The early days of pet ownership can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. With these tips in mind, you can help ensure your puppy is healthy and well-adjusted from day one.
With the great joy of a new furry friend comes great responsibility. You want to train and care for your puppy properly, but where to begin?
Not to fear. Remember, you’re not the only nervous one. As your puppy adjusts to its new environment, he’ll be looking to you for guidance, affection, and nourishment. If you adopt these five important measures after bringing your new pup home, you can set the stage for a long and happy relationship.
First Stop: The Vet
Whether your puppy’s arrived straight from the breeder or adopted from the kennel, a trip to the vet should be the first thing on your list.
At your puppy’s first visit, the vet will perform a general examination, administer vaccinations, and complete a de-worming procedure if necessary. If you plan to get your puppy spayed or neutered, schedule the procedure based on the vet’s recommendations. This appointment also offers an opportunity to address any lingering concerns or questions you might have about health considerations and dietary needs that are specific to the breed.
Crate and Barrel
Though new owners may balk at the idea of confining their new furry friend to such a small space, housing a puppy in a crate is actually an essential element of house training. Although it may not look very inviting, the crate will actually function as a source of comfort and security for your pup.
To ensure your puppy’s new home is as cozy as possible, place a bed, water bowl, and a few hollow chew toys stuffed with food within the crate. At the farthest corner of the crate, cordon off an area for “elimination.” The puppy toilet area should be a square of artificial turf for rural and suburban pups, or concrete tile for city dwelling dogs. With this realistic simulation, the puppy will begin to associate the indoor potty area with the outdoor one.
Like all elements of house training, getting your puppy used to the crate will take a bit of time and effort. Place the crate in an area of the home he frequents, and encourage him to poke around by tossing in a treat and some favorite toys. Once he’s inside the crate, leave the door open at first, and never crate a puppy younger than six months old for more than two or three hours, except at night.
Establish a Schedule
Try to adhere to a regular schedule of feeding, walks, and potty breaks. Like humans, puppies need to be fed three times a day, so you can schedule his meal time around yours.
To potty train your puppy, you have a few options: take him out every two to four hours, after a lengthy confinement, or after waking from a nap. However frustrating accidents might be, never punish the pup for going to the potty when he shouldn’t. He’ll learn better habits from positive reinforcement tactics, so you should reward him for eliminating while outdoors.
Leash Training 101
Getting your puppy accustomed to walking with a collar and leash is no easy feat. Try walking him with a leash around your home or backyard before venturing further outdoors. Play with your pup while he’s on the leash, so that he’ll form positive associations instead of negative ones.
When walking, it’s important that your dog follows your lead, and not the other way around. If the puppy pulls at the leash while walking, simply turn and continue on in the opposite direction. In time, your puppy will learn who’s boss. As usual, reward him with praise to reinforce good behavior.
Make Your Puppy a Social Butterfly
It’s never too early to socialize your puppy with other humans and dogs. When you encounter friendly passers-bys on your walks, encourage them to interact with your puppy — you can even have them feed your him a small treat to reinforce the positive association. This way, he’ll learn to accept other people as friends, not foes.
A caveat: puppies have a tendency to nip and bite while teething. If your puppy motions to bite you, yell “no” to startle him, but don’t pull your hand away. Instead, let the puppy release the bite as your hand goes limp. To let the message sink in, ignore the puppy for 20 seconds before resuming play. In time, he will get the message that hard biting is wrong. In the meantime, keep chew toys on hand to satisfy the puppy’s teething needs.
Effective training is all about establishing good habits through frequent and positive reinforcement. By remaining loving yet firm, you and your puppy will most certainly embark on a long and caring partnership.