The SIRIUS Puppy Raising Initiative For Prospective and New Puppy Owners

  • Start out ahead by searching for a puppy that has been raised with errorless housetraining and chewtoy-training programs underway, that has been safely socialized with and handled by at least a hundred people and has been taught some basic manners. 
  • Prevent housesoiling, destructive chewing, excessive barking and separation anxiety by starting your puppy’s errorless housetraining, chewtoy-training, and alone-time-training programs the very first day he/she comes home.
  • Prevent your puppy from becoming wary, fearful, or aggressive towards people when entering adolescence by safely socializing your puppy at home to at least another hundred people (especially men and children) before your pup is three months old. Puppyhood is the time to prevent fear and aggression.
  • Prevent your puppy from becoming a rambunctious, rumbustious, hyperactive loon by teaching basic manners from the outset. Lure/reward training is as quick and easy as it is enjoyable.
  • Look for an off-leash puppy class for your puppy to learn bite inhibition, to continue socializing with more people, to revamp their social savvy with other dogs and to learn more manners, tricks and games. To research classes in your area check out the APDT Dog Trainer Search.
  • Enjoy walking your dog at least once a day and continue ongoing socialization with people and other dogs. Always praise your puppy for all friendly greetings to people and other dogs. Your dog’s personality and temperament will not fully mature until two or three years of age.


Most of an adult dog’s temperament and behavior habits (both good and bad) is forged during puppyhood — very early puppyhood. The first few months of a puppy’s life are absolutely crucial and have a massive and long-lasting effect on a dog’s future behavior and temperament. Breed and individual differences aside, your puppy will essentially become what you raise and train him/her to be. Your puppy’s future quality of life is in your hands. Are you going to do your best to raise your puppy to be a good-natured and well-behaved dog that will enjoy living with you for years to come? Or, are you going to let these precious weeks slip by and unintentionally raise yet another potential shelter dog — a dog with predictable behavior problems that becomes wary, fearful or aggressive towards people and other dogs as it grows older?


When puppies soil the house or chew destructively, they are often relegated to the backyard, where they continue to soil and chew indiscriminately and soon learn to dig, bark and escape. When neighbors complain of the barking, the puppies are further confined to the basement or garage. Living in virtual solitary confinement, adolescent dogs become hyperactive and harder to handle and they progressively de-socialize and become fearful of people. Many such dogs are surrendered, along with their behavioral baggage, to shelters between six months and two years of age. Shelters try their best to re-home as many as possible but sadly, many dogs are euthanized. Without a doubt, utterly predictable and easily preventable behavior problems are the #1 terminal illness for pet dogs.


Selecting a Puppy

When you select a puppy, your have a choice. You can chose one that is well socialized and manners-trained with housetraining and chewtoy-training programs well underway, or you can chose one that has had little, if any, preparation to live with people — a puppy that is sufficiently behaviorally retarded that you’ve got loads of work to do just to catch up with normal development. If a litter of puppies is raised in an area where they are allowed to eliminate anywhere and everywhere and chew anything and everything that is exactly what they will do when they move to their new homes. There’s no point in being behind before you start.

Do make sure that you choose a puppy that from four weeks of age has been raised in an area with a toilet (some distance from its bed) and been fed mainly from hollow chewtoys. Additionally, make sure that your selected puppy has been socialized with, and handled and trained by, at least a hundred people, especially men and children. Characteristically, eight-week-old puppies are universally outgoing and eager to approach everybody. It would be highly unusual for a puppy that young to be shy or fearful. Search for a breeder that has raised puppies according to Open Paw’s Minimum Mental Health Requirements. 


Prevent Behavior Problems From Your Puppy’s Very First Day at Home

Make sure that you have purchased everything for your puppy’s long-term and short-term confinement areas beforehand. It would be a good plan to have a trainer come to the house to check your errorless housetraining and chewtoy-training set-up and to help you plan your daily and weekly management schedules.


