Everyone loves bringing a puppy home and all the excitement that goes with the waggly tails and puppy kisses! But as the excitement settles down and it is time to start focusing on setting your pup up for their best life, there are some things that can help set you up for success on your journey.
One of the most important steps in your relationship with your new puppy is to build a positive and trusting relationship with them! Get to know what they like and don’t like, take notes on their personality traits and quirks as well as their play style. All of these are important to ensure that you can set them up to have confidence building Happy Exposures in their life.
If you know that your dog considers something to be concerning to them, take it slow and with baby steps. Introduce the items at a distance they feel comfortable with, and just ensure they feel comfortable and happy. The more positive exposures like that, the less they will worry about it in the future. As they grow and build a relationship with you, not only will they enjoy your company, they will look to you for guidance and cues on how to behave in situations that are new. As you learn their play style, you can use that to have fun with them- and as a reward for good behavior and training!
As much as we want to spend all our time with our new addition, it is a vital skill for our puppies to learn how to be by themselves and to decompress. Kennel when they are not supervised is vitally important. This will help protect them from getting into mischief (chewing on inappropriate items, or getting into spaces they shouldn’t) and limit their potty accidents. Another skill it helps to teach is how to relax and be able to turn off their minds to recharge. I love using an exercise pen or exercise pen with a kennel attached for this. This is your puppy’s “gated community” where all the good things happen! They eat in here, nap in here, enjoy their toys, and learn not to soil in their area in here. Read some additional tips on preventing separation anxiety, and watch our webinar with Tenacious Dog Training on how to help your pup if they are showing signs of separation anxiety.
It is also helpful to keep them on leash to ensure their need for exploring doesn’t lead to trouble! Puppies can be very quick when you aren’t expecting them to be, and can easily sneak off into places where they shouldn’t be. Keeping a leash on them allows them to explore safely and gives you some reassurance as well. It also helps them bond with you instead of getting more attached to other pets in your home instead of you by staying close.
Puppies also need good life skills in order to be equipped to handle all of life’s adventures by your side. This is more than just meeting people, it is also happy exposure to new places and things. This can be done at a distance, then work closer as long as the puppy is happy and feels good about the situation. Bring treats and toys, and do your best to make sure that things go well.
We recommend that puppies limit their interaction with people out and about in public. This means you don’t actually have people meet your puppy, that could be too overwhelming for them! They just need to have good experiences seeing and being around new people. Also, think about what you want long term. We want to teach our puppies to go out into the world and be able to ignore what is happening around them and focus on us. If we let them meet everyone they meet, this can lead instead of thinking they have to go see every new person they meet. That would make taking walks pretty difficult if your dog can’t walk by another person without meeting them!
Remember that your puppy is ready for you to help them have the best life, but it’s up to us to pave the way for them! Check out our Lucky Pup Guide for more information on Living your Best Life with your dog, as well as our Happy Exposures ebook for a detailed checklist to help your puppy put their best paw forward! As a Lucky Pup Explorer, you get 50% off your Lucky Pup Guide using the code Explorer50, and you get our Happy Exposures ebook for free! You can also check out this Puppy Socialization Bingo card for more great ideas!
Explorers: Focus on one priority each week. If your goal is to simply reduce potty accidents this week (which isn’t always so simple!!) work on keeping them leashed or in their “gated community” when you can’t directly supervise them. If you are working on Happy Exposures – try to get out for 3 outings this week.
Growers: Help your puppy feel more connected to you! Take them somewhere new to play and give them lots of food rewards for simply looking towards you and being brave! Do your best to help them associate fun things in life with you!
Challengers: You’ve already covered the basics, so keep it up! Take your puppy to new natural environments, visit your vet’s office for a Happy Exposure, and play a new game. Keep working on 1-2 goals for each week to help your pup learn that you are the best thing in their life!