How To: Start your puppy on the Best paw
I really feel for new puppy owners. There's so much conflicting information out there resulting in:
pups going out into the world too early,
pups going out into the world later than they ideally should,
no puppy training being put in place when they're young,
pups not understanding what their people want or consider is right and
new dog owners experiencing a form of mild and, thankfully, temporary insanity whilst they try to deal with their pup's behaviours (which can last for as long as the dog's entire life!)
So I've decided to give you a rundown of the IDEAL for setting your pup on the right path and minimising your feelings of anxiety, insanity, depression, frustration - need I go on?
Most pups arrive at their new home at about 8 weeks with the instructions of "he/she MUST be fully vaccinated before you do any training/take him/her out anywhere". From the perspective of 'our society has many dogs and several diseases and we must protect our pup' that DOES make perfect sense BUT most dogs are vaccinated, we rarely have outbreaks of disease and outbreaks of some can be forecast; for example kennel cough is predominantly present during and after school holidays. Why? Because this is a time when many dogs go in to boarding, pick up kennel cough (which isn't prevented by vaccinations, it's severity is reduced by vaccinations) and then go straight down to the doggy park and leave their disease-laden slobber in the water bowl! So although disease is a valid reason to be careful with your pup, we need to still try to give them as much exposure to the world in which they will live as soon as possible. So let's get into it.
When puppy comes home and ideally you've already booked an appointment for in-home puppy training with a dog behaviour consultant. Pup will need 48 hours to settle in before you do puppy training and you'll find that you're re-adjusting your rules, expectations, etc as well as seeing various behaviours emerging whether from the pup, the kids or any other people or animals in the household. In this lesson we (I can't speak for what others do) work out the best puppy toilet training technique for you, run through how to handle inappropriate behaviours (jumping, play biting, chewing, etc), how to decide whether a behaviour is inappropriate in the first place! We also work on prevention - how to prevent separation anxiety, destruction, prevent the dog from becoming a cat chaser, etc. and start pup off on basic obedience (come, sit, walk at heel, etc). By this time you have hopefully called the local vets and found at least one puppy pre-school. These usually start from 12 weeks of age but some now start at 10 weeks (even better!) and you're best to book in early. More than one pre-school increases pup's social skills. Not only does he need to remember what those furry 4 legged things are (now that he's surrounded by the 2 legged variety) but he also needs to socialise with other humans.
In the meantime, anywhere that pup can go and anything that he/she can experience from the safety of the car or from your arms helps to acclimatise him/her to their new world and makes it less scary when they're on their own four paws.
So now at 16 or 18 weeks you've breezed through what would normally be the trauma of bringing a new pup home, he/she's graduated puppy pre-school with flying colours due to having a head-start with the in-home puppy training and it's now time to go into the world. Ideally with a dog trainer by your side to transition you from the relative dullness of puppy pre-school or your backyard to the irresistible temptations on the other side of the park. Training puppy how to walk properly on the leash, coming when called, road etiquette and appropriate play with other dogs are all things that should be covered and understood by this point.
So now, at 20 weeks at the absolute latest you should have a pup (and family) who understands and follows the rules, is comfortable being on their own, is fully toilet trained, has a good understanding of obedience commands and who you can take everywhere from the cafes to be parks and beaches without issues.
As the saying goes "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail". Good luck! xox