When You Are Not at Home

Confine your puppy to a long-term confinement area (three times as long as it is wide) with a bed at one end and a toilet at the other, a supply of fresh water and chewtoys stuffed with a portion of your pup’s daily ration of dog food, i.e., not peanut butter or treats. While confined to this area, your puppy will virtually teach herself to eliminate in the toilet and to become a chewtoyaholic, which keeps her from chewing inappropriate items.

The purpose of long-term confinement is: 1. To prevent housesoiling and chewing mistakes around the house; 2. To teach your puppy to use a toilet area; 3. To teach your puppy to enjoy chewing chewtoys; 4. To teach your puppy to enjoy lying down calmly and quietly; and 5. To teach your puppy to enjoy times when left at home alone.

A square of K9 Grass makes for the best toilet. Clean up the feces regularly but let the urine soak in. Young puppies naturally want to eliminate as far as possible from their sleeping area. Also, they like to urinate where they smell urine but they don’t like to defecate where there is feces. Your puppy will naturally learn to eliminate on grass. Alternatively you may use dirt or a paving slab as a toilet, depending on where you would like your puppy to eliminate as an adult. If you live in the North, you may want to use snow!

Feed your puppy ONLY from hollow chewtoys. Kongs may be stuffed with moistened kibble and frozen overnight to make Kongsicles. Squirrel Dudes have a kibble meter and are designed to be stuffed with dry kibble. Biscuit Balls are ideal for stuffing with raw diet and frozen overnight. Intelligent chewtoy stuffing ensures that the food is delivered gradually — piece by piece. When dogs chew chewtoys they usually lie down within a few seconds. Each piece of food that comes out rewards your puppy 1. For chewing the chewtoy, 2. For lying down and 3. For not barking. Feeding your dog only from chewtoys is an extremely effective way to prevent destructive chewing, excessive recreational barking and separation anxiety. Your dog now has a hobby to enjoyably pass the time of day when left at home alone.


When You Are at Home

Confine your puppy to a short-term confinement area (such as a dog crate) along with a stuffed chewtoy. The purpose of short-term confinement is: 1. To prevent mistakes around the house; 2. To teach your puppy to enjoy chewing chewtoys; and 3. To be able to accurately predict when your puppy needs to eliminate (immediately after being released from the crate), so that you may take your puppy to an appropriate toilet area, check that your puppy eliminates, profusely praise and reward your puppy for doing the right thing in the right place at the right time, immediately clean up the feces and then have some relaxing time to play with and train your puppy (knowing that bladder and bowels are empty).

Every hour on the hour, open the crate door, put your puppy on leash, walk as quickly as possible to the outside toilet area, tell your puppy, “Go Pee, Go Poop”, stand still and wait for your puppy to go. You’ll only have to wait a few seconds. As soon as your puppy pees or poops, praise enthusiastically and offer three special food rewards. If your puppy still uses an indoor toilet, use the crate as the puppy’s bedroom in the long-term confinement area, then all you have to do every hour is open the crate door and tell the puppy to eliminate and the puppy will trot to the toilet and eliminate.

After training and playtime with your empty puppy, ask your puppy to sit, place a stuffed chewtoy in the crate and then tell your puppy, “In your crate”. Your puppy will soon learn to enjoy alone-time in the crate because there’s always a new chewtoy to empty of food. Set the timer on your watch or smartphone to remind you that your puppy will require another toilet break in one hour’s time.


Puppy Time is Party Time!

Most important, you want to raise your puppy to thoroughly enjoy the company and actions of people. I mean what’s the point of living with a dog that doesn’t like to be approached, touched, handled, or hugged. Also, if you let your puppy grow up to be wary or apprehensive around people, your dog’s life will become a living nightmare — anxiety and fearfulness each time and all the time that guests come round, on dog walks and on trips to the groomer or veterinarian.

