The first year of a dog’s life is the equivalent of his infancy and childhood. At the end of that year he is, in human terms, 15 years old – still a bit wet behind the ears perhaps, but on the brink of adulthood. That’s why the first year, and especially the first six months are the pivotal period in a dog’s development.

In other words, this is your big chance to shape your pup into the kind of pet you want him to be. Don’t let that chance go by; his puppyhood will never come back.

Like a child, he needs lots of love, play, and companionship. He also needs discipline. A den animal by nature, the dog looks for a pack leader. If he doesn’t get it from you, he’ll take it over himself, and you may end up with a spoiled and overindulged household tyrant.

But the dog is also the most marvelously trainable of all animals. He’ll do anything to please you if you make your instructions clear, simple and consistent. He is so trusting, loving and uncritical of his human companions that the dog is often used by psychologists as therapy for disturbed children. He is, in truth, a wonderful best friend. But don’t forget that you’re the leader in this friendship.

Formal obedience training, should not start until your pet is at least 3 months old. The young pup is too frisky, curious and playful to undergo such rigorous discipline, and if you put too many restraints on his natural instincts for the play you could intimidate him for life. But good habits – and bad – do get established early. Take a tip from the mother wolf, who gives her cubs infinite affection, but also makes it clear who’s boss in the den.

This post will give you some guidelines for establishing good behavior patterns in the young pup.

Early training will take some discipline on your part, too. Puppies are so appealing that it’s easy to fall into the isn’t he cute or the just this once trap. Don’t give in. Teach him not to get up on the furniture, not even just this once. Put him down immediately, and every time, with a stern, and disapproving “No!” Don’t let him beg at the table, no matter how cute he looks; it won’t be cute when he’s older.

Be firm, gentle and consistent as you make the rules clear. You want to gain his confidence: learning cannot take place without trust. Never strike a puppy.

Experts at Friskies Research Kennels advise that striking a dog, and especially a very young dog, accomplishes nothing. A stern scolding is punishment enough, and your praise and approval his greatest reward.

First Words

If you haven’t already chosen a name for him, do so now. Make it short, one that you can call out easily and that he will recognize quickly. And remember that he won’t be a puppy forever, so avoid the cute or the comical. If Lassie had been named Lollipop, would she still be a star? Cuddles might be just the word for your pup right now, but a little embarrassing to a grown dog.

Call him by name frequently, especially at mealtime. He won’t always respond at first, but one of those times he’ll look at you with a bright “Who me?” expression on his face. He’s had his first vocabulary lesson.

The First Etiquette Lesson

You won’t need any reminders about housebreaking; the first puddle on the floor will be your starting signal.

A crate is the greatest aid in housetraining. Start off by always keeping your pup in his crate during the night; don’t even let him have a bathroom area to roam about in. When he gets up, take him at once to the papers or to the outdoors, depending on which kind of training you are using.

Later, when elimination routine has been established, the crate door can be left open. Puppy will go in during the day to rest, and most of the time beat you to bed at night.

There are two ways to accomplish housebreaking – outdoor training and paper training. If your dog is going to use the outdoors eventually, it’s much better to start training him to the backyard from the beginning.

Some dogs, trained to paper as puppies, have difficulty changing their habits later. But outdoor training is obviously impractical if you have to sprint down several flights of stairs or through halls and elevators to get to the street. In that case, you’ll have to resort to papers, at least as a starter, and for the city dweller, this method does have its advantages in times of illness or bad weather. So size up your own situation and take your choice.

  • Outdoor Training

Dogs are clean by nature and will not soil their own beds. Dogs return to their own odors. These two canine characteristics are valuable aids in housebreaking. If puppy makes a mistake in the house, as he’s bound to, in the beginning, mop it up with a cloth and then anchor that cloth outdoors in the spot you’ve chosen as his special place.

As soon as puppy wakes in the morning and after naps, immediately take him to that spot. Do the same after meals, at bedtime, and whenever you see him sniffing the floor or circling.

He’ll detect the urine odor in the cloth long after it’s dried out. When he performs properly, praise him, pat him, tell him what a fine fellow he is. After a few successes, you can remove the cloth. It won’t take long for him to understand the purpose of those trips to the backyard, and one fine day he’ll scratch at the door to tell you he’d like to step outside. Victory!

