So you got a puppy for Christmas, congratulations. No one gets a puppy thinking they would ever give him up, but a lot of Christmas puppies are surrendered before Valentine’s Day? What happens that could make someone go from feeling incredible joy and love for their little fluff ball to calling rescue groups, pounds and friends to see if they will take this “Bad” dog?

The Cuteness-Behavior Gap

At 8-12 weeks puppies are so darn cute that it’s easy to overlook many bad behaviors and we think they will grow out of these soon. But that doesn’t usually happen. Instead at 4 months the puppy is not quite as cute and his behavior is getting worse. By the time he’s 6 months old his behavior is so bad that you really don’t think he is cute at all. The gap between cuteness and behavior is so wide now that the owner Googles “I hate my puppy” and starts to look for a way to get rid of the dog or hopefully they get help from a trainer.

Having a well-trained dog that you can walk off leash anywhere and that will go out on cold mornings and fetch your newspaper takes a lot of work and a lot of time. But having well behaved dog doesn’t take that much work. Here are three simple steps that will get you through the worst part and if you want to work at having that well-trained dog that will get a beer from the fridge and bring you your slippers you will have built a great foundation.


You’ve got to have a way to manage your puppy. A common mistake that new owners make is to give the new puppy run of the house. How much unsupervised time would you give a two-year-old baby? A new dog should not be trusted any more than a 2 year-old baby.

Kennel training is the first step to having a well behaved dog. Many owners think it’s cruel to leave a dog in a crate or kennel. I agree that a puppy can’t be left alone for hours, but using a crate properly will be the best tool you have for getting the puppy house-trained, preventing him from chewing your furniture and eating something that will need to surgically removed.

If you have to leave the puppy longer than they can physically “hold it” you will need to have a friend or professional pet sitter come in and let you puppy out. You can also use an X-pen and potty pads, but then you are training your dog to do his business inside. If you have a small breed dog this may be okay, but if your dog is a large breed it is best to avoid ever allowing him to go inside. Bad habits are hard to break.

When your puppy is not in his kennel keep him in an exercise pen, gated into a small area or on leash. If he is alone, unsupervised he is going to get into trouble. These are all temporary management tools that you will be able to phase out as he matures.


Not too long ago I saw a neighbor carrying her 12 week-old puppy while walking her older dog. She told me that the Great Pyrenees rescue group had told her that her dog could not be walked outside of his yard until he had all his vaccinations. This is the worst advice that new pet owners get. Unfortunately there are still a lot of veterinarians that give this outdated advice. From the AVMA “The guidelines state puppies can start socialization as early as 7 to 8 weeks of age. In general, they should receive a minimum of one set of vaccines at least seven days prior to the first class as well as a first deworming. Puppies that are not properly socialized are more likely to develop behavioral problems that can make them unsuitable pets and increase the chances their owners will relinquish them to shelters.”

Socialization has to be done properly. Taking your puppy to the dog park is one of the worst things you can do. He could be overwhelmed and frightened or attacked by another dog. One bad encounter could result in your dog always being fearful of dogs. Letting a dog you don’t know approach your puppy on leash is not a good idea. Walking your new puppy on a busy highway the first day will most likely more afraid not less. Slowly introduce your puppy to new things like bicycles, lawnmowers, children, old people, vacuum cleaners and dogs. Treats can be very helpful when you are making introductions. If the puppy seems stressed in a situation then back off and try another day.

The best time to socialize a puppy is when they are 8-12 weeks old and after 20 weeks it can be very difficult. Make the time to get your puppy out and introduced to new things during this time or you may have a dog that is always fearful. Fearful puppies become aggressive dogs and in most cases this could have been avoided through proper socialization.


I’ve been working with families with pets for over 10 years and something I’ve learned is that most don’t have the time to train the dog. They have jobs, children, car-pool, afterschool activities, dinner to cook and little time to relax. But most family pets don’t require that much time to train a few very basic behaviors. I’ve found that most owners are not interested in walking their dog off leash, doing agility or protection work. The more you train your dog the better the relationship will be, but just because you don’t have hours a day doesn’t mean you can’t train some basic behaviors. When I start working with a family I first determine what’s important to them. It’s not up to me as the trainer to determine what constitutes good behavior for the owner. But in most cases it’s a good idea to teach a few basic commands and have a few rules such as, walk on a leash, not run out the door, come when called, and not jump on people.

You may not feel that you have time to train your puppy, but if you can spend 15 minutes a day; 3-5 minute sessions for the first 3 months you can teach the basic commands.

There is no limit to what you can train your dog to do but start with the basics. Commit a small amount of time each day.

Call us today and get the help you need to make sure your puppy is not your worst nightmare, but the dog of your dreams. 404-805-2482.