Create a lasting, loving bond with your dog and help her achieve her true potential as a companion animal by socializing your puppy. As you handle and talk to your dog, she is learning how to behave with you. When you take your puppy out and she has contact with other people and other dogs, she will also rely on you to guide her conduct.
Your reactions shape your puppy's reactions. If, when he becomes frightened by a loud noise, you cheerfully reassure him and focus his attention elsewhere, then he is less likely to develop an extreme reaction to loud noises. Too much fuss over a frightening experience may even make a dog phobic.
These suggestions will help you teach your puppy how to approach and interact with the world around him.
- Give him lots of attention and affection. Spend as much time as you can with your puppy and handle him frequently. Talk to your puppy, call him by his name and pet him, often. The more touching your dog learns to tolerate (or better yet, enjoy!), the easier it will be for others to handle him.
- Have daily play periods. Be sure your puppy's schedule includes regular playtime. Try to set aside two or three play periods every day. Playtime can consist of playing with your dog and his toys, but it is also the perfect time to begin teaching your puppy basic commands.
- Meeting and greeting. Once your vet says it's safe to take your puppy outside, start introducing your dog to the world (and people) around her. Create positive associations for your dog by taking her to a few new places each week and allowing her to interact with new people in each place. Introduce your puppy to the mail carrier and other service providers who regularly come to your home.
- See feeding time as a learning time. Feeding is a great time to work on training because you have your puppy's full and immediate attention. Say, "Come, Rover!" as you put his dish on the floor. When your puppy comes running (and he will), reward him with praise as well as with his dinner.
- Acclimate your dog to regular grooming. Brush your puppy lovingly and talk to her as you handle her feet, ears, and mouth; this is not only a great way to bond but also will make vet visits and puppy hygiene much easier in the future. Give your puppy a full body massage -- if he wriggles or fusses, tell him "No!" firmly, let him settle down, and then speak to him in a warm, quiet voice. It's important that your dog allows you to gently touch and massage him, as this is an important way of checking him for tumors or infections.
- Train the kids. Teach your children how to behave with your puppy. Show them how to hold and pet your dog. Help your child to understand that your puppy is a living creature that needs to be treated with care and respect, not a toy. For more tips on children and dogs see the story "Raising Kids and Dogs."
- Enlist the entire family. You will need the cooperation of all family members to establish and reinforce a code of conduct for your puppy. If one member of the household permits an undesirable behavior, everyone else's efforts to discourage it are less likely to succeed.
- Introduce other dogs. Knowing how to socialize with other dogs is important. Even if you don't plan to regularly visit a dog run or board your dog, a stay at a kennel or even a holiday spent with another pet owner will be a more pleasant experience for everyone if your dog has learned how to interact with other canines. Start by introducing your puppy to friendly dogs you know (make sure the other dog is immunized), and supervise the interaction.
- Go for car rides. Accustom your dog to car rides by taking him on short trips and gradually extending the time on the road. Taking numerous non-vet-related trips will create an overall positive association with riding in the car. Confine your puppy to a carrier while driving, for your safety and your pet's.
- Punish immediately and appropriately. If you catch your puppy in the act of destroying property or improper elimination, hold his collar and say "No!" firmly. Harsher punishment, such as yelling or hitting, will only teach a puppy to fear you instead of respecting you.
- Give rewards for good behavior. Puppies are naturally eager to please. The best way to reward your dog is through praise. Reward your puppy's good behavior with plenty of praise.
- Teach him to be home alone. As much as you may want to be with your puppy all day long, you will have to leave her alone sometimes. Get your puppy used to your absence by gradually increasing the time you leave her alone. Confine your puppy to a crate when you are gone to minimize unauthorized elimination and chewing.
- React to reduce stress. New situations can be stressful and scary to a puppy. You can help your puppy handle his fear and reduce the likelihood of future problems by being calm and reassuring. Keep your reactions low-key and it will be easier for your puppy to do so. When your puppy has calmed down, reward him with praise.
- Remember regular exercise. A daily 15- to 20-minute walk is good for you and your puppy and a great way to socialize her. She will get acquainted with the neighborhood and stay in shape (so will you!). Regular exercise also alleviates boredom and minimizes destructive chewing.