Get Ready for Puppy
Bringing home a new puppy is very exciting. Planning and preparation ahead of time will make the transition of your puppy's arrival go more smoothly and make that special day truly amazing.
Before Your Puppy Comes Home
The decision has been made - a new fuzzy family member. And that is what a puppy is - a family member who is everyone's responsibility. Make sure that all members of the family are clear with which duties they will take on, and have everyone support each other in raising the new puppy.
Purchase your puppy essentials before you bring your puppy home. That way, everything is ready to go when your puppy arrives.
- Bowls: Food and Water (heavier bowls move around less than light weigh ones. Stainless steel is the best choice over plastic. An elevated bowl for water might be a needed option, either with a stand or something else that you create yourself if your puppy is a "digger" in water bowls)
- Food and Supplements - Decide what you are ging to feed (raw or kibble) For kibble and canned food, I reccommend Life's Abundance and for a supplement NuVet Vitamin (wafer or powder). Other additions could be Diatomaceous Earth (Human grade!) or Grapefruit Seed Extract for internal parasite defense, goat (or greek) yogurt, EVCO coconut oil, and bone broth.
- Buckle Collar, Leash, and ID Tags, Harness - Get a leather or nylon buckle or clasp collar. Don't go super fancy on the harness yet. Your puppy is going to out-grow it fast. You can wait a week or so to get the harness. Have your puppy try ones on for a proper fit at the store when your puppy is ready for a socialization outing.
- Crate (See the handout on Crate Training) - wire or plastic. Canvas may not be the best choice until you know how much of a chewer your puppy is going to be. Crates are excellent management tools for teaching puppy many things: calmness, how to hold it, sleeping through the night, potty training, preventing destructive behaviors like chewing. The safest way to travel in the car with your dog is in a sturdy crate.
- Indoor/Outdoor Puppy Play Yard (ex-pen) - Handy for play sessions and teaching bite-inhibition. If your puppy gets mouthy, you can leave the play yard, and the puppy can't follow. (See our articles in Teaching Bite-Inhibition). Plastic or metal works well. You can use them in a circle (fully closed) or stretch them across a room and use them as an indoor fence, so to speak, or block off an area. Get one that is 36" or taller. Some even come with a cover that can be placed on top to prevent escaping if you have a little climber on your hands. For the bottom, if you work and have to leave your puppy for long periods of time, use a waterproof mattress protector to safeguard your floor. The pad will cover the entire area of the ex-pen. It's washable, reusable, and less likely to be shredded by a little mouthy puppy than puppy pee pads. Another option for working parents is a puppy potty yard.
- Baby Gate - Management tools create a safe puppy area and block off other areas of the house. Gates contain your puppy in a particular space for easier supervision. Again, the taller, the better. I like ones that have a door feature, so it is easy for humans to get through, but not the dog.
- Puppy Toys - a variety of puppy toys for your puppy to play with, alone and with you, that you will rotate in and out from day to day.
- Chew Toys, Treat Activity style toys, Kongs, Topple Toys - these will be used in the crate and ex-pen to work on self-entertaining, calmness, and confidence.
- Training Toys - these will be special toys the you pull out for you training games and put away when done. More information about toys will be in a handout called Chew, Play and Training Toys.
- Grooming Supplies (double-sided soft/pin brush, nail trimmers, heavy-duty emery board/nail file, puppy shampoo)
Setting Up Home
Owning a puppy means managing her environment. Do not give your new puppy access to the entire home. Your puppy does not comprehend all the dangers or understand all the consequences to her actions. Modify and manage your puppy and her environment, so it is easier for her to make the right choices and be successful in being good. Do not allow full access of the house to your puppy until she has learned proper chewing and potty habits and has good manners in the house. When your puppy wanders around the corner, she is not going to fold your laundry!
Designate one room for your puppy to spend her time during the day. It should be in a place where the family will be, so your puppy gets proper interaction and bonds with her new family. It is easier to keep an eye on your puppy and teach appropriate manners in a smaller space first (potty training, chewing habits, etc.). Use your ex-pen in this area for when you have work to do or things you need to get done and can't properly supervise. The ex-pen is a safe place for your puppy to be that limits choices to only appropriate ones. Your puppy stays out of trouble and learns how to self-soothe and self-entertain until you can play again. You can set the pen up in an enclosed circle, or stretch it out to block off a small area. Secure the pen so that it can't move around. I recommend not using the kitchen area for a smaller space, as you don't want the possibility of checking out counters when your puppy gets a bit bigger. Everything in that smaller space should be okay for your puppy, so don't have furniture or items in there that are not okay to chew!
