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New Puppy

Deciding Which Type of Puppy
The breed, type, size, activity level, hair color, hair length, and sex of your prospective puppy are personal choices and best left entirely up to you and your family. Once you have all agreed on a choice, go to your local humane society or dog training school to look for and "test-drive" at least six adult dogs of the type that you have selected. Test-driving adult dogs will teach you more about what to expect from a puppy than any book or video. Also, the experience of test-driving will ensure you know how to teach and control adult dogs before you get your puppy. Really, the process of choosing a dog is not much different from choosing a car. First, you need to learn to drive, and second, you want to choose a car that looks and feels right to you.

You will probably have read lots of well-meaning advice from pet professionals that advise you, for example, not to get certain breeds if you have children, not to get large dogs if you live in an apartment, and not to get active dogs in the city. In reality, all breeds and types of dog can be wonderful or problematic with children. It very much depends on whether or not the puppy was trained how to act around children and the children were taught how to act around the puppy. Because of their lower activity levels, large dogs adapt more quickly to apartment living than little dogs. Big dogs just take up more space. And active dogs can live in cities just as active people live in cities. In fact, city dogs tend to be walked and exercised more than suburban dogs.

In the long run, it will be you who will be living with your puppy and teaching it to adjust to your lifestyle and living arrangement.

Selecting Your Individual Puppy
It is vital however that you know how to evaluate whether your prospective puppy is physically and mentally healthy. Research your prospective puppy's lineage to confirm that his grandparents and great-grandparents all lived to a ripe old age, and to check how many of his doggy family suffered from breed-specific problems. Long life is the best indicator of overall physical and behavioral health and the best predictor that your puppy will have a long life expectancy. Research well; you want your puppy to enjoy his sunset years with you. My first malamute died when he was just five years old. Heartbreaking.

In terms of behavioral development, by eight weeks of age your prospective puppy should be housetrained and chewtoy-trained, outgoing, friendly, and sociable, and at the very least, know how to come, sit, lie down, and roll over. Any signs of fearfulness are absolutely abnormal in an eight-week-old pup.

Check that the puppy was raised indoors, around human companionship and influence. Check that the puppy uses a dog toilet, rather than urinating and defecating all over the floor (which he will continue to do if you take him home). Check that hollow chewtoys stuffed with food are readily available. Ask the breeder how many strangers, especially including men and children, have handled and trained the puppies. Check for yourself how easy (or difficult) it is to hug and handle (restrain and examine) your prospective puppy. Also check how quickly (or slowly) the puppy learns to come, sit, lie down, and roll over for each family member.

Raising and Training Your Puppy
The first week your puppy comes home is the most important week of her life. From the very first day, start an errorless housetraining and chewtoy-training program so that you prevent any future housesoiling, destructive chewing, excessive barking, or separation anxiety problems.
When you are not at home, leave your puppy in a long-term confinement area (puppy playroom), which has a comfortable bed, fresh water, several chewtoys stuffed with food, and a temporary indoor toilet. Long-term confinement prevents mistakes around the house and maximizes the likelihood your puppy will learn to chew chewtoys and use her toilet.

When you are at home but cannot pay full attention to your puppy, confine her to a small, short-term confinement area (doggy den or dog crate) with a couple of stuffed chewtoys. Confining your puppy to a den prevents any mistakes around the house, maximizes the likelihood your puppy will learn to chew chewtoys, and allows you to predict when your puppy would like to relieve herself. Knowing when your puppy wants to go makes housetraining easy because now you can show her where to go and reward her for going in the right spot. Confining a pup to a den temporarily inhibits elimination, so that every hour, you can take her to an appropriate toilet area. When she promptly pees (and sometimes poops), give her three liver treats as a reward.

Confinement is a temporary management and training measure. Once your puppy has learned household manners, he may enjoy full run of your house for the rest of his life.

Puppy Education
When watching puppies in class having a good time playing off-leash and responding happily and willingly to verbal requests and handsignals to come, sit, heel, and down stay, one tends to forget the two most important reasons for attending puppy classes: bite inhibition and socialization with people. Off-leash classes provide an educational forum for pups to play-fight and play-bite with other dogs and to develop the confidence and social savvy for friendly interaction with people, especially with children and men.

