Puppyhood is the most intense, condensed period of learning for dogs. It’s the time their brain undergoes the most development that will occur over their entire lifespan.
According to Dr. Bruce Fogle, D.V.M., M.R.C.V.S. “If a young dog is ‘superstimulated,’ if it hears loud noises, sees flashing lights, has to balance itself on an inclined plane for a few minutes each day when he is very young, he will grow up to have a larger brain with more cells, bigger cells, and more interconnections between them....If a dog is deprived of stimulation, he will have a smaller brain. We can influence the development of the dog’s brain, we can influence his mind by providing him with the best environment possible when he is a new born pup.”
It’s crucial that they learn as much as possible during this phase so that they grow into happy, smart, capable adult dogs. Unfortunately, too many owners quarantine their dogs to the house, and/or allow their puppies to just frolic about freely in the house without any of the rules, boundaries or limitations that they will need later in life. Many times I've interviewed new clients and seen them watch their dogs chew on a chair leg, or put their paws on the table and they just sit there and watch. Just because he’s a bundle of cuteness does not mean he doesn’t need to learn now, or he'll never be allowed out of the crate later.
Imagine if we just let kids be kids their entire childhood. If we excused every potential bad behavior, or neglected to teach them anything, we would be setting them up for failure. Yet with puppies we all too often think that we should just enjoy our cute little furry babies while they are young, we can always train them later. We do it for us, not for them.
I heard a couple awesome analogies that really drive this point home for me. I don’t usually like to equate dogs with human children because they have a whole different psychology, but in this case it works. If we didn’t teach our kids structure, didn’t teach them reading and writing, speech, coloring in the lines, and all the crucial lessons they learn in their first formative years, they would be at an incredibly higher risk for developing problem behaviors as adults. And so it goes with dogs, only for dogs these first formative years are squeezed into months. Never forget that your puppy will very soon be a fully grown adult dog. Their brains are fully developed by 5-7 months. Another analogy is to compare it to investing. If you invest in a stock early on the dividends are much bigger than if you wait on it. Now's the time to make the big investment.
In the natural order of things mother dogs don’t really see their puppies the way we do. They see them as future pack members. Training starts from day 1. Practice great leadership from the very beginning and you will enjoy a lifetime of happiness together, much more trouble free.
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Tip 1: 100 new things in your first 100 days together. Water, lights, sirens, pots and pans, thunder, parties, and especially other friendly well mannered dogs.
Tip 2: Take lots and lots and LOTS of pictures and videos!
Tip 3: Your puppy kindergarten class should be about work, not about play. Find plenty of suitable times for your puppy to play with others his age. Also, make sure training isn’t just usual obedience training. Make sure you learn to understand how dogs think as much as humanly possible.
Tip 4: Check out my article on where to start in your training!
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