In this article I am going to give you the 3 Biggest Secrets to successful puppy raising and training. If you focus on the following 3 things with your new puppy, I guarantee you will be well on your way to having an amazing dog!
Sleep Is Key!
Puppies need between 18 and 20 hours of sleep every day until they are close to a year old. Most of their puppy energy is going into growth and development at this stage which doesn’t leave a lot of energy left over for being awake and making good choices. The majority of puppies we train are significantly sleep deprived and a sleep deprived puppy is a puppy who is not capable of good behavior or exercising control. What an overtired puppy commonly looks like is what I like to call “Piranha Mode” meaning as the puppy gets tired, their teeth come out.
Sleep is the first priority in puppy training because without adequate sleep, even the best toys, treats, or training techniques won’t work consistently to combat unwanted puppy behaviors like biting. We recommend a 1:2 ratio of awake time to crate napping time until about 6 months of age and then switching to a 2:2 ratio. In other words, for every hour your puppy is awake until 6 months old, they will need to follow it with about 2 hours of nap time. We recommend most of those naps happen in their crate because your puppy will get more restful sleep with less interruptions. This also helps your puppy get comfortable in their crate more quickly as it becomes a regular part of their day where they can go to relax and rest.
Ditch the Food Bowl
Hand feeding your puppy’s meals as a part of socialization and training is a great way to make use of a daily necessity to help positively shape your puppy’s behavior. This automatically gives you 3 opportunities every day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to interact with your puppy in a purposeful way while teaching them the skills they need to be a successful adult dog and while also building a relationship where you become associated with good things.
Feeding your puppy in a bowl on the ground is such a wasted opportunity! Using your puppy’s food you can build engagement (aka eye contact and focus on you) which will help teach your puppy to pay attention to you instead of all the other distractions, reward them for potty training success, practice obedience commands like polite leash walking and sitting to be pet, and expose them in a positive way to new environments, sights, sounds, objects, and important experiences like being brushed and groomed or going to the vet.
Be Proactive Not Reactive
The most common reason people reach out for puppy training help is because they don’t know how to stop their puppy from doing “insert annoying puppy behavior here”. The problem with this question is that the real answer is to stop waiting for the puppy to do something wrong to give them any feedback. We recommend being very proactive and finding as many opportunities throughout the day to tell your puppy they’re making a good choice or practicing good behavior and reward it! If you spend more of your interactions with your puppy showing them what you want and rewarding them for making good choices, you will ultimately spend much less time having to correct or redirect them when they make bad choices.
A puppy is developmentally just a baby and they don’t know yet what the right behavior is, so it’s your job as a puppy owner to help them understand which behaviors you like and will produce positive rewards. It can be as simple as rewarding your puppy for laying calmly by your side while watching squirrels run around outside or for NOT barking when someone knocks at the door or the UPS truck drives up. Reward your puppy proactively for the things that they do that you DON’T want them to stop doing and you will spend very little timing trying to figure out how to stop any unwanted behavior.
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Happy Puppy Training!