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If I Had Only Known… Lessons from a New Trainer

Author: Greg Raub | Date: January 12, 2012

As a dog owner getting my second Westie puppy, I thought I was totally prepared and knew everything I needed to know about caring for a puppy.  Well, I quickly realized I had forgotten how much work a puppy is.  And now, ten years later, I realize I am still learning.  As a new AnimalSense trainer, I’ve spent the better of the past year learning about dogs and dog training.  Somewhere along the line I started making a mental list of things I would do differently as a dog owner, knowing what I know now.

  1. Daily walks. While I took my puppy for occasional walks, I know that I also was somewhat lazy and would often find it easier to just let him out in the backyard.  Knowing what I know now about the importance of socialization, I’d be doing two walks a day… not just for housebreaking, but for exercise, exploration and enjoyment.
  2. Rigorous socialization.  Speaking of socialization, I would be much more rigorous about introducing my puppy to a wide variety of people, places and things.  There are all sorts of checklists available.  This is one I especially like: Socialization Checklist.  And I now know that there is a really limited time window – ages 8 to 12 weeks when socialization is critical.
  3. Earlier training.  I took my dog to his first class at about the age of six months.  By that time he was already exhibiting what I now recognize as fear-based behaviors.  But at the time it just seemed like bad manners (barking and growing at other dogs).  So if I had the chance to do it over, I would investigate classes and have him registered even before I brought him home.
  4. Positive training.  When I was doing that investigative work I just mentioned, I would be looking for a trainer who used positive reinforcement.  When I finally did take my dog for his first class, I didn’t even know there were different approaches to training.  As a firm believer now in positive reinforcement, that is definitely what I would be looking for.
  5. Better food.  My learnings are not only about behavior and socialization.  The other thing I would differently is select a better quality food.  I fed my puppy what I thought was a “premium” food. While it probably never harmed him, he was never one to gobble down his food until I switched to a grain-free food.  Like people, a dog should like its food…and look forward to it!  There are several internet sites where you can read reviews and ratings of dog foods.  Here’s one I like.

There’s probably more.  But these are some really simple things to think about with a new puppy… or any dog!  It’s never too late to make a better life for your dog.


    1. Thank you for this wonderful post! I’m getting a mini goldendoodle in February and this was exactly what I needed. Cheers!
      Laura Caldwell

    2. […] jumping, whining, begging. pulling).  For more things I’ve learned, check out that very first blog I […]

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