Luckily, it is just so easy to teach puppies to be confident and friendly around people. In fact, it’s as easy as it’s enjoyable. However, you do have to actively teach your dog to be confident and friendly; people-friendliness does not necessarily happen by magic. On the contrary, by five to eight months of age, it is the norm for insufficiently socialized dogs to become wary of people, especially strangers, men and children. Instead, you must actively teach your dog that people are friendly and fun. Time is short (the Critical Period of Socialization is nearly two thirds over by eight weeks of age) and there is so much to do but … the good news — you’re going to have a wonderful time doing it.

Your puppy needs to meet and be handled and trained by at least 100 people, especially children and men during the first month at home. Your puppy needs to be super-socialized by three months of age. Socializing puppies to people at home is quite safe provided that outdoor shoes remain outside. Start by introducing your puppy to all members of the family, neighbors and close friends, i.e., people that the puppy will meet on a regular basis as an adult. Then ask them all to bring along a couple of friends. One evening invite eight men for pizza and TV football, eight women another night for intelligent conversation and chocolate, then four children (each with a parent), and then a puppy party with balloons and streamers. Your puppy needs to meet LOTS of different people in a very short time. Puppy time is party time and it’s right NOW!

Teach each guest how to lure/reward train your puppy to come, sit, lie down and rollover so that your puppy is repeatedly rewarded each time he/she approaches a person. Give each guest a bag of training kibble, put a few healthy treats in the men’s bags and put lots and lots of the very best treats (Ziwi Peak) in the children’s bags. For several nights in a row, your puppy will be handfed by many visitors and so your puppy learns, “I just love it when people come over, I especially like men but I really, really like children!”  

Teach each guest how to gently hug and stoke your puppy — one treat for examining each ear, one treat for examining each paw, one treat after opening the mouth, two treats for feeling the goolies and one treat for gazing in the puppy’s eyes. And so the puppy learns, “I just love being cuddled (restrained) and stroked and massaged (examined) by people, especially by men and children (they have much better treats).”

Monitor people behavior very carefully and insist that they are gentle and patient. Rather than telling people, don’t do this and don’t do that, ask everyone to sit in a chair or on the floor and one by one call the puppy holding a piece of food in an outstretched hand. If any person cannot get the puppy to come and sit, it is too early for them to handle the puppy. 

When partying, don’t forget your puppy’s hourly potty breaks and occasional rest breaks; if your puppy is too tired to play, your puppy needs a rest.


Well-Socialized Before Three Months of Age

You can teach manners at anytime but it’s just so easy and so much fun training two and three month old puppies that you may as well teach good manners right away, otherwise your puppy will probably improvise and develop what you might term “bad manners”. Similarly, you can teach good behavior or resolve behavior problems at any time but as a puppy/dog grows older, behavioral habits become more resistant to change.  It makes such good sense therefore, to teach good habits from the outset. Good habits are just as hard to break as bad habits.

Socialization and temperament training, however, must take place during early puppyhood. Socialization is more effective, quicker and easier the younger your puppy. Or, to put it another way, as your puppy becomes older, socialization is much less effective, takes much more time and is much more difficult and sometimes, dangerous. Insufficiently socialized puppies first become shy, then standoffish, wary and fearful of people during adolescence. For a fearful dog, life becomes a living nightmare — filled with anxiety and often having to face its biggest fears (usually strangers, men, children, or other dogs) every day. When adolescent dogs are really anxious and scared of people they often resort to growling, snarling, snapping, lunging and sometimes biting in an attempt to keep people at away. All in all, for an unsocialized dog, life is really pretty grim

Certainly it’s possible to rehabilitate a fearful dog but it becomes more difficult and takes much more time as every week goes by. For example, it takes only a couple of days to build confidence in an unusually fearful eight-week old puppy, a week or two for a three-month-old puppy and several months for a five-month-old adolescent but it will require many months (and maybe years) to rehabilitate a fearful eight-month old adolescent dog and even then, he or she will probably never be fully confident and at ease with the world.

