Happy Puppy: All About Training Through Puppyhood
As a new dog owner or an owner with a busy life, you may be questioning what type of support you’ll need to raise your new puppy. Raising a happy dog on your own isn’t impossible, but a training plan and the guidance of a professional trainer can set you up for success early on. Too often owners make the mistake of waiting until their puppy is peeing on the carpet, howling in their crate or showing signs of behavioral issues before they reach out to a trainer.
Personalized dog training isn’t just for when things go wrong; dog training can be preventative too! Not only will a trainer help you avoid critical mistakes, investing in dog training early on can actually save you money in the long run.Training through behavioral issues or developing manners with an adult dog can often be a longer, more expensive training process.
By starting early with a dog trainer, you can develop a routine for potty training, build play behaviors that are safe and fun for all family members, and introduce crate training for your dog to have a safe space that they love. Dog trainers know what problem behaviors to look for and can give you easy to do activities to help avoid behavioral issues down the line. A strong training foundation and clear communication between puppy and owner can help prevent issues like aggression, resource guarding, separation anxiety and so much more.
Puppy training isn’t just about training obedience skills, although that's certainly part of the process! During puppyhood you’ll need help training through different challenges as your puppy develops into a full grown dog.
Having a professional trainer with you throughout your puppy’s first year can help you navigate the developmental stages. Let’s quickly break down these different stages of puppyhood and how training fits into this process.
Before your puppy finds their way to their forever home with you, they’ve already had several weeks of development. They go from snuggled up against their mama to clumsily walking and exploring their world with their newly developed senses. These first few weeks your puppy will begin playing with their littermates, be weaned off their mother’s milk and learn what a human is!
When your puppy comes home between 8-12 weeks they’re at their most impressionable state, a stage we call a “fear period”. This is when your relationship with your puppy is beginning to blossom, your pup is relying on you to feel safe, loved and cared for. During this time it’s important for you to avoid introducing your pup to anything that is painful or frightening, whatever that may be from your puppy’s perspective. Walking over an unfamiliar surface may cause your pup to feel unsafe and panic or they may feel completely overwhelmed by toddlers surrounding them. This stage doesn’t last forever, but negative experiences during the fear period can create training issues that become a lifelong struggle.
It's not only important to avoid scary things, but to also expose your puppy to new experiences in a positive way! Pairing things treats, playtime or toys, with a new environment, person, sound or sight can help your puppy learn to associate these new things with a positive. Socialization is all about going at your puppy's pace; take your time and keep new experiences fun for your pup. Overtime, your puppy will become more adaptable, curious and know that you're there to help them through any new situation.
During this developmental stage our trainers at Happy Dog’s also help owners create a routine for their puppy. Mealtime, potty breaks, short training sessions and time for exploration are all vital to your puppy developing good habits in your household. We can also start introducing basic behaviors in exchange for yummy treats. Learning cues like “Sit”, “Down” and “Come” while in the safety of your home can set your puppy up for success later on.
Between 3 to 5 months of age your puppy will grow in size and personality. They’ll become more curious about their environment and begin to explore without you by their side. Keeping up with socialization is critical during this stage, your puppy is still learning how to navigate the world around them. You can help by slowly exposing them to new noises, new surfaces and textures, exploring different environments, getting treats from new people they meet and gently handling their paws, ears and tail.
A trainer’s guidance can help you communicate clearly with your puppy, set realistic expectations and ultimately give your puppy a stellar start to life! Our goal is to help your puppy learn that the world around them is safe, fun and that you’ll be there to help them through new experiences. You can also begin asking for basic behaviors in new environments to help your puppy generalize that these cues are the same in every situation.
During this stage your puppy’s adult teeth will begin emerging, this means lots of chewing! Just like for human babies, the arrival of permanent teeth is uncomfortable and painful at times. Your puppy may chew furniture, your kids’ toys or even try chewing on you. A trainer can help ensure that you’re providing your puppy with dog-safe chews, toys and avoid situations where they have unsupervised access to chewable items.
At 6 to 12 months your puppy will begin to reach full size; this happens earlier for smaller breeds and takes longer for large breeds. Along with their growing size, they’ll have loads more energy than when you first brought them home. It’s important to keep in mind that while your puppy may look grown up, they’re still a puppy inside. This means that they likely have a low tolerance for inactivity or boredom throughout the day. Continuing with training can give your puppy an activity that is mentally stimulating and benefits your growing relationship. Our trainers may recommend a supervised play group or training classes to help continue your puppy’s development.
Having a trainer to guide you through how, when and where to train more advanced behaviors can be a huge benefit during this stage. It is important to note that the behaviors you’ve trained so far will not be reliable while your puppy is still young. This means avoiding situations where failure to perform a behavior could be dangerous; such as, trusting their recall in an open space. If your pup sees a rabbit, they might not be able to listen and come back to you when called. A trainer can ensure that the training environment is safe and that your puppy will continue to be reinforced for the obedience skills you’ll rely on for their entire life.
After 12 months of age, your puppy’s physical development will finish and they will begin to mature emotionally too. If you’ve stuck to your routine and reinforced good behaviors, your dog can function as a happy member of your household. They’ll be more trustworthy when left unattended and be easier to handle thanks to the training you’ve already put in. At this stage a trainer can help you build habits to reinforce your dog’s good manners and may suggest additional activities for you and your dog to explore. Such as, dog agility, rally, nosework and more!
By working with a trainer early on into your puppy’s development you can build strong obedience skills, routines that work for your lifestyle and good manners that can last a lifetime! You’ll have a clear plan of how to raise a happy dog and support for any issues that arise along the journey.
If you’re in the Charlotte, North Carolina area and looking for puppy training, you can schedule a consultation here: Schedule Now.