Many people contact me to either surrender their dog or seek training advice because of things they believe are serious issues that cannot be changed. They think it is too late, the problem is just too bad, etc. Sometimes they are right but there is one thing that is almost fool proof and that is prevention.
Too many people acquire a puppy, bring it home and do absolutely nothing with it. Eventually it grows up to be an adult dog with a list of behavior issues of all sorts. From destructive behavior to downright aggression, owners are now left not knowing what to do, feeling overwhelmed and many times removing the dog from their home.
The best way to avoid this scenario is to first research the breeds you are interested in. There is a lot more to a dog than looks alone and not all personality traits fit well into every home. For example, if you are a laid back, easy going person who does not like to exercise you probably will not want to get a Border Collie, since they are known for their intensity and high energy. On the other hand, if you are very active and want to include your dog in your fun, you probably would not want a Saint Bernard or Great Dane, since they would have trouble keeping up with you. There are many resources out there to research breeds, the internet is full of them. Please see the links at the end of this article for some good examples.
Secondly, know what socialization is and make sure you do it. Many people seem to think that socialization of a puppy is sufficient if they have people in and out of their home often. This is just not true. Socialization done properly is hard work and takes quite an investment of time on the owners part. There are pay offs though, a well socialized dog is a much safer pet. They tend to be better around other dogs and people and accept new situations with confidence. Fearful dogs tend to bite, and a dog who bites can put people at risk, including the owner. You could be sued for owning a dangerous dog. Even small breeds can be dangerous at times. Many shelter and rescue dogs are simply undersocialized, causing them to be fearful and/or aggressive. This is a shame since many of these dogs would not have ended up in a shelter, fearful and most likely put down due to the behavior, had someone just invested some time in them as a puppy.
Training classes for puppies is a MUST if you are trying to raise a nice, safe, family pet. Well adjusted dogs have many good experiences in their puppy-hood and know how to handle themselves around humans and other dogs when they are adults. Classes play a huge part in this. I am not talking about enrolling in an 8 week puppy class and calling it done. That is not enough. Puppies should be in one class after another for most of their first year of life, in order to give them the best foundation for their adult behavior. Finding classes is not enough either. Yes, there is more. The classes need to be the right type of training. Training should be fun for puppies. It should be a great adventure you and the pup go through together, teaching them all sorts of new things and going to interesting new places. Training that is too rough, or does not reward the dog is as harmful, if not more than, not taking any classes at all. Puppies are babies. Imagine if your child only had harsh, bad experiences when they were young. Do you think that child would grow up to be well adjusted and confident? Doubtful....
Reading books by good trainers and behaviorists on prevention of problems and how to raise a puppy can be more help than you could imagine, although books alone will not suffice. In combination with the proper choice of your new puppy, socialization and training, books can be a terrific asset. There are some brilliant dog trainers out there who are willing to share their wealth of knowledge with you, take them up on it. They have learned from years of trial and error and can help prevent you from making some of the same mistakes.
I realize this sounds like raising a puppy is more work than fun. It can be at times. Training your pup can and should be fun but it also should be taken very seriously. Spending the first year of your new dogs life working on prevention of future problems is well worth it in the end.
Below are some resources for helping you along the way in choosing and raising a puppy.
Choosing a Dog:
Getting A New Dog
Socializing Your New Puppy
Dog Trainer Locators:
The Other End of The Leash