So please, do your very best to make sure your puppy is well-socialized before three months of age so that he/she is confident and happy and has the social savvy to navigate the big wide world — going to puppy classes and meeting lots of people on walks through the neighborhood. Your puppy’s future quality of life is in your hands. And it’s not as if socializing your puppy is an unpleasant task. Schedule a puppy party at your house several nights a week. The really great thing about puppy socialization is that it gets your social life back on track too. Yes, you can entertain and chat to people in your own home instead of on online social networks


Puppy Classes and Walks

Check out the APDT Trainer Search to find a suitable puppy class in your area. Look for a class that is taught off-leash for at least 50 minutes of the hour, so that your puppy can socialize with people and other dogs and develop bite inhibition and you can learn and practice controlling your puppy when off-leash, at a distance and distracted. Your adult dog will be off-leash for most of the time (at home) and so it makes sense to train your puppy off-leash from the outset.

Look for a class that integrates many short training interludes and handling sessions within the play session. Look for a class where you are taught how to phase out food lures and rewards so that your puppy learns to respond reliable and promptly to your handsignals and verbal instructions.

Yes, a walk provides much-needed physical exercise for you and your dog, but equally as important are mental exercise (stop and ask your dog to sit every 25 yards), mental stimulation and continued socialization with people and other dogs. As a rough guideline, your puppy needs to meet and interact with three unfamiliar people and three unfamiliar dogs each day in order to remain confident and friendly around people and other dogs. Aside from wonderful companionship, a daily walk is one of the best benefits of sharing your life with a dog. Nonetheless, far to many owners come up with all sorts of excuses for not socializing their puppy


Behavior is Always Changing — Socialization & Training Must Continue Forever

Behavior and temperament never remain the same; they are in a state of constant flux. If you continue socialization and training, your dog will become more socialized and better mannered. If you discontinue socialization and training, your dog will regress surprisingly quickly, especially during adolescence. Your adolescent dog will not be fully matured until two or three years of age.

Never take your puppy’s friendly behavior for granted. Of course your puppy is a social butterfly; most puppies are friendly! Remember, though, you are preparing your puppy to develop the social savvy to successfully navigate adolescence and to develop into a confident, friendly, and sociable adult dog.

Praise your puppy/dog for all friendly greetings to people and other dogs. Give the people a food treat and show them how to lure your dog to sit before petting. Take the time to take a break on walks, so your puppy has ample opportunity to settle down and watch the world go by. Praise your puppy/dog every time he/she notices another dog or a person. Reward your puppy/dog with treats, if a person goes by on a skateboard or motorcycle, or if another dog barks.

If you notice any signs that your dog is becoming standoffish or wary towards people or other dogs, seek help from a trainer immediately. Your dog will not “grow out of it”. If you delay and do nothing, your dog will “grow into it”! If you simply make euphemistic excuses for your puppy’s lack of confidence — “He takes a while to warm to strangers”, “He’s not overly fond of children”, “He’s a bit hand-shy”, or, “He’s a bit tricky round his food bowl”, your puppy will most likely become more and more fearful and eventually, aggressive.


We very much hope that you have found this new Puppy Raising Initiative to be useful. We have tried to focus on the prevention of problems that are especially difficult or time-consuming to resolve in adulthood. All of these problems, are of course, predictable. It should come as no surprise to you that puppies bark, chew and eliminate. Also, as they grow older, they naturally grow wary of unfamiliar people and dogs. Hopefully, this advice (and the various links) will help you prevent all of these problems by teaching your dog, where to pee and poop, what to chew, when and for how long to bark, to enjoy time spent alone and especially, to enjoy the company of people and other dogs.

This is only a very brief summary of the important and urgent things you need to do. For more detailed information, you may download two of my books for free — BEFORE You Get Your Puppy and AFTER You Get Your Puppy. Please, please, pleeeease, forward the link to this Puppy Raising Initiative and email the two free eBooks to every doggy person that you know. 

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