Use your baby gates to block doorways and stairs and have your puppy's crate in the central area so you can crate train and play your crate and ex-pen games. As she becomes more mature and well-behaved, you can relax your management. It is far easier to give privileges than take them away. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Puppy proof your home. Block and conceal cords, pick up and put away things on the floor including kid toys, shoes, laundry, purses, backpacks, and anything your puppy could chew. Store items that are low and in your puppy's reach in closed bins and cabinets. Sometimes it even helps to get down on your hands and knees and get a puppy's eye view of your house and potential dangers. Think toddler proofing to the max! Puppies will pick up and eat anything. Be sure to proof not only inside, but outside too. Make sure all medication and cleaning products are stored up high in cabinets.
Rotate puppy toys. Have a basket, bin or box to hold a variety of toys and chew toys. Bring toys out each morning and put them away at night and rotate so your puppy gets something "new" and exciting for each day. Toys that your puppy has not seen in a while are more exciting than ones that are lying still on the floor every day. More information on toys will be in your Chew, Play, and Training Toys Handout.
Bringing a puppy to a new home can be overwhelming or scary for a puppy. He's lost his mom, littler mates, traveled in a car or on a plane to an unfamiliar place with new faces and smells. So, reduce stress by keeping things as calm as possible.
Have water, food, and a towel with you when you pick up your puppy. Your puppy may get thirsty or hungry during the journey home with you. Bring wee pads to so your puppy can potty without her paws touching the dirty ground, or choose a concrete area you can see is clean.
Have your puppy in a crate or carrier for the ride home, or wrapped up in a blanket on someone's lap. Some puppies handle car rides home just fine. Others, either out of stress or motion sickness, can be restless.
Save guest greetings for another day and have her first day at home be quiet with immediate family, so she has time to explore and adjust to her new environment and begin to bond with family. Show her where the potty area is located. Make sure she eats and drinks and eliminates.
Remember, that up until this point, your puppy may have never been alone, so for the first few nights at least, have her sleep in your room at night so she will be comforted by being near you and not be scared. To aid in relaxation and calm, you can place a drop of lavender essential oil (www.mydoterra.com/goingessential.com) on the underside of the bed or crate pad. Or, you can diffuse it for a half-hour before bedtime. Adaptil (DAP) is another calming agent that could help your puppy settle for the night (this might take a few days, so sleep before your puppy's arrival!).
Trust and Respect - The Human-Canine Relationship
Keep your dog safe from harm - harm from other dogs, other people, and the environment. Your puppy should always feel safe when she is with you. Therefore, you should be the one to decide whether to proceed or walk away - to say yes or to say no. Always have your puppy's best interests in mind. See your puppy as an individual and support the dog in front of you at that moment. She should not have to be put into the position to have to decide whether to run away or to fight back. Always keep in mind that anytime other dogs or small children are around, extraordinary vigilance is necessary at all times.
Your dog is a member of your family and your companion. Using force or dominanace is just being a bully. Striking her, or pinning her to the ground is likely to lead to relationship problems. Good relationships are built on trust and respect, not dominance. See yourself as the parent, not the dominant leader. Guide your puppy and teach her the rules and expectations. Positive reinforcement training is not passive or permissive. There are consequences, but they don’t include pain or fear. You want your dog to see you as the most wonderful person in the world. If your dog sees you as a threat to her safety, she may either shut down and not respond or become defensive towards you. Your dog should welcome your touch, not fear it. She should feel dependent on you, looking to you to provide care, love, and protection. An inappropriate physical correction can seriously harm your relationship with your dog.
It starts now! Begin training right away. You will be "actively" feeding your puppy. Do not free feed - leaving food down for your puppy to pick at throughout the day. Divide your puppy food up with one small meal in the morning. That could be the meal with the supplements, or you can save that for the evening. Go with what is most convenient for you. You can change things later if needed. Divide the rest of your puppy's daily amount of food among treat toys, stuffed Kongs and West Paw Toppl Toys, and training. If there is any left-over food at the end of the day, it goes in a bowl for an evening meal.
