PUPPY LOVE ~ 10 Top Tips For Puppy Ownership
by Linda Boston Franke

If you’ve recently bought property in the country with a little land around you, you may be thinking about getting a dog. And if you’re thinking about getting a dog, you may be thinking, "Puppy!" There are some real advantages to getting your dog as a puppy. There’s nothing quite like that special bond you experience with your pet when that pet has been with you since its early childhood. And if your heart’s feeling a little rusty, no better way to burst it open at the seams than to watch your little one come bounding toward you when you call, just as hard and fast as its little legs can go.

Puppies are all about love, and affection, and cuddling. And they’re also all about chewing and shredding, and peeing and pooping, and howling because no-one is there to play with them. All in all, though, this is man’s best friend we’re talking about, not to be taken lightly. Your decision to engage in this most rewarding relationship from puppyhood can change your life.
Here are some helpful hints (we think so, anyway!) for puppy ownership:

1. Get your puppy in the warm weather, after the rainy season is over. In the west, that’s spring or summer. Potty training is so much more challenging in the rain and cold. Plus, your puppy needs time to play outside. Physical exercise is essential to healthy growth, as is the Vitamin D that is obtained directly from the sunshine.

2. Do your best to be consistent in everything you do with your puppy. Use the same words over and over again for the things you’re asking of your puppy. Keep puppy’s schedule regular -- feeding time, nap times, bed time, outside play time, potty outings, etc. Don’t think that if you sleep with your puppy one night, that puppy will be fine alone the next night. Consistency helps your puppy to learn ground-rules and boundaries, and to build confidence.

3. Always remember that puppies live in the here and now. Only scold a puppy for what it’s doing in the moment. If you come home and find your tax returns torn to shreds, and puppy asleep in the corner, forget the reprimand. It’s over! Next time, get your filing done ahead of time. And no rubbing puppy’s nose in his poop and saying "NO!" This simply teaches puppy that poop itself is a no, no -- not that it happened to be on your floor.

4. As you make corrections in your puppy’s behavior, move toward positive reinforcement rather than negative reforcement. Think "I want you to do this," rather than "I don’t want you to do that." A positive reinforcement approach can be effective with puppies because puppies truly want to please. This is one of their most marvelous qualities, and because they want to please, eventually the word "NO," in and of itself, will be enough negative reinforcement for your dog.

5. Crate training is highly recommended by many professionals. At the very least, get a crate for your puppy, put padding or a pillow inside, and let the puppy use the crate as its bed. The crate functions just like a den functions in the wild, and puppy’s instinctive nature will love warm, cozy space and the feeling of protection it gives. The crate makes it much easier to take puppy places in the car. And the crate can be used as a means for potty training, which brings us to our next tip:

6. There is some good news about puppies and and their elimination process, and that is that even young puppies will do their very best not to soil their "nest." When you begin house breaking your puppy, keep in mind that one thing you’re after is to give your puppy a bigger and bigger idea of what its "nest" is. You will want to do some research and then choose a house breaking method that seems best suited to your own situation, as there are many approaches and techniques. But keeping in mind that all methods involve this principle may help you in the implementation.

7. Be sure your puppy has a blocked off living space that it can call "home" that has something other than carpet or hardwood for flooring --  tile, vinyl or concrete flooring is ideal. This might be a kitchen or part of a kitchen, a laundry room, or a mud room. Accidents happen, and puppies can often detect the scent of a previous elimination even after it has been cleaned up. They will tend repeat the incident in the same spot. Cleaning up the surface so that there is no trace of scent left is much more difficult with carpet and hardwood, as they both tend to be so absorbent. Also, there are some products on the market that will help remove the odor completely from tile, vinyl, or concrete.

8. Once your puppy is immunized (usually at four months), make a specific plan to socialize your puppy, both with other people and other animals. This means inviting a variety of people of both genders to come over and visit your puppy, and also to arrange for your puppy to meet and interact with other dogs. Be certain that no food is present in the interaction. Some dogs get aggressive when food is around. But otherwise, most older dogs will sense the vulnerability of the puppy and be gentle and even solicitous. Reprimands from older dogs are usually harmless, and can make a valuable contribution to your puppy’s education.

9. Go to puppy class. Attending puppy class is a great way to get your puppy up to speed on basic commands that are universally used throughout the dog world, and also to help your puppy develop more poise and self confidence. Puppy class is also a great way to socialize your dog and get your dog more comfortable with going to new places. Check you local papers or ask your vet where to find a class for your puppy.

10. And our last tip: Arrange your schedule so that you can spend as much time with your puppy as possible. Maybe this means just letting your puppy be your vacation this year. Maybe it means taking a little extra time off from work, or re-arranging your work hours. Also once immunization is complete, you can use your crate to take your puppy with you when you go places, which will help socialize your puppy, and will give you more time together, too. Puppy-hood will go by in a flash, so don't miss a precious moment.

And ~ one final word of advice ~ keep your camera handy!

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