Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting and joyous occasion, but it also comes with a set of challenges and responsibilities. As a new puppy owner, you want to ensure that your furry friend gets the best possible start in life so you book onto your local Puppy School course - but it doesn’t start for a few weeks! To help you navigate the next few weeks of your journey, here are my top ten tricks and tips for new puppy owners!
1. Prepare Your Home
Before bringing your puppy home, puppy-proof your house. Pay attention to hazards such as electrical cords and keep harmful substances out of reach. Create a designated space for your puppy with a comfortable bed, water, and plenty of soft toys. Plan for a little naughtiness i.e. if you are getting a larger breed, make sure that there is nothing they can steal on the coffee table and set them up for success.
2. Choose the Right Food
Your breeder has probably given you a recommendation of what to feed your puppy, but it’s still best to do your own research into what is and isn’t good for puppies and how a poor diet can affect behaviour. Your puppy is already going to be energetic enough as it is so be careful that you are not giving anything with too high a carbohydrate content as these are slow release energy foods with carbs being converted into sugars. Instead, aim for something high protein, low carb and utilise meal times for training and enrichment. Feed wet and raw food on a lickimat or similar and hand feed your puppy's kibble. This is great for bond building! Check out www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk if you would like to compare foods.
3. Teach your puppy to follow a food lure
While you’re hand feeding your puppy, teach them to follow a lure. Pinch the treat between your thumb and fingers and see if you can get your puppy to follow the food for a few steps before rewarding. Use this to move your puppy rather than physical manipulation whenever possible.
4. Toilet Training
Be patient when it comes to toilet training. Establish a consistent routine for bathroom breaks and reward your puppy when they do their business outside. I tend to recommend puppies go out at least once per hour but also take them out immediately following naps, periods of play and meals. Accidents will happen, but positive and proactive approach is the key to successful toilet training!
Early socialisation is essential for your puppy's well-being. Expose them to various people, animals, and environments to help them grow up to be well-adjusted and confident dogs. Carry your puppy places until they are fully vaccinated and let them start to see the world in all it’s glory! You can also play with them at home getting them to explore unfamiliar surfaces and climb on low level objects. This will help to teach them a bit more spatial awareness
6. Exercise and Play
Puppies have a lot of energy and need regular exercise and playtime. Provide plenty of long, soft toys and engage in interactive play to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. A tired puppy is a well-behaved puppy, but it’s not all about running ragged in the park. As a guide, we recommend 5 minutes of exercise per month of age so we need to fill those gaps with plenty of sniffing, exploration and enrichment too.
7. Handling and Grooming
Depending on your puppy's breed, grooming requirements will vary. Regular handling and grooming from an early age can teach your puppy to accept this as normal as well as building a trusting, consent-based relationship and prepare them for vet / grooming visits later in life. Take your time and gradually introduce them to their collar and harness, lead, towel and brush. You may have some weeks until your puppy can go on their first walk but if we use this time to make nice associations with the lead and collar then they will feel nice and comfortable when they go on their first walk.
Sleep is so important to young puppies and overtiredness manifests itself as a puppy with plenty of energy still to give. Your puppy should be sleeping between 16 and 18 hours per day at this age so making plenty of time to settle and nap throughout the day is vital. Diet and exercise levels are huge players when it comes to your puppy's ability to nap so make sure you’ve got those right. We have seen good results with Adaptil collars for excitable puppies. This calming synthetic pheromone can help your puppy to relax if they are still acclimatising to their new surroundings.
9. Patience and Positivity
Puppies are like sponges, absorbing everything around them. Reward good behaviour and avoid punishment as they don’t really understand what they have done wrong. If you find your puppy doing something undesirable, ask yourself what you would rather they were doing and teach that instead. Patience is key as your puppy learns and grows. Plan for the times that you need to do other things such as shower or prepare meals and settle your puppy with a nice appropriate chew to keep them happy and occupied in the mean time
10. Love and Bonding
Most importantly, shower your puppy with love and attention. Building a strong bond with your furry friend is essential for a happy and well-adjusted adult dog. Spend quality time together, train little and often, cuddle, and enjoy the journey of watching your puppy grow.
