Getting a puppy is an experience that brings the boundless love only a dog can offer into your home. If you are well prepared to bring your puppy home, training him can be fun, rewarding and challenging. If you don’t have a plan in place, bringing a puppy home and puppy training can be very stressful for you and for the puppy. In this article, we’ll explore the things you can do to make things better and easier for you and him before you bring your puppy home, when you bring him home and as you train and raise him to be a great furry family member.
Bark Busters has trained over a million dogs in seven countries over the past 30 years. We have a huge amount of experience in almost every aspect of integrating and training dogs of all ages, breeds, sizes and temperaments. We always say that there is no such thing as an untrainable dog. But… there is such thing as an unsuitable dog. This is probably the most important thing to consider when deciding to bring a puppy into your home. Selecting the right breed, age, size and background of your puppy will have a huge impact on your success in integrating the puppy into your home.
Here are some things to think about regarding selecting a breed, age, size, temperament and background. Failure to adequately consider these issues could result in a very difficult situation for you and for your dog. Always start with being practical.
Once you have decided to adopt or purchase a puppy and have selected a breed, you will need to select a breeder, pet store or shelter. Make sure your research the reputation of the place you will get your puppy from. If your puppy is mistreated or neglected during his first weeks and months, he may develop behavioral issues that are difficult to resolve. If you are going to adopt a purebred dog, a reputable breeder is normally the best choice. Responsible breeders breed for temperament, health and breed conformity and normally succeed via referral business. It can be difficult to research where your puppy came from if purchasing him from a pet store but better pet stores will provide you with this information. It’s still worth checking on the breeder/source the pet store uses to make sure it’s not a puppy mill. If you are not concerned with getting a purebred dog, a shelter is a great choice as they tend to have lots of pups to choose from and you are likely saving a dog’s life by adopting from a shelter.
When selecting your pup from a litter, take the time to assess his temperament before committing to purchase or adopt him. Pups that are reclusive, withdrawn and/or fearful can be difficult to train. If you have a busy home, you will want a pup that is comfortable socializing with the other pups and with visiting humans. See if the pup will let you hold him or roll him over and pet him. Consider your temperament and think about how the dog might fit in to your world. If you are high energy and outgoing, better to have a dog that is the same. See if the pup will come to you and is playful and energetic. Spend some time with the pups and try to use some level of logic vs. pure emotion when selecting the puppy you will bring home. Be weary of any breeder, shelter or pet store that doesn’t give you the chance to meet and interact with a puppy before you commit to a purchase or adoption. It’s easy to love any puppy for an hour or two but remember that the decision to adopt a puppy is the beginning of a 10-15 year commitment.
Now that you have chosen your puppy and will be bringing him home, it’s time to prepare for his transport and arrival. Puppies are cute, cuddly and fun but they are also lots of work and require you to be a caretaker, a dog trainer, a companion and a leader. These are demands that you can share with your family and/or roommates so it’s worth getting everyone on the same page before the puppy arrives. Who will be feeding the dog, walking the dog, watching the dog etc.? Answering these questions before puppy arrives will take the stress level down for everyone.
How long is your ride home from the breeder or shelter? Plan to have a friend or family member accompany you to pick up the puppy so that you can focus on your new furry friend on the way home. If it’s a long drive, plan on a few stops to let the pup toilet and remember to praise him if he goes when you take him out. Bring some water and a bowl as well so that he can drink when you take breaks from the drive. If you can drop off a blanket to the breeder a few days ahead and have the breeder put it in bed with the mom and pups, you can bring it with you when you leave with your puppy. Having the mom’s scent nearby can help your puppy feel safer and calmer as it enters its new world. You can also put this in the puppy’s bed at your home along with some articles of clothing with your scent on them.
Do you need to puppy proof your home? The short answer is, yes! This doesn’t mean you need to break out your power tools but some simple changes can make things easier, safer and less stressful for you and your new puppy. Puppies like to investigate and get into new things. Think of them as being at risk in the same way a toddler would be. Put away any dangerous items, limit access to electrical cords, sharp items etc. Remember that pups love to chew so it’s a good idea to put away any items that you don’t want sharp little puppy teeth to explore. Have lots of toys around the house that your puppy CAN chew on so that it’s easy to redirect him if he chews on things he is not supposed to. It’s impossible to put everything away so remember that you will need to train your puppy and manage his space.
