When you get a new puppy they are sooooo cute and adorable that it is easy to just spend your time cuddling, playing and watching them sleep. However those first few months up to 12 to 18 weeks is critical to their development and the best opportunity you can get to solve potential issues (barking, chewing, house soiling, digging, separation issues etc) before they occur. Most importantly it is really the only opportunity to ensure that your dog develops bite inhibition which is the thing that most drastically reduces the chances of them causing serious injury to others (dogs and people) throughout their life - so it's not an opportunity you want to miss.
Thinking about this I checked out just a couple of my references for the top priorities for puppy development and this is what I came up with:
Dr Ian Dunbar who started off the world wide phenomenon of puppy classes identifies 6 priorities for those of you with new puppies to concentrate on. They are:
1. Household etiquette including housetraining, chew toy training, teaching alternatives to barking and more as these problems are the #1 reason that dogs are put down or rehomed around the world.
2. Home Alone training so that your pet is comfortable if not happy to see you go is the aim. You want a dog that is comfortable being on his own and able to occupy himself appropriately (by your standards not his). So many pups come home to lots of attention and time with the family and then the holidays end and the pup is deserted for 8 - 12 hours with no warning and no preparation. Hardly surprising they get into things we don't want them to or develop anxiety about being left alone.
3. Socialisation with people - particularly but not only before 12 weeks of age. You want a confident and friendly family pet don't you?
4. Dog to dog socialisation - between three months and eighteen weeks of age to establish reliable bite inhibition and forever after to maintain friendliness to other dogs.
5. Sit and settle down commands - these cues mean you can ask your pup to do something simple that stops them from getting up to all sorts of mischief instead of just yelling no after they've started.
6. Bite Inhibition - a priority. This develops by about eighteen weeks of age. A soft mouth is the single most important quality for any dog. Hopefully, your dog will never bite or fight, but if he does, well-established bite inhibition ensures that your dog causes little if any damage. This is really the only chance in his life to establish this - so don't miss the opportunity.
Just to check out what others say I pulled Robyn Archer and Bill Gorton's book '1000 of the Best Dog Training Secrets' off my book shelf. They identified their puppy developmental priorities as ensuring:
* Confidence in the environment.
* Confidence in themselves.
* Confidence in leadership (that's you).
* Acceptance of new objects.
* Accepting new challenges.
* Acceptance of crate and boundaries.
* Learning to fly solo (that's spending time comfortably alone)
* Learning to chew on the proper toys.
* Learning the concept of housebreaking.
Future posts will go into how to deal with a range of the issues identified in this post. In meantime I highly recommend that new and prospective puppy owners check out DogStarDaily at http://www.dogstardaily.com/ and particularly the Training Textbook. You can also download (for free) copies of Dr Ian Dunbar's two original books 'Before You GetYour Puppy' and 'After You Get Your Puppy' from the site - http://www.dogstardaily.com/free-downloads which if I can only get people to read two books are the two I would recommend without hesitation.
Whitley is a great young Lab cross looking for a new family to love.