1. Choose a dog that fits your lifestyle. After centuries of breeding, the modern dog is one of the most varied species of animal on earth. While there’s probably a dog to suit every lifestyle, not all dogs will fit your specific needs. For example, if you like to relax, you might want a Labradoodle that would much prefer to cuddle on the couch all day.Research the personalities and care requirements of various breeds. Ask dog owners about their breed’s personality.
- Since most dogs live for 10-15 years, getting a dog is a long-term commitment. Make sure the breed’s temperament is a good match for your lifestyle.
- If you haven’t yet started a family, consider whether you’ll have young children around the house in the next decade. Some breeds are not recommended for households with children.
2. Don’t get an aspirational dog. Be honest with yourself about the compatibility of the dog you want with your lifestyle. Don’t get a dog that needs a lot of activity just because you want a reason to jump start a healthier lifestyle yourself. If you can’t follow through on exercising your high-energy dog, you and the dog will both end up frustrated.
- Write down the needs and temperament of the breed, as well as how you will meet those needs.
- If it’s going to take significant effort to change your lifestyle, you need to choose a different dog.
3. Give your dog a practical name. He needs to be able to learn his name easily, so you can hold his attention during training. As such, it should be no longer than two syllables. The name should also have clear, hard sounds the dog can recognize. Names such as “Buddy” or “Rover” or “Bee Bee” have distinct sounds that stand out from the regular flood of human speech your dog hears.
- Use your dog’s name often when you are playing, petting him, training him, or need to get his attention.
- If your dog looks at you when you say his name, you know he’s learned it.
- Create a positive association with his name so he’ll continue to focus on you when you say it. Praise him when he responds to his name, and give him treats.
4. Schedule enough time for training. You’ll need to set aside 15-20 minutes a couple of times each day for formal training sessions. Puppies have a short attention span and get bored easily, just like a toddler would.
- Those sessions are not the only time you’ll train your dog, though. Training actually happens throughout the day when interacting with your pet. He’s learning from you every time you interact.
- Bad dog habits develop when owners let dogs get away bad behavior outside of dedicated training sessions. So, always keep an eye on your dog outside of training sessions. If he knows it during training sessions, then make sure he remembers it outside of training.
7. Crate training (2-3 months). You’re puppy’s crate is his safe and secure den. Some people mistakenly refer to a crate as “doggie jail.” That is not the way Puppy will view his crate. Oh, at first he might be unhappy to have his movements curtailed, but it won’t be long at all before he goes into the crate on his own, to take a nap or just to get away from household activity.
For a new puppy, a crate is an invaluable aid in housebreaking. When your puppy is used to his crate, it will be easy to take him visiting, for trips in the car, or to the vet. My book details eight applications for crate training.
8. Housebreaking (2-3 months). At 2-3 months old, puppies are infants and won’t have reliable control of their bladder for many months. Some breeds are notoriously difficult to housebreak and take even longer. Still, housebreaking begins the day you bring your puppy home. Establish the right pattern from the beginning and Puppy will be housebroken as soon as his little organs can cooperate.
But if you establish the wrong pattern, housebreaking will become a nightmare.
There are several methods of housebreaking, including using a crate, an exercise pen (commonly called an “ex-pen”), a doggy door leading into a small potty yard, or a litter box (for tiny breeds). You’ll find detailed housebreaking directions in my training book – and yes, I cover each and every one of those housebreaking methods so you can choose which one works best for your dog.
Training should actually start as soon as you leave the breeder or the shelter. Here are the key things you should do:
1. Leash your pup in the car, and once you get home, put her on the ground and let her check out the sights and smells of her new neighborhood. Hang onto her leash, but give her leeway to do her own exploring. Don’t carry the dog directly into the house.
2. Make sure you’re in the lead as you walk up the pathway and enter your home.
3. Once you’re inside, limit the number of rooms your pup can sniff around in, so she doesn’t become overwhelmed. (As the days pass, you can introduce new rooms, leading the puppy in and giving her time to check out each one.)
4. When it’s time to eat, make sure you eat first.
5. Don’t let the puppy go up on your furniture and don’t plunk her on your lap. Get down on the ground to play with her.
6. It might be difficult to resist cuddling your cute and furry new friend, but restraining that urge as on-the-ground play is actually the best gift of all.
7. When playtime is over, introduce your pup to her bed or crate and say, “Bed” so she can start learning a verbal command.
8. Get your puppy to lie down on her bed or in her crate and say, “Good buddy. Go to bed.”
9. Never let the pup sleep with you, but make sure that the pup’s “bedroom” is in a warm, dry and comfortable spot. I also don’t think that a pup’s bed and sleeping area should be in your bedroom, but many people do that anyway.
10. When your friends come to meet the pup, ask that they refrain from gushing verbal hellos, baby talking and putting your pup on their lap.
It might be a good idea to put this list up on the fridge for the first few weeks as you become accustomed to having four new little paws in your household.