Puppy Prep Course
A complimentary guide to help you navigate the first few weeks with your puppy.
This guide is intended to compliment our Harmony School day training program. Be sure to reach out to chat with one of our Professional Trainers about in-person training options.
Enrichment & Socialization
Enrichment activities are important for helping your puppy stay occupied and engaged while confined. An enrichment activity is anything that provides your puppy with mental stimulation, challenge, or anything that allows them to engage with their innate behaviors such as sniffing, chasing, playing, and chewing. Puppies are curious by nature, and we can give them a variety of activities to engage this curiosity and help them satisfy these important emotional needs.
Enrichment Activities and Confinement
Throughout this course we’ve reinforced the importance of management and happy, confident confinement. We want our puppies to be secure and content in their surroundings, and enrichment games, toys, and puzzles can be a great way of making sure their emotional needs are met while also providing puppies with engaging activities and great distractions for crate and independence training. The more engaging a toy or game is, the less likely your pup is going to notice that you’ve left the room!
In the video below, Shanni outlines enrichment toys and games for young puppies and shows how they can be useful in distracting and engaging the pup while they are confined.
The best enrichment toys, games, and chews will engage multiple senses and encourage puppies to entertain themselves.
Food puzzles and toys, such as snuffle mats or treat-filled Kongs, engage the puppy’s need to chew, sniff, and “hunt” for treats. While there are many store-bought enrichment toy options, you can make enrichment games out of many household items as well. For example, the core from a roll of paper towels can be stuffed with paper for your dog to pull out and shred. It’s a bit messy, but it’s super fun! You can also create enriching scent games by hiding treats in boxes and letting your puppy seek them out. The video below illustrates how to set up your own scent game at home.
Socialization is one of the most important concepts in your young puppy’s life. Unfortunately, it is also one of the concepts most often misunderstood by puppy parents. When we discuss socialization, we tend to get stuck on the “social” side of the equation—puppies meeting other puppies and new humans. While these are important learning experiences, they make up a very, very small part of the larger picture of true socialization.
Socialization is simply the process of learning how to behave in a socially acceptable way. In dogs, this translates to providing puppies with as many new experiences as possible and guiding them through the appropriate way to react to them. From when puppies open their eyes to about 4 months of age, they are in their Critical Socialization Period. This is a time in their life where they are hardwired to soak up and retain information about the world around them. Nature isn’t always forgiving, and when your puppy’s ancestors lived in the wild, they needed to be able to learn from a very young age how to react to the world around them and keep that information for their lifetime. Our puppies aren’t being raised in the woods anymore, but they still have that early learning phase hard-wired into their genetics. We use this to our advantage by safely and positively exposing puppies to as many new things as we can during their early months.
When we socialize our puppy to the world around them, we’re working to pair a “new thing” like a bearded man or a skateboard, with something that the puppy understands as good, like treats and praise. By doing this, we help puppies understand that new things are good things. We’re working to make positive associations with the world around them! By being present with your puppy in these new experiences, you’re also building the positive, trusting bond of your relationship. Your puppy might think that seeing a skateboard is good because it earns them a treat, but they’ll also link your presence with that positive association. This becomes important later in life because we’ll never be able to show a puppy everything they’ll experience in their life in this short socialization period. What we can do is teach them that safety and security also comes from being with their family, and that if mom or dad says that something is okay, it probably is. Having a dog that trusts you to guide them through the unknowns in life is incredibly important.
Our socialization goal is to expose puppies to the world around them in a calm and positive manner. Early exposure to new sights, sounds, textures, handling, and general environmental experiences will help a puppy understand their place in the world and how to react to the events that occur around them. Proper socialization correlates to improved emotional stability and increased confidence as puppies mature. Improper or incomplete socialization can result in behavioral issues later in life due to a lack of confidence or increased level of fear.
Bringing a new puppy home is exciting for everyone, and it’s natural to want to introduce your new family member to your friends. Keep in mind that the social side of socialization should be approached with calmness and positivity as well. Too often, new puppy parents focus on having their puppy enthusiastically greet every human and dog that they come across in the name of socialization. This can result in a puppy that learns that enthusiastic greetings, including pulling toward people and jumping on them, is the norm and that everyone wants to be their friend. Instead, it is best to focus on passive, calm, structured and positive interactions with the people and pets you come in contact with while on socialization outings.
With all interactions with new things, we want to watch for signs of stress and let puppies approach the new thing at their own pace. Look for soft, relaxed body language, wiggling bodies and tails, and happy eyes. If the puppy seems overwhelmed, take a step back and let them decide when the time is right to investigate the new thing. We want to avoid “flooding” the puppy with emotions or stress. Remember, we want to teach them that the way they’re reacting to this new thing is the appropriate. We want to reward for calmness and confidence, and make sure that we’re exposing our puppies to the world around them in the most positive way possible.
The critical socialization period is an extremely important developmental period for your puppy. Once this time has passed, so has your opportunity for true socialization. Because this time is short and our lives are so busy, we have created our Harmony School program to provide puppies as young as 9 weeks old safe access to structured socialization under the watchful eyes of our Certified Professional Trainers. The Harmony School day-training program focuses on safe, sane, structured socialization, communication and obedience foundations, and confinement and independence training throughout the three-week program. After pick-up each day, you can expect your puppy to come home content, tired, and ready to be left at home alone for a short period of time so that you can continue work on confinement and separation training. The goal of our Harmony School program is to help your puppy reach its full potential during its first critical months. It is our mission to help families raise their Perfect Puppy, and provide the support and additional training needed to ensure those puppies grow to be dogs who have the training, confidence, and life skills necessary to live in harmony with their family and community.
Questions about your dog or puppy? Please don't hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org .