The first few months of your puppy’s life are so important in setting him up for a bright future. Every new dog owner dreams of having a happy, well-adjusted dog, but this doesn’t happen by accident. Research has proven that in the early stages of development, the physiology of your dog’s brain actually changes in response to the experiences, objects and environments they are exposed to. Dogs that are introduced to lots of different stimuli and given plenty of opportunities to learn and solve problems tend to be more inquisitive, less fearful and better able to adapt to different situations.
Canine psychology expert Professor Stanley Coren explains: “The important aspects of the animal’s experience which cause these positive changes in their brains involves exposure to a wide variety of interesting places and things that novel, and exciting experiences. It is best when these are combined with frequent opportunities to learn new things, solve problems and to freely investigate, manipulate, and interact with objects.” (Source: www.psychologytoday.com)
As an owner, there are some important things you can do in your young puppy’s early life to help him develop into a thriving dog.
- TAKE YOUR PUPPY TO NEW PLACES
Dogs who are kept exclusively in their owner’s house or garden will experience very little in the way of the real world. When confronted with things like busy crowds, traffic and loud noises, they may find it difficult to cope.
The four walls of a garden can become pretty boring for an inquisitive pup so take your dog to the park where he can experience abundance of new sights, smells and textures. It’s also important to take him to busier places; go for a walk through town or just sit and let him watch the people and cars go by. Allow him to take in new stimuli while staying close to you. He won’t have any road sense at this age so it’s vital to keep him securely on a lead. Don’t push him too hard if he is not ready – the aim is to create a positive experience, so give plenty of praise and a few treats.
- INTRODUCE YOUR DOG TO PLENTY OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE
A sociable dog is a happy dog, which makes for a happy owner too. Get your dog familiar with lots of different types of people from an early age including young kids, older people, men and women. Introduce your bundle of fur to your family and friends, and even strangers who would like a stroke, providing this is done in a calm and respectful way. This will get him to get him used to different voices and smells, and will make it easier when you have to leave him with other people. No doubt he’ll also love the attention!
- START SOME BASIC TRAINING
It’s never too early to start teaching some good habits to your pup. A local puppy class is a fantastic way to get his training under way and socialise your dog in a safe and controlled environment.
If you are training at home you can start with a basic ‘sit’ command. Initially your dog won’t know what this word means, so saying it repeatedly won’t make it happen. Kneel down in front of your dog and hold a treat up to his nose. Keep pushing back gently against his nose with the treat while saying ‘sit’, until he naturally sits down. When his bottom touches the floor (not beforehand!), praise him and give him the treat. Keep repeating this until he learns the association between the command and the action.
- FEED A HIGH QUALITY DIET
Nourishing your new puppy with high quality food is vital to the development of his brain and will set him up for a healthy future. Choosing a premium food like EUKANUBA will provide everything your growing dog needs including DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid essential to the development of your dog’s central nervous system. DHA has also been show to improve trainability. Antioxidants offer some protection as your dog starts to encounter new places, people and other dogs, and calcium, phosphorus and animal protein – which are the building blocks of lean muscle and strong bones.
- PLAY GAMES
Puppies love a challenge (especially when there is treats and praise involved!). Games are also a great way for the two of you to bond. Try a mini hunt – start by showing your dog a treat, then toss it nearby, saying ‘find the treat’. Gradually move the treat further and further away, eventually hiding it out of sight so he has to find it by smell.
You could also play hide and seek – you will need 2 people for this one. Have someone hold your pup while you hide nearby, then call his name until he finds you. This is also great for teaching recall to your puppy.
Why not give a game of fetch a try with a small boy or toy that your dog likes? Start by throwing the toy only a small distance and increase the length or height as he starts to get the hang of it. Getting your dog to give back the toy may not be so easy and takes some practice. Make sure you give plenty of praise when he releases the toy.
*This post is sponsored by EUKANUBA.