New Puppy Basics
By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
New puppies are like a blank slate. You get the chance to introduce almost everything to them for the first time. This means that you get the opportunity to make every first experience a positive one, and make both your lives easy from the start. You also get to start all his training from step one, without any negative associations getting in your way. Arm yourself with some tasty treats and all your patience and read on!
Before you bring your new puppy home, you need to get your home ready and make the necessary preparations for having a new dog in your life. It is important that you find a vet that you are happy with before the time comes that you need one. Read more about Choosing a Vet
You must also puppy proof your home so there’s nothing your little ball of fur can get into. This will safeguard your possessions and ensure that the curious new pup won’t find something that could hurt him. The best idea is to get on all-fours and move about your house. If you can reach something on all-fours your puppy will most likely be able to reach it too. Read more about Puppy Proofing
There are several supplies you’ll want to have ready before your pup comes home. Before day one with puppy, you should have a crate, a bed, a collar, a leash, food and water bowls, safe, chewable toys, puppy shampoo, and a doggy toothbrush and toothpaste. Consider purchasing a Puppy Pack
so you can get everything in one swoop without having to waste your time finding every little thing you need (and you save money buying this way too).
The widely accepted age for puppies to leave their mother and litter is 8 weeks. Some vets say that 7 weeks is perfectly ok, while others argue that any earlier than 10 weeks is too soon. As you have already picked your vet, discuss this question with him or her. His or her opinion is significant as he or she will be providing your new pup’s medical care. The best age to take a puppy home also varies by breed, as some breeds mature faster than others. Be weary if a breeder is willing to let a puppy go before 7 weeks of age. Puppies learn much about the world from their litter, including bite inhibition, which will be discussed later. These lessons are much more easily learned from mother and other puppies than from humans.
Fix That Puppy
Unless you intend to breed or show your pooch, it is a good idea to spay or neuter. Spaying and neutering makes a difference in personality, behavior, and most importantly, live expectancy. Read more about Why You Should Spay or Neuter
Puppies learn fastest when you keep them on a regular schedule. They are more comfortable and pick up more quickly on training lessons when they know what’s coming next. Feeding on a regular schedule will also help your dog figure out house training and help you know when he’ll need to go potty. Try to get into a set schedule from day one. For example, get up in the morning, then go straight out for a walk, then feed puppy when you get back. After a few days, puppy will understand that when you wake up, it is time to go for a walk, so he’ll know to hold it until then, and he’ll know that breakfast is coming shortly after.
The most important aspect of house training is supervision. If your puppy never has a chance to go potty inside, he will much more quickly realize that outside is always where he is supposed to go potty. Keep in mind that in the beginning, puppies have very little control (if any) over their elimination, so you need to anticipate their needs. Every time your puppy eats, drinks, plays or wakes up, it is time to go outside immediately after. Read more about House Training Your Dog
The safest place for your pooch when you’re not around to keep a close eye on him is in a crate. Dogs who are properly crate trained think of their crate as their safe zone, their room, their den. Introduce your dog to the crate by putting some tasty, tempting stuff inside and letting him explore it with the door open. Feed him inside several times with the door open, then try closing the door just until he’s done eating. Then start leaving him in the crate for very short periods of time and rewarding calm behavior. Before you know it, your dog will be hanging out in his crate all the time. Learn more about the Hows and Whys of Crate Training
Correction and Praise
Remember that your new pup doesn’t yet understand ANYTHING you’re asking him to do. Most things a new puppy does wrong are the fault of the owner. If he destroys something or goes potty in the house, he should have been watched more closely. If he doesn’t listen to what you tell him to do, he either doesn’t understand yet, or you haven’t offered sufficient reinforcement. The bottom line is, many experts claim that one should never reprimand a puppy for these types of transgressions. Many believe that reprimanding a puppy for going potty in the wrong place will make him fear going potty around you in general, and not necessarily make him understand that it is not ok to go inside. The safest way to teach your pooch without letting fear be part of the equation is to ignore undesirable behavior and ecstatically praise your pup every time he does something right.
Puppies learn about the world around them with their noses and their mouths. Therefore, they often have a tendency to nip. Most puppies who are kept with their mother and littermates for a sufficient amount of time learn bite inhibition. This means that mom and other puppies teach them what mouthing is appropriate and what nipping is too hard. Littermates do this by withholding social interaction when a puppy bites too hard. So, when your puppy nips you, yelp “ouch” then pull your hands away. Then do not offer any play or affection until puppy stops trying to play and nip. Learn more about Nipping
It is important that puppies learn to be social with other dogs and other humans. This will make it easier to walk your dog and also will make him more comfortable outside the home, at the vet, and if you have to board him. It will also make him safer to be around and more accommodating of guests in your home. Talk to your vet about when he or she feels it is appropriate to take your puppy out into the world. Do not take your puppy anywhere but home and the vet until he is fully vaccinated. Once he has all his vaccinations, take him anywhere dogs are allowed. Let him play at the dog park, take him to pooch-friendly restaurants, introduce him to friend’s children (as long as they are calm and know how to treat puppies gently).
Teething is one of the reasons puppies can be so destructive. When their new teeth are coming in it is quite painful and chewing helps to relieve this pain. Provide your puppy with plenty of safe chew toys and you will be going a long way towards saving your shoes and table legs. Puppies who are provided lots of their own toys to chew on are significantly less likely to seek out your possessions for chewing. It also engrains in them from day one that they have their own things to chew, so your slippers are off limits. Putting chew toys in the freezer (especially a rope toy soaked in water) provides nice, chilly relief for sore gums.
Early Obedience Training
It is never too soon to start teaching your puppy simple commands like sit, down, and stay
. Just don’t push it. Keep training sessions short (five minutes or so is plenty in the beginning), fun, and filled with praise. Soon enough, puppy will look forward to training time the same way he looks forward to play time, or trips outside. Make training time extra enticing by picking a special, extremely strong-scented and tasty treat for use only in training sessions. Whenever you take these treats out your puppy will know it’s the time when he has a chance to please you and be rewarded with extra-yummy snacks.
Early Leash Training
Young puppies can’t walk far without growing very tired, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin leash training. Start him on the road to leash training by just attaching his leash when he is relaxed and calm, and rewarding him with treats. After doing this a few times, encourage him to walk with it attached by enticing him with treats or a toy. After a while, hold the leash as you entice him to walk forward with it on. Just as with obedience training and crate training, as long as you maintain positive associations with the leash, your pup will enjoy learning and should take to it well.
No matter how low-maintenance a dog’s grooming needs, he still must be brushed from time to time, his nails must be clipped, and his teeth must be brushed. You can have these tasks done for you at the vet or groomer, but if so, you miss out on a great bonding experience with your dog. Teaching your dog to be comfortable with these simple grooming practices is a big step in teaching him to be comfortable with being handled in general. Just as with everything else that is new to your puppy, introduce each of these tools and practices slowly and with plenty of praise. Read more about Clipping Your Dog’s Nails
and about Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth