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The 10 Puppy Principles

Before you get a puppy, you need to understand and be prepared to focus on these 10 things:


1. Socialization window

This is the critical first 16 weeks of your puppy’s life and development when she is ready to learn about the world and become comfortable with many new experiences with people, other dogs, and the world around her. Frequent outings and positive exposure to all the things you’ll want your puppy to love (new places, difference surfaces, loud coffee shops, car rides, children, individuals with assistive devices like canes, etc.) will help your puppy enjoy these experiences.

Puppies who don’t have positive experiences with many new people and things may be fearful when they are faced with those things later in life. Attending puppy play groups or classes at least once a week gives your puppy important socialization opportunities with other puppies as well. If you miss exposing your puppy to people, places and other puppies during this vital window, your puppy may not be comfortable in the world the way you want them to be.

Unsocialized dogs can be traumatized, and like this video shows, can take a great deal to handle.

2. Bite Inhibition

Puppies are born to bite and scientists believe this is an important part of their social development that must occur while they have puppy teeth, which begin fall out around three months of age. Biting on other puppies in play helps puppies learn how to control how hard they bite. That way they can play bite without doing damage. Biting on human hands can also accomplish this if we let them know with a loud “Ouch!” and take away our hands when they bite too hard. They learn to be more careful and not bite so hard to keep the playtime going.

Once puppies have adult teeth, many people prefer they never put teeth on human skin. You can use the same technique of withdrawing any time your dog’s teeth touch your skin to teach them that teeth on humans makes the fun stop.

We went into greater depth here.

3. Developmental Stages and Personality

Just like a person growing up, your puppy will change both physically and behaviorally as they develop. The sleepy 8 week old puppy will turn into the very active 5 month old. The nine month old puppy will go through a biological period when they may be more clingy and fearful. The 18-month old adolescent will act out and test boundaries. All of this is normal development and every stage of your puppy’s life will bring new joys and new challenges.

Understanding your puppy’s developmental stages, expecting, and responding appropriately to the changes they bring will help you and your puppy live happily together. Not understanding that your puppy’s personality and activity level can change as they develop can lead to young dogs being returned to the shelter system for problems that could have been prevented or fixed. The adolescent phase can be challenging in any species, but in dogs it’s relatively brief. It is key to continue throughout your dog’s life to reward behavior you like and prevent behavior you don’t like from being rewarding. If you have questions or problems with behavior as you puppy develops, help is available through our Georgia Peaches Community Page on Facebook.

4. Training Your Puppy

Scientists who study how dogs learn agree that using positive reinforcement is by far the best way to teach your puppy how you’d like her to behave. The use of force, fear, intimidation, pain, and physical correction or punishment in training can damage your relationship with your puppy and is unnecessary. Old-fashioned ideas that people need to be “alpha” or that dogs are like wolves are just plain wrong. Science has shown that dog and wolf social behavior is very different. Why would you do something based on wolf behavior when there are decades of research showing what works best for dogs is different?

The concepts that are used to train a puppy are simple! 1) Reward behavior you like; and 2) Make sure behavior you don’t like isn’t rewarded in some way. The only hard part is making sure you know what your puppy finds rewarding. Tasty treats are usually a good way to reward your puppy, but giving her attention and praise, playing with her, or snuggling with her can also be very rewarding in the right circumstances. Pick your reward based on the situation. If you puppy wants to play, snuggle time probably won’t be a great reward at that moment.

5. Understanding Dog Body Language

Even during the socialization window when puppies are very open to new things, puppies can become fearful if something scary happens. Another aspect of fearfulness is reactivity – when your puppy learns to react with barking or aggression to things they fear or don’t like. Prevent fear and reactivity by learning what your puppy’s body language means so you can tell if she is wary, afraid, or ready to fight off the scary vacuum cleaner.

Don’t push your puppy to do something that frightens or alarms her. Instead, gently show her that the scary thing predicts tasty treats so she’ll feel better about it and learn to not be afraid or reactive. Respect when your puppy is uncomfortable, and protect her from situations that make her uncomfortable.

Dr. Sophia Yin developed a downloadable poster that illustrates what to look for with dogs.

6. Body Handling

During a puppy’s socialization window and throughout their life, it’s important to help them be comfortable with being touched. Puppies who don’t learn to enjoy being touched won’t tolerate having their feet and ears cleaned, nails trimmed and other grooming and veterinary procedures. They may not even tolerate being petted or touched on certain parts of their bodies.

Pairing tasty treats with gentle touch on all parts of the body is an important part of raising a well-socialized dog. Doing the same for the sight and touch of nail clippers and other necessary evils will help your puppy learn to trust you and allow you, the vet or groomer to do what needs to be done.

7. Preventing guarding

It’s a natural response for both dogs and people to claim certain things, such as their food or favorite toys, as “mine!” Just as we teach children to enjoy sharing, we want our puppies to know that good things happen when they don’t try to prevent us from taking something away from them. Feeding your puppy by hand and reaching into his bowl to add tasty treats is a great way to teach your puppy that hands reaching for his food predict even better things.

Dogs often love to play tug and keep-away with items, or may try to prevent people from taking things away from them by growling or snapping. Instead, trade your puppy a tasty treat so he’ll drop the item. Then, whenever possible give the item back immediately. Your puppy will learn that giving something up usually means he gets something great and gets the item back, too!

8. Alone Training

One thing a lot of people don’t think about is how important it is to teach your puppy to be comfortable being away from you. Remember, she may never have been alone until you leave her the first time. Make sure you practice leaving her for very short periods just out of sight or in another room while she has something wonderful to concentrate on. This can be a puppy chew toy or food puzzle she only gets when you are out of her sight. Make the time that you leave predict wonderful things for her. Don’t worry, she’ll still be thrilled to see you come back!

Training a puppy to love being in a crate is another way to help with alone training. If the puppy feels safe and comfortable in her crate with her special chews and toys, you can safely leave the puppy unsupervised for appropriate lengths of time.


9. Potty Training

Teaching a puppy where it is and is not appropriate to go potty can be a big challenge. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Using a crate, a larger enclosed area, periods of close supervision and fabulous food rewards will have your puppy potty trained in a matter of days.

The most important thing you can do is prevent any potty accidents. If your puppy never has the experience of relieving himself inside, he’ll learn very quickly that outside is the only appropriate place. And remember never to punish your puppy for an accident. He is a baby, and it was your responsibility to make sure he wasn’t left unsupervised without a legal potty place. Punishment won’t teach your puppy that it’s not okay to go potty in the house. It will teach him it’s not okay to go potty where you can find it.

For more tips, take a look at this video.

10. Health and Safety

Your puppy needs healthcare and vaccinations at recommended times to protect him from deadly diseases like parvo, parainfluenza, distemper and rabies. Taking your puppy to public places where unvaccinated dog may have gone potty is very dangerous until after their third set of DHPP shots (usually give at 16 weeks.) It’s important to note that you should start your puppy at an approved puppy play or class after their first set of DHPP shots. Socialization in puppy play or class is vitally important, and the risk of infection from an organized puppy class or play group is very small since all the puppies are vaccinated.

Puppies explore the world with their mouths and will chew on anything they can, such as electrical cords and plants. Some puppies will swallow non-food items. You will need to supervise your puppy, provide safe chew toys, and be sure there is nothing your puppy can get into that could hurt him. If your puppy chews on something you don’t want him to, trade him for something appropriate to teach him what is his.