By Rita Viel, Dog Behaviorist
Welcoming a puppy into your home and heart is such a special experience! With a little preparation and patience, you can make the transition as smooth as possible for both you and your pup.
Puppies sometimes “explore” with their mouths, so do yourself a favor and remove temptation. It helps to simply think like a dog: sit on the floor and look around to see what your dog might chew. Then get it off the floor – shoes, plants, toys, newspapers, electric cords, precious books, etc. Keep in mind this is just temporary – typically just for a few weeks while your puppy safely explores his new environment and learns the rules. Plus, puppy proofing your home sets your dog up for success so that you can reward good behavior instead of having to constantly correct unwanted behavior (like chewing slippers). Give your puppy time to learn the ropes and everyone will be much happier!
Puppies need a lot of sleep so that they have energy to keep growing – about 16-18 hours a day! So find a quiet place in your home that doesn’t see a lot of traffic (for instance, a hallway between the living room and kitchen might not be the best choice). Pick out a nice corner of a room, where your pup can enjoy uninterrupted rest. Then add a dog bed or a crate with a comfy dog bed that fits inside. Depending on the size of your home, you might want to have a second rest area with a bed or crate, like the corner of a bedroom or office. Check out our bed collection for comfy cozy naptime.
If you have the chance to meet your puppy before adoption day, leave a towel or shirt with your scent with her so she gets used to your smell. When you drive her home, keep the item in the crate or carrier to help her relax with a familiar scent. o When the big moment finally arrives, resist the urge to helicopter parent. Instead, give your puppy time and space to explore her new home. Remember, if your dog came from a breeder or even a litter of strays, she’ll feel a bit of a shock being separated from her mother and siblings for the first time. Give your pup a few days to get used to you and your home before introducing her to friends. Let her get to know you and your family first.
It’s never too early to start crate training, so you can start offering your puppy treats or even feeding her meals in the crate once home, but note: don’t close the door. Keep it open so the pup can come and go as she pleases. Soon she’ll learn her crate is a safe place for a good snooze.
Of course, potty training is a top priority. Help your puppy learn to go outside to do his business by frequently taking him outside, including when he wakes up, after meals and after play. Plan to take him out about every two hours, and at night, plan on setting an alarm several times since puppies can’t hold it overnight.
If your pup has an accident inside, say “no” in a friendly way and carry him outside to finish urinating. You can reward the pup, but don’t make it a big deal – a simple “good boy” or “good girl” is enough. Then try to clean the mess when the dog isn’t watching (or if possible, have someone else do it while you’re outside).
Be patient. Remember that accidents happen – even with dogs who are several months old. With consistency on your part, your puppy will learn to go outside to relieve himself.
The first few nights can be tricky for a puppy, since she’s away from her littermates and in an unfamiliar place. She might feel stressed by the sudden change. So let her sleep near you in your bedroom. If she starts to whine in her crate, you can comfort her with words or touch to let her know you’re there. Keep in mind that if she continues whining or barking, it might be time to head outside to pee!
Depending on how things go, you could move the crate after 2-3 nights a little further from your bed or into the hall, but keep your door open. Slowly but surely, you can move the dog to where you’d like her to sleep (if that’s somewhere other than your room). By taking small steps, your puppy should be comfortable in her designated sleep spot in 1-2 weeks.
If at all possible, don’t leave your puppy alone for the first 2-3 weeks after you bring him home – sometimes longer, depending on the pup. But after the initial adjustment period, you can start practicing for times when you have to leave your puppy alone at home.
Once again, patience is key; the more time you take, the better it is for your dog. Take little steps. For instance, if your dog is quiet for a minute in his crate with the door closed, simply open the door without saying anything – don’t make a fuss – and continue with whatever you’re doing. If your pup decides to stay in his crate, great. If he wants to get out, that’s fine too. Just be sure not to open the door to the crate if the dog is barking or whining – wait until he is quiet. That’s the moment when you calmly open the door and walk away.
A crate can be the perfect tool to teach your dog to stay home alone in a safe way. (It’s also much safer for your slippers!) Make sure the crate is the right size for your pet – not too small, for instance – and never use it as punishment. It should always be a safe place and if your pup is in the crate, no one should disturb the dog.
When working on crate training, you help make it a positive experience by giving your pup a puzzle feeder or other treat-dispensing toy when you’re home and able to supervise. Don’t make the game too difficult; the goal is fun. The Toppl and Tux are terrific treat toys for really small puppies.
Two kinds of walks for puppy training:
Take a 5-minute walk for every 4 weeks of age; if your pup is 12 weeks old, walk together for about 15 minutes. Every dog is an individual so base walk times on your own dog – your veterinarian can help you plan for your pup’s specific needs – but make sure walks aren’t too long or intense. Allow your pup to sniff during walks and occasionally choose your route to help instill confidence.
Standard dog leashes are 6-feet long (and are often required on hiking trails and in campgrounds), but you can look for slightly longer leashes if you have a dog who prefers a bit more privacy when relieving himself. Check out our Strolls leashes.
When a puppy is tired, he normally doesn’t go to sleep right away. In fact, overly tired puppies can get a burst of energy just before crashing and potentially engage in unwanted behavior, so make sure you give your dog enough rest. (Anyone with a child has experienced this one!) Downtime also allows your puppy to process all the stimuli in his new and exciting world.
If you have a very young puppy, let her explore her world and bond with you when she’s 8-12 weeks old. This is a critical socialization period to expose her in a positive way to as many different people, places and situations as possible. You want your dog to learn to trust you so she feels comfortable rather than frightened when you head off on adventures together.
Remember that everything is new to your puppy, just like it is for a baby. Give her the time she needs to grow into an amazing dog who will be a loving companion to you!