As you and Your New Puppy continue your lifelong training journey together, you can use the foundation you’ve established and build from there. In this installment of this blog series, we’ll explore how the concepts you and your pup already know can help you approach each next step of this adventure, such as puppy socialization and preventing biting or nipping.
Socializing Your New Puppy
The world is a big and wonderful place, with so many places to go, people to meet, and things to sniff, roll in, and play with. It’s a veritable smorgasbord out there, especially exciting for puppies who are enthusiastic about doing all sorts of fun things. Puppies are very impressionable and accepting at their young age.
Developing relationships with other animals and new people helps build confidence and form those social graces we all want our dogs to have. It’s important to socialize them so they learn to like other people and dogs — and other animals too. And it’s vital that these brand-new interactions are positive and not scary. All beings involved in the process should feel safe and comfortable.
Through socialization that consists of positive and pleasant experiences, you’re increasing the likelihood of having an adult dog who is overall more comfortable and confident. The two main areas of socialization include 1) other dogs, and 2) everything else that makes up our world: people, places, and situations.
Here are some quick tips that new puppy parents can use right away for safe and fun puppy socialization:
- Create a list of social situations you want your pup to be a part of, both as a younger puppy as well as an adult dog. Having a list will help give guidance for the overall plan. Think inside and outside the box too — and, the more details, the better. For instance, do you often have company? People of all ages and sizes? Is your household filled with children? Or no kids at all now, but maybe kids later on? Will you be taking your dog to work? On vacations? Walks in new places? Beaches, parks, and the mountains? City life? Country life now but maybe a big city in a few years? Will your pup need to go potty on soft grass only but maybe someday concrete? These are all things you’d want to consider.
- Allow your pup to set the pace as to how quickly they want to learn about new surroundings, situations, people, other animals, and experiences. Life can be scary, so you want to avoid forcing puppies to do something they might not want to do.
- Learn to speak “Doglish” — reading your dog’s body language is important, and listening is even more important! Your puppy will tell you if they are relaxed and happy to do something and/or meet someone. They’ll also communicate when they’re wary about something.
- Remember, this entire process is learning by association: new experiences = good things! All you’re asking your dog to do is to trust and enjoy life. Let’s make it a great one! So, create positive associations by pairing experiences and triggers with things your pup already loves, such as treats, petting, snuggles, and feeling safe and happy. For instance, when meeting new people, you can always ask your pup to “Sit” but if they appear a little hesitant, you can either give your pup a treat for saying hello or have the person toss small piece of a higher value treat, creating a trail of trust. It’s best to allow your puppy to approach the person, versus someone approaching your pup. Again, this allows the dog to have control over their own behavior and environment.
- Allow your pup to vote with their paws. If they want to walk away, allow them to do this.
- Reward your pup for being brave when they are taking steps to do and try new things.
- Consult with a force-free trainer or dog behavior consultant if you have any questions about puppy socialization.
A Pawsitive Approach to Puppy Biting and Nipping
Yep – that’s what puppies do – bite, chew, nip, shred and chomp some more. From teething to exploring, this behavior is not only normal, but necessary. The key is to establish good habits and direct those needle-sharp puppy teeth away from people, dangerous items and valuables – and towards puppy-safe outlets.
Here are some quick tips new puppy parents can use right away to avoid being your puppy’s favorite chew toy:
- Providing outlets for your puppy to chew and play safely will help redirect that energy to a more appropriate place.
- Teach an alternative behavior that is incompatible with mouthing or nipping. Remember to cue and reward the wantedbehavior before the puppy offers up the unwanted behavior to avoid a ‘chained reaction.’
- Reward heavily when baby Fido chooses appropriate items for chewing.
With some planning, lots of strategic management and a relationship built on trust, there are practically limitless opportunities for you and your new puppy to enjoy the life you share together. We will continue to ‘Build on the Basics’ in our next post here, discussing two more topics of interest to new puppy parents – teaching emergency behaviors (it’s not too early to start!) and acclimating your pup to brief absences.
Until then, thank you for being an inquisitive human!
Up next: Your New Puppy – Building on Basics (Part Two)
Wanna dig deeper? Here are some helpful resources:
For you and your new puppy, now is the ideal time to create a lifetime of good habits for everything. Enjoy fun AND success in training by incorporating lots of enthusiasm, praise and love!
Puppy socialization and prevention of behavior issues in a safe, controlled, and managed environment should be a priority with our domesticated dogs.
Don’t Speak Woof? We share our tips to help you better understand dog body language.
This post explores a bit of learning theory and shares our top tips for how pet guardians can help their puppies grow into happy, well-adjusted family dogs.
The key to success in teaching any behavior is to start easy and go slowly. Another tip is to remember to use the cue only once, then wait. If Fido doesn’t respond, think about ways you can help your pup succeed, perhaps by making adjustments in the motivation, environment and/or level of difficulty.
When developing your training and management plan for puppy nipping and chewing: determine what you want from your dog; teach him or her what you want; provide appropriate outlets; and reward heavily for making better choices. This approach will keep everyone happy, including your dog and the humans in the household.