Regardless of breed, puppies are among the cutest things on earth. Even when they're chewing shoes or stealing socks they're adorable. We all know, however, that regardless of their off-the-chart cute factor, early discipline is the key to a well-behaved adult dog. Potty training and commands like sit and stay are often among the first things we teach our new cuddle bugs, but what other things might come in handy as they accompany us through life? Here are three important habits to teach your puppy that will make your life much easier in the years to come.
Wipe your feet - Just like us, dogs track in dirt and snow and twigs and rain when they come in from outside. Unlike us, however, they can't take off their shoes to avoid making a mess. A few years ago I bought washable carpet runners to place in front of the two doors my dogs accessed. My hope was that because their first several steps would be taken on the runners, they would be virtually mess-free by the time they hit my carpet. It may have worked, if they actually walked on the runners. Instead, they purposely changed direction as soon as they entered the house to avoid the runners. It didn't make any difference how I angled them; my dogs avoided them like the plague. When I added a new puppy to my household a couple of years later, I made sure to train her to enter the house along the runner. I did this by meeting her at the door, and gradually increasing my distance - along the runner - before giving her high praise and pets.
In your seat - Cars can be dangerous places for pets, especially if they're allowed to move about while in transit. I was recently taking my granddog home after an overnight visit, and he somehow managed to get under my feet while I was driving. Things were OK until I exited the highway, when the change in speed and direction caused him to wedge himself in between my foot and the brake. Needless to say we both experienced a few tense seconds until I could pull safely into a parking lot and extricate him from the floor board. If you train your dog to sit in a car restraint while he's a puppy, you will both be able to travel comfortably and safely for the remainder of his days.
Keep them neat - A dog's nails need to be trimmed regularly. If they aren't, they can grow painfully long and actually interfere with his mobility. Once the nails have overgrown, the quick inside the nail has grown long as well, making it painful and dangerous to trim effectively. Most dogs, however, detest having their paws handled. To avoid this struggle throughout his life, you can train your puppy to allow you to handle his paws without objection. Begin by playing with his paws and praising him at the same time. Increase the length of time you handle them, and the pressure you apply, a little at a time over several weeks. When you do actually trim his nails, trim them one at a time offering lots of praise and an occasional treat in between. Taking the time to instill this habit early in his life will save you a great many headaches down the road.
Developing good habits early in life is just as important for our puppies as it is for us. Although it may not be entirely true that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, it sure is a lot easy when they're young.
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