Get prepared for your puppy with these ten tips and tricks
Your puppy’s earliest days with you lay her foundation for learning, bonding, and socialization. Do you want a secure, well-socialized puppy? Get prepared for your new puppy. Do you want potty training to go smoothly and as quickly as physiologically possible? Keep the following tips in mind always, but especially during your puppy’s first week with you. Be prepared before your future best friend comes anywhere near your home.
It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it to pay attention to the details, be consistent, and, above all, be patient with your puppy and yourself. Your puppy will make mistakes and so will you, but the good news is that both you and your puppy can learn from your mistakes.
1. First things first — give puppy a potty break
If you want to get off to a good start, don’t walk through the front door before giving your new puppy a chance to relieve herself after the car ride. You may be excited to introduce your new puppy to your family, but your puppy is probably excited and a bit anxious about the sudden change in her situation. As a result, your puppy may pee and poo after crossing your threshold; save yourself a bit of trouble right off the bat by letting your new love take care of business outside before meeting the family.
2. Your puppy’s first introductions
Easy does it
“The family” may include humans of varying ages and other pets. First impressions mean a lot, especially from the POV of the younger entity, whether puppy or child. You will be orchestrating a moment that will impact, for good or bad, your puppy’s attitude towards children, other dogs, etc.
Getting things right for your puppy during the early stages sets her up for success as she ventures out into the broader world meeting new people and new dogs. Do your best to keep all new experiences positive; accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. So how do you set yourself and your family up for success with the new puppy?
Here are but a few suggestions to keep in mind as you introduce your new puppy friend to your family:
- Use calm tones with your puppy
- Let the puppy approach each family member at her own pace
- Don’t reward your puppy with treats when meeting new people or pets
- Do not rush the process
- Be aware of your pup’s body language
- Remove your puppy from the room if you notice any signs of anxiety (avoiding eye contact, lowering head, lowering tail)
- Calmly and consistently introduce and reinforce rules for your puppy
- Ensure your pup’s well-being when interacting with children
This list is by no means exhaustive. Please visit Good Dog In a Box for more detailed guidance for planning your puppy’s first meeting with her new family (including other pets).
3. It’s time for your puppy to explore!
Is your house prepared for your new puppy?
Tamp down your enthusiasm for just a moment before letting your new best friend loose inside the house. Have you prepared your home for your puppy?
Let her explore a designated area rather than the entire house, becoming overwhelmed and confused by the sights, sounds, and smells encountered along her journey. Keep her world as simple as possible at first, especially on the first day.
Have you taken the time to puppy-proof your home? Well, alrighty then. Now is your chance to do just that. Keep your puppy safe in her designated room with the help of puppy gates or an oversized pen, and then get to work eliminating things that could be toxic or might injure your new friend, not to mention things that you value.
Puppies chew for months – it’s natural and expected. It’s our job to provide appropriate items for chewing and eliminate dangerous (or expensive) things that she might get between her teeth. For more guidance on the subject of puppy-proofing, check out a vet-approved list at PreventiveVets.
4. To crate or not to crate?
A practical solution for many circumstances
Most veterinarians and breeders recommend crate training dogs from puppyhood. Crates serve several practical purposes and, used correctly, provide a safe place for your puppy to chill out. A few uses for dog crates include, but are not limited to:
- Help with house training
- Household safety
- Easier/safer travel
- Easier vet visits
- Evacuation (no kidding)
Here are a few dos and don’ts for crate training your puppy:
- Do use treats and praise (don’t go overboard with either) to reward your puppy for getting in the crate
- Don’t force your puppy into the crate
- Do leave the crate open when you’re at home–make it the special place that they go to on their own
- Don’t use the crate as a “time out” or punishment
- Do increase crate time gradually
- Don’t leave your puppy in the crate all day or night
- Do leave toys in the crate
- Don’t leave bones in the crate
- Do transition away from the crate
- Don’t rely on the dog crate forever
For excellent guidance on the subject of crate training your puppy, please visit PAWS.
5. Begin puppy training on day 1
Training one baby step at a time
There is no time like the present to begin training your puppy. Like very young children, puppies have the attention span of a gnat, so the operative phrase in puppy training is “baby steps.”
First, praise responses that are even slightly correct and keep the praise short, simple, and your tone calm. Remember, the moment you become excited and effusive is the moment your puppy loses focus. So, if you want to build up to longer training sessions, you must remain calm and focused. Lastly, if you exhibit calm, focused behavior, your puppy should follow your lead and stay calm and focused as well.
