If you are getting or have just gotten a new puppy, you should consider the “Doggie’s Rule of Twelve.” Your dog’s early experiences will shape his personality, how he sees the world around him and how he deals with stress. Give your Doggie the best possible start by making sure he has early, safe and POSITIVE experiences with a variety of people, places, surfaces, sounds and temperatures.
Doggie’s Rule of Twelve
- Experienced 12 different surfaces: wood, woodchips, carpet tile, cement, linoleum, grass, wet grass, dirt, mud, puddles grates, uneven surfaces, on a table, on a chair, etc.
- Played with 12 different objects: fuzzy toys, balls, hard toys, funny sounding toys, wooden items, paper or cardboard items, milk jugs (all under supervision), etc.
- Experienced 12 different locations: front yard, other people’s homes, schoolyard, lake, pond, basement, elevator, moving car, garage, laundry room, stores, stairs, etc.
- Met and played with 12 new people: (outside of family) include children, adults (male and female) elderly adults, people in wheelchairs, walkers, people with canes and umbrellas, crutches, hats, sunglasses, men with deep voices, etc.
- Exposed to 12 different noises: (ALWAYS keep positive and watch Doggie’s comfort level-we don’t want the Doggie scared) garage door opening, doorbell, children playing, babies screaming, big trucks, Harley motorcycles, skateboards, washing machine, shopping carts, clapping, pan dropping, vacuums, lawnmowers, etc.
- Exposed to 12 fast–moving objects: (Don’t allow to chase) skateboards, rollerblades, bikes, motorcycles, cars, people running, cats running, scooters, children running, squirrels, etc.
Never force your dog to approach anyone or anything; let the dog explore on their terms, quietly praising and encouraging when the dog boldly approaches. When your Doggie seems uncertain, allow the dog to proceed at her own pace or to move away. Then encourage your dog to approach at their own rate again. Keep in mind that you’re not trying to overwhelm your Doggie with new experiences. Quantity is not better than quality! Give your dog lots of downtime after a new experience to recuperate and rest in a safe, quiet place.
Nipping and Mouthing: All puppies normally use their mouths to explore their environment, to initiate play, and during play, to indicate displeasure, and to defend themselves from frightening things. Puppies need to learn bite inhibition. That is, they need to learn to control the strength of their jaws and learn not to use their mouth on people—but if they ever do, they should do it softly. If they nip to invite you to play, accidentally during play, or when they are just exploring their world, say ‘Ouch’ and take your attention away the second that your puppy nips. Walk away, or just ignore him. After he calms down, come back and interact again. Offer him a toy to use with his mouth. Many repetitions are required at first. Reward non-mouthy behavior by continuing to interact and play with him using toys for his mouth. DO NOT respond to mouthing by pushing, hitting, shoving, yelling, pinching muzzles, etc. That will make him hand shy and will often make nipping worse.
Exposure to Other Animals: Puppies don’t have their full immune system prepared till later in life, so for now, avoid dog parks and all unknown dogs. However, it is good for puppies to meet a socially appropriate, healthy adult dog. Always supervise this interaction and if the puppy is not enjoying it, or the adult dog is not patient and tolerant, separate the dogs immediately. Puppies can benefit from living with or being exposed to cats/kittens at a very young age, as well.
Provide Toys: A variety of toys that are rotated for something new each day: ball, hard plastic toys, soft toys, squeaky toys. Be sure the toys are hardy and do not present a choking hazard with any loose pieces that can be bitten off.
Housetraining Basics: To housetrain your puppy, follow these guidelines. Take your dog outside on a leash immediately after eating. Also, take your dog out if he shows signs of needing to go out—circling, whining, sniffing the ground. Praise your dog quietly with ‘Good dog’ when he does go. When housetraining, your dog should never be out of your sight. If you catch your puppy in the middle of an accident in the house, simply interrupt him by clapping your hands and saying ‘Ah, outside,‘ and then, attaching a leash and taking him directly outside. Praise him if he finishes outside. Never punish or scold a dog for a housetraining accident. Doing so will slow down progress and make your dog more likely to sneak off to out of your presence to go to the bathroom. Simply interrupt wrong behaviors and redirect your dog to the correct behavior. Once he has finished, the opportunity to teach him is gone. Always clean accidents with an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle or Simple Solution. Regular carpet cleaners alone on pet accidents won’t adequately remove the urine/fecal material and that may encourage the dog to go again on that spot. In general, beginning at around 3 months, puppies can hold their bladders for one hour equal to their age in months. So, a 3-month old pup may be able to hold it for three hours at a stretch during the day.
Michael M. Neal is a graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Education with a Major in Mathematics and a minor in Biological Sciences. He is an avid pet owner and nature lover. He is the owner of The Critter Café pet salon that offers grooming, boarding, daycare, obedience training and pet supplies on Marco Island.