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Socializing Your Dog or Puppy

Early and ongoing socialization is extremely important to prevent behavior problems. Socialization is especially important before the age of 3 months, but should also be done throughout your dog’s lifetime. Gentle socialization plays a huge role in preventing aggression and fearful behavior.

Lack of socialization can lead to hyperactive behavior, barking, shyness and aggression. The younger you begin socializing your dog, the better, but all dogs can be gradually brought into new and even initially fearful situations and learn to enjoy them.

Socialization is a lifelong process. For example, if your dog does not see any dogs for months or years at a time, you would expect his behavior to change around them when he does finally see them again.

How to expose your dog to something new or something he is wary of:

• Make sure that you remain calm, and up-beat and keep his leash loose, if he is wearing one.
• Expose him gradually to what he is fearful of, never forcing him. Allow him to retreat if he wants to.
• Reward him for being calm or for exploring the new situation.

Try to expose your dog regularly to all of the things and situations you would like him to able to cope with calmly in the future. Progress slowly enough so that it is easy for your dog to enjoy the sessions. It will seem like a lot of time to spend at first but it will pay off with a well-behaved dog.

Below are some examples, but this is just a start:

• Meeting new people of all types, including children, men, crowds, people wearing hats, in wheelchairs, etc.
• Meeting new dogs (do not bring your pup to areas with lots of dogs until after 4 months)
• Exposure to other pets such as cats, horse, birds
• Teach him to enjoy his crate
• Riding in the car (be sure to restrain him using a crate or seatbelt for safety)
• Being held, touched all over and in different ways, being bathed and groomed
• Visiting the Vet’s office, groomer, daycare, boarding kennel
• Exposure to loud noises and strange objects (example – umbrella opening)
• Exposure to traffic, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, joggers
• Getting him used to being left alone for a few hours at a time

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Introducing the Crate to your New Puppy

In order that your puppy associate his/her kennel crate with comfort, security and enjoyment, here are some general guidelines:

1. Occasionally throughout the day, drop small pieces of kibble or dog biscuits in the crate. While investigating his new crate, the pup will discover edible treasures, thereby reinforcing his positive associations with the crate. You may also feed him in the crate to create the same effect. If the dog hesitates, it often works to feed him in front of the crate, then right inside the doorway and then, finally, in the back of the crate.

2. In the beginning, praise and pet your pup when he enters. Do not try to push, pull or force the puppy into the crate. At this early stage of introduction only inducive methods are suggested. Overnight exception: You may need to place your pup in his crate and shut the door upon retiring. (In most cases, the crate should be placed next to your bed overnight. If this is not possible, the crate can be placed in the kitchen, bathroom or living room.)

3. You may also play this enjoyable and educational game with your pup or dog: without alerting your puppy, drop a small dog biscuit into the crate. Then call your puppy and say to him, “Where’s the biscuit? It’s in your room.” Using only a friendly, encouraging voice, direct your pup toward his crate. When the puppy discovers the treat, give enthusiastic praise. The biscuit will automatically serve as a primary reward. Your pup should be free to leave its crate at all times during this game. Later on, your puppy’s toy or ball can be substituted for the treat.

4. It is advisable first to crate your pup for short periods of time while you are home with him. In fact, crate training is best accomplished while you are in the room with your dog. Getting him used to your absence from the room in which he is crated is a good first step. This prevents an association being made with the crate and your leaving him/her alone.

5. Leave the room for short periods of time when he is in the crate. Come back and praise for quiet, calm behavior. Leave for longer periods of time – then vary the times – so he’ll get used to being alone in the crate first while you are home.

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Housetraining Tips for your New Puppy

1. The best way to house-train your puppy is to consistently and generously reward him for going in the right place and prevent him from going in the wrong place.

2. You want to teach your puppy the ‘rewarding’ place to go and to give him plenty of opportunities to eliminate there. This means pro-actively taking him out every hour or so when he’s awake, after naps, after eating and after playing, as well as first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Stay pro-active about bringing your puppy outside – don’t expect him to let you know he has to go. As you build up a consistent reward history for him going in the right spot, he will be more motivated to go there.

3. Make sure you bring your puppy out on leash so you can control where he walks and sniffs. Go to the elimination area and just stand there and let him walk around and sniff a bit but keep him in the general area. Be aware that any distractions will interrupt his peeing or pooping – cars, people, squirrels, etc. Watch for signs that he is about to go so you recognize them over time. A small puppy may only pause briefly to pee so you need to be very observant.

