How to Build a Solid Relationship with Your Puppy

Love, Trust, and Respect

Young woman playing with her dog at home
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Congratulations for bringing your puppy home! Now what? It is time to thoughtfully build a solid relationship with your puppy. You'll be able to build a loving connection with a puppy of any breed, with a combination of love, trust, and respect. If even one of these is missing there will be issues in the relationship.

The Hardest Dogs to Train

Which breed is the hardest to train? The answer is not breed related–it is relationship related. The hardest puppy to train is the puppy that lives outside. This puppy is in charge of her environment most of the day and only knows her family as "the people who feed me." She loves you and she craves your attention, but she gets it in such small amounts that it just leaves her desperate for more. She is bored and gets herself in constant trouble. If you must leave your puppy outside, and you're determined to own a dog, your best bet is to get two puppies to be sure both have the companionship they need. It is, of course, possible to train puppies that live outside but it takes a strong commitment to the project.

Love

The first component of a solid relationship is love. Spend as much time as you can with your puppy, bearing in mind these important tips.

  • Use a leash, even indoors. Remember to use your leash inside the house to keep your puppy in the room where you are in your line of visual sight. Using an indoor leash on your dog is one of the keys to housebreaking your dog, and can be a very useful tool for doing any training with your dog. Use a short nylon leash with the handle cut off to minimize tripping hazards and the leash getting tangled on things.
  • Make sure that your new puppy’s primary bond is with you instead of with other dogs in your household. Dogs tend to form dog-to-dog bonds quicker and easier with other dogs ahead of the bond with humans. This is true even if the other dog despises the puppy. Avoid using other dogs as a babysitter for your puppy. Use your leash and confinement instead.
  • Consider having your puppy sleep in a small crate next to your bed. This eliminates most of the late night howling of new pups. Your puppy will sleep longer and better when she hears your breathing and knows that you are near. If you prefer, it is fine to allow your dog to sleep in your bed as long as the dog gets off the bed when you ask her to. Let your puppy see this as a privilege instead of a “doggie given right.”
Dog licking young boy
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Trust

The second part of a solid relationship is trust, which you build through communication. The best way to help your puppy to trust you is to learn to communicate with your puppy as a benevolent adult dog would communicate with her.

While some people see the puppy as a little person in a fur coat, your puppy is not a person and can never live up to that expectation. She does not think as you do; she lives in the present moment with no thought to the past or the future. Since she does not understand human language and may misinterpret our body language, it is up to you to learn her language. Learn what she is saying with her body language. Learn to recognize her signs of stress. Learn to speak with her in the language she understands. This builds trust between you and your puppy.

Respect

The third part of a solid relationship is respect, and respect must be earned rather than demanded. The good news is that it is easier to earn your puppy’s respect than from the typical teenager: all you need to do is convince your puppy that you are in charge.

Please remember that your leash and long line are your friends. The more you are willing to use these tools now the less you will need them a year from now.

  • Control your puppy by approaching the leash or long line to redirect your puppy to the behavior you want.
  • Learn to direct your puppy to the behavior you want instead of reacting to the behavior she offers.
  • Avoid jumping towards your puppy or reaching for her with your hands, and avoid hitting your puppy either with your hands or an object. When disciplining your pet, avoid grabbing your puppy’s muzzle and rolling your puppy over in the old ‘alpha roll’. You do not need such arguments. You need your leash and your long line.
  • You may also want to think of taking training classes together, such as an online Puppy Jump Start class.