Bringing home a new puppy is a very exciting event. Congratulations on your new best friend!
If you're bringing home a new puppy continue reading for some helpful tips to make your puppy stage go as smoothly as possible. It's important that you prepare as much as you can before bringing home your new furry 10-15 year investment!
1. Crate Training
I'd highly recommend crate training. It can be painful at first, but in the long run very worth it. When you bring puppy home you'll be using the crate frequently until you can eventually trust your pup out alone. So it is important to make this a very "safe space" for your pup that they feel comfortable in. Yes, you will use it to restrict them sometimes but overall it should be a comfortable retreat for your pup. Then as he/she gets older, you can start letting him out more.
The first few nights can be rough because just like if you were moved into a completely new bed one night, you might be uncomfortable and flustered. I suggest putting a towel (not a blanket yet) in the crate for comfort and warmth. Everyone likes something to snuggle with but still some whining might occur, which you should try to ignore. It can be frustrating, but they get used to... I PROMISE! And make sure you have play sessions right before bedtime so you have a tired pup ready for his den.
If things get really bad, I put a stuffed animal with my GSD for him to consider as his siblings. I've also heard of people putting a wall clock next to the cage with an actual ticking clock because it sounds like their mom's heartbeat. I also suggest putting blankets over the crate to make it dark for comfort and to remove visuals for the puppy to get distracted by.
It's also probably best to put your pup in their cage when you're not home, busy around the house, or sleeping. Don't feel bad, crate training is not cruel. And eventually, they will be able to be trusted outside of the crate and it won't need to be locked.
Your #1 goal: Train your pup that his cage is their safe spot. It is their "den". This behavior is inherited from wolves. You want to teach them not to sh*it where they eat necessarily and it can be done if you get started right from the beginning. There's a different spot for eating 🙂 Hopefully, your dog will start hanging out or casually sleeping in his cage. When you get past the puppy stage you usually can put a comfy bed in there for them to relax on. They'll learn it's their safe spot and is also a time out spot. Because just like kids, puppies need timeout sessions too.
2. Puppy or shark? Get Nylabones and toys for those puppy teeth.
These are the BEST toys for puppies or dogs in general. You can even put them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes and then give to your puppy for their sore teeth. They'll appreciate it. Absolutely no raw bones or antlers for puppy puppies, please. As they get older you can offer your dog bones and antlers but I wouldn't suggest it too often. My dog currently only gets bones if its a rainy or snowy day and I need to keep him occupied. If it's nice out, we are outside exploring.
I also suggest TOYS; lots of TOYS! Anytime he or she is biting on your hands, stick a toy in their mouth instead. If you can continue this training that TOYS are for chewing not hands, shoes, or cords.. you will have less ruined belongings. You might have toys laying all over your house but it is well worth it if you don't have any ruined items. Eventually, you can teach your pup to put their toys away too (I did this with my German Shepherd).
Now for dogs who get bored with their toys, a neat technique my trainer taught me is to split up your toys into a few bags (maybe 2-3) and then you can switch out toy bags every other week or so so your puppy thinks he's getting new toys.
Lastly, for those teethers, I would suggest ice cubes. A FREE toy you can give to young puppies who are going through their teething phase.
3. FREQUENT bathroom breaks
So imagine if you weren't able to go to the restroom every time you had to go to the bathroom? Even those times when you were holding it in for sooo long and almost had an accident. Your puppy CANNOT let himself out (usually) so it is your responsibility to help them relieve themselves. The more often the better too because who doesn't benefit from a walk outside anyway?
Puppies have smaller bladders and will need to be let out much more frequently. And definitely 30-45 minutes after they eat so it's important you incorporate this time into your schedule. As your dog ages, he will be able to hold his business longer. But it's still very important to prioritize taking your pup out multiple times during the day.
It's all about the schedule
4. Get on a feeding schedule
Puppies love to eat! Create a schedule that feeds at least in the morning and evening. If your schedule allows, you can feed in the afternoon too. But always plan to take your puppy out 30-45 minutes after mealtime. Every single time.
Dog food is a touchy subject, so I don't want to get into that. Personally, I started my guy high protein puppy dry food until around 1 year of age. And then switched him to adult food. Just focus on finding food your puppy likes and stick with it.
If you ever change your dog's food its VERY important to mix their current food with the new food. DO NOT ever just switch them over to the new food immediately. Trust me, you will regret it.
5. Start leash walking early
I made the mistake of just letting my pup out back because it was convenient. And I regret it now with my 2-year-old GSD because now its 70 lbs and very strong. So please, try to start walking your pup regularly on a leash immediately.
They are usually goofy and stumble around at first but just like with everything else, they will get used to it. This will incorporate into your training program too.
It's very important to socialize your pup with humans and other pups. This will help them become comfortable around others as they grow into their own skin. It also will help you determine what kind of personality they have: scared and timid, outgoing and playful, aggressive and dominant, etc.
At first, my german shepherd pup was very scared of other dogs and humans and it took a lot of socialization training to get over that. He might be a big dog but he didn't realize it and often hid behind me or ran away from other dogs. Making play and social time apart of your routine will get him used to these interactions and see it is a normal part of life. It's important to help them become more confident with themselves which will ultimately lead to a happy pup.
7. Training Classes
If you have the resources to enroll your pup in training at any age, I definitely suggest it. But do your research and find a good trainer that helps you understand your dogs' behavior and personality. Anyone can teach a dog to sit or lay down with an incentive. But truly understanding your dogs' behaviors and how to interact and incentivize him is very important if you want to have a successful relationship with your pup.
For example, your dog might be more treat motivated or toy/ball motivated. I've had both; my older dog was food motivated and my german shepherd was completely ball motivated. Learn what your pup likes 🙂
8. New Experiences
Don't forget to have FUN with your pup! The best part of having a dog is showing them the big, beautiful world we live in but reminding them that you are by their side every step of the way.
Lastly -- for young puppies -- get ready for those fear and impression stages.
First Fear and Impression Stage: 8-12 weeks*
Second Fear and Impression Stage: 6-14 months*
Stay tuned for additional articles on these stages. Very important. Good luck, puppy training!