4. As soon as your puppy finishes, verbally praise him and give him 5-6 tiny treats in a row. If he doesn’t go, bring him back and take him out 5 minutes later. Watch him carefully when you do go back in because that may be where he is more comfortable going. Continue to go out every 5-10 minutes until your puppy goes and then lavishly praise and reward him with high value treats. Make sure you’re with him when he goes so A) you know that he went and B) to teach him that it is rewarding to ‘go’ when he is next to you.

5. Next, you want to start tracking your puppy’s elimination schedule so you can anticipate when you need to take him out. When inside, watch for sniffing or circling as a sign that he needs to go and ‘when in doubt, take him out’. If he does have an accident inside, calmly clean it up with a proper odor eliminator and take note of when and where the accident happened so you can be more diligent about preventing it next time.

6. Punishing your puppy after the fact does no good –he won’t understand why you’re yelling at him so don’t it. Just be more observant next time. The first few weeks of owning a puppy are some of the hardest and most important. Spending extra time and effort now will pay off in a big way. If your puppy has an accident inside, take a newspaper, roll it up and hit yourself in the head with it!

7. Once he’s going regularly in his spot, start putting this behavior on command- use whatever phrase you want but be consistent: “Hurry up”, “Do your Business”, “Do Potty”, “Potty time”, whatever. Start saying the command as your puppy starts to go. Don’t say it when you’re not sure – we want him to associate the command with the correct behavior. Eventually start saying the command earlier and it will be his cue to go. This will come in very handy on a rainy or cold night when you want him to go quickly so you can get back inside.

8. Finally and the most important, the only way for you to prevent your puppy from going in the wrong place is by using 100% management and supervision. This means that when you can’t watch your puppy, he’s in his crate and when he is out of his crate, he’s never out of your sight. You’ll need to gate off a small area of your kitchen or family room or have your puppy on a leash attached to your belt.

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New Puppy Basics

Here is some great introductory information for all of you new puppy or dog owners out there!

1. Positive reinforcement training is the best way to teach your puppy good behavior and develop a great relationship in the process. Puppies learn by the consequence of their actions. That means rewarded behavior gets repeated. Behavior that doesn’t get rewarded diminishes. Attention is one of the most rewarding things you can give your puppy and withdrawing attention is one of the most effective negative consequences you can use to stop undesirable behavior.

2. As you interact with your puppy, you want to think about catching him in the act of doing something good. Reward spontaneous acts of good behavior. As your new puppy is jumping and chewing and biting and stealing, if you provide lots of attention during these episodes, your puppy is likely to find that attention rewarding – even if you are saying no – and he will continue to do these things. Then, when your puppy does get tired and lies down quietly, you think – oh good, let’s leave him alone. These are times that you want to go over and calmly praise your puppy and give him a tiny treat. He may get up and follow you, but ignore that and continue to reward him when he sits or lies down or looks at you on his own. Pretty soon your puppy will start doing these things automatically.

3. Another rule of thumb is to not focus on what you don’t want your puppy to do, but what you want him to do instead. So when your puppy is jumping, instead of saying NO, teach your puppy to SIT and you can teach him that sitting is more rewarding than jumping. He gets attention when he’s sitting, not when he’s jumping. If your puppy is chewing furniture, teach him that chewing a bone or playing with a toy is more rewarding. All of these things will help your puppy choose the right behaviors on his own.

4. As you start to teach your puppy good manners, you need to be aware of his ability to learn in different situations. You want to think in terms of teaching your puppy each behavior first at Kindergarten level and working up very gradually to college level. The factors that determine these grade levels – or degrees of difficulty- are duration, distractions and distance.

When in a familiar or room, it’s easy for your puppy to learn. When there are no distractions, it’s easy for your puppy to focus on you. When you’re close to your puppy, it’s easier for him to pay attention. If any one of these things changes, you’ve just skipped a grade or two. So, if you move into a new room in the house, you’ve just increased the difficulty. If you’re in the familiar room but there are toys on the floor (distractions), then you’ve just made it harder for your puppy. And if you move 5 feet way, its now tougher for your puppy to focus on you. Be aware of these things as you teach your puppy any new behavior and always set up your training to allow your puppy to be successful. Then move gradually from Kindergarten to College by changing just one variable at a time.

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