Puppies are really cute and fun to have; but they are a lot of work too. You see them at breeders, the pet store, through rescues, on websites, or even maybe at your friend’s house whose dog just had puppies, and they look perfect. What is sometimes forgotten is that when we take them home, we are now completely responsible for their health, education, and safety. This is where all the work lays and sometimes they can become a real handful.
Puppies really just need a few essentials to keep them happy and safe the first few days. Don’t get sucked in at the pet store and buy everything puppy.
- Dog crate with divider, to allow the crate to grow with the puppy
- Small bag of a good quality dry dog food
- Food bowl and water bowl
- Collar/harness and a 6 foot leash
- 3 or 4 chew toys
- Nature’s Miracle (for toileting mistakes)
- Several old towels
Make sure that the toys you get him don’t encourage the wrong behavior. Purchase natural chew toys such as deer, moose or elk antlers. These are clean, safe, and keep your puppy from chewing the furniture or other inappropriate objects. Puppy chew toys can be tossed in the freezer to keep cool to help when your puppy starts to teeth. Interactive toys such as Kong’s are excellent. They are safe and can calmly redirect your puppy’s focus for an extended period of time. This activity helps your puppy to understand that it is natural to “just hang out”.
The crate is great tool to use with puppies. Crates can help with toilet training, by limiting the puppy’s access to the whole house. Dogs need a safe place where they can go and feel totally secure. No matter what is happening anywhere else, they are in their “safe place”. Because of this, you should socialize the crate as a happy place for your puppy by doing the following:
- Feed your puppy in the crate so he associates the comfort of food with the crate.
- Play with him while you are sitting outside of the crate and he is inside.
- Keep the door open so that he can come and go.
- Give him treats in the crate and praise him every time he goes inside.
- If possible, bring something from the puppy’s prior location and put it in the crate. This helps to build a feeling of continuity between your puppy’s “start of life” and the crate.
All puppies need playtime, but they also need to be taught how to play appropriately. You can use playtime as an opportunity to teach and socialize your dog. First, never play rough with your puppy. You might hurt him or teach him that rough play is acceptable. As he gets bigger and stronger, the rough play can possibly lead to aggressive or dominant behaviors. Start with playing calmly with your puppy inside the house. Rolling a ball across the floor or playing “find the treat” are nice, calm games. When you are outside, you can play more active games such as “fetch” or work on basic commands such as “Sit”. Never play “Chase” with your puppy, as this will encourage his nipping and grabbing.
Potty training your puppy is based on your understanding of when to get your puppy outside. Many new puppy owners think that their puppies come potty trained. This is not the case. You need to keep an eye on your puppy at all times. If you can’t watch your puppy, then use the crate to help with managing him. It only takes a few seconds for a puppy to wander off, potty, and wander right back. The more he does this, the more your house will smell of urine, and the more your puppy will have accidents in the house.
You must also understand the normal times your puppy will need to potty. They are:
- First thing in the morning
- After mealtime
- Before you leave the house
- When you return to the house
- After excited play
- After naptime
- Last thing in the evening
Training your first puppy can be a challenge. Just remember that the problems you may be having with your puppy are not unique to your situation. With patience, lots of love, and the proper education for both you and your puppy, you will be on your way to a happy, well-behaved dog.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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