Puppy Training 101

Jay Gurden
Puppy training is essential to prepare puppies for safe and happy experience of the outside world. 

One of the biggest responsibilities we take on when we bring a dog into our lives, particularly when that dog is a puppy, is ensuring that they learn everything they need to be as comfortable in their world as possible. Although dogs learn throughout their lives, the learning they experience in the first few weeks of life is particularly important, especially once they have left their mother and littermates and joined their new human family. It is through this time that puppy training is so important.

Most puppies will arrive in their new household at around 8 weeks. The next few weeks are probably the most important in deciding how life will progress for the adult dog that puppy will become. As well as learning many of the cues for things we would like them to do, like sit or down for instance, and the start of loose lead walking, we must remember that those first few weeks in the new home are part of what is known as the socialisation window. During this period, which starts to close somewhere between 14 to 16 weeks, the puppy training received can frame how the puppy relates to the world for the rest of their lives. 

Socialisation involves teaching the puppy what the world holds, and that their world is a safe place. Done sensitively, thoroughly, and well, the puppy training in this time will result in a confident, resilient adult dog, who can go through their life with an optimistic mindset. The adult dog whose puppy training included meeting all different kinds of people, animals, sights, sounds, smells, and all different kinds of experiences in a positive and happy manner can view anything new with interest and curiosity but without fear.

It is vital the puppy training involved in socialisation takes place with sensitivity and empathy. There are both good and bad ways to attempt socialisation. Only good and kind socialisation will produce the happy, confident and positive adult dog we are aiming to develop. Never force a puppy into interacting with anyone or anything, in any situation, and ensure that you recognise the signs a puppy shows when they are worried, concerned or confused so unsuccessful attempts at meeting new people or new things can be abandoned before lasting harm is done.

One complicating factor in the socialisation window that leads to misguided guardians missing out some of the vital puppy training out in the world is the fact that the vital first course of puppy vaccinations usually falls during this time. Until the immune system has fully developed following vaccination, advice given to guardians often involves restricting puppies in the outside world to protect them. The impact of this can be reduced by carrying the puppy to let them see the world safely, and by arranging to meet known dogs who have been safely vaccinated, so that the puppy can interact with other dogs and learn the vital canine social skills that are such a vital part of puppy training life skills.

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