Writer Jonathan Swift once stated that “Every dog must have his day,” and for our tail-wagging chums in the springtime of their life that day is March 23rd — National Puppy Day! Founded in 2006 by celebrity pet and home lifestyle expert Colleen Paige, the message of the annual ode to fur babies is two-fold– to celebrate the puppies who are the sunshine of our lives, and to shine a light on the option of pet adoption.
Raising a puppy requires careful planning, commitment and a paw-sitive attitude. If you're a brand-new puppy parent, here are some tips to keep you and your young furry family member on the path to a successful future together.
- Movement and play
Puppies need plenty of exercise so start this good habit early. Regular exercise, along with a wholesome, nutrient-rich diet specifically formulated for a pup’s developmental needs, will help your puppy grow into a physically and mentally strong adult. Ease your puppy into long walks. Start him on short runs and build up to longer ones, or have him play ball with you outside. Find an activity and pace that works well for both of you.
- Meets and greets
One of the most critical steps in your pup’s development is socialization. By creating positive experiences, you’re preparing your puppy for a well-adjusted life, which means getting used to other dogs, cats and people. He also needs to adjust to new sounds, such as passing cars, lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners. Openness to socialization, unlike obedience training, is crucial between the ages of 12 and 16 weeks. After that time, your puppy will start to become less inclined to welcome new people, pets and experiences.
- Patience and positivity
Like everyone, your new puppy will thrive on positive reinforcement rewards while training and socializing. In addition to treats and affection, patience is the best gift you can give yourself and your new furry family member as you start your adventure together. The first several weeks will be a big adjustment for both you and your puppy. Patience will help you set reasonable expectations that your little guy can meet.
Naturally, discipline will be necessary at times. As professional trainers advise, never scold your puppy for peeing inside the house after the deed has been done. If you do, he’ll only understand that you came home and yelled. He won’t associate his bathroom accident with your anger and thereby won’t learn from it.
- Train early
The phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” exists for a reason. While it’s possible to train dogs as they age, it’s more difficult. Just like humans, the more we are used to certain ways of doing things, the harder it is for us to change. Reinforcing good habits, positive interactions and socialization at the youngest possible age will help your puppy thrive in his new environment and foster a strong and trusting relationship with you.
- Be consistent
Dogs are creatures of habit, which is why they’re trainable. However that means consistency is key to training. Once you have the essential commands nailed down, keep them the same. Both rewards and discipline require consistency. Ensuring your pup understands that specific actions elicit specific consequences will encourage more efficient and complete behavioral development.
Training a new puppy can be trying but incredibly rewarding. The effort you put in during those first few months will pay dividends down the line when you have a happy, well-adjusted canine companion for life.
Promoting the Option of Pet Adoption
Along with the chance to show how much we cherish our own puppies (as well as the playful pup in each adult dog), National Puppy Day is also an opportunity to spread the word about the option of pet adoption. Use this dog adoption checklist to make sure you have everything you need for life as a rescue dog parent.
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