The Puppy Nanny

Now that you have your puppy, what do you need to do?

Keep in mind that that you have a baby.  Puppies may run and seem very coordinated for only 8 weeks of age, but they are still babies that require management and supervision.  Treat them like you would a human toddler. 

Dogs are such wonderful animals because they have very simple rules.  They repeat behaviors that work for them (get them what they want) and they abandon what does not work for them.  Remember they are not verbal creatures and are learning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by just watching your every move.      

1.  My experience has shown it is important to have an in-home puppy consultation within the first few days of their home arrival.  It is critical to begin training right from the beginning.  Old training methods used to suggest that you wait until 6 months or a year of age to train your puppy, but it is clear that the earlier you start training your puppy, the easier it is for them to learn throughout life.  The brain is a muscle which must be exercised and utilized. 

Best results come from in-home visits by a trainer regularly the first couple of months to resolve issues and problems that come up before they become habits while at the same time creating new habits for you, the new pet guardian.  Most importantly teaching you how to coach and train your puppy to be a good household pet using minimal reprimands and punishments.

2.  Register for puppy classes that use off-leash, positive methods and allow for lots of playtime with lots of puppies in the class.  (see below for a description and go to or for a location near you)  Even if you have another dog at home or if you have sibling puppies, it is critical to enroll in puppy classes where your pup will earn how to socialize with its peers.  If you are in a class and you don't feel comfortable with what the instructor is doing with your puppy or their training methods - change classes.   There are still plenty of "old school" trainers out there using aversive techniques on pups.   Better yet, ask to observe a class before you even sign up.   For more on what to look for in a puppy class - read my training colleague, Nancy Weller's, article "Selecting a Great Puppy Class."

Myles working with Sasha
An ideal long-term confinement set-up: 
x-pen, crate, bed, chewstick and toys!
A puppy cannot be bad ...
it can only be a puppy!
Puppy 101: off-leash classes are for puppies between 10 and 18 weeks of age. Class priorities are teaching bite Inhibition (so your puppy develops a soft mouth), socializing your puppy to other puppies and people (especially children, men and strangers) and teaching basic manners.

Puppy 201: off-leash classes are reserved for Puppy I Graduates only, anytime up to 18 months of age. In Puppy II classes, dogs and owners learn higher level obedience, especially including walking the pup on a loose leash, heeling, placement commands ("Go to your mat and settle down"), stays with heavy distractions and distance commands and recalls from play sessions.  It is best to attend a Puppy II class just as your dog is entering adolescence, usually around six to nine months of age to build good habits during this tumultuous stage of development.

Drills: reserved for Puppy II Graduates only.  Repetition for Reliability!  This class focuses on various key components for successful city living with your dog.  This class is broken into three different sessions - which include on-leash and off-leash heelwork, duration sit and down stays, drop on recall, distance commands and distraction proofing.

Children should hold chewsticks for puppies.  Myles holds both Sasha and the chewstick!  Extra Credit!
3.  Most puppy classes require your pup to start by 18 weeks of age for very specific reasons.  Please take this timing into account when planning.  If you miss out on this very important stage of your puppy's training, you will have to take a basic obedience class which will not allow any off-leash play, critical to helping develop your pup's bite inhibition and socialization skills. Puppy classes are for all sizes and I highly recommend participating in a class that has many different breeds and sizes of puppies.  (More about small vs. big under FAQ's)

4.  Reinforce any behaviors your puppy does that you like.  Ignore or give an immediate consequence to the behaviors you don't like.  It's much easier and puppies learn much faster, if you just reward the good stuff instead of waiting for the bad stuff to happen.  Do not punish things you don't see happening.  If you found a potty mess any time after it's happened, it's too late.  Clean it up and realize that you didn't manage your puppy properly. They should never be out of your sight.  Management, management, management!

5.  Start training immediately - it's never too early.  Use lure / reward methods or a clicker to train your puppy to sit, lie down and stay.  When you call your puppy to come to you, you best reinforce her for doing so, or the behavior will disappear just as quickly as it appeared.