raise and lower your hand with the treat, so the puppy understands that it doesn’t matter where the food is; he still can’t have it (dogs often think the closer it gets to the ground, the more apt it is to be theirs). From there, use great rewards in both hands and teach the puppy he can leave things that are really tasty, and if he does he will be rewarded.

Once my puppy can do the above task, I add a command or a cue, “leave it.” Leave it means I don’t want you to look at it, touch it or eat it. For instance, I use “leave it” if I drop something I don’t want my dog to grab, but I also use “leave it” if I don’t want my puppy looking at the cat across the street!

Once your dog has some control over his impulses, teach him to leave it!

Teaching your puppy some patience and a good “stay” is also a great way to work on impulse control! But be careful while teaching this, or you could actually ruin your dog’s “stay” command.

Socialization

There are many behaviors that are important to train into your puppy. You must consider socialization as well as basic obedience training. It doesn’t matter whether your puppy is going to be a just family pet or a guide dog; socialization is extremely important in preventing negative habits.

Between about 3 and 20 weeks old, your puppy will be in the midst of one of the most important learning windows of its life. It’s very important to expose your dog to many different sights, sounds, and smells during this time period. It is very important to handle your dog both gently and frequently as a puppy, to prevent it from becoming averse to touch during socialization.

If your puppy is going to be a family dog, it’s important to teach it not to be aggressive towards new people. Make sure that you introduce your puppy to many different people so that it learns not to turn into an attack dog around well-behaved children and pleasant people. There are few things more annoying than going on a walk around the neighborhood with a dog that barks menacingly at anything or anyone it sees.

As a part of training, it is important to teach your puppy which food is or is not okay to eat, and which food sources are safe. Encourage your dog to eat from its food bowl, not the table. Some food that you may eat can be harmful – or even lethal – to your canine companions, so it is very important to teach your dog which food sources (like its bowls) are safe to eat from.

Socializing your puppy is very important to its development. Proper socialization that includes controlled, pleasant, and safe encounters with people and other pets will be very important to serve as a foundation of experience for your puppy. It can rely on its training during socialization in the future.

Socialization is also critical in training your dog to become a guide dog or service dog. It is important that your puppy is exposed to other dogs and people in order to be calm around them, though this training is also far more intensive and in-depth than training your puppy to be a house dog.

Crate Training

Teaching your puppy includes crate training. Crate training is a major component of raising a happy, healthy puppy. Dogs naturally have the instincts to sleep, hide, and spend large amounts of time in their den. In this instance, dog owners can take advantage of their puppies’ instincts and natural predispositions in order to keep their puppies contained and safe while owners are away from home. The dog’s kennel or crate becomes its den.

Properly crate training can take only days, or it can take weeks – in some rare instances, even months – depending on how a dog owner’s puppy takes to it.

Firstly, you want to introduce your puppy to its new den. Bring it to the crate. Leave it securely open, so that your puppy may explore the crate, and use a kind tone of voice to create a sense of security associated with the crate. If needed, place treats inside of the crate to encourage your puppy to enter and sniff about.

The next step is to begin feeding the dog within the crate. This will cause your puppy to readily enter the crate over a period of time, also associating the crate with the pleasant feeling of eating and drinking. Place the dog food near the entrance of the crate, and over time, with each successive meal, move the dog food further into the crate.

Once your dog is comfortable enough with the crate, feel free to begin shutting the door during meals. Eventually, your pup will be content for long periods of time within the crate.

A word of caution: Never let your puppy out of the crate due to whining alone. Always wait for the puppy to stop whining to let it out of the crate, otherwise it may begin to associate whining with a way out of the crate.

Over time, you can begin crating your dog separately from meals. While letting your dog into the crate, try issuing a command, such as “kennel up”, and always praise it when it enters the crate. Later, you will be able to crate your puppy overnight or for extended periods while away from home as it grows more comfortable. Remember to avoid giving in to whining; if your puppy learns that it isn’t an effective way to get out of the kennel, it will stop trying to whine its way out of the crate.

Please be patient with your puppy during the crate training process. It can take time, and pressuring or forcing your dog to kennel to quickly, or as a punishment, can cause negative associations to form and eventually lead to aggression.

Potty Training

Housebreaking your puppy can be one of the most frustrating experiences in raising a young dog, but ultimately it will be one of the most rewarding. Potty training your puppy is, as you can easily guess, one of the most important aspects of training.

