Five tips on proper puppy socialisation and behaviour training

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Make your new puppy feel at home from day one with proper socialisation and behavioural training.

Welcoming a new puppy into the home can be exciting, but settling in can come with challenges for everyone involved. Taking the right steps to acclimatise your puppy to its new environment can help kick-start basic obedience and create a positive path for further behaviour and socialisation training.

1. Introduce your puppy to its new home

The first day with your new puppy can be overwhelming for both your family and for the puppy. Take the time to do proper introductions with your new puppy to foster positive bonds in the household. Puppy training, which should start on day one, will help you both understand each other better.

Take the following steps during the first day to help your puppy feel comfortable in its new environment:

  1. Introduce your puppy to family members and the home early in the day.
  2. Introduce the puppy to its sleeping area.
  3. Show the pup the outdoor space or area where you expect it to do its business.
  4. Give your puppy plenty of time to explore its new environment while you supervise.
  5. Start using your pup’s name so it gets used to paying attention when you call its name.

2. Help the puppy settle in on the first night

The first night can be scary for your puppy, but taking steps to create a safe and cosy environment can help it settle in. Leave a faint light on, and leave the radio playing to help mask any potentially scary new sights or sounds your puppy may experience. Place a few toys and an old T-shirt in its crate or sleeping space to create a warm, cosy and safe place.

Remember: It’s been a big day for both of you, so cries for attention are normal, even for the first few nights. Resist the temptation to immediately comfort your puppy when you hear it cry. Although it’s natural for puppies to cry in a new environment, only check in when the crying stops, so they know you’re not far away. This way, you’re not making a direct connection between crying and receiving immediate attention. Instead, only reward good behaviour so your puppy learns that being quiet gets your attention.

The use of dog pheromones can help some puppies adjust to new surroundings faster – ask your pet health professional for more advice.

3. Start toilet training right away

Good behaviour is built on a good training program, which means puppies must be house-trained as early as possible. Puppies should go outside after:

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Playing
  • When excited

After any of these events, take the puppy outside (or if you live in an apartment, to its pee mat or fake-grass box) so it learns where to go to relieve itself.

Reward good behaviour with positive reinforcement like praise words, pats and treats, but never punish what you don’t see. Simply clean up, don’t say anything or don’t rub your puppy’s nose in its mess or smack the pup – it doesn’t help with training, and yelling only makes it avoid and fear you.

4. Socialise your puppy

Socialising your puppy as soon as possible will help it fit into a human environment. Socialisation is an important step in ensuring your puppy properly interacts with other humans, dogs and new situations.

Properly socialising your puppy can be tricky, but the following tips can help you make a good start:

  1. Your tone of voice, body language and stress levels affect how your pet reacts, so always set a good example and remain calm.
  2. Introduce new experiences like children, shopping trolleys and lawn mowers early so the pet is not afraid of these later in life.
  3. Meeting other pets can be stressful, so allow them to observe each other at a safe distance and never force them together.

Make sure your puppy is up to date with vaccinations and parasite protection before it starts mingling with other dogs. Ask your vet when it’s safe for your pup to socialise with other dogs.

5. Make the vet visit a positive experience

With all of the strange smells, animals and people, a visit to the vet can be stressful for your puppy and for you, but it doesn’t have to be. Important preparations like vaccinations, worming treatments or parasite prevention and microchipping usually occur during the first vet visit, so to limit stress, try to make vet visits during puppy-hood a fun experience.

Finally, if you experience difficulties with your pup’s behaviour, you may need a professional behaviourist. Ask your vet for advice on behaviour training – they may even be able to recommend a good behaviourist near you.

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