Being a problem behavior specialist for dogs in the Denver Colorado metro area for 25 years, I get so many new training cases who are adult dogs with established behavioral issues like aggression and separation anxiety. These severe types of dog behavior problems come from puppies who were either not socialized or not taught proper behaviors when young or did not have a great start to life and now require rehabilitation to help them overcome their issues. So when I get puppy training clients, it means I can help dog owners prevent problems from developing because we are working with a clean slate and can teach a new puppy good habits while they are most impressionable. Of course, there are many factors such as your new dog’s individual personality, breed, and your own lifestyle that will dictate what type and how much puppy training will be required, but, in general, there are some basic tenets to life All puppies should be taught at an early age.
The best time to start training your dog (of any age) is as soon as you get them, especially if they’re a puppy. Puppies are like sponges; their brains are developing quickly, and they are taking in everything…whether we realize it or not! Dogs develop the “schemas” that will direct their behavior through the rest of their life. In psychology, a “schema” refers to an underlying pattern of thought or behavior that drives the way we (or our dogs) see and deal with the world. Because dogs are driven far more by instinct, habit, and the type of relationship you establish, it is crucial that puppy owners help their puppies develop healthy schemas in order for their puppy to grow into a behaviorally balanced adult. To do this, puppy owners need to establish a relationship of guidance and trust and help teach them how to make proper choices while rewarding them for their efforts. You can start this immediately by house-training your puppy, getting them socialized as early as possible to both other dogs and people, and teaching them basic obedience in the real-world situations you currently share and anticipate sharing with your dog in the future.
One of the very first things you should teach a new puppy is how to use the bathroom outside and not in the house. The reason that this needs to come so soon in the training process is that the less a puppy has the chance to go to the bathroom inside, the less they become conditioned to see the house as an acceptable place to pee and poop as well as learning to “hold it” for small periods of time in between. Right from as young as eight weeks, start encouraging them to go outside on a regular schedule, even if you are in an apartment, and use a small grass patch on your patio. Wait for them to pee and/or poop outside, and then encourage your puppy to continue this good habit by rewarding him with praise or treats. This makes him feel special when he performs where he is supposed to and conditions them where to go consistently.
To discourage your puppy from going to the bathroom inside, you need to keep a watchful eye over them whenever you can. This is where crate-training becomes very useful. I tell clients that if their puppy can’t be trusted to be inside on his own then they must either put him in a kennel/crate, keep him on a short leash near them (a “place” bed works great for this!), or if they are relaxing and will not sneak off to go potty somewhere they should not. This works because most dogs instinctively won’t go to the bathroom when they are in a smaller space because they cannot avoid their accident if they try to use the bathroom within it. The confinement to a kennel, short leash/tether, or other reduced space will promote your puppy to hold their business and wait until the time comes to go outside. At first, it will seem as if your puppy will not have the freedom around the house you wish them to have. Some clients are even uncomfortable putting their dog in a kennel or on leash for periods of time during the day. I tell puppy owners it is only temporary so your pup can earn more freedom sooner than later, as well as give them strategies for exercise and training that will have their puppy tuckered out so laying in or out of a crate is of no consequence since they should be tired from getting a full day of activities in between down time.
I will address socialization and basic obedience in future articles.
Brett Endes is a professional dog trainer and canine behavior consultant in the Denver metro area of Colorado with 25+ years of experience. He is the host of the popular dog training show “The Untrainables” and has been featured on The Hallmark Channel, National Geographic Wild, and other media for his experience and understanding of dog behavior and training. Brett graduated from The Academy of K-9 Education and has a degree from the State University of New York in Comparative Psychology. He can help you solve problems such as dog aggression, separation anxiety, leash pulling, phobias, and puppy issues, even if you have a difficult rescue dog or have seen other trainers, behaviorists, or veterinarians who have labeled your dog untrainable. Contact Brett now!