Thinking about adopting a new puppy?
Whether you’re planning to rescue a puppy (please rescue!), or you've thoroughly researched a responsible breeder to supply you with a pure bred pup, you’ll need to study up on the developmental stages of a baby dog. If your puppy misses key developmental experiences like socialization and training, they may develop problematic behavior. Your preparation and education is key, and a huge responsibility!
If you do your best to keep your puppy active, healthy, and safe, you’ll be giving your puppy the best chance they have to become a friendly and well-behaved dog. The more effort you put into your puppy, the greater the chance they’ll mature into a great dog!
Ideally, your puppy should be with their mother and litter until at least eight weeks of age. Like human children, puppies have stages of brain development during which they are the most impressionable. This critical learning period is in the first sixteen weeks of life, and if puppies are not positively socialized before this point, they may become guarded, shy, or aggressive to people and other animals.
After bringing your puppy home, it’s vital to start teaching them how you want them to behave. Puppies have a short attention span, so be patient in your training and keep sessions short and fun! Puppies respond best to gentle, consistent feedback and positive rewards. Try to limit negative feedback and instead use redirection to encourage welcome behavior. Puppies enter a ‘fear impact’ period around eight to eleven weeks, and negative experiences will shape how they behave in adulthood. Be cautious to keep your puppy in a stable environment. If your puppy becomes scared for any reason, kindly remove them from the situation. “Tough love” will just condition your puppy to be overwhelmed and fearful of new things. Be firm, but be kind.
Convince your pup the vet’s office is a fun place! Bring your puppy on regular trips to the vet and they’ll become more comfortable with strangers touching them. Be sure your veterinarian emphasizes ‘handling’, which helps condition your dog to relax and enjoy being touched all over their body. Dogs that aren’t properly conditioned to be comfortable being handled become very difficult to manage at the vet, groomer, and with strangers.
After receiving their second round of vaccinations around 12 weeks, puppies are allowed to enroll in a puppy training class. These classes are critical in socializing your dog and helping them meet other puppies and people in a positive environment! As soon as you get your puppy, research local puppy classes and make a reservation, so your puppy doesn’t miss out!
Be sure to structure your puppy’s time. Being crated all day will traumatize your dog. Puppies need to explore with their bodies and their mouths, to learn about the world through exposure, and to learn how to be a dog from other dogs. Short, consistent breaks throughout the day are good for your puppy to rest and recover, but long periods of isolation will damage your dog. If you need to leave your puppy, leave them with a responsible friend or daycare (after receiving all vaccinations).
Your puppy will start reaching sexual maturity around six months. Sterilizing your pet before they exhibit sexual behavior will help discourage dominance, roaming, marking, and reproductive related cancers. If you intend to breed your female dog in the future, ensure she does not become pregnant until after physical maturity, as an early pregnancy can lead to numerous health issues. However, we strongly suggest an early spaying to help the health of your animal and reduce the number of unwanted dogs in shelters.
Adopting a puppy is a huge responsibility and demands a great deal of time. If you cannot afford the time and money to consistently train and care for your puppy, it’s ultimately unethical to take a new pet into your home.
If you're ready for a puppy in your life, we suggest reading these articles: