Get your puppy off to the best start in life with early socialisation, off-leash play with other puppies and lots of positive reinforcement for the things you want them to do and be comfortable with.
Get it right from the start by attending a good quality puppy preschool*, ideally before your dog turns 10 weeks old. Do not wait until your dog is fully vaccinated before you socialise them. The risk of developing behaviour problems due to insufficient socialisation far outweighs the risk of disease. Read more here.
A good puppy preschool includes supervised off-leash play, so that the dogs can practise their communication skills with a variety of other dogs. Shy puppies must be allowed to hide and explore at their own pace, whenever they are ready. Under no circumstances should a puppy be forced to interact, i.e. pushed towards other dogs or people or restrained so another dog or person can approach them. Handling and training dogs should follow fear-free, reward-based principles which are free from force, coercion and threats, both physically and emotionally. The use of food for training should be strongly encouraged.
Raising a happy and confident dog - and that means a well socialised dog - will be invaluable for your dog's welfare and the safety of your family and community.
Puppies engage in behaviours which we usually regard as problems, such as:
All of these behaviours are perfectly normal. The path to successfully modify your dog's behaviour is through management and training. It requires patience and understanding.
Learning to love being touched by humans is essential for your dog's future well-being.
Too many dogs in our society are anxious about being handled, at least in some way or involving sensitive body parts such as their paws.
Our dogs have to endure a range of handling by humans throughout their lives, yet they rarely come prepared for, let alone eager to, being touched, patted, hugged, squeezed, poked, prodded, restrained and so on. This can be a major source of anxiety and can seriously affect your dog's quality of life. Puppy hood is the best time to teach your dog that being handled by humans is nothing to worry about and in fact predicts good things. That way, they feel safe around humans and are far less likely to ever feel the need to use their teeth for self-defence.
Gently introduce your dog to having their head, ears, mouth, body, legs, paws and tail touched by following each handling with a tasty treat. Always make it fun and do not scare or force the puppy. If your pup is already fearful and tries to avoid you, start with an easier version that does not worry the puppy and slowly proceed from there. Also, touch your puppy casually during play, give them a nice massage in the evening and find out what type of cuddling your dog loves, e.g. behind the ears, a scratch on the rear-end or a belly rub.
Download PDF: Body Handling
Dogs do not understand why there is anything wrong with urinating or defecating in the house. It is therefore cruel to punish your puppy for having an 'accident' in the house. Teach your puppy to use the outdoors or a designated area for toileting with tight supervision and management and by rewarding them for going in the 'right' place
Do not give your puppy the run of the house before they are fully house trained. Crate training your puppy greatly helps with house training. But your puppy must love their crate before you put them in. Confine your puppy to the crate or a play pen whenever you are unable to actively supervise them. Never crate your puppy for too long. Engage a helper if you are away for more than about four hours.
Preventing accidents in the house is important so your puppy doesn't form 'bad' habits. Watch your dog whenever they are out of the crate or play pen so you can see the signs when they may have to go, such as sniffing the ground and circling. Then quickly but gently take the puppy outside, even if they have already started to eliminate.
Take your puppy outside on a leash at regular intervals (after eating, after sleeping, after playing and excitement) so they can eliminate where you want them to. Don't interact or play with the puppy until they eliminate. If they do, praise them and give them a treat and then add a little play session before you go back inside. If they haven't eliminated after about 5 minutes, go back inside, confine the pup and try again after 10 minutes.
Download PDF: House Training
Chewing is a favourite and enjoyable past time for dogs. If you do not provide your dog with things to chew on, they will likely chew on other things, such as the furniture, carpets, shoes or the garden hose.
Do not give your puppy access to anything you do not want them to chew. This means confinement in a play pen, crate or puppy-proofed room unless you can actively supervise your puppy. Remove all valuables and dangerous items from the puppy's reach.
If your puppy does grab a forbidden item, never chase them or yell at them! Try to redirect them onto their own toys by making a toy 'come alive' and play with them. Alternatively, swap the forbidden item for a piece of nice food (and put the item somewhere safe!), then redirect your dog to one of their own toys.
Provide your puppy with plenty of legal chew toys. Find out what they love and frequently rotate the toys, i.e. put some of them away for a week and then bring them back in. Also add new toys regularly. Encourage your puppy to play with those toys. Praise your pup and play with them whenever they pick up one of their own toys.