Tips for living with and training your new puppy

Bringing home a new puppy is a very exciting experience.  It can also be a very stressful one if you are not properly prepared.  Many of the tips below can also be very useful when bringing home a newly adopted adult dog from a rescue or shelter as well.

Preparing for your new puppy

The best time to prepare for a puppy’s homecoming is before the puppy actually comes home.  Be sure you have purchased all of the necessary puppy-proofing and training products that will make your first few weeks and months with your puppy much more enjoyable.

Here is a list to get you started:

  • A crate:  big enough for your puppy to stand up, lie down comfortably, and turn around in a circle, but not big enough for him to walk around.
  • A puppy playpen:  If you expect to work during the day, you will need a place for your puppy to be safely contained since he will not be able to “hold it” long enough to make it through your work day until he is older.
  • Potty pads:  If you are going to use a Puppy Playpen, you may want to place a potty pad in one corner of his pen to separate playing, sleeping, and potty areas of the pen while you are away. There are also turf or real grass options that some people like as an alternative to pads. You only need pads or turf if you are going to be away longer than the amount of time your puppy can be expected to hold it (their age in months plus one hour; so, a two month old puppy would be three hours max.)
  • Kongs or other “stuffable”/interactive toys:  Purchase several of these toys along with a few different options for stuffing them such as peanut butter, dog biscuits, yogurt, high quality wet dog food, honey, or sweet potato.  These toys will help him learn to enjoy his alone time.  They will also serve to teach him what is appropriate to chew if you allow him to only access these appropriate chews while keeping shoes, rugs, laundry and other illegal chewing objects out of his reach until he can be trusted.  Rotate the toys and their stuffing every few days to keep your puppy interested. [Read more…]

Rainy day dog training games using free shaping and positive reinforcement

As the San Diego winter rolls in with rain and chilly weather, some dogs will be short-changed on long walks and trips to the dog park on bad weather days.  Free shaping with your dog can be a great way to burn off some of your dog’s mental energy, especially on rainy days you spend inside together.  Free shaping is an exercise that empowers your dog by teaching him to think, make decisions, and focus on a task.  It involves teaching your dog tricks by capturing behaviors he performs as he moves incrementally toward your ultimate goal for the trick.

This game is best played with a clicker (small box that makes a “click” sound to mark correct behaviors).  Visit for more information on clicker training.  If your dog is not clicker trained yet, you can still play this game.  If you have a clicker, spend a day clicking the clicker and following it with a treat so your dog learns to associate the click sound with receiving a piece of food.  The click will then mean, “you have done the correct behavior, and you will soon receive a food reward.”  If you do not have a clicker, you can still play the game by using a word such as “GOOD!” or “YES!” to mark correct behaviors, and follow that word with a treat.  In either case, you will want to be very specific with your timing by clicking your clicker or saying your word right at the moment your dog performs the behavior.  The treat always follows this mark. [Read more…]

Halloween and dogs: Using halloween decorations and accessories as puppy socialization tools


Although the weather is still warm in sunny San Diego, Halloween is coming quickly.  Halloween can be a very scary time for our dogs.  There are floods of strangers visiting, humans wearing costumes and masks, and decorations that make noises or make unusual movements, all of which are potentially overwhelming to dogs.  If this is your puppy’s first Halloween, it’s important to be sure he has only positive experiences as he is forming his opinions of the world around him.

[Read more…]