Congratulations on your new arrival! Bringing home your new puppy is one of the most exciting moments in a new owner’s life, if not a little overwhelming!
Caring for a puppy can be quite a challenge, and with endless sources of conflicting information it can be hard to know who to listen to. This being said, there are many easy tips and tricks to make the transition from puppy novice to puppy pro as smooth as possible. Let’s get in to it.
1. Avoid Puppy Pads!
Though they may seem like a good idea at the time, puppy pads are actually counterproductive! Encouraging your puppy to toilet on these small white pieces of fabric can result in them generalising to other similar surfaces, such as your couch, your carpet or even your bed! Instead, give puppy pads a miss and encourage your pup to toilet outside from day one!
2. Create a ‘Puppy Zone’ within your house
Allowing your dog access to your whole home and then attempting to restrict their access can be incredibly frustrating for them! Instead, try creating a puppy proofed zone in your house that your dog can access fully and make this your dog’s area and safe space. Then, as they grow older and more confident, you can allow them access to other areas of the home.
3. Use of Adaptil in Puppy Zone
Using calming products, such as Adaptil, can help to encourage calmness in your puppy. This product uses Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) which are them same as the pheromones produced by your puppy’s mother. This can help your dog to feel more relaxed, which can promote a happier pup. Alternatively, you can use products such as Pet Remedy. This product contains Valarian which is a naturally calming scent for dogs.
4. Considering where your dog will sleep
Dogs are social sleepers and so considering where you want your dog to sleep and how you are going to work up to this is an important step in bringing your puppy home. If you want your dog to sleep in a crate in the kitchen this will not be possible on the first night but will be possible over a period of nights. On the first night, allow the puppy to sleep in the crate in your room, so you can provide that social support. Over many nights, as your puppy is able to sleep through the night, you can gradually move their crate out into your desired space.
5. Understanding your dog’s diet
When your dog first comes home, they will be sent home with a bag of food that they have been eating at the breeder. If you wish to change the diet, this should be done slowly, adding an increasing amount of the new food every day!
It is important to understand the nutritional value of the food you are giving your dog, and to feed your dog a high quality, grain free diet. Ideally, your dog should be eating fresh, healthy food that contains ingredients that you recognise.
6. Start as you mean to go on
It is important to remember that when puppies are awake, they are learning! If you allow your puppy to jump up and reward them for this, that makes it much more confusing when you try to train them not to jump up later! Instead, decide what the rules for your puppy will before they come home and stick to them from day one.
7. Socialisation is about quality not quantity
Old advice used to suggest that owners needed to introduce their dogs to 100 new people, dogs and places each week. However, more dog modern dog trainers suggest that the quality of interactions are more important than the quantity. Fewer positive interactions are more important than lots of negative ones!
8. Use the 1-in-3 rule to avoid socialisation
In places where there are lots of dogs, its very easy to over socialize your dog! Instead, employ the one in three rule, created by the School of Canine Science, allows you to teach your dog to balance their socialisation skills. For every three dogs you see, they are allowed to play with one, politely greet one and have to ignore the final dog. Allowing your dog to practice all these skills will create a more balanced adult dog in later life.
9. Purchasing correct walking equipment
Walking dogs on a collar, although traditional, can be very damaging, especially for a young puppy where the cartilage in their neck has not fully formed. This can cause permanent damage if the dog pulls or puts any pressure on their throat. Consequently, it’s advised that all dogs should be walked on harnesses throughout their lives to prevent any damage to their neck or spine.
10. Choosing a good name
Whatever you decided to call your dog, you will have to call in the park for the next 10+ years! Choosing a fun name that is one or two syllables and teaching it to your dog will be a key task in when your puppy first comes home!
11. Puppies do what works!
Dogs learn through consequences, repeating behaviours that bring nice outcomes. As owners, we can use this to our advantage! If your puppy offers a behaviour you like, reinforce it with food, a game or praise, whatever works for your dog!
It is important to consider your dogs feeling in all of this, however. For example, while pats on the head may great fun for you, this may be very aversive to your dog. See what gets your dog showing you that happy dog body language the most and always use this to reward.
12. Dogs don’t feel guilty
Though it may look like it from those “guilty dog” videos on social media, but studies have actually suggested that dogs cannot feel guilt! A “guilty dog” is usually attempting to appease their owner using a range of body language signals known as calming signals. This is important to remember, as your puppy is not deliberately trying to irritate you when they misbehave, they just don’t know any better!
13. Puppies need sleep – lots of it!
An eight-week old puppy will need around 18 to 20 hours of sleep each day, and it is important to make sure they are getting it. An overtired puppy will loose control of their inhibitions and run wild- a behaviour often nicknamed “the zoomies”! Create quiet, peaceful areas for your puppy to sleep, such as a crate or a puppy pen.
14. Managing children around dogs
Though getting a new puppy can be very exciting, it is important to manage how your children, or any other children entering the home, act around your pup. Being very exciting, noisy and erratic will encourage zooming and biting, especially in an overtired pup. Instead, teach your children to “be a tree”, by being very still and unmoving around an overtired and/or overexciting pup.
15. Socialisation isn’t all about being social!
Though this seems very silly, socialisation isn’t just about meeting people and dogs. Socialisation is also becoming used to other potentially frightening stimuli in the environment, as well as confidence building for future surprises. Taking your puppy on public transport, to cafes and to the park and working on being calm in the presence of other people and dogs, and having a positive experience while doing it, will all be very vital skills for a well balanced adult dog.
16. Socialisation isn’t just occurring from the ages of 8-10 weeks
Many puppy raising guides will tell you that the most important socialisation window will occur from eight to ten weeks, when you first bring your puppy home. This is true, but young puppies are still impressionable up to the age of sixteen weeks! They will continue to have formative experiences well into the first year of their lives, and so continued socialisation and training is incredibly important.
17. Choice and control
Allowing your puppy to have a level of choice around the environment will lead to a happier puppy who feels safer than a puppy who is forced to do things. Creating opportunities for your puppy to make brave choices, such as harness training and confidence courses, can results in your puppy becoming inherently braver and happier.
18. Taking your dog on walks for the pleasure of walking
Many owners will view dog walking as a chore as opposed to a pleasure! Instead of planning walks where you walk your puppy from A to B, allow your puppy to go for exploratory walks where they simply take in their environment instead. Alternatively, instead of choosing the route, follow your dog and see where they would like to go.
Another way to engage with your dog can be to participate in a Rucksack Walk! This allows you to engage with your dog in a new day and enjoy spending time together just being.
19. Consider how your puppy views the world
Understanding a dog’s vision can be very beneficial when setting up your dog’s environment. Dog’s view in tones of blue and yellow and are red-green colorblind. This means that if you throw your dogs red toy onto green grass, they are going to have lots of trouble seeing it! On the other hand, if you are trying to teach your dog to target a bed, purchasing a yellow or blue bed is going to make this object stand out in the environment.
20. Five-minute rule
Advice generally suggests that you should walk your dog five minutes for each month they have lived, to avoid overexercising them and creating damage to the growth plates. However, as with socialization, quality of exercise is much more important than quantity. Slow, sniffy walks or gentle playing on grass is much more beneficial and much less likely to cause permanent damage than taking your puppy running on concrete!
Looking after a puppy can be a fun and challenging experience. Though it can be a lot at times, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Using simple tips and tricks to aid your training will make the whole thing easier, giving you more time to enjoy your pup!