Thankfully, good habits are easy to install and should begin the minute your pup steps inside your home.
Confinement now, means more freedom your pup can enjoy as she grows into an adult. Dogs are naturally den creatures and having a confinement area such as a small doggy den or crate to use for short periods, is a great temporary tool for shaping your pup’s next few weeks at home. If she’s used to having unrestricted access to you at all times, she’ll fall apart when you’re gone (hello, excessive barking!) So, while you’re home, confine your puppy to her doggy den along with a few hollow chewtoys stuffed with her favorite treats and diet. This will help prevent any mistakes around the house and maximizes the likelihood that she will learn to rely on chewtoys (instead of your favorite shoes).
Dogs naturally avoid soiling their den, and confining them temporarily inhibits pooping and peeing. It lets your pup strengthen her flabby bladder muscles and helps you predict when she’ll need to use the toilet. By giving her plenty of opportunities to go outside, (every hour or so if she is under three months old) to relieve herself, and heavily rewarding her with treats for doing so in the right spot, you’ll be able to play with her indoors knowing she won’t have an accident after.
Socialization is a critical period in which a puppy’s temperament and behaviour are shaped. Most owners don’t realize the considerable urgency that’s involved with socialization — this window closes for puppies around 12 to 13 weeks of age. If a dog isn’t properly introduced to all manner of people, other dogs, and loud objects (hello, scary vacuum!) it will take much more time to build up their confidence so they don’t become fearful or aggressive.
For the first few weeks at home, every time someone enters the home who isn’t immediate family (workers, cleaners) have them toss food to your pup. By training your pup to “sit” first, others can ask for a “sit” before tossing the tasty treat, thereby teaching your new pup some door etiquette and greeting manners in the process. They’ll learn to look forward not only to new people coming to the home, but also to the door bell ringing or someone knocking, as this sound now precedes fun and tasty things to come.
Paws down, the most important thing for a puppy to learn is bite inhibition, towards people as well as dogs. Bite inhibition doesn’t mean dogs don’t bite. Rather, it means that when they do bite, they don’t hurt or seriously injure. It’s something which must be acquired in the first few weeks of life and is the reason why puppies are so mouthy; they need to learn appropriate feedback on what their bite strength should be. Whenever your pup bites too hard, simply say “ouch!” and remove your hand. Then praise her for having a softer mouth when she plays again. You’ll be giving her valuable feedback so that she learns to have a gentle mouth at all times, with all people.
Puppies grow up far too quickly and what you do in the first few days at home, will set the precedent for your dog in the weeks, months, and even years to come.