How to Keep that Christmas Puppy from Becoming a New Year’s Nightmare by Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT



The photos have been taken with the new puppy in front of the Christmas tree and now as the wrapping is cleaned up and guests come and go, reality sets in: you have a new puppy, and you don’t know what to do.

Puppies don’t come programmed. Not unlike the cartoon characters in the children’s Pokemon series, it is through proper care and training that the bond between you and your new dog develop. And training starts as soon as your puppy arrives in your home.

You are the Boss

Puppies are fluffy cuteness but make no mistake, they are dogs and as such they will try to find their place in the family (pack) order. Do you know of anyone who would consciously shoot for the bottom? Your little newcomer is smarter than that. To keep him from becoming the boss of you, put him on a “Learn to Earn” program having him do something for every good thing he receives, whether it’s a new toy, couch rights, going outside, etc. Start teaching him the basics of SIT, DOWN, STAY and COME.

Start with a Plan

Before puppy even comes home it’s important to develop your game plan. Just like when a baby arrives, it’s important to “puppy proof” your home. Think about these questions. Where will puppy sleep? Go to the bathroom? How will you handle teething, jumping and biting? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Crate Training 101

The crate is your puppies “safe place” or den. It should only be large enough for him to turn around inside. Often people purchase a crate that will adjust as their puppy grows. Provide a safe toy such as a Kong or Nylabone that will keep puppy busy and happy while in the crate. The crate is for sleeping at night and anytime that you cannot keep an eye on your puppy. You can place the crate near your bed at night so that you can hear if puppy awakens during the night. Have your coat and shoes ready by your door (pockets filled with treats) so that you can scoop up your dog and place him on the ground outside to relieve himself. If your dog is successful reward him with a cookie from your pocket and praise him. In a short time your puppy will learn to sleep through the night and you will repeat this action when he awakens in the morning in order to reinforce the idea that going to the bathroom outside brings rewards.

Set up a limited area near where your family congregates so that your dog feels a part of what’s going on (they are pack animals so they like to be around their people). Don’t let puppy have free roaming rights yet. Many people prefer the kitchen since the floor is usually a hard surface and easily cleaned. Bring your crate into this room if space permits. The crate provides an area where your puppy can nap safely and quietly. Set up the clean area on one side with food and water and place the pee pad on the opposite side of the area so that your dog begins to learn to relieve himself away from his sleeping and eating area. Eventually he will come to understand that your entire home is to be kept clean.

It’s time to go outside

Remember to give your new pet frequent breaks to go to the bathroom and to reward your dog when they are successful with praise and a cookie. This is a great time to pick your “word” for the action. When will puppy need to go outside? A good time is after play, meals, or a nap. Watch for signs of circling and excessive sniffing. This is your cue to scoop up Fido and head for your “potty place” outside. If the weather is excessively cold or even dangerous (I am writing this during a blizzard) then it’s time for plan B which may include using pee pads or even a litter box. Puppies have a difficult time controlling their tiny bladders until 12 weeks of age or longer, so be patient. If you purchased your dog from a pet store it may take longer to train them since their natural instinct to keep their sleeping area clean has been lost due to being confined and allowed to relieve themselves where they sleep.

Biting, Nipping and Jumping

Puppy teeth are like little needles. Don’t let puppy chew on your fingers or nip your face. Puppies learn “bite inhibition” from their moms and litter mates, and sometimes when they are taken away at a very young age they don’t develop limit setting so it will be up to you to establish the rules. If puppy nips re-direct the behavior with an acceptable chew toy. This too shall pass if you are consistent. You can also purchase a product like Bitter Apple and apply it to your fingers so that puppy realizes that you taste awful. You can also give puppy a “time out” if she becomes aggressive and continues. A tired puppy is a happy puppy. Some people think all a young dog wants to do is sit on their lap. While puppies do need naps, these will alternate with the “puppy crazies” and it’s important to interact with them and keep them busy. It’s a great time to teach them the basics of obedience. Remember a puppy that is allowed to jump now will jump when they are older. It’s not very cute when they’re adults. Your biggest rewards are praise, cookies and play so use them wisely.

Be Careful When Choosing a Dog Trainer

Watch out for correspondence school trainers and crowded big box store classes taught by beginners. Train with positive reinforcement techniques and praise-based training - with the right trainer it will make learning fun and a part of your everyday lifestyle.


Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT), Consultant for Pet Therapy, Writer for AKC Family Dog and Gazette, Owner of Canines Can Do. Dorice has trained dogs since childhood and her dogs have received many national and international awards. She was mentored by master trainer, Bill Delaney and continues to study with international competitors and renowned trainers Betsy Scapicchio and Diane Goodspeed. She is a certified evaluator for the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program and an evaluator for the Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs. She was elected into the International Honor Society for Teaching, and participates in AKC and CKC performance events.


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