The holidays are a popular time to bring a puppy home for the family (and if you're still in the "considering it" stage, here's a post to read first), but it can also be a very busy time of year. We've got parties and gatherings and visiting family and errands to run, etc. It's difficult to fit group classes or even Private Training sessions into the calendar to start formal training with your puppy.
So, what do you do if your schedule isn't flexible, you're not sure where to start, or you're not sure what you can do in the meantime?
First of all, know that you have the whole rest of your SideKick's life to teach them how to Sit or Lay Down or walk well on a leash.
Second, when your SideKick is a puppy - young and impressionable, there are still plenty of skills you can and should work on with them to build confidence and to begin developing a relationship with your puppy! Below are five basics you can begin with your puppy right away - and both you and your puppy may not even feel like you're training at all!
1) Pay attention to what you like.
Puppies do a lot of stuff we aren't fans of: They jump on everyone; they have accidents in the house; they chew the furniture and gnaw on our hands with their razor sharp shark teeth. It can all be a bit much and overwhelming (I totally get it).
We might be tired of dealing with all the things they aren’t that great at (yet), so it probably feels difficult to catch the things we're happy to see; but, puppies actually do things we like to see a lot. And, if we want to see more of what we like, watch for it and reward it!
Did your puppy lay down on the rug while you were watching TV (instead of clobbering your feet)?
Did your puppy grab a toy and bring it to you to play (instead of grabbing your hand to "play")?
Did your puppy pee outside (instead of on the kitchen rug)?
That's all wonderful! Offer pets, verbal praise, maybe toss a tiny treat or two. If you want your puppy to repeat the "good behavior" you like, the best way to ensure that is by showing your puppy they can earn all the good stuff by doing those behaviors! The more you can reward the good behavior, the more good behavior you'll see!
2) Set a routine or schedule.
After bringing your puppy home, I recommend setting some sort of schedule or routine.
This is when we eat.
This is when we sleep.
This is when we play.
And so on! Do you need to follow the schedule to a T? Not necessarily, no. Small deviations aren't going to hurt anything, but setting a predictable schedule helps your puppy learn when to wind down - and tone down the play tornado; it helps put their digestion and pottying habits on a schedule, so you can be proactive about house training; and it gives YOU periods of downtime, you know - to relax, accomplish things you couldn't while keeping an eagle eye on the puppy, and recover from the previously mentioned play tornado with razor sharp shark teeth!
Note: I recommend keeping the schedule on the weekends as similar as you can to the weekday schedule, as well; this helps keep all your progress from the week rolling into the weekend!
3) Provide downtime activities (without using the crate or kennel).
Have you ever tried meditating? Was it difficult for you to shut your brain off and stop thinking about the giant to-do list or the suddenly-very-important-thing you forgot to do earlier? Did you have a hard time relaxing and calming down?