Puppies are impressionable bundles of fur; what you do and say and how you treat your baby in the first months of her life lays the groundwork for either an independent disposition or for anxious, clingy behavior. Understanding this critical stage helps you better raise confident and well-adjusted pups.
Bring your puppy home at an appropriate age -- approximately 8 to 10 weeks old. While puppies may be especially cute at 5 or 6 weeks, they are not weaned or ready to leave their mother until at least 8 weeks of age.
Expose your pup to as many events, people, dogs, places and experiences as possible -- after she's had her complete series of vaccinations. During this period, socialization for a young dog is generally deemed a positive experience, according to Purdue University Veterinary School of Medicine.
Enroll your pup in puppy classes. Teach her to walk confidently on a lead, to heel, sit and stay. Training is the jewel in the crown of dog ownership and there is no more important variable influencing her temperament, according to veterinarian Ian Dunbar.
Introduce your puppy to crate training in a positive manner. Place a soft, comfortable bed, treats and toys in the crate and leave the door open, letting the pup explore her new "den" on her own. Avoid forcing the dog into her crate. When the dog goes into her crate and lays down, close the door for a few minutes. Let her out after a brief period of time, then return her, steadily increasing the length of time in the crate. Resist opening the door when the puppy whines or cries.
Refrain from punishing your puppy. According to the Monks of New Skete, this creates a fearful, apprehensive and submissive dog. Instead, adopt a more patient and positive leadership role, using praise and encouragement to get the desired result.
Play with your puppy. Keep your interactions light and pleasant. Puppies learn best in the context of play and this "fun" time can lay the groundwork for solid, confident and independent behavior later on.
Make your comings and goings as low-key as possible. While it's natural to be excited to see your dog when you get home from work, acting exuberant when you return for the day or slathering your puppy with affection before you leave for the day can set you up for a case of separation anxiety, the antithesis of independence. Instead, ignore your dog for a few minutes before you leave and after you get home. Initiate contact only when the dog is calm, according to dog behaviorist Cesar Millan.
Elle Smith has been an advertising professional for more than 25 years. Her work for ABC, CBS and Sony Pictures Television has appeared on radio, on air, in print and outdoors. In addition, Smith has more than 20 years experience in marketing, graphic arts, commercial photography and print production, and is a licensed real estate agent with property management certification in California.