In conclusion, being a new puppy owner is a rewarding experience, but it comes with its own set of challenges. By following these ten essential tips, you’ll be well on your way to raising a happy, healthy and well-behaved puppy. Remember that every puppy is unique so be sure to adapt these tips to suit your puppy's individual needs and enjoy the incredible journey of puppy parenthood!
10 Essential Tips and Tricks for New Puppy Owners
Written by Neal, September 2023
Socialising your puppy does not mean lots of free running with other dogs in the park whilst the owners stand still and chat. We are seeing many cases, more than usual at the moment, of puppies who are being taken to play with other puppies either in the park or at a vet surgery or daycare and who are now starting to show antisocial behaviours around other dogs.
Dog to dog interaction and managing play needs to be done so carefully to ensure it's a positive experience for all involved and takes a lot of observation and interrupting to prevent problems arising.
A social dog is one who is relaxed in the presence of other dogs, can read when another dog wants to interact and when they don't. Puppies typically learn nothing beneficial from playing with other puppies. Puppies do not all have a good understanding of social cues and will miss the subtle signs that another puppy does not want to play with them. This then causes the subtle puppy to either have to react in a stronger manner (i.e. barking, snapping and chasing the pup away) in order to obtain social distance or scares them into running away.
If your puppy runs over to every other dog he sees, teach him to be calm by keeping him under control with a long line or short lead and reward him with a treat for looking at the other dog. The more this happens, the more he will look at a dog and associate a reward from you - and will remain calm. You'll need to practise at a distance at which he can take food to begin with.
Do not go to the park and stand chatting to others whilst the dogs run and wrestle. This forces interactions to go on longer than is beneficial and teaches puppies to either be completely dog-focussed and OTT "he's only playing" or scares them because their attempts at avoidance are ineffective.
Aim for short, calm greetings with steady adult dogs. If your puppy is worried (avoiding, barking, jumping forwards and backwards, lip licking, ears back etc), be your puppy's mobile safe space by bending down to offer support and backup if he needs it in the form of a quick pet. Gently buffer the other dog away from yours whilst bending down if needed, keeping your puppy free and this will help your puppy gain confidence knowing you're there as backup if needed.
On lead interactions should last no more than 3 seconds. That's plenty to say hi, essentially shaking doggy hands then move on. Dog cannot properly play when on lead so any longer than 3 seconds tends to lead to frustration from one or both.
PLAY with your puppy on a walk! Their source of fun should not solely be other dogs. Get yourseves a sheepskin toy from Tug-e-nuff and have mad games with them!
Make sure to check out our video on puppy body language too which will help you read your puppy and other dogs.
"My dog loves going for walks but whenever I pick up his harness he runs away". Sound familiar? Harnesses are now very popular for walking dogs and they're great for a number of different reasons; they use less pressure on the dog's neck, they're often more comfortable than being walked on a collar and they can be useful for training. So why am I seeing so many dogs at the moment who wriggle, protest or run away on the sight of their harnesses, surely the dogs must know that means they're going for a walk? The fact is that many dogs have had harnesses put on them without any form of choice or reward - the dog wasn't given the option to wear the harness, it was just put on them. Furthermore, most harnesses require physical manipulation of the dog and are taken off and on again while owners figure out how they work and how to resize them. Once you take these things into considerations, it's no wonder some dogs aren't keen!
There are seemingly endless varieties of harness, some go over the head, some are step-in, others are more complicated and have multiple bits to clip onto, some claim to stop your dog pulling (they usually don't!), some tighten and some just look nice.
Our favourite is the Perfect Fit harness as it can be fully clipped on without the dog having to put his head or legs through, plus it's super comfortable and has a handy chest ring.
The good news is that dogs can easily be taught to remain relaxed while their harness is put on - or even better, they can be taught to willingly participate in the process. This can be done by sitting with your dog's harness and plenty of tasty treats, waiting for him to come to you and allowing him to CHOOSE to put the harness on by putting his own head through (not you putting it over his head) or stepping in using a treat lure or simply rewarding him for standing whilst still giving him the option of moving away should he wish. Allow yourself a few minutes before a walk to take the time to positively association your dog to his harness and you'll have a happier pooch in no time.
For more help in training your dog to love his harness, muzzle or for any other training please contact us.