Being a responsible pet owner requires a substantial commitment. For dog owners, ensuring a dog is well fed and exercised and receives routine medical care are essential elements of responsible pet ownership. People new to dog ownership may not realize the importance of early socialization and training of their new pet.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has outlined the importance of early puppy socialization, preferably before a puppy reaches 12 to 16 weeks of age. This is a period of important critical development, which can help the animal grow into a well-adjusted pet.
New pet parents are encouraged to enroll in a training class for their puppies or, at the very least, to expose their puppies to other animals and people at an early age. The experience not only helps owners develop a strong bond with their pets but also enforces positive behavior in a fun atmosphere. If unsocialized, dogs may become aggressive or extremely off-put by other animals and people. Such dogs run a greater risk of being surrendered to a shelter.
Although puppies may not have completed their complete run of immunizations at an early age, many vets agree that early socialization with other animals outweighs the risk of contracting an illness. The benefits of this socialization include proper interaction with people, off-leash play to learn boundaries and bite inhibition with other puppies.
Young pups are eager sponges, ready to absorb information from their environment and families. Early stimulation in a fun and supportive manner will help prevent some potential behavioral problems that can become more difficult to correct as a puppy grows into adulthood. Although it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks, it's much easier to teach dogs when they are still eager puppies willing to learn.
Barking, biting, digging, and jumping are all behaviors puppies are likely to engage in. It is key for pet owners to discourage these behaviors as early as possible because it can lead to a strained relationship between pet parent and animal if the dog continues to engage in these acts into adolescence. Very often dogs are chastised or surrendered simply because they were never taught the proper way to behave.
It is not necessary to enroll in a puppy training class if owners feel confident in their abilities to train the dog on their own. Working with the pet each and every day for a small amount of time will gradually drive home the necessary lessons. Heaping a large amount of praise on a job well done will positively reinforce desired actions. If a puppy training class is not part of a dog's upbringing, at-home training and visits to a dog park or puppy daycare can provide the socialization the dog needs.
Puppies are willing and able to learn a great deal of behaviors at an early age. Responsible pet owners must set the course for discipline, socialization and training that can foster a long and healthy relationship.