Our New Puppy First Two Weeks
On May 2, 2010 we picked up Ellie our new Chocolate Labrador Retriever from chosen breeders in North Carolina. Ellie (eight weeks at pickup) comes from a fine line of hunters and although I am not a hunter I buy from breeders for two reasons. First is the health of the dog itself is better when dealing with breeders and second I support the people that do their best for the breeds. These first two weeks have been an adventure as all new puppies can be. You can read the gory details here at Ellie's Blog where I keep a day to day account on Ellie's and my exploits.
First couple of things I wanted to take care of right off the bat because I know if I do, it will be better in the foreseeable future. These are Crate Training and house training which go hand in hand.
Crates are wire cages that you put your puppy in to sleep and when no one is home to supervise. It is not cruel as some folks think. Dogs are, by heredity (they are bred from wolves) den dwelling animals. Some folks just cannot 'cage' their beloved puppy. I know of one person that works at a Veterinarian's office and she says she just cannot crate her dogs, even though the attending Vets recommend it. After two weeks Ellie goes in the crate to rest on her own without being told. They seem to like it.
I have crate trained two previous Labradors with great success. During the first months you do not want your puppy unsupervised and that's where the crate is invaluable. During the first couple of weeks you want to watch these little critters every minute. First you want to correct any accidents for house training purposes. The puppy will not, unless they have to, go to the bathroom in the crate. This is on the contingent that the crate is the correct size. The puppy should only have enough space to get up and turn around or else they can find room to sleep and go to the bathroom. This happened with my first crate 15 years ago. I was sold a very large breed crate for an adult dog (Great Dane, Rottweiler, etc). Poor pup she had enough room in there for ten puppies. I exchanged and got the right size. Some new ones come with a divider that can be put up and moved back as needed. This is the type I got. It works wonderfully.
So the first couple of nights I had made up my mind that I may have to spend some time with Ellie to allow her to get used to the new surroundings and her new crate. I was correct. First night she was awake every two hours. I started her on a tight schedule where I would let her out and IMMEDIATELY went outside for a break. Do not hesitate. A puppy has a small bladder and they have to go right away. I hesitated a couple of times and played the price. Second night was better, she got up every three to four and by the third night she was doing well waking only once during the evening. Since then we've all gotten good nights sleep every night.
A tight schedule is very important, vary from the schedule and you'll learn. Outside after a crate visit, outside when first waking up from a nap, outside first thing in the morning, etc.
After about four days she's used to the crate with little crying when put in. After about eight days she's claimed it as hers and starts going in and out of the crate when she wants to.
House training is a snap with the dog crate, again as long as you stick to a schedule and take them out often. It was a little over a week before a four hour crating was not too much. My Veterinarian says at ten weeks they should be able to hold for four hours and at twelve weeks should be good for six. I am lucky and able to go home at lunch everyday for a break. At five to seven days she started going to the back door and scratching to go out (do not ignore this). I would say at ten days of constant vigilance we declared her house broken.
Celebrating our fourteen days together this past weekend Ellie is doing great. Now we are working on basic obedience commands, setting boundaries (what's hers and what's mine) and starting on collar and leash training. Like all Labrador puppies she is mouthy, wants to put EVERYTHING in her mouth and is biting and chewing. We are working through these issues and every day gets more and more fun. I think the first couple of weeks are very important in making lasting impressions on your new puppy. Constant supervision is required but I also believe this will be rewarded with less behavior problems later that, with an adult dog, would be harder to deal with.
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