Everyone always says that the breed doesn’t matter – it is all in how you raise them! But, what does that really mean? Raising a puppy to be a well behaved, well socialized part of society is much more complex than most people realize. Everyone understands that puppies require housebreaking, and might chew your shoes… But, there are much more complex and fundamental needs that a puppy requires in order to truly become the perfect pooch you have always wanted.
One of the most important fundamental needs of your puppy, is exercise. This may seem simple enough – “I have a big back yard, puppy will have plenty of room to exercise!” However, if you get up and walk from your living room to your back yard – are you exercising? Your puppy isn’t going to exercise itself just because it is outdoors instead of indoors. It may sniff around and explore a little, but without interaction it will likely be bored and cry to come back in – never having exercised at all. Adopting a puppy means the commitment to provide healthy exercise and play for your puppy. Long walks, time playing fetch, etc EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Most puppies need a minimum of one hour of exercise twice a day, every day. If you adopt a high energy/high drive dog – it may need even more than that! Dogs that are not getting adequate exercise often develop a variety of behavioral issues from destructive boredom behaviors, to more serious issues like taking their pent up energy out as aggression on other animals or even people!
The second major need your puppy has, is structure and boundaries. When you bring home a baby puppy, EVERYTHING it does is cute! It is hilarious if it attacks your shoelaces as you walk by, or tries to take your sock while you are putting in on in the morning – But fast forward a few months, your puppy is suddenly 50+lbs and stealing your son’s socks every morning as he gets dressed, or tripping you trying to attack your shoelaces as you walk by. Start with consistent structure and discipline on unwanted behaviors from an early age – remembering that behaviors that are cute now, may not be so cute in the future. I also highly recommend either reading books or articles or watching YouTube videos on basic obedience training, or signing up for some obedience classes – following basic commands like sit, stay, heel, and come can truly make every dog much more manageable as they become larger and more difficult to control – especially out in public.
The third, and perhaps most important, thing that your puppy needs is SOCIALIZATION! Now, what does this mean? It means your dog needs to be consistently exposed to new people, animals, and places. You should have the time to take puppy out of your home environment at least a few times a week – go to a pet store, a public park, anywhere where there are new people, animals, sounds and smells. Dogs that are not properly socialized in the developmental period of their life (the first 18 months) can develop socialization problems that can be as minor as being fearful or anxious out in public, to as severe as fear based aggression towards people, and aggression towards other animals. A lack of socialization is the root cause of a large majority of aggression in dogs. This fundamental part of raising a puppy that becomes a well polished member of society is frequently overlooked and the price you could pay later on is the most detrimental of all.
Finally, your puppy needs intellectual challenge and stimulation. There are so many ways your dog can have healthy mental stimulation – basic obedience classes and learning new tricks and commands is one simple way to provide for this need. Additionally, you can play games with your puppy that exercise their mind – make them sit and stay or have a family member hold them and hide a treat in front of them then release them and allow them to “find” it. Once they understand the game, start hiding the treats when they are in another room and make them use their noses and brains to find them. Get creative and have fun! There are also a variety of special puzzle toys made for dogs to stimulate their minds – available at any local pet store or online.
If you made it through this article – you are probably already a notch above a majority of new puppy owners! Remember these tips and utilize them throughout your puppies development – never lose sight of their importance in raising the perfect, polite, balanced pup your family has dreamed of!