How to build your puppy’s confidence
Developing confidence within your new puppy should start the minute they arrive home. Introducing your puppy to new experiences and situations in a controlled manner as early as possible is the best way to avoid potential fears and phobias later in life. The following section covers those things you should do regularly during your puppy’s first few months at home.
Children: Puppies should be accustomed to children and babies even if you don’t have any in your family. Under supervision, allow children to meet your puppy and handle it gently. Arrange to meet a friend with a baby and allow your puppy to see and smell it. (Further reading: Preparing Your Dog For a New Baby)
Grooming: Grooming your puppy every day for a few minutes will accustom them to being thoroughly handled. Do this even if they do not appear to need it. Handle the puppy’s nails regularly and slightly trim them when necessary.
Visitors: Allow your puppy to meet all of your visitors. Make meeting visitors as pleasurable as possible. Ask your visitors to make some fuss and feed tip bits as they do.
Vet Examination: Examine your puppy every day is the best preparation for the vet visits it will have during its life. Check its teeth, ears, eyes, paws and under its tail. Ask others to do this as well as yourself.
Delivery Men: Aggression towards delivery men and postmen is a common problem for many owners. Let your puppy have positive experiences with these people as early as possible. Carry them out to meet the postman and ask him to feed him tip bits. Repeat this regularly during puppy-hood. (Further reading: Chasing The Postman)
Cats: It’s a good idea to introduce your puppy to cats, even if you don’t have one. You don’t want a dog that is always barking at cats or getting into scraps with them. This most be done in a well controlled manner as most puppies are far to boisterous for most cats liking. It is best to hold your puppy during these introductions.
Other Dogs : Where possible, introducing a puppy to other dogs at home should be done on neutral territory or in the garden. For much more detailed reading this area, read our article Introducing New Dogs To Each Other .
Cars: Travel sickness can be a major problem for owners and often prevents their dog enjoying family outings. Introducing young puppies to the car is probably one of the most important aspects of puppy confidence building. Read out article Why is My Dog Getting Travel Sickness for hints and tips to ensure trouble free travelling.
Other Environments : Take your puppy to other peoples home or other places where they will experience different things. Take them to the post office or the newsagent, and places where they will see and hear traffic. Try train stations or bus stations.
Lead Training: Prepare your puppy for lead training by firstly introducing the collar for a day or so, then practice short lead sessions in the garden. (Further reading: Stop your Dog Pulling on The Lead).
Being left alone: Puppies that are not accustomed to being left alone are much more likely to suffer separation anxiety later in life. This can manifest itself in destructiveness, howling/barking and loss of toilet control. Our article Why does my dog bark when left alone covers the subject of separation anxiety in detail.
Don’t try to achieve this all at once, try and give your puppy a new experience every day, but don’t over do it. Watch out for tell-tale signs that they are becoming anxious. These include the tale between their legs, hiding behind you or heavy panting. When this happens you are probably progressing them to quickly. Remove the puppy from the situation and look to build up more slowly in smaller steps. With puppies that are not fully inoculated, ensure your carry them at all times to avoid contact with areas other dogs may have been. When out and about, it is sometimes useful to start by just letting your puppy watch new experiences from the security of the car.