First, you will want to make certain that your puppy knows how to communicate that it needs to use the restroom. Teach your puppy a cue of some sort to communicate that it needs to go outside. This can be accomplished by letting your puppy outside to eliminate after it completes the cue, and then encouraging it to repeat the cue in the future.

For example, dog owners may teach their puppies to bark while sitting at the back door in order to communicate that they need to go potty. When they bark, the owners will let them outside. Over a few successful tries, this will create the necessary association for the puppy to understand how to complete the cue.

Barking at the back door isn’t the only cue. An owner can teach the puppy to ring a bell in order to convey that is needs to eliminate.  It’s the same concept. Help the puppy ring the bell the first time or few, and once it does, let it outside to go potty. Over time, it will learn to associate ringing the bell with using the restroom.

Simply sitting at the back door can also become a cue, if you would like to teach that. It’s all based upon the association that is created with the action of the owner letting the puppy outside.

Next, you’ll need to teach your puppy a designated potty area to prevent unpleasant surprises while walking around the backyard. Take your puppy to an area of the backyard that you think will be fine for it to use the restroom in. While the puppy is in this area, encourage it to use the restroom. Don’t take the puppy anywhere else. When the puppy uses the restroom in this area, praise it. If it doesn’t use the restroom after a long period in this area, simply bring it back inside and wait to let it out again. DO NOT let your puppy use the restroom elsewhere; otherwise the entire backyard will become your puppy’s toilet.

When away from home, try keeping your puppy in its crate. This will help to reduce accidents in other areas of the house. Accidents will still occur during training, but the key is to find the reason for the accident and mitigate those causes in the future.

Ultimately, it is very important to have patience with your puppy, but also to have a steady hand in order to make certain that it becomes housebroken.

Puppy Classes:

Puppy classes are an excellent option for socialization and training both the puppy and owner.

The AKC has done extensive research into puppy classes. Per the AKC website,

“Almost half of the puppies in the present study attended puppy classes, and those dogs were exposed to more canine friends and people, including children, than the sheltered puppies that received only minimal exposure.

Class participants were also more likely to expose their puppies to new situations involving loud noises, large trucks, and people at the front door.

“As a result, those puppies that attended classes were less likely to show nervousness or have symptoms of separation anxiety. For example, they had fewer fear responses to things such as their crate or a vacuum cleaner…

“This has important implications. Dogs that are trained using positive methods, such as those used by the puppy class attendees, learn to enjoy training and develop an eagerness to please. Positive methods also foster trust and communication between owner and puppy, leading to a stronger bond. In keeping with other studies, the current research found that the owners who used punishment reported more fearful behavior in their pups.

So, not only did the class-attending puppies gain valuable confidence, their owners learned training techniques that further prevented fear and anxiety in their dogs.

“This research showed that puppy classes are an effective and essential component of socialization. But not all classes cover the same material. The researchers discovered that although more than 80 percent of the classes taught behaviors such as “sit” or “down,” only 70 percent allowed the puppies to play with each other. And, unfortunately, less than half covered experiences such as gradual exposure to noises or trading items to prevent resource guarding.

Choose your puppy class with care. Look for a curriculum with the maximum value for socialization — trainer supervised and controlled interaction between puppies to encourage proper dog-to-dog behaviors; exposure to new sights, sounds, and smells; and handling and restraint exercises. Talk to the instructor before enrolling, and ask if you can visit a class to ensure positive methods are used and that puppy playtime is conducted in a safe matter (i.e. larger, boisterous puppies are not allowed to bully smaller, shy ones).”

Puppy classes can be a great tool in raising your dogs, and will fill imperative needs that both puppies and first-time or untrained dog owners have.

Bottom Line:

Raising puppies requires a plan. You wouldn’t step into a room filled with preschoolers without some sort of activity planned and rules of engagement, right? To do so would mean total and utter chaos; this would eventually result in tears, injuries and destruction. Puppies are the same way. You need a plan; you need rules, a puppy training guide and a plan of action.

You can find this guidance in a number of forms and formats – however, one of the best options to consider is a video or DVD series. This way you can see training steps when you need them, you can take it with you if you travel with your puppies and you can rewind and use the steps over and over again until you and your puppies get it right.

A plan gives you a step by step process to follow in order to set the groundwork for a lifelong relationship with your puppies. Check out our dog training video series here and get a jump start on raising your puppy right!

Raising puppies is hard work; make sure you’re ready, willing and able to take on this amazing task.

Cute Puppy Video

 

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