When clients bring puppies in for vaccines and examinations I spend a lot of time discussing behavior because how and when the puppy learns certain skills impacts the future relationship that puppy will have with the family. Infants and toddlers grow and reach milestones that parents marvel at and are relieved when their child progresses and becomes more independent. Like children, puppies must learn to do certain things. Of course, children must learn for safety, education, and to achieve normal developmental milestones. Puppies can achieve or not achieve, but it is best for the dog to be taught to be a dog. For example; Crate training. Every dog should learn to stay in a kennel or a crate. This is similar to young children sleeping in a crib or their own bed. Keeping very young children in a crib or a low toddler bed is a safe place for sleeping but later in life, a confined space is not necessary. Puppies need to learn to stay in a crate or kennel because they are dogs. Crate training helps with house training in the early months and prevents destructive behavior during the teething period and teaches your dog to be comfortable in a small confined space. Many dogs like their kennel and see it as a quiet place to escape from loud children, feisty cats, or as their own “den” to rest. After puppy hood, the kennel may not be used much, but someday, the dog will be in a boarding/hospital facility. Yes, I know you do not board your dog so that would never happen. But, what happens when your dog is ill and hospitalized? I despise “drugging” canine patients not comfortable in the kennel, who are ill on IV fluids being monitored for poor appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea. These dogs are fractious, anxious and difficult to care for because they have never been taught to be in a small space. If you love your dog, teach them that a small space is safe. Walking on a leash is similar to a baby or toddler riding in a car seat. Children must ride in a small, snug seat with shackles facing the wrong way but over time, those children understand that seat belts and life vests are necessary and part of “going on adventures”. Dogs need to learn to walk on a leash because they are dogs and will be taken out of the home and a leash is a safe method of control. I cannot stress this enough. I hear clients tell me; “we just walk on our land, so they get to be free”, or “we never leave the house, so why bother?” While I am looking at a dog that is lame and will not walk for evaluation because if I put a leash on him, he drops to the ground and chokes himself. All dogs need to be leash trained in case you take the dog in the car and need to stop, you know you can control your dog in a strange environment, or at the vet’s office. If you love your dog, teach them to walk on a leash for safety, and FUN reasons. Eating on demand is another skill your dog should learn. We put our children and ourselves on eating schedules. We don’t let our children eat at 2:00 am or whenever they want throughout the day. Puppies and dogs should not be allowed to “graze” on food or eat during the night. Puppies should not eat all day, because then they poop all day! Talk about a house training problem! If they eat on schedule, then they will ‘go” on schedule. Additionally, if three dogs share a food bowl and you don’t know when who ate what and one dog gets sick then you won’t know when that sick dog last ate. Finally, every puppy should learn to come when called and stay close to the owner. Just like children should listen to their parents and not run off. My daughter was a ‘runner’ and when she was three took off in the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. It took two stewardesses, myself and her father screaming “STOP THAT CHILD” to catch her. There were other events in HEB, Target, etc. .. Clients tell me their dogs don’t come when they are called, but it doesn’t matter because they come and go into the house (through a dog door) and for meal times. Dogs need to come when called and stay close to you not only for safety but to avoid aggression. Yes, aggression. One of the main reasons dogs end up in shelters is because of behavior issues. Your dog is not your child and the purpose of this column is not to suggest treating your puppy like a child, but provide an environment with structure, training, security and protection. Your dog will be happier and you will have a better relationship with a dog that is balanced and well trained.