When you add in the fact that it is winter, and your tiny puppy may not want to go freeze outside while he pees, or that you aren’t going to the park or hanging out on café patios as much as you might in the spring, summer, or fall, then suddenly getting social becomes a challenge too. The last thing you wanted for Christmas is a future curmudgeon dog who doesn’t like social situations and who pees in the upstairs bedroom when you’re not looking.
Here are a few things to consider when raising a puppy in the winter:
- Pay extra attention to potty training – It’s true that dogs don’t naturally want to go in the same area they live. They have a cleanliness instinct that helps us all potty train. However, houses are big to puppies and walking a few steps away from their bed can be far enough for many of them. There is no magic to potty training other than supervising them (tether them to you for a few days for best results) and take them out steadily throughout the day – especially about 15 minutes after meal time. Stocking up on puppy pads and getting a play pen for your puppy can help contain the mess and damage to your home.
- Find ways to socialize – If you are not a very social person, or the winter is keeping you inside more than usual, you still have to make an effort to get as many people, puppies, and well-balanced dogs in front of your new dog as you can. I’m wanting you to shoot for hundreds here, not 10 or so. Take your puppy with you everywhere you can – maybe even into your work if your employers are cool. Post on facebook that you need people to come over or that you can bring your puppy over to them. If you have friends with dogs, then have them bring their dogs.
- Be proactive – Great dogs are a mixture of good breeding and good training. As I’ve said, you will never be able to make a bigger imprint on your dog than you can in the first few months of their lives. If you don’t expose them to the world by the time they are 6 months, then you will be rehabilitating your dog later, which is more challenging.
- Study up – If you want to raise the perfect puppy, read some books. AWDT highly recommends Cesar Millan’s How To Raise the Perfect Dog and/or The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete.
- Find a good puppy class – These are few and far between, but if you live in an area that has good puppy classes with an emphasis on socialization and basic training – then this is a great place to socialize your puppy in a structured environment.
- Work with a trainer in your home – Trainers in your home can look at your house and tell you how to get your dog comfortable in your own environment. We can also meet with you before you get a puppy to help match you with a good puppy for your environment (too bad people don’t call us pre-emptively more!). Knowing how to handle stuff like furniture, babies, potty training, etc. are all good lessons for you and your dog that are difficult to touch on in a class environment.
Congratulations on your new puppy if you have one, and for you experienced dog owners who know people with new dogs, don’t be afraid to offer to bring your dogs over and give pointers when asked for.