- Growth Stages in Puppies (Many people consider a dog mature at 2 years, but with our breed, the Doberman, it seems like three years in when they get there)
- Critical Periods in Puppy Development
- Incomplete listing of things that are poison to your puppy
- House Training Tips
- Crate Training (be sure to scroll all the way down, they have specific instructions on this article)
- A listing of all sorts of link in regards to puppies
- Socialization strategies
- Tips about your new puppy
The Very Beginnings, Crate Training:
I will be going over some things that may not have been mentioned in the article that I linked to above. These are the things that I personally do.
Training of one sort or another begins right away with the puppy. If you haven't prepared a crate/den sleeping space, I do strongly suggest that you prepare one. My preference is usually a crate near my bed with puppies. Later on, I will get them used to sleeping in different places, but they are used to being with a litter or their mom most recently. I also have a soft blanket or dog bed ready. I like them to snuggle up, so I usually provide a thick blanket that I have found at the thrift store. Also please have more than one backup blanket ready, just in case an accident occurs in the crate, and we will touch on some house training things in a bit.
Crating (done correctly) does several very important things for later on in the dogs life as well as immediately for the puppy.
- Beginning the crating process right away prepares them for vet visits, especially if there is a surgical or emergency vet visit later on. You want them to not be crated for the very first time in a time of much stress and confusion.
- Puppies learn to decompress at home and learn how to observe the environment while not always needing to be in the middle of it (crating is not just for while you are away, and it leads to commands that can do something similar without the crate later on.
- The crate is a safe den area that gives them a comfortable place to sleep and get their rest away from the middle of everything. This is especially important with puppies. They need regular sleep and for quite awhile. Like human toddlers, they do not tend to put themselves to sleep to get this rest.
- While you are away, the crate will a management strategy to keep them away from wires, flooring, chewing up and ingesting things they should not, and other things that may do them harm unsupervised. With puppies, I try to limit them to two hours or less if it is nap time in the crate (unless they are still sleeping, and by all means let them).
The Very Beginnings, House Training with Crate Training:
By having the puppy crate near my bed, I can hear if they get uncomfortable at night and need to go to the bathroom. Sometimes they will fake you out and just want to get out of the crate to be near you. In the beginning though, if I hear them whimpering or crying (and they have not just gone outside), I will pick them up (so pee and poop do not, hopefully, get spread through the house as their bladders are tiny) and rush them to the door that we will normally be using to let them out later. If your puppy has been having trouble holding you can schedule times closer together, or have a spare blanket next to you to pick the puppy up in as you race to the door. I also suggest having slippers and a robe handy for when the time comes in the middle of the night. Some puppies do sleep through the night (11 PM to 6 AM), but most do not. Remember their bladder is still developing, and they are growing at an alarming speed. This causes waste build up to be more frequent during the puppy stage.
If you read the directions in the above house training article, you can see the crate can be used to properly train your puppy. For instance, if you bring your puppy out and they are way too distracted to pee or poop, then when you come in (after an appropriate amount of time...I usually give them 5 minutes at least to do their business), you can pop them in the crate and then time them (I usually time for 20 minutes in between) and then let them out again. This tends to cut down on accidents in the house, but you might have one or two in the crate in the beginning. This is why breeders, trainers, and veterinarians usually suggest a smaller crate or a crate where an area can be blocked off. The smaller the area (you want it so they can comfortably lie down and nap) the less likely they are going to want to soil it, which gives you a little time.
One last tip, that you will also find in the article, if the puppy has already gone out and it is time to put them in the crate (for the night, or because I am about to do something I don't want puppy involved in) resist taking them out EVERY time they whine or bark. This will become a cycle. If I want to take them out (and I am pretty sure they do not need to go again), I will wait for that to stop before I open the crate door. This gets us ready for later on in life and impulse control.
Food and Training:
You will notice in the above linked crate training article that it is recommended that feeding occurs in the crate. That is because this starts a perception of comfort and enjoyment in the crate. This is one of the behavioral (training does not work well unless behavior and perception are factored in) parts of training a dog (vs commands linked to performance and communication). The dog controls their behavior and perception to a situation, but we can help that along. Food is usually the most common source of starting that mindset in puppies (we will go over other ways to influence this later on).
I start a puppy out by hand feeding at least one meal a day. This helps:
- Get them used to me handling and being around their food.
- Let's them begin to understand that I bring the resources and am therefore valuable.
- Helps the bonding process.
- Let's you know if an early resource guarding problem may be up and coming.
- Also helps prevent a possible resource guarding problem, by letting them know you are giving them the food. In other words, you are not their competition.
- This also sets your puppy up for lure training coming up shortly.
- You want to get your puppy used to a leash and collar. I do this by having them drag around a cheap nylon leash (you can cut the handle off so it doesn't get stuck so much). NOTE: NEVER LEAVE A LEASH ON AN UNSUPERVISED PUPPY. IT IS AN INGESTION HAZARD AND A CHOKING HAZARD.
- With a leash dragging while you are supervising them, you can gently step on the leash to stop them or bend down to gently pull them away from something.
- Supervising a puppy this way also teaches them not to try to run off to get away with something they have grabbed. This is because they are learning early on that you can catch them without chasing them. This prevents a lot of problems later on.
- I sometimes tether them to me with a leash as I go out and about to do my chores. This comes a bit after they are used to dragging a leash around in the first place. Tethering means I am either holding the handle of the leash OR I have attached the leash to a belt loop or something like that. NOTE: DO NOT TETHER A PUPPY TO A PIECE OF FURNITURE UNSUPERVISED. ALSO DEPENDING ON THE SIZE OF THE PUPPY, THEY MAY BE ABLE TO PULL THAT PIECE OF FURNITURE WITH THEM, AND SCARE THEMSELVES DURING THE FEAR PERIOD.
- When I am working on the computer, I will often have a puppy bed or pen set up with toys and blankets. If it is the bed without a penned in area, then I have them tethered to me on a leash. If you do this, please be aware there are cords around you that you want be sure the puppy can not get to if they want to. Puppies can be quiet and sneaky when you think they are asleep, and their teeth are sharp enough that they can get themselves into a lot of trouble around wires and such.