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How to Meet the Needs of Your Puppy

puppy with ball in yard in huntsville, al

In this article, I will lay out a formula for you about the things you need to create a healthy, happy, and obedient puppy. These five things 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 will explain to you in this episode how to make the recipe because each puppy is different depending on their age, breed, gender, and so many other factors that are completely out of our control. Every single puppy, even from the same litter, is different, and they have different needs.

You can listen to this podcast episode here


The first thing you'll need to do as soon as you bring your puppy home is to be in the moment, be present with that puppy, and figure out if things are working or not. 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.

Mental Stimulation

Then we take the next component, mental stimulation. This is where many owners fall short. Mental stimulation is extremely important for puppies, probably equal to physical exercise. If your puppy is not getting enough mental stimulation, they will find things to do that annoy you, like bark, chew furniture, or go potty in the house. If they're getting too much mental stimulation, if they're overstimulated, they're going to start mouthing more and jumping more, and they should learn how to relax and get more sleep. Read this article I recently posted on The Importance of Mental Stimulation


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 a simple exercise to 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. Because you’re not moving with your puppy. You may be thinking that since you’re not giving your puppy commands, they're not learning anything. 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 skill set 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 getting your puppy to be desensitized to all the triggers that could cause them fear, anxiety, and stress. This is why socialization is very important.

However, I had one client with a puppy that once they got the rabies shot, he decided, that he was going to take his 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. You have to find what works best for your puppy.


What exactly is enrichment? In my book, the Complete Puppy Training Manual, and my other book Leash 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 and training them by taking your puppy out on a 15 or 30-foot leash, not a retractable leash, a long lead 15 or 30-foot leash. Go somewhere they can roll around in the grass, dig a little bit, chew a little grass, find some sticks, sniff some bushes, and have a good time without telling them what to do, without giving them many 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 Lucky Mat, Kong, or a snuffle mat. There are many ways to provide enrichment inside and outside of the house. Enrichment will 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 will not 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, so you don't really have to schedule much play for puppies. That's why I put this at the bottom of the list.

What About Affection?

Many people will over-affectionate their puppy. Use affection as a life reward once your puppy has done great with obedience and discipline training. 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 reinforce that hyperactivity. 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.


What you need to do is find the right recipe for your puppy using these five ingredients: exercise, mental stimulation, socialization, enrichment, and play. Find out what works best for them, what keeps them happiest, what keeps them calm, what keeps them low stress, and 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 can't give that puppy much 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 important. I get called by many people who have puppies that they can't manage, they can't control, and sometimes training is not going to help the puppy's problem. The owner has the wrong dog for their lifestyle and can't meet the puppy's needs.

You can listen to this podcast episode here


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