It Takes Two

A woman sits on a man's lap while he tries to explain something. The woman is looking away from him with a disappointed facial expression. A puppy is sitting in the foreground with his head tipped to one side as though he is trying to understand what is going on.

When it comes to couples rearing a puppy, it’s not uncommon to have different views. We see it all the time. People come with their history from childhood on how to raise a dog. Our own experience with discipline also affects our training approach. Puppy rearing and training have moved on over the last decade. For most people, “positive reinforcement” (using reward-based training) is now the obvious choice. Here, we look at the top four decisions that couples will face in bringing a pup home. We hope that the dialogue will help you and your partner form a consensus on these critical issues.

Decision #1.

What style of training will you use?

There are two main types. You need to choose between puppy-friendly positive reinforcement and the use of punitive techniques.

Dog training is unregulated, so this crucial decision is yours. Reward-based training is scientifically proven to work. It’s the most forgiving approach, and it’s fun and easy to do. Using harsh methods is no fun and unfair to the dog. It can also create dangerous behavioral problems.

No matter the approach, one thing is sure, you must reach a consensus on this. It’s very confusing for a dog using both techniques, and it is unlikely to be successful.

We hope the humane approach wins.

Decision #2

Another big decision is whether or not to socialize your pup (with other dogs and our urban environment) before the puppy is completely vaccinated.

You need to know that the number one killer of young dogs is not a disease; it’s a lack of early socialization. Taking a calculated, well-informed risk and socializing your puppy before he is fully vaccinated is the best approach. Here it is explained by the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour. Be cautious of ill-informed professionals, read what the experts say, and get to a socialization class.

Decision #3

Crate Training

These days most people crate train overnight, which is excellent. Daytime Crate Training is, unfortunately, overlooked. Unsupervised, puppy freedom is a high risk, and the dog will develop annoying behaviors. Nipping, biting, housetraining issues, and a lack of focus are a few problems that are likely to occur. Structure and boundaries with supervised “play” and training when out of the crate is the healthiest approach.

You and your partner need to decide that you can put up with some puppy peeping until he settles down in the crate. Don’t worry, it’s natural. Your pup will soon settle into the routine of being in his crate, and you’ll be happy that he’s not underfoot. Take him out regularly, do some training and put him back in the crate while you are both still successful. He’ll tire quickly, at which point, he doesn’t learn well, so keep time spent out of the crate short and successful.

Decision #4

What to prioritize first? House Training, Puppy Life Skills, Preventive Training or Socialization?

We think it’s important that you and your partner understand that Socialization and Preventative Exercises should be your priority.

House Training is what most people focus on. In the big picture, it’s the easiest thing to do and a no-brainer when you get some help and stick to a game plan. This is why we put House Training at the bottom of the list.

However, for your puppy to be successful, you must understand that there’s a small window of opportunity. The window is between birth and sixteen weeks. This period is when your puppy is highly adaptable and must learn to socialize with other dogs, meet new people, and become comfortable in a complex environment. To be successful, you must both work hard to socialize him during this brief period.

Along with socialization comes the idea of preventative exercises; these are games and training exercises that prevent the development of problem behaviors like food (or toy) guarding, biting and nipping, and separation anxiety. The need for early-socialization is increasingly well understood, and it’s likely to be recommended to you by your vet or trainer. However, the need to do training exercises with your pup to pro-actively stop the development of undesirable behaviors is a relatively new concept. So, please read up on this and incorporate preventative practices into your game plan.

You may be surprised that we don’t give Puppy Life Skills training top billing. Manners are indispensable but understand that things like like house training; sit, stand and down are not time-sensitive, so focus on your socialization and preventative work.

From our own experience, we all know couples that wait until they have a child before discussing their values. It’s not surprising that the same thing happens when people get a dog. Bringing a puppy into your life together should be something that brings you together. Discuss the significant four issues and do a little reading before you start on what will be a great experience.

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