Raising a new pet is an exciting adventure. If you’re going for a purebred show or working dog, however, there’s also quite a bit of work involved. The amount of time necessary to train your pup depends on its breed, but generally speaking it takes about two years from birth until the dog enters service. That means you have plenty of time to get ready — if you know what you’re in for.
In this article we’ll examine how long it takes to socialize a new puppy and teach him basic commands. We’ll start with the basics, like learning how to feed a hungry pup, then move onto more advanced topics such as house-breaking and leash walking. Finally, we’ll look at some tips that can help make the process easier and safer.
Keep reading to find out when puppies are best suited for adoption.
The first few weeks
When most people think of raising dogs they envision dogs living indoors playing with toys, running around their yards, sleeping and eating food prepared by humans. This may be true of many breeds, but not all dogs were meant to live in households where human beings prepare meals and do the laundry. Some animals, particularly those raised in the wild, need to spend their early lives interacting with other creatures and moving freely outdoors.
Newly adopted pets usually go into foster homes for several days after being brought home so that potential owners can see them in action and decide whether the animal suits their lifestyle. During these initial days, adopters should try to interact with the dog as little as possible because it will learn about you through osmosis during that period. While the owner sleeps and eats, the dog observes everything he sees and hears. It learns about you through body language, scent, sounds and even pheromones.
During the same period, it’s important for the dog to become accustomed to the household environment. Make sure you introduce yourself calmly and slowly, letting the dog sniff you without touching it. Don’t rush introductions, since dogs who feel insecure tend to act up. Afterward, let the dog explore the space on his own while you sleep. You can return to check on your canine roommate later, but don’t interrupt the dog’s exploration unless it starts to behave aggressively toward you or another person.
During this phase, which lasts about three days, the new family member should eat whatever food is provided. Puppies are very small and fragile, so keep them away from any foods that might harm them. For example, raw meat causes salmonella poisoning, which could prove fatal to young dogs. Once things quiet down, begin weaning the dog off of the bottle/bowl diet. By day four the transition should be complete, and the dog will likely seek out food from its new family members.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, read on to discover why certain breeds require extra care.
If you adopt an adult dog instead of a puppy, you’ll face different challenges. Adult dogs are usually less sensitive than pups are and harder to housebreak. They also have already established personalities and habits, so it’s often easier to change them rather than trying to mold a puppy into a particular personality type. On the flip side, adult dogs have lived outside of the shelter longer than puppies, which makes it easier for them to adapt to life indoors. However, adult dogs have been domesticated, too, and may still depend on humans to fulfill routine needs.
From the puppy stage through adulthood
After a week of observation, the adopter should conclude whether the dog meets expectations. At this point, the dog has probably learned enough about himself to start making decisions about daily activities. He knows how to sit, stay and lay down, and he should have started exploring the surroundings on his own. If the dog hasn’t shown interest in anything yet, the adopter should wait until the next day before returning to observe again.
Once the dog begins showing signs of comfort, it’s time to introduce him to the rest of the family. Before doing so, though, remember that dogs are pack animals. They rely heavily on their ability to communicate with and understand others. Since everyone in the family is part of the “pack,” it’s essential that each member understands his role and treats every interaction as a chance to bond with the newcomer. Each member of the family must share responsibility for finding a balance between protecting and providing leadership for the dog.
One way to accomplish this goal is by using a crate. When the dog is confined to a crate (or kennel), he feels secure and safe. In addition, crates are ideal for housetraining older dogs. Dogs shouldn’t have access to water and food whenever they want it, but when left alone in the house they sometimes relieve themselves in inappropriate places, such as furniture, carpets or floorboards. Crates provide a place for the dog to eliminate safely.
Dogs can also benefit from obedience classes, especially if they’ve had extensive exposure to humans prior to adoption. Classes can improve communication skills and teach new tricks, such as sitting, staying, laying down and coming back to you. Even better, some trainers offer classes specifically designed to meet the needs of specific breeds.
Next, we’ll discuss one of the most challenging experiences for many dog lovers — training. Read on to learn about common problems associated with training.
Training isn’t just fun – it’s also essential for teaching your dog good behavior. Training sessions last anywhere from fifteen minutes to several hours, depending on the intensity of the class and the goals it sets. Most classes include exercises aimed at improving your relationship with your dog, such as calming signals, verbal cues and physical releases. Others focus on specific behaviors, such as jumping up on guests or greeting strangers.
Socialization and training
It may seem strange to train a dog that doesn’t obey commands. But training involves rewarding desirable behavior and punishing negative behavior. With positive reinforcement training, called operant conditioning, rewards and punishments are used simultaneously, resulting in faster learning and stronger behavioral patterns. Operant conditioning is based on the principle that behavior occurs only in response to external factors. Therefore, it’s essential to reward appropriate behavior and reinforce it with praise or a gentle touch. Punishing undesirable behavior requires that the trainer remain calm and avoid eye contact. A firm voice is sufficient punishment, and it’s advisable to use a hand signal to indicate corrections.
Although it seems counterintuitive, punishment also works as an incentive. As long as it’s done consistently, punishment teaches the dog that undesired behavior results in unpleasant consequences. Unfortunately, it’s easy for punishers to slip into the habit of punishing any misbehavior, regardless of severity. To prevent this problem, it’s helpful to establish rules beforehand. For instance, setting ground rules regarding acceptable noise levels helps people who prefer peace and quiet.
Most professional trainers agree that socializing a dog is vital to successful training. Socializing consists of exposing the dog to a variety of situations, including interactions with people, objects, sights, smells and sounds. One way to achieve this is through free-ranging exercise, in which the dog explores various areas of the yard, neighborhood or park. Another method is to walk your dog regularly in public spaces, or enroll him in agility or fetch competitions.
Since socialization is an ongoing process, experts recommend starting training when the dog is younger and incorporating it into everyday routines. For instance, teach the dog to greet visitors properly by taking them on walks past your neighbors’ houses. Eventually, you’ll want your dog to perform certain tasks, such as obeying leash laws and responding to designated words or phrases.
Puppies are adorable, cuddly little balls of fur. Yet they can inflict serious injuries on people and other animals alike. Dog bites result in nearly 800 deaths annually, mostly children under five years old. Children are especially vulnerable because they play roughly, climb trees and run erratically. Experts advise keeping dangerous animals away from kids and training your dog to bite defensively, which allows the animal to bite hard enough to ward off attackers. Other ways to protect children from biting dogs include avoiding close proximity, wearing gloves while handling the dog and always supervising young children with dogs present.