So You Have Your New Puppy - Now What?
You have a new puppy – Now What?
It’s not a big question but it will require a pretty long answer. Hopefully you picked up all the things that you need prior to getting your new puppy home.
- Food and Water Bowls
- Leash and Collar
- Baby gate(s) if needed
- Dog Crate
- And you have picked a Veterinarian
If you read my previous post – “If you want a Better Dog then raise a Better Puppy“
Then you know that I really focus on doing all that I can with my new dog in the first several months that I have him or her. That post was a bit more philosophical whereas this article is much more actionable.
These are the things I do when I get a New Puppy
Before I bring my puppy home I do a pretty good inspection of the house and look for potential “dangers”. If there are areas that you do not want your pup to go in the house then use baby gates to keep them out of those areas. If you are in a home with small children, make sure that toys ( child’s toys ) are picked up and stored properly away. Also, if there are small children, especially toddlers, then there needs to be careful consideration as far as the safety of both the children as well as the puppy. Children and puppies go well together but they need to be supervised. One thing that little children like to do is to hug puppies around the neck, to the point that the child might be chocking the puppy. Puppies will defend themselves and it is hard to blame them if they are choking. If your child is not old enough to understand then Close supervision is needed.
If your child is a little older then a chat about what is and is not proper is in order, and supervision is still warranted at least in the beginning. Children also have a habit ( tendency ) to carry food around, or a sippy cup. be sure to watch closely in these situations to make sure that your child is not slipping the puppy food and drink it should not have. Common sense should rule the day.
The first few days or so with your New Puppy
The first several days when your pup get’s home can be a little stressful for both you and your puppy. The human stress level can certainly be lessoned with good planning. However, for the puppy there is just so much you can do.
During the first few days that I have a new pup I just let them get settled in. They are more than likely a bit anxious and they have been pulled out of their pack and placed into a new one. So they need a few days to get settled in and relax.
Hopefully, you asked what puppy food the breeder was feeding. If you are going to change it, do it a little at a time. Switching out the food to quickly can really throw off their digestive system. So I like to change slowly. Your puppy needs to eat 3 X’s a day until 6 months. During the first day or so keep the puppy on the same food that it was being fed prior to you picking it up. Let them eat that for 2 days. Too many changes at one time causes too much undue stress. After a couple days you can do a 25/75 mixture. That is 25% of the new food and 75% of the previous food. Then you can go 50/50 and then 75/25 and then on the 4th day 100% of the new food. This is much easier on their body and mind.
Crate training a new puppy is a post all in itself.
I crate train all my dogs right from the beginning. The key things to keep in mind are these. Dogs are denning animals and even though you may have to listen to some Weep Weeping for a couple few days your dog will be much better for it. There will be crying either way so you might as well get something out of it.
Pick a crate that is the appropriate size for the puppies current size. If you have a St. Bernard don’t buy a giant sized crate at least not yet. I know that means that you will buy more than one crate over time but the crate needs to fit the dog. It’s not a playpen it’s a crate. There should be enough room for you to be able to put a food and water bowl in the crate and still have enough space so that the puppy can move around comfortably behind the bowls. Enough room to stand, and turn around without being too constricted. If the crate is too big then they will have more chance of going to the bathroom in the crate. Crate training is very much part of Housebreaking. I think it is the easiest way and that is after probably close to 100 dogs that I have crate trained.
I feed my dogs in their crates, in fact I do more than just feed my dogs in the crate, I teach my dogs to eat. One of the things that the pack leader does is control the food. Though our dogs are domesticated they still carry over 99% of the genes of a wolf. Their understanding of the pack is the same. In a wild pack when there is a kill the Alpha male and female get to eat first. And they eat what they want, All the animals in the pack that are below them have to wait their turn.
We can use some of that pack mentality with our dogs as well. I feed on a pretty set schedule, one because it helps in housebreaking but also dogs have an uncanny sense of time and if they are on a consistent schedule then they have the expectation of the next feeding time.
Right from the beginning, with my young puppies they get their food, but I only give them about 10 minutes to eat and whether they are finished or not I take their food bowl up. You will find that after the first several days to a week, When it is feeding time your puppy will be happily following you to their crate so that they can eat. It help make the crate a happier place. Also, by feeding this way your dog will “learn” to eat when they get feed which helps avoid any eating problems later on.
I do not like to use any kind of cloth bedding or toys with my young dogs unless they are supervised. I have seen more than one dog swallow enough torn up cloth to end up having to have surgery. When they are a little older and past the teething stage then a nice soft bed is fine. I still don’t let my dogs have cloth toys, they don’t last anyway.
Something else to be aware of when they are little and still getting their puppy shots is that they are still somewhat susceptible to illnesses like Parvo and Bordetella ( kennel cough ) so just be a little cautious what dogs you let your pup come in contact with until they have had their third set of shots. I am talking about dogs you don’t know. As long as you know that the dog(s) that your new puppy has contact with have been vaccinated then that is fine. I would try to avoid the unknown dogs in those first few weeks.
