2017-11-10 / Pets

Puppy Headstart

By Phyllis Beasley, CP DT-KA Owner/Lead Trainer, Praise Dog! Training, LLC


Appropriate socialization is critical in a puppy’s development. Even though your puppy may not have finished his vaccinations, there are ways to introduce your puppy to new experiences and people. Here, Diane Farrar-Sanderson takes Lumi out for socialization while Lumi is safely confined in a shopping basket. Appropriate socialization is critical in a puppy’s development. Even though your puppy may not have finished his vaccinations, there are ways to introduce your puppy to new experiences and people. Here, Diane Farrar-Sanderson takes Lumi out for socialization while Lumi is safely confined in a shopping basket. For years, I’ve been teaching clients how to give their puppy a behaviorally healthy start. Soon I will get to practice what I preach. This weekend I will be picking up the first puppy I have had in 20 years. It’s exciting and scary, too.

Just as early childhood education gives our children a good head start in life, early puppy education can give our puppies a solid foundation for a happy, behaviorally healthy adulthood. Bringing home a puppy is a huge responsibility and we have a short window of time to shape our puppy’s future. Obviously, housetraining is a primary concern of new puppy owners. The problem I see most frequently with housetraining is when people turn their puppies loose outside and expect them to go to the bathroom. Puppies have short attention spans. They find all kinds of interesting things to explore outside and will forget entirely they need to pee...that is, until they come back inside.

Aeolus (or “Elo”) joins the Praise Dog! Training family soon. Track his training on his Facebook group called “Raising Aeolus.”Aeolus (or “Elo”) joins the Praise Dog! Training family soon. Track his training on his Facebook group called “Raising Aeolus.”
Always take your puppy outside on lead so you can supervise them and prevent them from getting distracted. Give the cue one time and reward with a treat when they go. Then give them a few more minutes in case they need to go twice.

In my professional opinion, crate training is a must. Crates are not cruel when used properly, and when a puppy is also provided plenty of time outside the crate with interactions and exercise. During the day, a puppy can stay in a crate for one hour per one month of life, plus one hour. A puppy that is three months old can comfortably stay in a crate for four hours.


Teach your puppy to enjoy being handled by pairing the handling with treats. This little German Shepherd puppy of Jill Doherty is learning that handling is pleasant. Teach your puppy to enjoy being handled by pairing the handling with treats. This little German Shepherd puppy of Jill Doherty is learning that handling is pleasant. I could write an entire article on crate training ( and maybe I will), but in short, a puppy that is crate trained is easier to housetrain and doesn’t get into trouble chewing inappropriately when you can’t watch him.

Raising a puppy is not just about housetraining, though. Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian and a founder of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, says that puppies should meet 100 people before they are four months old. Appropriate socialization will help your puppy become a social, confident adult.


Crate training is a great help for housetraining and prevents your puppy from getting into trouble. Mary Holton’s Cody loves his crate and goes in on his own. Crate training is a great help for housetraining and prevents your puppy from getting into trouble. Mary Holton’s Cody loves his crate and goes in on his own. There is more information in my April 11, 2014, Columbia Star article on puppy socialization. Even though your puppy has not completed its vaccinations, there are ways to safely provide appropriate socialization.

Invite people to your house to meet him. Have them give your puppy treats or his dinner kibble. Carry him or put him in a shopping basket and take him to stores that allow pets. This allows him to safely experience new environments.

Here’s the key to successful socialization: your puppy should enjoy it. Watch him carefully for signs he is afraid or overwhelmed and if he is, remove him from the situation and contact a reward-based trainer for assistance.

Much of the training you do with your young puppy prevents future behavior issues. Teach your puppy early that having people near his food bowl and toys is a good thing, and there is no reason to guard them. This may prevent food or toy aggression as he grows. Your puppy should associate your approach to his food bowl as a good thing.


Teach your puppy to happily give up a toy. Teoti Anderson teaches Fabbi toys are great, but that she can willingly give it up. Teach your puppy to happily give up a toy. Teoti Anderson teaches Fabbi toys are great, but that she can willingly give it up. A training mistake I hear from many people is they take the puppy’s food bowl away or put their hands in his food bowl. The correct way to teach your puppy not to guard his food is to drop something even better than his kibble, like a piece of chicken or soft treat, in the bowl while he is eating. This teaches him the approach of a person while he is eating predicts something even better.

To help teach him he doesn’t need to guard his toys, trade his toy for a treat, then give him back the toy. He will learn just because you take his toy away doesn’t mean he won’t get it back, and he gets a treat, too. You can pair your actions with a cue such as “Give.” If your puppy growls or attempts to bite you, immediately contact a reward-based trainer for assistance. This is not normal puppy behavior.


Housetraining should always be done on lead. Pictured is Judy Matras’s Tivo. Housetraining should always be done on lead. Pictured is Judy Matras’s Tivo. Get started now to teach your puppy not just to tolerate but to enjoy being handled all over. This will make clipping nails easier, and your vet and groomer will appreciate your training. Instead of simply touching or holding your puppy, we pair the handling with treats. This teaches him that handling is something to look forward to.

When your puppy is tired, touch each foot, including the back ones, and give him a treat after touching each foot. Handle his tail, give him a treat. Touch his ears, give him a treat. Touch his muzzle, give him a treat.

If you notice he is sensitive about being touched in a particular area, spend extra time touching there and treating. As he becomes comfortable with the handling, gradually increase the length of time you touch each area, always treating.

I have launched a public Facebook group to document the training of my new puppy. I invite you to like the page “Raising Aeolus” where I will share training videos and tips for raising a puppy.

Return to top