Plan ahead for a puppy that fits your lifestyle

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Getting your dog well behaved and trained enough to enjoy is hard work, especially if the dog is now just a puppy.

The first skill to be taught is potty training. Whether your dog is outside trained or inside trained with potty pads, you need to know what his schedule is. Making social plans or just getting on with your lifestyle requires knowing when your dog needs to potty.

Having a puppy temporarily changes your schedule, so the faster you learn his, the easier it is for you.

Keep a written record of when your dog potties, based upon the activity the dog just did - playing, sleeping, walking, eating, drinking, etc.

Experiencing your dog's puppyhood is like having an infant in the house. Did you prepare for that? The energy level of the dog - not just in puppyhood but also adulthood - is a good question to ask before you choose one!

If you are sedentary, did you choose a dog that is appropriate? If you are active, did you get a pup who can participate with your exercise and play?

Is size important? Do you have kids? Not all breeds are good with kids, plus you have to instruct your kids in appropriate behavior to avoid issues.

All dogs need supervision around children. You cannot expect a puppy to know what to do, so instruct the humans.

Puppy or dog proof your home with baby gates, exercise pen, crate - whatever it takes. Remove anything the puppy can get into or block it so the pup can't access it. Temporarily remove rugs and anything reachable on low shelves.

Socialize the dog by bringing her to public places, introducing her to all kinds of situations, environments and people. Bring her to puppy playtimes at first, not a larger dog park.

Have family members attend obedience and behavior classes, as these are pet-owner bonding experiences. Behavior commands, leash walking, leaving items alone, good manners and more are imprinted at a young age. Families need to learn these basic skills and behaviors to train the dog to be enjoyable and well adjusted.

You might think the dog is behaving abnormally when actually they are acting out age-appropriate behaviors. Jumping, chewing and nipping are normal in pups, but can persist with dogs due to lack of training, or they might be breed related.

Everyone in the family needs to know how to redirect those the right way.

Walk and exercise the dog enough to allow him to explore and get tired. Make time to play at what the dog enjoys: ball tossing, running, chasing, tugging and other human play. Does your dog like to sniff and smell or hunt or swim or maybe do agility? Find puppy or dog games that allow your pup to use those instincts. Supervise all child play.

If you can handle this, then you and your family will enjoy your dog for a long time and the puppy will be blessed to have you as owners.

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. ajbird@hargray.com

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