After I have had my pups for a few days to a week and they are pretty settled in then we begin some puppy training. The first thing I want them to know is the leash or lead.
A plain old nylon collar is perfect and a standard 6 foot lead. It’s time to teach the puppy to walk on the lead. If you can find a collar that has a buckle, not the ones with the plastic snap connectors. they are harder to find in the small collars but if possible they are best. When you put the collar on your puppy you want it tight enough so that it can not slip off. This is very important. We don’t want to choke the dog but we want the collar snug enough that there is not possible way that if the puppy pulls on the lead that the collar comes off, slipping the collar is what we call that.
Since positive influences are quickly imprinted. We can’t let the puppy slip his or her collar. Just one time is enough for the dog to learn and then you have a dog that at least for a time will test that over and over to see if they can slip it again.
This is easier done outside but inside is ok if you have enough room. put the collar and leash on and try to take the puppy for a walk. I say try because the puppy is going to fight the leash. Encourage your pup to walk with you. when it stops to fight the collar, just stand there and hold the leash and let the puppy work it out. They might act like a fish on a line but if you just stay calm and don’t say anything and just let the puppy do what ever it is going to do he or she will stop pretty quickly. Once it quits then try walking again, with lively encouragement. Don’t drag the puppy around, when the puppy stops or starts to fight the lead again, just stand still. We are not teaching healing, that comes later. This is just to get the puppy to “give to the lead”. As you progress and the puppy starts to walk with you then as soon as the puppy gets out in front of you turn around and go the other way. This works quite well on a sidewalk. The first couple times you do this the puppy will probably fight it, again just stand still and let the puppy do what it is going to do until it stops and then start again. Don’t make these sessions too long, about 10 minutes should be fine.
You can do this every day if you want. But don’t over do it. Young puppies have a short attention span. It is important to keep things fun.
The other thing that I work on are puppy sits. This is not formal training just like all of this, it should be light and fun. You can do this inside. Just get down on the floor have the collar on the pup and do some sits. Since a at this age puppy is pretty small it is easy to work with. One hand holding the collar and then you can pull up just a little ( we are not lifting the front feet off the ground ) and then take your other hand and run it down the dogs back and then down its butt and then move your hand inward at the hocks making the legs collapse so the puppy sits. Be easy and make it fun, make it a game in the puppies mind. To do this correctly just as your hand comes in under their back legs and you just pull up slightly and say “sit”, “sit” in a light voice, then praise.
I don’t want your dog to be a treat junky, but an occasional little treat will help enforce the action. If you do these 4 or 5 times a week, even a couple times a day for 5 minutes or so each time you will find that in a week or two your puppy will start to pick this up pretty quickly.
The last thing that I work on in the very early days is the recall, “Here” or “Come”. Again this is puppy training. For me and my dogs the recall is somewhat related to a retrieve. So I combine these two into one exercise when they are little. If you have a hallway where you can close the doors so you can sit at one end and the puppy has nowhere to go except in the hall or past you then that is perfect. Grab a couple socks, balled up. Since the puppy is in a hall it can’t go anywhere and so coming back to you is the only way out. Now this is very much a game and if at any time either you or the puppy are not having fun, stop.
You have your two socks, take one and move it around get the puppy excited and toss it down the hall. The puppy should chase it. If it does not don’t throw the second one we have that one for a reason. Just go get the first one and do it again. If the pup is not quite into it, then play a little keep away and get the puppy excited and then try throwing it again. The puppy will figure it out, chasing comes very natural to dogs, however, coming back does not. So now your puppy is down the hall and has the sock. Just let them be for a moment, usually they will play with it for a bit and then a couple things might happen, the puppy might loose interest. If so just go pick up the sock and start again or the puppy might decide that the sock is ok and that it now “belongs” to him or her. This is where the second sock comes in, if the puppy gets the sock and is playing with it give it a few minutes and then start playing with the second sock. Toss it up in the air bounce it off the floor, whatever you need to do to make the sock you have look more fun than the sock your puppy has. When you pup starts your way, say “here” “here” a couple time while your puppy is coming down the hall to you. When the puppy get’s to you, give it lots of praise but DO NOT try to take the sock from the puppy. Just let it hold it while you love the puppy up. Usually the puppy will drop the sock at some point, however, some dogs are a little more possessive. If so then start playing around with the other sock you have, roll it around, toss it up in the air, if you make that second sock look pretty enticing your puppy is going to drop the sock it has to try to go for the one that you have. When that happens you can then pick up the sock that the puppy had so that you now have both of them again. If you try to take the sock from the puppy it will not take long for your puppy to stop coming back to you. It’s not going to come back if it’s toy is taken away each time. Let the puppy drop the sock on it’s own then you can just repeat this until the puppy starts to loose interest at which time, it is time to stop.
These are the things that I like to do with my pups in the first couple or three weeks that I have my dog. It gives you good play time. The puppy is learning some things even if it is play and I think more importantly, it makes the puppy think. The more we can challenge that little brain the more it will develop which leads to better learning skills later in life.
This is fun time for you and your puppy, enjoy it, these days go fast.
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Till next time……