  • Paper Training

Keep puppy confined to one room, and carpet a sizable area of that room with a thick layer of newspapers, well separated from his bed. Show him what is expected of him by placing him on the papers frequently – always after sleeping, following meals, at bedtime and whenever you see the familiar warning signals. Praise him when he performs well; when you catch him in a mistake, scold him with a firm “No!” and place him on the papers.

Following the same principles as in outdoor training, it’s a good idea to keep a damp paper on top of the pile during the early stages of training. And be sure to scrub all mistake spots with a strong disinfectant to remove odors.

As you see signs of progress, gradually cut down on the size of the papered area until, in time, there is one well-padded place that puppy goes to without error.

As the puppy gets older and can restrain himself for longer periods, you can begin taking him out on the street. If he has trouble graduating from indoors to out, you may have to take a paper with you a few times, but it’s more likely that the odors from other dogs will tell him what to do. Keep him on a leash, and do not let him relieve himself on sidewalks or lawns. Curb him.

Patience and praise are your watchwords during housebreaking. No spankings, and never resort to the old cure of rubbing puppy’s nose in the mess – a disgusting and totally ineffective punishment. And finally, discipline works only if it comes at the moment of the crime.

Puppy has a short memory, and if you scold him several minutes later he simply won’t understand. But he does want to please you. Be patient. If you make your lessons clear and simple, he’ll do his best to give a spotless performance.

Nervous Wetting

There is one kind of chronic piddling problem, common to puppies and even to some older dogs, that is completely involuntary. Extreme emotion, either ecstasy or fear usually causes it.

You come home after an absence, puppy waddles up to greet you in great excitement, squats at your feet and urinates. Or you pick up his leash and he joyfully scrambles around over the prospect of a walk, leaving a small stream in his path. A stranger appears at the door, looms over a puppy, then suddenly swoops down to pat him. Puppy cringes – and wets the carpet.

This is nervous urinating. With proper handling, the puppy will outgrow the habit. What happens is that the sphincter, the muscle that closes the bladder, relaxes with extreme excitement. It is not a voluntary action, so punishment will do no good at all; it could even worsen the problem. Instead, try to cool your homecoming greetings a bit.

Don’t bend down to pat him Speak to him calmly and affectionately, but walk right past him and give him a little time to settle down. Then kneel to his level and call him to you for some reassuring pats. Ask strangers not to bend over a puppy, but to ignore him and let him take the first steps toward making friends. All he needs is to gain a little maturity and self-confidence.

Leashbreaking

While you’re outdoor training your pup, you can also introduce him to the leash. Don’t expect too much. It will be a long time before you start teaching him to heel smartly on lead, but he should get accustomed to the leash at an early age.

After he’s done his duty outdoors, attach a lightweight rope or cord to his collar and let him drag it around a hit. When he starts back to the house, pick up the end of the rope loosely and walk with him. Don’t drag or yank; he must associate the leash with pleasure.

After you’ve done this a few times, give him a gentle tug on the leash when you start back to the house, speak to him by name and say “Come.” Puppy will soon come to like this little exercise; to him, it’s like holding hands.

And a Lot of Love

Let’s look once more at the other, and equally important, side of early puppy training building his trust and self-confidence. Babies need love. This truism applies to all animals, and nothing will help create a healthy, happy disposition in your pet as much as the security of your affection.

Scientific studies have shown that dogs denied human handling during a critical period in their development-between the age of 3 and 12 weeks may be permanently fearful of people.

Give your pup lots of attention. Play with him, walk with him, fondle and pet him. Create a rich learning environment by giving him opportunities to explore and acquaint himself with new places, people, and things. And above all, praise him.

Praise works wonders with dogs. If the puppy gets lots of it from you, he’ll learn to enjoy training. And so will you.


About the Author: Imad LB is the founder of Howpup, where he and his associates write about dog behavior, health issues, and tips and tricks on how to get your dog to behave! It concentrates on creating the best life for you and your dog so you can enjoy each other’s company and build that trust that is so important to pet and human.