Training a New Baby Puppy—When and How?
Updated: Jul 14
When should you start training and socializing your new puppy? The answer, for puppies as well as older dogs: the day you bring them home, without delay!
This article focuses on baby puppies up to 15 weeks or so—the most crucial developmental period that shapes a puppy’s ability to learn and adapt to life with people, other animals, and the sights and sounds they’ll encounter.
New puppy owners too often put off training until their puppy is 16 weeks old or more when all the vaccinations are in place, and group classes are deemed “safe” by the veterinarian, breeder, and/or rescue group.
Unfortunately, by then the puppy is already past the “Critical Socialization Period”, a window of rapid-learning from 3 to 14 weeks of age. Like a pre-school child, baby puppies are constantly learning from their environment, and from you. They learn new habits rapidly—both good and bad!
It’s important to know that “puppy socialization” is not simply greeting lots of people and dogs. In fact, such contact is unnecessary for a very young puppy, and can definitely work against you! Remember, your puppy is absorbing bad experiences and behaviors just as readily as good ones. Let her pull and leap toward every person and dog to “Say Hi”, and you’ll likely get either a fearful pup or a committed leash puller who “doesn’t listen” to you. There’s no easy Undo button for that!
When owners of an unruly adolescent puppy finally seek out a class or trainer, the pup often has entrenched “bad behaviors” like jumping up, nipping, destructive chewing, pottying in the house, pulling on the leash, ignoring the owner, etc. These problems are much harder to remediate than to prevent.
Some owners eventually give up and, with remorse, turn their “problem child” over to a new owner or to a shelter. Or they feel compelled to send the adolescent pup off to an expensive “boot camp” where aversive methods like shock collars may be used—not the best approach, no matter how compelling the pitch.
Here's the good news: You can learn how to prime your baby puppy, and yourself, for a great life together! You can train your pup in safe socialization skills, to focus on you, and address those important preventative elements—and your puppy will be a star in society and group classes later on!
How about training in the distraction-free comfort of your home? Two options:
1. Private lessons, with a positive professional who is certified by an accredited organization like CPDT, and focuses on empowering the trainer (that’s you!). See https://hendersonvilledogtrainersalliance.com
2. Online training: A well-designed live-online course, like my Baby Puppy course on Zoom! Low cost, no health risks for you or your puppy, and lots of topics covered in 4 weeks!
Hope this helps and motivates you!
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