We're ready for National Puppy Day on March 23rd! Since its founding in 2006, this day brings together dog lovers to celebrate the undeniable cuteness of puppies worldwide. If you've recently adopted a new puppy, or this day inspires you to bring home a new pup of your own, we’ve put together a list of the five best things to teach them.
One of the best things you can teach a new puppy is to be comfortable in any situation they find themselves in. Formally known as “socialization”, this is best done in the few first weeks after you bring your new pup home. The window for socialization is quite small – from about three to fourteen weeks of age – so you’ll want to spend your first weeks together experiencing many new things.
This is likely the first thing you think to teach your pup after you bring them home, and for good reason! To minimize the amount of cleaning up you do, you’ll want to teach your pup early on that bathroom business is done outside. This process can be daunting to new pet parents but fortunately, it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Simply put, house training your pup requires micromanaging their schedule. To start, choose a spot outside where you want your puppy to do their business and then bring them out to it every hour, eventually starting to lengthen the time between bathroom trips. Of course, be sure to give them lots of praise and their favorite Freshpet treat when they do go to the bathroom outside.
Whether you plan on traveling with your puppy or not, you’ll want them to be comfortable being in cars. Your pup’s first time in the car was likely a rather stressful situation, but the good news is that dogs of any age can learn that car rides aren’t so scary after all. Before you hit the road, spend some time in the car while it’s stationary – play with their favorite toys, work on some tricks, even feed them their favorite Freshpet recipes. Once they seem comfortable in a car that’s turned off, do the same activities with the car turned on. If that goes well, start by taking some short drives to keep them entertained. Before long, your pup will look forward to the time they spend with you in the car!
It’s important that we teach our puppies to be comfortable in any situation they face, including being left alone. Dogs are social animals, happiest when they are surrounded by the “pack”, but it’s unlikely that many of us have lives that allow us to be with our dogs 24/7. To help your puppy avoid developing separation anxiety, start by introducing them to the concept of “alone” gradually. A great way to start is by having an area, such as a play pen, with their favorite toys where they can play in while you go about your business in the house. Check on them every few minutes and slowly start to lengthen the time between your visits. Your puppy should learn that you leaving is part of a normal day and that you will always return at some point. The biggest thing to remember is to treat you leaving like a normal event – don’t make a big display or give your pet excessive attention. The more normal you make alone time, the more comfortable your pup will be with it.
Puppyhood is the ideal time to teach dogs their food-related manners. If dogs are used to being undisturbed while eating, there’s a risk that they will react aggressively if disturbed. Knowing this, new owners should “join” their pups for their meals from the first day they bring them home. By join, we don’t mean having your pup eat the table with you but instead have your presence be part of their mealtime routine. Two easy ways to do this are by using the “disappearing bowl” and the “magic hand” methods. With the disappearing bowl, you offer your pup their food bowl then briefly take it away and give them a small treat. You then return the bowl and repeat the process. Soon they’ll start to associate you removing the bowl with something good – a treat– so they won’t be upset when you interact with the meal. The magic hand method is very similar, but instead of removing the bowl you simply put your hand in the bowl and give them a treat, repeating the entire time they eat. Again, they will develop a positive association with you interacting with their bowl.
Whether you bring home a puppy on March 23rd or any other day of the year, these are five of the best things you’ll want to teach your new pup.