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Puppy's First Year

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Puppy Care in the First Year Now that you and your puppy are settling in together you may be wondering what to expect over the next few months.

The puppy is at his optimum learning stage, a time when future behaviour characteristics are being laid down.

It has been stressed just how important it is to use this time wisely. Introduce the puppy to as many situations as you can, especially different noises so as to desensitise him to bangs and crashes, whistles, fireworks, car horns, motorbikes, shopping centres, train stations, other animals, and anything else you can think of.

The more the puppy absorbs in this early stage, the less trauma that noises and bangs will cause him later on. Do not react to the puppy if he whines or jumps at a particular noise. If you do, you will be teaching him to fear that noise. Keep quiet and calm at all times, only offering gentle re-assurance and encouragement.

Never use a harsh tone or discipline the puppy, as he will just see this as reinforcing his behaviour through your own increased stress level.

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Between 8 to 12 weeks old the puppy may go through a fearful stage. Suddenly he is terrified over things that he was enjoying the day before. He may cower if anyone approaches him, be terrified of his favourite toy, and be reluctant to play in the garden. Just IGNORE him. Do not react to him at all or instead of this just being a passing phase, it will become a learned behaviour that may cause huge problems later on.

At twelve weeks old your puppy will be more able to control his bladder and you may be seeing a decrease in “accidents.” He is probably sleeping through the night in his bed or crate without any fuss. You can start teaching him simple commands such as sit, stay, and down. Start lead training him by attaching his collar through the day. At first he will scratch like crazy to try and get it off. Just ignore him or distract him with a toy so that novelty of the feeling on his neck wears off and becomes more normal to the puppy.

From 3 to 4 months of age your puppy is entering his juvenile stage. You will notice a change in him and those of you that have had children will see a likeness between the puppy and a toddler.

He will be a little bit more independent, and start testing you to see just what he can get away with. He may start trying to mouth you or even give little nips. This is all perfectly normal; he is attempting to challenge your authority. Give him a firm, “NO” followed by ignoring him for a few minutes.

Keep playing with him, training him, and attending his puppy classes, (particularly important at this stage). Stop playing any tugging games or wrestling with him. He is growing stronger and games such as these are seen as dominance-related by the dog. Even should you know that you are winning, the puppy is learning that it is OK to be rough with you and to physically challenge you and that is exactly what you do not want to happen.

Keep up the training, and always be one step ahead of the dog as he is learning fast. Now more than ever he must know who is the pack leader and who provides the very essence of life for him.

From 4 months old things start to get a bit tough. Puppy has learnt to be even more independent and perhaps in your opinion is becoming naughty. His enthusiasm to please you is not so great and he tries more and more to get his own way.

Be firm! Don't let your standards slip and do not adjust your goals to make it easier for him to obey you. YOU set the rules, and the rules change for nobody.

He may keep approaching the table when you have taught him to stay in his bed, he may assert his dominance over other family members, especially the children. He must not be allowed to do this. Insist on respect and good manners and show him you mean business with a firm“NO” or a growl or other firm noise which causes the dog to look towards you, at which point you can redirect his energy elsewhere and reward.

Make him leave the room when you are eating and step up your expectations with the training. Make him work that little bit harder for his treat or reward. He will be teething and chewing everything in site. Frozen dog bones are soothing for his gums. Keep him on lead when outside, as most puppies of this age tend to go through a 'I'm not coming back' stage. Again be one step ahead and do not give him the chance to do something you won't tolerate wherever possible.

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From 6 months to around 16 months is the best time in the dog's life. He feels full of confidence and excitement at the slightest chance to explore new things. Remember those teenage feelings of, young free and out to rule the world, this is how your dog feels.

He is bursting with energy and good health. He is exploring a far greater world than his own back garden, and how he enjoys it! It seems that even though you roam for miles, the dog just keeps wanting more. You may well be thinking of enrolling in an advanced training class or even taking up canine sports. Agility, Fly ball, Obedience, Schutzhund, the choice is endless. Now is a good time to start such activities and channel all your pup's energy in the right direction, towards something you gain control of through training and practice.

Be vigilant in your role as pack leader as you need to have his attention and obedience now more than ever. Most of all enjoy each day together and cherish your new friend.

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