We strongly suggest purchasing a crate for your puppy. A rigid plastic or metal crate is best as many puppies will escape or destroy soft fabric crates/pens. The crate size should just be large enough for your puppy to enter, spin around and lie down. If you provide too much space, your pup will probably use one end for sleeping and the other for a toilet. It is a good idea to cover the crate leaving only the front open so that your puppy feels like he is in a den (dogs feel safer in small, dark enclosed spaces). Put a nice comfortable bed or blanket in the crate along with an item of your clothing (unwashed so that it has your scent) and an item from its mother’s bed as discussed above. Introduce your puppy to the crate slowly letting him investigate a few times before closing the door. Puppies nap frequently. Try to have him nap in the crate to help him get comfortable with being inside. You can also feed him in the crate to help build a positive association with crate time. We’ll be providing more detailed information on crate selection, crate training and the use of the crate as a training tool in housebreaking in upcoming posts.
Have the essentials on hand and ready. For food, find out what your puppy has been eating and make sure you have some of the same food. Sudden changes in diet can cause stomach upset and you will have enough to do when your puppy arrives without dealing with vomiting or diarrhea. Research and select a local veterinarian you trust and establish a relationship ahead of bringing your puppy home. This ensures that you have a place to go to keep your pup current on shots and well care in addition to giving you’re the piece of mind that comes with knowing where to go and who to call if you have a puppy emergency. If you research food or discuss diet with your vet and want to make changes to your dog’s diet, your vet will likely suggest gradually changing him over to new food vs. a sudden complete change. You will need a food bowl, water bowl, leash, collar, poopie bags and cleaning supplies for cleaning up toileting accidents. Most importantly, you will need time and patience to devote to your puppy, as he will need a lot of attention just like a new human baby.
When you arrive home with your new puppy, remember that this is a big day for him and for YOU. Be patient and enjoy your adorable new furry family member. Your puppy will want to explore his new surroundings. Let him explore but keep an eye on him at all times unless he is in his crate. Introduce your puppy to his crate early on (having prepared it as described above) and be sure to put him in there when he starts to look sleepy (puppies sleep a lot especially in the first few months). Leave the crate door open and let him come out on his own. You can feed him in his crate to help him build positive association. Puppies normally eat at least three times per day so you will have lots of chances to make him enjoy his crate time! Remember to take your puppy out to toilet within an hour or so of eating, as he will be ready to go. Frequent trips to the same small patch of grass outside will help your dog get used to toileting outside. Remember to praise your pup every time he goes outside. A basic rule of thumb is that your puppy can hold their bladder for about one hour for each month of age so at 8 weeks, you would need to take him out about every two hours. He may be able to make it through the night in his crate but the safer bet is to plan on getting up once during the night to take him out if you want to avoid accidents in the crate. We’ll be discussing housebreaking/toilet training in more detail in an upcoming post.
If your puppy is not used to a leash, put a fixed collar or harness on him first and let him get used to it. Then attach a leash and let him drag it around the house for a while be sure to do this under supervision to avoid the leash getting snagged and so he can get used to the feeling of being attached to something. When you walk with him, let him sort of lead you around until he is comfortable with the leash. If you start pulling and yanking him around, he will start to have a negative association with the leash so take your time. Remember to work your way to the same toileting spot every time you go out. This spot should be close to where you exit the house so that he can get there quickly if he needs to go. For more on developing leash manners, check out our upcoming post on training your dog to walk on leash.
Training a puppy or training an adult dog can be fun and incredibly rewarding. Keep in mind that your puppy is basically an infant and set your training expectations to match the capabilities of your puppy based on his age. During the first few weeks/months, focus on good puppy behaviors including housebreaking, no biting/mouthing, no jumping up, recall and getting comfortable on leash (not healing, just getting used to walking attached to a leash). As your puppy gets older, you can start to introduce new skills such as healing, basic commands and more.
When you are ready for bed on your puppy’s first night, make sure the last thing you do is take your pup out to toilet. Set an alarm for 4-5 hours after you put him in the crate so that you can take him out to toilet once during the night. You can try to stretch him to 6-8 hours but it’s a big ask for pup under 3 months to go 8 hours. Expect your puppy to whine and complain a bit during his first night in the crate. DO NOT let him out if he complains or you will be listening to him complain in his crate for years to come. Instead, if he complains, say “BAH” in a deep and guttural voice. When he stops, tell him “Good doggie” in a high-pitched voice. Be patient, this is probably his first night without his mother, his first night in a crate AND his first night being alone while sleeping. Its hard to be stern when your puppy cries or complains but he needs you to provide some “tough love” to help him settle in. Dogs get a sense of security and safety by having strong leadership and firm rules. They settle much faster with a firm yet loving owner than one they can control emotionally. Be calm, firm and loving and your puppy will respond!
Remember that Bark Busters offers training that will help you develop and amazing bond with your dog based on respect and love. Every one of our clients receives a lifetime guarantee of support. Contact Us to learn about the most successful dog training system in the world and check into our Blog every week for new tips and training guidance.