Puppy Socialization & Training
by Jessi Larson
How you train your dog in the first several months and what you do to socialize them can make all the difference in your dog’s demeanor and behavior for the rest of their life.
No pressure, right?
It may sound intimidating, but really, by doing your homework and instilling good habits in your dog early on, you’ll make life a whole lot easier from that point on.
This time is also a great opportunity to bond with your dog and create a loving, connected relationship.
If possible, we recommend that you figure out the basics of dog training before you bring your new puppy home. That way you’ll be ready from the get-go.
This article includes all the basic essentials you need to know, but for further information, we recommend the following books:
- Training the Best Dog Ever: A 5-Week Program Using the Power of Positive Reinforcement by Larry Kay
- How to Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond by Cesar Millan
- Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution: The Complete Guide to Raising the Perfect Pet with Love
Be The Pack Leader
Puppies are born with the instinct to follow a pack leader, so from day one, you should provide strong, consistent leadership.
It’s easy to turn to mush when you see a puppy. After all, they are furry and downright adorable. How could you say no to that precious face?
Letting your dog walk all over you is that last thing you should do, however, if you want a well-trained dog. Puppies crave leadership, and if you don’t provide it to them, they will pick up on your weakness and act out. This can include pulling on their leash, barking excessively, chewing things they aren’t supposed to and developing anxiety.
On the flip side, you shouldn’t go overboard and act with excessive dominance. This will only frighten your dog and or lead to unintended aggression issues. Instead, stay firm, fair, confident and kind.
Housetraining Your Puppy
Housebreaking your dog is one of the most challenging yet vitally important parts of training your dog.
According to experts, the best time to start potty training your puppy is between 12 and 16 weeks. At this point, puppies have enough control of their bladders and bowel movements to learn how to hold it.
If you get your pup at an older age and they’re still not housebroken, don’t worry – they are still very trainable, it may just take a bit longer.
To get started:
- In the beginning, keep your puppy confined to a smaller space. Don’t let them roam the house if they’re not fully potty trained yet. That’s a recipe for disaster! Use baby gates to block off parts of the house if need be.
- Take your dog outside frequently to go to the bathroom. Not only are their bladders tiny, this will signal that the great outdoors is where they need to do the deed, not the inside of your home. Go outside the very first thing in the morning and right before they go to bed; after meals; when your puppy gets up from a nap; and several other times throughout the day.
- Watch for signs that your dog has to go and immediately take them outside. This commonly includes circling, sniffing, whining and barking by the door.
- When you go outside, try to take your pup to the same spot. The scent will prompt them to go and signal that this is the place to do their business.
- Praise your pup! When they go potty or poopy, tell them good job and reward them with a treat. It will feel weird, we know, but it’s essential to let them know this is a good thing.
- Until your pup is potty trained, stay with them when they go outside to eliminate. That way you can guarantee they’ve gone.
- Experts also recommend that your dog stays in a crate at night until they are fully housebroken.
Despite your best efforts, your dog will inevitably have a few accidents, especially in the beginning. Whatever you do, don’t punish them. Have you heard people say you should rub their noses in the mess to teach them a lesson? This is SO WRONG. Puppies aren’t capable of correlating your anger with the accident and won’t understand what’s going on.
If you dog does have an accident, stay calm, and of course immediately clean it up as soon as you can. We highly recommend Nature’s Miracle Stain and Odor Remover.
Regular exercise is essential for good canine behavior. After all, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog.
Going on walks is one of the best ways to expend their energy in a productive way. But first, you must train them how to walk on a leash beside you.
The first step is to remember the part about being the pack leader. You’ll need to act this way more than ever. This includes being the first one to exit the door and the first one in.
To get started, we recommend getting your dog used to being on a leash indoors. Put on the leash and walk around the house. Go ahead and give your pup a few treats to signal that having a leash on is a positive thing.
From there, the next step is to go out in a place that is relatively distraction free, like a quiet street or secluded park. This will make it much easier for your puppy to focus during the beginning stages.
As you start walking, keep your dog on one side and give them enough leash that they can walk comfortably but don’t get too far ahead.
Stay aware of your surroundings and watch your dog’s body language.
- If they pull – If your dog starts pulling, stand firm. Stop walking and brace your legs. This will signal to your dog that you won’t move forward until they correct this behavior. Don’t yank the leash, just simply hold your ground.
- If they lunge – Puppies often like to lunge at people and puppies they pass or at other things nearby. Be proactive and don’t let this happen. If you see someone coming up, hold your dog’s leash firmly and put your body between the two.
- If they bark – Another bad habit is barking. If your dog does this, tell them “No bark” and create distance between what they are barking at.
Socializing your pup is essential. We know someone who thought it was best to keep their precious puppy away from other people and dogs, lest they get scared or be around a bad influence. Guess what? Their dog growls when they see someone new and doesn’t know how to play with other dogs. It’s really sad.
According to the Animal Humane Society, the best way to socialize your dog is to:
- Let other people handle your dog. Gently of course, but don’t be afraid to let others play and cuddle with your furbaby.
- Expose them to sounds. Noises in the kitchen. People talking loudly. Kids yelling. The TV playing. Music blaring. Life is full of sounds, and it’s important that your dog isn’t overly sensitive to them.
- Take away their food bowl. When your pup is eating, walk up and temporarily take away their food. I know, I know, this seems mean, but it really does help prevent your pup from getting territorial around their food.
- Meet new people and pets. Continually introduce your dog to family, friends, neighbors and others in your life. And don’t forget about meeting other animals, too!
- Give them alone time. On the flip side, if your dog never has alone time, they will become anxious when they are finally left alone. So it’s good to leave them alone at times from the very beginning.
Training your dog doesn’t happen overnight. It requires patience and perseverance along with a little trial and error. By staying firm and following best practices, you’ll set a path for your pup’s success.
Other Puppy Guide Articles
- Choosing a Dog Breed – Pick out the best breed to fit your lifestyle
- New Puppy Checklist – Find all the gear you’ll need for your new dog
- Bringing Your Puppy Home – Tips for your pup’s first car trip
- What to Feed a Puppy – Guide to dog food and treats
- Puppy Care Tips – Learn about the vet and general dog care
- Training & Socialization – Get started with training and socializing your dog