During your puppy’s first week in her new home, focus on the following:
- Supervise your puppy and create a safe environment
- Reward desirable behavior – praise puppy when she relieves herself outside
- Ignore undesirable behavior (as hard as that may be)
- Give your puppy many opportunities to do what you desire (pee & poop outside in particular)
- Make puppy’s bedtime less stressful by allowing her to sleep in a crate in your bedroom (preferably one with a comfy bed inside)
- Teach your puppy her name
- Begin “play training”
There are many excellent puppy training books out there. Below are links to just a few:
6. Schedule your puppy’s first veterinarian appointment
Schedule your puppy’s first checkup with a veterinarian during the first week. Your veterinarian is your partner for keeping your puppy healthy throughout her life. Your vet will keep you on track regarding your puppy’s diet, vaccinations, and general health. The sooner you visit the vet, the better for your puppy.
7. Begin puppy socialization
Early friendships make future friendships possible
Your pup’s socialization is the key to them becoming a confident, happy adult that is comfortable in most settings with a variety of people and animals. If you purchased your puppy from a responsible breeder, your puppy’s socialization likely started before you even brought her home. If you are less sure about your pup’s start in life, you may encounter a few challenges along the way. First, ask your veterinarian when it is safe to allow your puppy to play with other dogs.
The time you put in early on to socialize your puppy will pay huge dividends later in your dog’s life and yours. For instance, it’s nice to drop doggo off for a play date with a dog friend occasionally. What if doggo doesn’t get along with other dogs? That would place severe limits on you and your dog.
The AKC is an excellent source of information for puppy socialization. For expert advice, please check out their website.
Shameless plug alert – we are happy to walk your dog if you live in Centreville, Gainesville, or Haymarket, VA.
8. Do you know your puppy’s developmental stages?
Be prepared for what comes next
Your dog’s development happens in stages wherein your dog completes specific developmental tasks. The developmental stages are:
|0-7 weeks||This stage is all about puppies learning social behavior with other dogs (i.e., bite inhibition, submissive behavior)|
|7-8 weeks||Tasks involve forming strong bonds with people, coping with change, and beginning their training (remember, baby steps)|
|8-10 weeks||Known as the “fear period,” negative object associations during this period can result in a lifelong negative impact. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that your pup has as many positive experiences with people, places, and novel situations. Keep this in mind as your puppy gets her vaccinations, and try to make it as happy an experience as possible (use your cheerful voice instead of commiserating with your dog).|
|8-16 weeks||This period is the perfect time to introduce formal training, so go ahead and sign up for that puppy class.|
|4-6 months||Your puppy is a pre-adolescent and has gained more confidence. As a result, your brave pup begins exploring more expansive territory independently. Continue training (in a class if possible), take your dog with you everywhere, and ask your vet when you should consider getting your pup spayed or neutered.|
|6-12 months||So sorry. These are the teen years in dog life, and just like human teens, dog teens test boundaries constantly. If they haven’t yet been spayed or neutered, they reach sexual maturity during this period. It is not the ideal time for off-leash work in an unsecured area. Depending on the dog, it might be a good time to avoid the dog park when other dogs are present too. Your dog may not be a model citizen during this phase. Just do your best to create safe opportunities for exercise and plenty of safe chew toys to help them with frustrations.|
|12-18 months||Your pup will cease being a puppy during this period. Small dogs tend to reach emotional maturity sooner than large dogs (oh, the humanity). If dominance issues emerge, it will be during this period. Your sweet baby may start to challenge you for pack leadership. If this occurs (you will know it when it happens), find a competent behaviorist to help you address this issue. The sooner, the better, because dominance issues can spiral quickly, and before you know it, your sweet puppy has become a dangerous dog. Learn more about behavioral help for your dog from the ASPCA.`|
9. Separation anxiety and your puppy
Prepare your puppy for alone time
Separation anxiety is completely normal behavior for a puppy who has just joined your family. As a result, be prepared for symptoms of separation anxiety including crying when you’re not in sight, constantly wanting to be held, restlessness at night, insomnia at night, and barking when you put your puppy in her crate. You can do several things to help your puppy get through this period.
- Keep things calm
- Make sure children know how to interact safely with their new puppy
- Keep puppy involved in the day-to-day activities around the house with her new people
- Put the crate in a place where she won’t feel isolated (bedroom)
- Things you can put in your pup’s crate at night are a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel and an old-fashioned ticking clock
- Hire a dog walker (we can walk your puppy if you live in Centreville or Gainesville, VA!)
10. Love your puppy dog
It doesn’t take much to make you the center of your dog’s world – food, shelter, care, kind words, belly rubs, and regular exercise – whatever else you do for them is gravy. Dogs are there for us in sickness and in health – they are counting on us to do the same, even when they become an old, stinky, expensive dog. Love that little soul who came bounding into your life, bringing joy right along with them when they were mere weeks old. Your senior dog still carries your puppy’s spirit in his heart. Enjoy life with your new puppy, future dog, and best friend!