New puppy guide, be a leader from day one

Bringing your new puppy home marks the start of a long and rewarding companionship. Just as you and other members of your household must adjust to life with the new puppy, the puppy has to adapt to his role in a new family. The routine and habits your puppy develops at this crucial early stage can carry into adulthood, making it extremely important that he learn acceptable behavior from the moment he arrives at his new home.

Regardless of the human-like qualities you assign to your new family member, it is important to remember that he is still a dog, ingrained with the same instincts as a wolf in the wild. Instinct guides all of the decisions your puppy makes. Dogs in the wild fall into one of two roles��”leader or follower. If your puppy does not view you as the leader of his pack, instinct will lead him to assume that role himself. A dog who considers himself the leader of your pack, or receives confusing signals about who leads and who follows, is likely to demonstrate unwanted behavior. Some behavior that may indicate that a dog is acting as leader are jumping on people, pulling when on a leash, and ignoring commands. A dog who understands that you are the leader will look to you for guidance and adhere to the boundaries you set.

A common mistake new puppy owners make is allowing the puppy free reign, and then attempting to discipline the dog when he gets older and exhibits unwanted behavior. In doing so, the dog owner is sending mixed signals to the dog. Establishing an environment of structure and discipline and enforcing it at all times can prevent this pattern. Even when the puppy is very young and harmless, it is important to enforce the same boundaries as you will when he is an adult dog. If you do not want a 75 pound Labrador stretched out on your sofa for the next ten years, it is best not to allow him on the furniture as a puppy.

Besides sending clear signals to your puppy about who is in charge, it is imperative that you and every member of your household are consistent in enforcing the rules. Determine what areas of your home are off limits and what boundaries you will enforce before even bringing the puppy home. It is certainly easier to make your dog understand boundaries that are in effect from the start than to attempt to reverse habits that you have already allowed the dog to develop. Be sure to praise the puppy when he is behaving appropriately. Every member of your household must be committed to assuming a leadership role and enforcing the same rules when it comes to taking care of the puppy.

Being the leader of the pack can mean the difference between a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship with your dog and an unbearable one. Structured training with a professional can be helpful to both dog and owner in establishing roles and discipline. A healthy relationship in which the dog respects his human’s role as leader begins the first day you welcome the puppy into your home.