Every puppy has different needs. Below are the ingredients, and it’s up to you as the puppies owner to determine the exact recipe. This list is presented in order of importance for creating a happy, healthy, and obedient puppy.
At the very end is affection. Don’t substitute affection for any of the other components listed above. Use affection as a “life reward” for the puppy doing things well and following your rules, boundaries, training, etc.
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I'm Dale Buchanan, and this is Puppy Talk, the podcast that offers free advice and tips for raising a happy, healthy, and obedient puppy. For more information on this podcast, visit us online at puppytalkpodcast.com.
Welcome to Puppy Talk, episode number 71, how to Meet Your Puppy's needs. In this episode, I'm going to lay out a formula for you, which will be in the show notes about the components you need to create a healthy, happy, and obedient puppy. These five components are exercise, mental stimulation, socialization, enrichment and play. It's up to you to determine the exact recipe for your puppy. I've listed the ingredients and I'm going to explain to you in this episode how to make the recipe because each puppy is different depending on their age, their breed, their gender, and so many other factors that are completely out of our control. From training over a thousand puppies, I can tell you that every single puppy, even from the same litter, are different and they have different needs.
The first thing you're going to need to do as soon as you're bring your puppy home is to be in the moment, be present with that puppy and figure out if things are working or they're not working. In other words, let's take the first ingredient exercise. If your puppy is 10 or 12 weeks old and they're not getting any exercise at all, that's probably not good. If they're that age and they're getting too much exercise, they're getting too many walks, or they're running around the house too much, that's also not good because puppies mostly need sleep, and then we take the next component, mental stimulation. This is where a lot of owners fall short.
The last podcast episode I did was on mental stimulation, so if you need help understanding what that is and how to apply it, listen to that episode. Mental stimulation is extremely important for puppies, probably equal to physical exercise. If your puppy is not getting enough mental stimulation, they're going to find things to do that annoy you, like bark or chew furniture or potty in the house, things like that. If they're getting too much mental stimulation, if they're overstimulated, they're gonna start mouthing more and jumping more, and they should probably learn how to relax and get more sleep. Like I already mentioned.
The next ingredient, socialization is very important. A puppy that is under socialized usually exhibits behaviors such as fear, anxiety, stress, or even aggression later in life. You don't want this to happen. Socializing can be as simple as this exercise. Put your puppy on the harness or collar, attach the leash, take it out to the driveway, and have it just sit and do nothing. This may seem odd to you. This may seem like while I'm not moving with my puppy, I'm not giving my puppy commands, so they're not learning anything, and that's not true for your puppy to go to the end of your driveway.
When kids are coming home from school and people are coming home from work and just sit there and observe and not react to anything is a very high level of socialization and a skillset that every puppy should learn. Starting at about 10 weeks old, you don't have to give any cues. Just put your puppy in a sit and have them wait and watch. This is a high level of socialization, and this is getting your puppy to be desensitized to all of the triggers that could cause them fear, anxiety, and stress. So socialization is very important. However, I had one client with a puppy that once they got the rabies shot, he decided, I'm gonna take this puppy to the dog park every day. The puppy went to the dog park to socialize with other dogs and people, and then after about three or four days, the puppy also started to create anxiety because it was over socialized. It wasn't getting enough downtime, it was too much for that puppy, so you have to find what works best for your puppy. That's the whole purpose of this podcast episode.
Next on the list is enrichment. You may be wondering what exactly is enrichment, and I've done several podcast episodes on enrichment in 2021 when I first started the podcast Puppy Talk. In my book, the Complete Puppy Training Manual and my other book, Lee, training Your Puppy, I talk about three types of walks, the training walk, the enrichment walk, and the potty break. Walk. The enrichment walk allows your puppy to get a lot of enrichment while you're walking them and also training them, and it would go something like this. Take your puppy out on a 15 or 30 foot leash, not a retractable leash, a long lead, 15 or 30 foot leash. Go somewhere where they can roll around in the grass, dig a little bit, chew a little grass, find some sticks, sniff some bushes, and just have a good time without telling them what to do, without giving them a lot of commands and demanding too much from them. This is an example of enrichment. You can also give enrichment to your puppy inside the house using a licky mat or a Kong or a snuffle mat or something like that. There are a lot of ways to provide enrichment inside and outside of the house. Basically, enrichment is going to be the puppy having a good time doing something they like without you telling them exactly what to do and how to do it.
Then we get into the next ingredient, which is play. All puppies like to play. All puppy owners like to play with their puppies. However, I've seen too many puppy owners have too much play with their puppies and only play with their puppies. This is not gonna create a balanced puppy because the puppy needs the other four ingredients first in more quantities than play. Believe it or not, puppies are going to play all the time. They're always gonna be in play mode, so you don't really have to schedule a lot of play for puppies. They're always ready to play. That's why I put this at the bottom of the list of the ingredients because you don't really have to worry about it too much. Puppies are always gonna be playing.
What you need to do is find the right recipe for your puppy using these five components, exercise, mental stimulation, socialization, enrichment and play, and find out what works best for them, what keeps them happiest, what keeps them calm, what keeps them low stress, and also what works best for your lifestyle, which is very important. One thing to keep in mind is that you cannot mold your puppy into your lifestyle. If your puppy needs a lot of exercise and you're not able to give that puppy a lot of exercise, there is a problem. You're trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and it won't work. You have to meet the puppy's needs, not having the puppy meet your needs. This is very, very important because I get called by a lot of people who have puppies that they can't manage, they can't control, they don't know what to do, and the training is not going to help that problem.
The owner has the wrong dog for their lifestyle and they can't meet the puppies needs, so don't try to have the puppy meet your needs. You have to meet the puppy's needs. You have to mold yourself into the breed, the age, the gender, and the needs of that puppy. Finally, we get to affection.
A lot of people will over affectionate their puppy thinking that, oh, this puppy's so cute. I just want to cuddle and kiss them all the time, and that's okay. As a life reward. What I mean by a life reward is once your puppy has done all of the required things that they need to fulfill them during that day, the exercise, mental stimulation, socialization, enrichment and play, then they can get some affection if they've gone potty outside all day instead of inside the house. If they've done great with their obedience training, they didn't try to go into rooms they weren't supposed to get into and they've obeyed the rules, then you give them a lot of affection. You give them a big life reward.
Don't be too strict or hard on your puppy, but save the affection as a life reward so that the puppy can earn that affection and you give it to them at the right time when they're calm. If you give puppies affection when they're hyper and excited, you are just reinforcing that hyperness, so you wanna make sure that you give the affection usually at the end of the day when the puppy's done some great stuff, and you can give that puppy a life reward and reward them with affection.