You can always teach an old dog new tricks, but the best window for learning in a dog’s life starts around 3 weeks of age and lasts until about 20 weeks.
Through that time, puppies get their first experiences with:
If these first experiences come in positive environments, without fear, puppies will have a positive baseline for most experiences through their lives.
If puppies miss these experiences or they come with a lot of negative connections, it can pave the way for aggression, fear and anxiety later in your dog’s life.
With these tips, you and your puppy can have the best opportunity for positive socialization and a fun, happy, outgoing life together.
Meet new people
Introduce your puppy to new people as often as possible.
Put particular emphasis on setting up pleasant encounters with unfamiliar men, well-behaved children and, of course, other dogs.
The dog park is an easy place to find all three – with other dog owners trying to achieve the same goals you are.
You can count on lots of activity at these off-leash dog parks in The Beaches:
- Cherry Beach (at the foot of Cherry Street, just south of Unwin Avenue)
- Ashbridges Bay and Boardwalk (located along Lake Shore Boulevard next to Woodbine Beach)
- Ward’s Island, and pet-friendly ferry (from the Toronto Ferry Docks at Queens Quay and Bay Street)
- Greenwood Dog Park (Dundas and Greenwood)
- Cassels Ave Playground (near Woodbine and Gerrard)
- Monarch Park (south of Danforth and Coxwell)
- Merril Bridge Road Park (enter on Aldergrove Ave, near Woodbine and Danforth)
Touching and personal interaction
Young puppies should be cuddled and handled every day, by multiple people.
Keep the contact gentle and pleasant for your puppy.
- Put your finger near or around their mouth
- Hold the puppy in different positions – on their back, side, standing, sitting, etc.
- Tickle their paws
- Pet their back and sides
- Scratch their ears
- Pet their head
- Approach your dog from different angles – from behind, front, side, etc.
Learning the boundaries of comfortable play and interaction early on will go a long way to encouraging a puppy to be gentle when they grow up.
Sounds don’t have to be scary
Lots of adult dogs have what pet parents sometimes refer to as quirky attributes. Negative reactions to sound shouldn’t be among those.
Your dog shouldn’t have to hide from the vacuum or run away from the blender.
Be close and encouraging when loud sounds happen. Pet and cuddle your puppy so they don’t associate the sound with fear, but with positive energy.
Try distracting your puppy with play and a favourite toy to avoid the fear of loud sounds.
Your puppy has to learn to be alone
Your puppy has to be as comfortable away from people as they are with people.
Separation anxiety can be a huge problem in older dogs, so learning to be away from people early can have a huge impact on your dog’s overall quality of life.
Start by leaving your dog in their crate away from the family for a short time, and gradually increase that time over a period of months. They will become comfortable with the fact that you always return, and if you bring treats, they’ll be even happier.
Don’t teach aggression
Using constant reprimanding in obedience training tells them dominating behaviour is appropriate.
This leads to aggression.
Instead, focus on rewarding good behaviour to create the right kind of connections with rules and trust.
Puppy obedience training at our storefront is holistic and positive. Your puppy will love it, you’ll love it, and you’ll have a better relationship because of it.
Nipping and biting
Redirect your puppy’s biting with toys.
When your puppy bites too hard during play, say ouch loud enough for them to notice and stop the game immediately. This is the correct way to stop biting behaviour.
Never squeeze your puppy’s mouth shut, yell or hold them down in an aggressive manner.
This is scary and usually makes biting behaviour worse.
Puppies under 5-6 months explore the world with their mouths (kind of like human babies). Dogs over 9-12 months are considered adolescents and should no longer be play biting.
Socializing is a positive and fun activity for you and your dog.
You’re going to have a great life together, and we’re happy to be a small part of it.