Now that your puppy is settled into you home, you can get to know each other. At this age, your puppy can increasingly comprehend basic education such as house training, getting used to the leash and collar, and knowing his name. Such interactions start to teach your puppy good manners and which behaviors are appropriate.
House training (sometimes called housebreaking) a puppy is a major hurdle for most owners. Remember, prevention and patience are key. Give your puppy ample opportunities to “go” outdoors so he doesn’t get into the habit of “going” indoors. You should be taking your puppy out every 30-45 minutes when your puppy is awake and active. Another general rule of thumb in housebreaking a puppy is to take him outside any time the puppy experiences a significant change of activity—when he wakes from a nap, after vigorous playtime, after he eats or drinks, and when there is an exciting event such as someone visiting your home. If you are normally gone more than 3-4 hours during the day, you will have to have a long-term and short-term confinement set-up for leaving the puppy. You can’t expect a puppy at this age to “hold it” for more than that.
One tool that I find to be very helpful to all new puppy owners, especially with Florida’s open floor plans, is an x-pen. These are like playpens for puppies that will keep the puppy confined to a smaller area, but still have room to play. You would never allow a human toddler to roam the house unsupervised, and a puppy shouldn’t either. When you are busy or need a break from watching the puppy, an x-pen can be invaluable. I recommend getting one that is at least 30″ tall and has a door. The type shown here can be taken apart and the sections used later to block off larger doorways and entry ways.
As your puppy grows, he needs to know who is in charge. If no one is telling the puppy what the rules are, the puppy will make up his own. Everyone in the home has to be on the same page when it comes to rules for the puppy. If someone is reinforcing the rules, and someone else is encouraging bad behavior, the puppy will be very confused.
You can start to train your puppy to get used to being on a leash and collar during this period. Just a regular buckle collar and leash should be used. I NEVER recommend a retractable leash, but I will save why for another blog. Loosely fit the collar on the puppy and allow it to drag the leash around while you are supervising. After a few days of doing this, then pick up the leash and follow the puppy around so he will become comfortable with someone holding it. Eventually you will start guiding the puppy to follow you rather than you following the puppy.
Be sure to use the puppy’s name often – say it in a happy tone, and when the puppy looks at you give the puppy lots of praise, or perhaps a treat. Don’t use the puppy’s name as a correction. You want the puppy to hear his name and turn to look at you, not think he has done something bad.
Lots of people ask me about socializing their puppy. Many vets will say not to allow the puppy off your property, or even outside, until they have had all their shots. Most trainers feel that is too late, and as long as you are careful, you can start socializing the puppy. Here are the guidelines I give to my clients:
• Expose your puppy to as many people and places as you can in the first couple of months, but be thoughtful of how you do this. Find opportunities in your neighborhood, including the mail person, FedEx driver, kids on bikes, skateboarders, a passing bus, or an elderly neighbor. Go out of your way to approach people who appear unique to your pup in some way be it size, skin color, mode of transportation (bike, wheelchair, crutches, cane) and manner of dress (coat, hat, beard, backpack, flowing skirt).
• Invite different kinds of people over to play with and handle your pup.
• Expose your puppy to various household objects and sounds (microwave, telephone, vacuum, power tools, etc.) regularly.
• Have your puppy walk and play on different substances such as grass, gravel, concrete, carpeting, tile, etc.
• YOU should control the encounters your pup has with other people and dogs – be polite, but insistent, on how you want people to approach and/or pet your puppy.
Places NOT to take your pup:
• Off-leash dog parks, until he is fully vaccinated
• Any place where he is likely to encounter stray, sick or aggressive dogs
• Any place where he is likely to encounter aggressive/rowdy/drunk humans
• Places where there is an accumulation of feces from unknown dogs
• Any place where he would have to be left unattended (tied up) or in a hot car.
• Any place where he will be uncomfortable or frightened (Little League game, fireworks, motorcycle rally, etc.)
• Any place where you won’t be able to devote enough attention to him to ensure his safety, security and well-being.
By socializing him in a controlled, positive environment, you can mitigate potential behavioral issues in the future.