Train them young!
Mostly people get the puppy home at the age of two months. The age between two and three months is the best period for the puppy to learn new things. At this stage in a pup’s life, most of the vets would suggest not to take the puppy out of the house as they are not fully vaccinated, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t start training them at home. It is important for the puppy to learn few basics before taking the formal obedience command training.
Socialising:It is extremely important to socialise your puppy with as many people as possible including kids and old people. It is also necessary to introduce them to a variety of places, sounds, objects as well. You should try to make these experiences positive as much as possible. It will help the pup to be confident around people and in different situations.
- Invite friends/relatives/neighbours to meet the pup at your home frequently.
- Take the pup to friend’s/relative’s home.
- Take the pup for short car rides.
- Visit pet-friendly coffee shops.
- Short walk in the building compound.
- Introduce the puppy to other healthy and fully vaccinated pets (dogs and cats) of family/friends.
Food habits: It is advisable to make a timetable for the pup’s daily meal timings. You can decide the type of food and quantity as per the vet’s guidance but it is also important to maintain certain good food habits.
- Feed the puppy in his bowl at a particular place in the house.
- If the pup refuses to finish the food at one time, the remaining food should be taken away and give it back only during the next meal time. This will encourage the pup to finish the food whenever it is available.
- If the puppy is being fussy about eating certain type of food, it is better not to give in to his stubbornness, by adding something else like meat, etc. It is fine if the pup misses one of his meals but with practice learns to respect the food he is given and finishes it.
- Following a fixed food routine also helps them to get toilet trained faster.
Toilet training: The toilet training should be started as soon as the puppy gets home. You should fix a place in the house where you would want your puppy to free himself and patiently introduce him to that area. Sometimes it is also advisable to fix a place in each room if you have a bigger house to avoid accidents.
- Observe your pup’s body language. Every puppy gives out some signals/indications that they wish to pee/poop, for example, sniffing the floor, excessive scratching, turning in circles, barking, etc.
- When you start noticing these behaviours, give the pup access to the area where you want him to pee.
- Keep an old newspaper/cloth which has the pup’s urine smell in the designated area.
- Encourage the pup verbally or take him to that area. Do not lock the puppy inside the bathroom/toilet.
- The most usual times when a pup would want to pee are after they wake up from sleep, after meals, after a play session of running/chasing toys, etc.
- Observe the pup’s body routine for a week or 10 days and make notes of the usual times of the puppy’s pee and potty.
It will help you to take the puppy to the toilet area on appropriate times and avoid accidents.
Crate/restriction training: It is necessary for the puppy to learn some self control. You should teach your pup to be alone in the room/house for few hours every day, without any human company. It will help them to learn to be confident by themselves and also avoid development of any separation anxiety issues later in life.
- Make this experience as positive as possible for the puppy by keeping them occupied while they are restrained. You can give them chew bones, stuffed kongs or anything else which they love to chew.
- Start by restraining them for very short spans and then gradually increase the duration.
Leash training: Most of the vets would suggest not to take your pup out on the road for a walk before they are fully vaccinated. This doesn’t mean you can’t get them used to walking on the leash inside the house. It is advisable to introduce them to a collar and a leash to avoid any struggle when you actually have to walk them on the busy roads.
- Get the pup used to wearing a puppy collar for few hours every day (for example, during meal/playtime).
- It is normal for the puppy to start scratching on the neck or trying to bite the collar off.
- Use a soft puppy collar and avoid any choke chains.
- Get the puppy used to walking on the leash inside a building compound.
- It’s important to teach them to walk on the leash without pulling.
Sleeping habits: Most of the puppies love to cuddle up to the pet parents and sleep on their beds. This behaviour seems cute while the pet is small but may not be practical for a full grown dog. It is necessary to get the pup used to certain habits from young age to avoid problems in the future.
- Get your pup used to his own bed.
- Don’t allow them to jump up on human beds.
- Do not give in to the pup’s tantrums or whining/crying as it will only encourage them to do it more.
- It’s fine to allow the pet on your bed once in a while but teach them to get off when asked.
Teething control: Teething is a normal process in a pup’s life. When young, pups love to bite on anything and everything which is accessible to them. Puppies of all breeds, even mix breeds go through the teething stage and this doesn’t mean that the puppy has any aggression issues.
- Provide toys with different textures to keep the puppy occupied such as rubber, plastic, cloth etc.
- Do not encourage the puppy to bite fingers, hands or legs.
- Stop them from biting shoes, electric wires, remote controls, etc.
- Puppy proof the house as much as possible.
- Do not give them unsupervised access to a room with lots of furniture/electrical wires.
- Encourage the puppy to bite on toys while playing instead of your hands/fingers.
- Provide variety of chew bones, Kong toys, etc .
Socialising and training is a continuous process. There is never a fixed method or time for that but it is always better to start early. Happy Pet Parenting!
(Pooja Sathe-Gawande runs CRAZY K9 CAMPERS in Mumbai providing pets and pet parents unique opportunities to spend quality time together through weekend pet camps).