Raising a Puppy
Raising a dog from puppy to mature adult is rewarding experience, but also pretty exhausting. Much like human babies, puppies tug at our heartstrings and we sometimes give into their whims. But, just as with humans, it is very easy to spoil a puppy and end up with an annoying pet instead of the sweet companion you wanted.
Puppies actively explore the world around them, which puts them at risk for injury or poisoning. Puppies, like all dogs, use their mouths to learn about items that interest them. If they mouth an object and like the taste or texture, they will continue to chew on it. If that object is a roach trap or electrical cord, your puppy's curiosity might prove fatal.
If you can't supervise your pup at al times, use baby gates or other barriers to create a large, confined space for her to play in. Try to choose a spot that people spend a lot of time in. The more time spent with family members, the more quickly and deeply your puppy will bond with them. Give her something soft to lie on, a few toys to play with, and a bowl of clean water.
People often ask pet experts when is the best time to begin training a puppy. Most experts agree that training should begin the moment your puppy enters your home. They aren't talking about learning to heel or sit and stay for long periods of time, but the fact that the first thing you must train your puppy to understand is that you are the boss. Usually, dog trainers refer to this as making yourself the "leader of the pack." Dogs are pack animals by nature, and therefore instinctively look to a leader for approval. If you don't make it clear that you are the leader, your pup may try to take that role. You don't have to be aggressive to assert your dominance. Small, subtle acts communicate your leadership more successfully than loud roughness. In fact, handling your puppy harshly will only make her afraid and diminish her ability to bond with you.
One of the first behaviors you can teach your puppy at a very young age is to sit. Place one hand on her chest, and the other on her rump. As you give the command to "sit," push down on her rump and up on her chest to guide her into a sitting position. Give her lots of verbal praise in a high-pitched voice, and perhaps a treat. Now, every time you feed her, make her sit before you put her bowl down. Trainers refer to this as the "nothing in life is free" technique. Your pup learns quickly that you control the food, and that she must please you in order to eat. This establishes your leadership in her eyes.
The key to raising the "best dog ever" is compassion, patience, and love. Give your puppy plenty of those things, and you'll reap the rewards for many years to come.
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