Handling and Grooming
Handling and bite-inhibition. Touch her face, mouth, ears, tail, and feet. Spread her toes and press on the nails. Choose opportune moments so it is calm and comforting. Pair this with food, toys, and wonderful things. Gradually get your puppy used to being touched with a brush. Wait a week or so before giving a bath unless one is absolutely necessary. Your puppy is going through a big adjustment already. You don't need to add to any stress.
The advantageous time to socialize a puppy is before 16 weeks of age. Proper socialization is very important, but it is very misunderstood! Socialization is not about having your puppy meet as many dogs and people as you can. This can be a very traumatic experience for some puppies and can cause fear issues down the road. Rather, socialization is about building confidence and optimism, so your puppy can have the skills to handle new things at any age.
When you first bring your puppy home, take a few days to get to know your puppy. Give him time to start bonding with you. Learn bits of your puppy's personality. That way, you have a far better idea of how to approach socialization for your puppy.
Experiences must be good ones! Observation and interaction are two completely different balls of wax. Remember this! Initial socialization should focus on observation so you can get a good idea of what your puppy can handle. If your puppy is nervous or fearful, get her out. Puppies don't "get used to" scary situations, they just remember it was scary. Take your puppy to new places at a pace where he is comfortable and can associate the experience with confidence, optimism, and good feelings. Use techniques like Pairing and Classical Conditioning to create good associations.
Start Your Training Right Away
Learning starts when a puppy comes home. Don't wait until you can enroll in a puppy class. It is best to teach your puppy cues first in the home, before attending a class. Your puppy needs to learn through success, not failure, in order to learn cues correctly. So practice at home first before working in distracting places like a class.
Training is not just about cues! There is so much more to it than that! Cues allow you to manage your dog's behavior. But your dog is making choices throughout the day. You need to be present to reinforce the good choices and prevent the naughty ones. A "sterile training session" doesn't always transfer into real-life situations. Hence, the bigger portion of your training program - games! Cues are the tip of the iceberg. Games are everything below the surface!
Be present in your puppy's daily decisions and influence them. You will learn training games that teach concepts that transfer very easily into real life because you are there in the moment with your dog. You need to reinforce manners and appropriate behaviors when they happen. Training games, also referred to as conceptual games, are crucial for your puppy's learning and training. Don't overlook them! These games are "play with a purpose" and teach your puppy critical life skills and how to make good choices on his own.
Tricks to Save for Later
Avoid teaching behaviors such as high-five, wave, bow, roll over, beg/sit pretty, and shake. These behaviors can quickly turn into attention-getting, pushy, and manipulative behaviors later on. They can also ruin your foundation cues. Puppies need to learn stimulus control and be rewarded for calm, polite behaviors first to avoid learning bad manners to get attention.
Additional Books You Can Read
There are many books out there that you can read to help you prepare for a new puppy. My favorite author/trainers are Trish King, Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Karen Pryor, Dr. Sophia Yin, and Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. Any of their books are great. The Monks of New Skete are good, too, but many of us can't control our lives the way they can. TV personalities like Victoria Stilwell are good, too. Ceasar Milan is not!
Here are a few books that are good reads:
Parenting Your Puppy: Develop Dog-Rearing Skills for a Well Trained Companion by Trish King
Raising Puppies & Kids Together: A Guide for Parents by Pia Silvani and Lynn Eckhardt
The Puppy Primer by Patricia B. McConnell and Brenda Scidmore
It's Me or the Dog: How to Have the Perfect Pet by Victoria Stilwell
Canine Body Language by Brenda Aloff
Starting off on the right "paw" will do so much in getting you and your puppy on the right track to a happy, healthy, and wonderful life together. Always keep in mind that puppies grow and go through developmental stages, just like people. She will need guidance every step of the way. We have to teach our puppies how to survive in the human world. They don't speak our language but have to learn human rules and what certain words mean. Puppies need to do something many times before it sinks in. Be patient, be consistent, and your puppy will grow up to be a great dog!