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My Dog & I: Baby Steps…

By Janine Lazarus

There is nothing as joyful as a new puppy in the house!

Everyone is in love and there is laughter, play and lots of kisses!! Kids and adults alike are excited and happy and full of anticipation for a long and fulfilling partnership with their new family member and I must say that I am not immune…even after some few thousand dogs have passed through my life.

So I am here to remind all you new puppy owners…that the journey through this wonderful time (except for the first few nights) is SO important in the forming of your future relationship with this adorable bundle of fun.

In their first few weeks, a baby dog is absorbing information at lightning speed!!

Not only is he developing his patterns of communication with you – and by extension the world, but he is trying to find out how he fits into the grand scheme of things.

He is watching everything – all at the same time, it seems! All those little brain cells are working overtime and  he is figuring out who is who, what is what, how to get what he wants and who can give it to him.

All young beings need guidance, support and attention. How you give them these things is what will define the quality of your parenting.

The other thing to remember is that the “youth” of a dog is very fleeting and you have a limited time to instill and inform while the puppy is still a puppy. A one year old dog is no longer a puppy. Sorry to all those folks who tell me about their two and a half year old “puppy.”

By the time a dog reaches 6 months or so, they are usually starting to think about their hormones and shortly thereafter are able to reproduce…That makes them, in my mind, at least teenagers. We do try to make sure our teenagers have some life skills and the ability to socialize well with others, right?

So there are some things we can do at the earliest stages to help produce a well-balanced and pleasant dog to live with for a decade or so.

An orderly but flexible routine should be established from the beginning… at eight weeks or so, there should be a plan in place for regular eating, feeding and exercise… according to this little ones needs, these should take place at roughly the same time every day. Of course, the schedule will change as puppy needs less frequent meals, sleeps longer at night and needs more exercise. She will sleep through the night within a week or so, in a crate full of places to nest BUT only if she has been active and busy during the day. A dog that has spent a lot of time in a crate or being cuddled on the couch will not want or need to sleep for eight hours… of course.

We do tend to show our love by cuddling, touching and talking. That is not really how dogs love each other. Allow your pup a little space to explore safely and develop confidence. If you are not pursuing the puppy, she may come to you more readily.

Don’t worry too much about teaching your dog to “sit,” especially if it means stressing their little tummies with too many treats. Instead, encourage your pup “come” from time to time and rewards with lots of praise and maybe even a toy.

Spend time walking around with your pup, doing things together and as soon as he/she has their shots, start to socialize the pup by taking them out into the world to experience new environments and other people and dogs… You may want to go camping with her one day or at least visit other people and have them visit you.

Too much love… can be annoying. I know you know what I mean.

Limit child time… it is not fair to expect a child to understand that their attention can be stressful and they can unwittingly teach a pup all kinds of unwanted behaviors.

The exercise element of this childhood development plan will change according to the pups age and ability but should imitate the eventual goal of a daily walk, which is an essential element of a dog’s happy life. Start puppy with a light collar early as he will have to wear one for the rest of his life, and don’t try to pull a young dog around by his neck. I know a lot of folks are using harnesses to prevent this issue from occurring but they don’t really teach a dog to walk nicely on leash, so I would advise learning some correct handling skills in a class for from a trainer early on, but again remember that this will be a gentle unfolding and not an overnight occurrence.

There are a ton of great books on puppy raising out there. Read them. Don’t just click on the first YouTube Video and follow it by rote. There is lots of conflicting information out there.

And lastly but absolutely the most iron clad rule is:

Do not get a puppy and leave it alone all day. It’s simply cruel.

Great Puppy Books:

Cesar Milan’s “How to Raise the Perfect Dog”

Monks of New Skete “The Art of Raising A Puppy”

Any Video by Michael Ellis (Free on YouTube)

All of these available on Audio.

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