If you have just added a new puppy to the family or are planning to, congratulations! A puppy can add so much fun and happiness to the family. But they can be a challenge in the beginning if you do not properly train them. First, there is the nighttime yowling. Then there is cleaning up the messes on the floor. Puppies also tend to want to bite everything. And you can be sure they probably will not listen to your commands right away. So, puppy training is essential for both your long-term sanity and your dog’s happiness. Mental stimulation plays a big part in their training. You are going to find out what you can do to keep your pup engaged and having fun.
Why Mental Stimulation for Puppy Training?
Think of it like this:
You decide to go on a road trip. So, you pack up the car, stock up on snacks, and organize all of your favorite road trip songs. Then at 7:00 am sharp, you hit the road!
Now, fast forward 8 hours. How do you feel? Are you tired? Do you feel drained? You did not do anything all day but drive, right?
Wrong! Even though you did not have much physical movement while driving, you experience travel fatigue from the mental stimulation involved. You concentrated on roads, reading maps and signs, listening to the news or radio, and processing more information than you would be able to recite back by the end of the day.
Now, imagine if you sat around the house all day with no phone, computer, radio, a book to read, television to watch, nor someone to share a conversation with you. You would get bored, right? You might become nervous or anxious for something to do.
Well, animals can feel these things too. For this reason, they need mental stimulation in addition to physical exercise. It is a necessary part of their life, especially during puppy training. Here are signs your puppy or dog needs more mental and physical stimulation:
Your puppy is acting bored such as barking, chewing, or digging.
You observe anxiety such as licking, chewing, or panting.
Your puppy is hyperactive such as exhibiting high energy, unable to pay attention or showing impulsive behavior.
Suppose you see any of the above signs. In that case, your dog needs a healthy dose of mental stimulation in addition to physical exercise. As a result, your pup will live a better, happier, and more comfortable life, and so will you!
Ways To Provide Mental Stimulation
Interactive feeding tools: Things like puzzle games, Kongs, Kibble Balls, and all food-related toys are a great way to kick start your dog’s mental stimulation routine. Here are some you can check out.
Full meals from interactive feeders are some of the best and low-maintenance ways to provide mental exercise for them.
Be creative. Change the routine and different tastes will keep your dog engaged and enjoying the process!
Training games: Training your dog new skills or tricks is a great way to engage their minds. Instead of measuring your pup’s kibble out and plopping it into a bowl, feed it piece by piece in a training session!
Nose work/hide-and-seek: Dogs have a natural ability and desire to use their noses. By allowing them to do so on walks, during games, or for dinner, we enhance those experiences.
It is okay to let your dog do a little sniff-exploring. For example, you can run and hide and then call your dog to find you. Also, you can have your dog do a little searching for some goodies (or dinner!). Let your dog use their nose; they will thank you for it!
Timeline for Puppy Training
So, at what point during puppy training do you teach your dog the different cues? When do you do house training? Here is an age guide you can use:
7-8 Weeks Old: Basic Cues (Sit, Stay, Come)
You can start with basic cues as early as seven weeks old:
Say a command such as “sit” just one time.
Use a treat to position your dog into a sitting position.
Once sitting, give your puppy the treat and some praise.
At this age, only do leash training inside. Puppies do not have their complete vaccinations at this point. So, it is not safe for them to be walking around where other dogs go.
Start by letting them wear the collar or harness for just a short time while providing treats. Then, increase the length of time slowly. Here are some great collar suggestions.
Get your puppy used to being touched. Gently rub your puppy’s ears and paws while rewarding them. They will get used to people touching those areas, which will help make veterinary visits and nail trims less stressful for both of you!
8-10 Weeks Old: Crate Training
Your puppy should see their crate as a safe and calm place. Start by bringing them to their crate for 10-minute intervals while they are nice and calm. Then, reward them for going in their crate. You can even feed them in their crate to create a positive environment.
10-12 Weeks Old: Learning Not to Bite
Puppies can become mouthy at this age. Putting things in their mouths is how they explore their world, but it is essential to teach them not to bite your hands or ankles. When they start biting you, redirect them to a more appropriate object to chew, such as a toy.
12-16 Weeks Old: Potty Training
Make sure to take your puppy out first thing in the morning, after eating, and after playtime and naps throughout the day. At this point, they should start having enough bladder control to learn to hold it. Reward your puppy with a nice treat every time they go to the bathroom outside.
6 Months Old
Puppies are entering their adolescence stage by this point. It is the most challenging stage to start training. That is why we recommend you start training them as young as you can. At this stage, you should continue their training to solidify and strengthen their skills in more public and distracting settings such as dog parks.
NEVER try to teach a puppy through punishment. Punishments such as hitting your dog with a newspaper or withholding food from them will not result in a happy, obedient family member. Quite the opposite, it can result in long-term anxiety and emotional stress.
ALWAYS use positive reinforcement, which means rewarding them when they do something correctly. These rewards can be tasty treats, but every dog is different, and yours may love just having you pet them and say, “good job!” so keep an eye out and see what they like.
If you have any questions about your new puppy’s health or need to schedule an appointment, please contact us. We will be glad to help you any way we can.
Dr. Ashley Tuma