To learn more about the importance of bite inhibition and socialization, read AFTER You Get Your Puppy and watch the SIRIUS® Puppy Training video, and don't let your puppy miss out on the time of his life, enroll in a SIRIUS® Puppy Training Class.

Basic Manners
Some form of training is necessary for all owners to learn how to control their dogs' body position, location, and activity. Certainly, all aspects of obedience training may be accomplished at any time in the dog's life. But, it just so happens to be easier, quicker, and more enjoyable to train the dog as a pup. In fact, by using modern psychological, dog-friendly, and owner-friendly training methods, off-leash control and hand-signals may be taught when your pup is just three months old.

Behavior Modification
Similarly, a dog's natural behavior may be modified at any time in the dog's life, although the older the dog, the harder the prospect. To reeducate a dog it is necessary to first break the existing bad habit before instilling a good habit. Since good habits are just as hard to break as bad habits, smart owners teach their puppies appropriate and acceptable behavior right from the outset—what to chew, where to eliminate, where to dig, when to bark, how to walk nicely on leash, and how to greet people.

Socialization
Socialization and bite inhibition however, have pressing deadlines. Unlike obedience training and behavior modification, socialization and bite inhibition training MUST be accomplished during puppyhood. Preventive intervention is the key; to delay is utter folly. Preventative measures are easy, efficient, effective, effortless, and enjoyable, whereas trying to resolve temperament problems in adult dogs can be time-consuming, difficult, and often dangerous.

The temperament of every dog needs to be modified to some degree—that is, molded to suit the owners' lifestyle. All dogs are different. Some dogs lack confidence, whereas others are too pushy. Some are sluggish and others are too active. Some are shy, reserved, standoffish, asocial, or antisocial, whereas others are overly friendly and rambunctious. People tend to forget that a domestic dog is not fully domesticated until he has been adequately trained, and socialized to enjoy the company of people, other dogs, and other animals.

Most potential dog-dog problems take care of themselves if your pup is given sufficient opportunity to play with other puppies and dogs. Puppies virtually train themselves to be friendly and outgoing, and a friendly dog would much rather play than hide or fight.

Your puppy does, however, require significant help to develop confidence around people, especially around children, men, and strangers. Your mission, Understanding Owner, is to teach your puppy not just to tolerate, but rather to thoroughly enjoy the presence and actions of people. Specifically, you must desensitize your puppy to every conceivable potentially threatening situation, including petting, handling, hugging, and restraint, especially by children, men, and strangers, and especially around valued objects, such as a food bowl, toys, and bones. In addition to attending puppy classes, host a puppy party at home. Do not keep your pup a secret. Let other people enjoy the puppy, and give your pup the opportunity to enjoy other people. Socialization parties are a marvelous opportunity to teach a lot of people how to help you train your dog.

Bite Inhibition
Bite inhibition is by far the single most important quality in any companion animal, and bite inhibition must be acquired during puppyhood. Bite inhibition is a dog's fail-safe mechanism, preventing him from injuring other animals and people. Bite inhibition does not mean that your dog never reacts when scared or upset. Instead, bite inhibition clicks in when your dog does react to the unexpected: for example, when a child trips and falls on a dog when he is gnawing on a bone. Most dogs react when they are hurt, frightened, or startled. A dog with good bite inhibition would only yelp, growl, or snap, causing little if any injury. The prognosis is good since the problem may be resolved easily and safely with increased socialization and classical conditioning. However, a dog who did not acquire bite inhibition as a puppy might inflict deep puncture wounds and cause serious injury.

Dogs learn bite inhibition, i.e., learn that their jaws can hurt, when they play-fight and play-bite as youngsters. Puppies amp each other up until one puppy bites another too hard. Play stops immediately as the injured puppy yelps and takes the time to lick his wounds. When play resumes it is slower and gentler. Puppy classes, and later, off-leash dog parks, offer the best venues for your puppy to learn solid bite inhibition and develop a soft mouth. Enroll in a SIRIUS® Puppy Training Class right away. If you do not live in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact the Association of Pet Dog Trainers at 1-800 PET DOGS or www.apdt.com to locate puppy classes in your area.