Training a puppy can seem overwhelming. There are so many tasks that can be worked on with your new pup including house training, crate training, puppy biting, leash walking, jumping, come when called and the list goes on and on.
What should you focus on first, and does the order matter?
First of all there are certain topics that are very time sensitive. Socialization is best accomplished when a puppy is approximately 12-18 weeks of age. During this time your puppy is forming her opinions about the world. If she has good experiences with kids, petting, noises, dogs, and people of all types then she will most likely feel comfortable with those things.
If she has bad experiences or no exposure, she might end up being frightened or even aggressive around those things as she gets older. Genetics factors into her reaction, so if she starts out being a bit shy, you should work on socialization even more to make sure she gets as comfortable as possible.
Every dog has his or her limitations. If a puppy is severely shy, she might never grow into a gregarious, confident older dog. But, the chances are better if that puppy is socialized to as many stimuli as possible. If a dog is kept in a backyard or only meets the neighbor dog and doesn’t interact safely with children, the chances are pretty good that she will not be comfortable with those things as she gets older.
I always tell my clients that if it doesn’t feel like socialization is taking up a lot of time, they probably are not doing enough of it. You should try and take your puppy some place new daily and introduce him to hundreds or thousands of dogs, people, noises and situations before he is is 18+ weeks old.
Don’t stop after that time either. Continue socializing for 12 months after you bring your dog home.
House Training and Crate Training
After socialization, house training and crate training are very important. It is important to setup solid house training strategies as soon as possible.
Without going into all the steps (you can watch my house training videos here): http://goo.gl/sjXaD0 the main points to keep in mind are to pay attention to the amount of time in the crate, how long in between potty breaks, and when your puppy eats and drinks. Also paying attention to when accidents occur can help determine if you are pushing your puppy too long in between potty trips.
Crate training goes along with house training and is also discussed in the videos mentioned above.
Resource Guarding Prevention
You can lessen the chances of your adult dog biting someone who tries to take his bone away or walks too close to his food bowl by practicing some basic exercises with your puppy. If you think your dog has resource guarding issues already, you should find a good humane trainer to show you the rehabilitation stops.
For prevention you want to play with your puppy’s food, pet him, walk by him and interact him when he is eating, chewing on a bone, playing with a toy, lying on his bed or in his crate. Each time you interact with him, you should give him a tasty treat. Practice this for 3-5 minutes a day and especially whenever he has a high value item like a new bone or stuffed Kong.
Separation Anxiety Prevention
Separation anxiety is one of the most challenging problems to solve. Spend your time now with your puppy and make sure he can be alone in his crate for the same amount of time that you need to be out of the house plus an extra hour for commuting time and trips to the grocery store after work. If you think your dog has separation anxiety, you can purchase my dog Separation Anxiety Ebook here.
Obedience topics such as jumping, leash walking and come when called are important, but not as important as the above topics. Prioritize your puppy training and invest the time now to increase your chances of preventing problems later. Unfortunately genetics can get in the way of good training and problems can arise even with the best prevention strategies.
But, you will improve your chances if you spend daily time on the above tips.