The first months of a puppy’s life is crucial to the way he or she will behave for the rest of their adult dog life. As a new puppy owner, you must be cautious and aware of how and what puppies learn so you have a well behaved dog. With the help of renowned animal behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar and his seminar “Don’t Waste Puppyhood!” we’ve summarized some major puppy musts.

Socialization. Dr. Dunbar believes that a dog’s temperament is forged by 12 weeks, so it’s important that the puppy’s first month at home is used wisely. He urges owners to “flood” puppies with social stimuli, and to be exposed to five new people a day — the wider variety, the better!

Routines. New owners should continue to use a long-term confinement area with three distinct sections. This should be used whenever you are gone. While you are home, your puppy should be crated unless the two of you are interacting. It is very important that the dog learns how to be alone in small doses, and sees the crate as a comfortable resting option.

Rewards. Dunbar strongly believes that while still a puppy, a food bowl should be a rite of passage. All food should be hand-fed until your dog is perfect for you. Meals should be used for classical conditioning during socialization or for training. If there’s anything left over, it should be put in a chew toy. 

Puppy Class. Puppy classes are another way to practice and improve upon socialization and obedience. Dr. Ian Dunbar believes puppy classes should be held completely off leash, but there are benefits to your puppy learning how to behave properly while leashed. The primary purposes of puppy class in the earliest stages are interaction with others and teaching bite inhibition. 

Reliability and Trust. While teaching obedience to your puppy, every 15-30 seconds, there should be a training interlude, where you call your puppy back to you. Sometimes you can simply grab a collar and give a treat, and sometimes try to lure behaviors like sits or downs. Then, send the puppy back to play. This helps build off-leash reliability, modulates arousal levels, and teaches the puppies to think despite distractions.

Accepting Diversity. Puppy classes and interactions with other dogs should include puppies of all shapes and sizes. It is beneficial to you and your dog to have diverse interactions with other dogs. Small dogs must learn not to run and squeak, and big dogs must learn how to be gentle.

Not sure how to begin to socialize your puppy? Morris Animal Inn has introduced a one-of-a-kind puppy daycare for puppies 2-5 months old. This program, unlike any other, gives young puppies the chance to socialize with others of similar age, learn foundations of obedience, practice leash walking, have a routine-based schedule, and receive tons of cuddles and love from our caring staff! It is important when socializing your puppy, that it is done in a safe and appropriate manner. A bad experience can result negatively for the puppy long-term. We are confident that puppy daycare will help positively guide your puppy through one of the most important time of his or her life!

Source: Ian Dunbar, Science-Based Dog Training