Things You Need to Know and Do When You Get a New Puppy
I am Getting a New Puppy. Now What?
I had wanted a puppy since before I can remember. I had family dogs and absolutely loved it but I never had a dog to call my own. A dog that was specifically mine. A dog that I took care of all day, every day whether it's bathing him, picking up his "business" with a doggy bag, or feeding him at every meal.
I remembered the dogs I grew up with and thought to myself, "This shouldn't be too hard. I remember having dogs growing up. It wasn't that complicated and I don't remember ever having too much trouble with them." What I forgot was that I had my entire family to help (mom, dad, 2 brothers and 1 sister), and I wasn't the one housebreaking them or training them. My boyfriend Colin and I had agreed that we would get a puppy together after college. Not an adult dog, but a puppy. We wanted to have the experience of raising a dog from it's early stages of life. We wanted that full experience, knowing that we were responsible for how that dog would act as an adult. It sounded fantastic and we grew more and more anxious every day while we waited for the day when we could buy our puppy and bring him home.
Supply Checklist for your New Dog
- Food and Water Bowls
- 5-10 Toys (I ended up needing more because ACDs need LOTS of toys)
- Puppy Food (Be sure to ask breeder what kind he's being fed at that home)
- Dog Tags
- Schedule Vet Visit (Ask breeder about what shots he has/hasn't had prior to pick up; Get papers from them if possible)
- Paper Towels (For puppy accidents)
- Stain & Odor Remover (Again, Puppy Accidents)
- Baby Gate (For house stairs or constraining him to one area)
- Training Treats
- Nylabone (for teething puppies)
- Kong Toy (Good for hiding treats inside)
- Small Towel or blanket (sleep with one for a few nights to get your scent on it)
- Be sure to puppy-proof! (ANYTHING you don't want chewed on should be hidden or put away)
Picking Your New Puppy
After moving from Indiana to Missouri, we ended up finding our puppy on craigslist. We found a woman whose adult Red Heeler had a litter of 7 puppies. She informed me that I was the first person to respond to her post so I had my pick of the litter. I asked her if she had any red males and we were told that the only red male was the runt of the litter. Our excitement shot up even higher. Not only was our puppy gonna be the color and sex that we wanted, but we were getting the runt! She sent us about a picture a day until we were able to pick him. Every day that we got a new picture, we lost our minds even more. He was so cute!
(Note: I would like to add that anyone who chooses to purchase an animal on craigslist should be careful. There are a lot of scams and "sketchy" links/photos that some people post. We were lucky to find such a reliable person and post on craigslist. There are still great people and posts on craigslist, but I think everyone should be aware of its potential dangers.)
Despite my research prior to getting this puppy, I was still not as fully equipped as I wish I had been. I read plenty of information on puppies, but there were still some things that I never read anywhere that I would like to share.
Your First Day with your Puppy
So let's say you've finally brought your puppy home and made sure you have everything you need from the puppy checklist. Maybe you've even seen a few more things that you wanted to buy like a body harness, a head halter, puppy clothes, bedding, etc. In terms of buying bedding or a large pillow for your dog to sleep on, I would wait until you've had him for a while. We decided to wait to see what our dog liked the most first and I'm glad we did because those pillows/beds would have been a waste of money for us. Our dog gets hot easily and loves to lay completely sprawled out, belly down, on the hardwood or tile floor (you can see him doing this in my previously posted photo of him above). It helps him cool off and he almost always prefers this to laying on the carpet. Besides a pillow/bed, there are other items where you might wait to see your puppy's preferences. For example, I know a fellow puppy owner whose 7 week old Australian Shepherd thoroughly enjoys splashing around in his water bowl. Even though this is adorable, it isn't very fun cleaning spilled water up off your floor all day. So, this owner made sure her puppy's water bowl wasn't big enough for him to be able to splash around in. I know it is not logical to wait to buy your dog's water bowl, but this is just another example of how your puppy's personality and preferences can change the things you will buy for him.
Things to Start Doing Early When Training
Simple Things to Discourage
Simple Things to Encourage
Looking at you When Hearing Their Name
Whining/Barking for Food
Walking Beside you on Leash
Demanding Treats Rather than just Receiving Them
Potty Trips Outside
Chewing on Household Items
Choosing to Chew on Toys Without Direction
Jumping up When Greeting People
Chewing on Their Own Paws
Fetching (mine had to be taught)
Our Crazy Dog Attacking a Doorstopper
Important Training Tips
- Be sure to say "yes" as much as you may say "no." If you're freaking out every time your puppy does something bad or telling him "no" every time he does the slightest thing wrong he's going to get very frustrated because it seems he's being reprimanded for everything he's doing. As well as discouraging him from doing the wrong things, be sure you are very, very encouraging when he does the right things. A lot of owners are always correcting the bad behaviors and forgetting to praise the simple good behaviors. For example, you might tell your new friend "no" when he tries to chew on your shoes, but make sure you also tell him "yes, good doggy," when he chooses to chew on his toys. Your puppy likes to know when he's doing the right things! If you're just quiet when he does the right things instead of praising him, he doesn't truly know how pleased you are with his current, good behavior.
- Make a specific schedule for potty breaks. This was my number one priority when we first got our puppy. I set alarms in the middle of the night to be sure I woke up on time to take him out to the bathroom. Since we got our puppy so early (5 weeks), he really did not have control over his bladder. This meant that he could hardly even hold it for 2 hours, and in my experience with this puppy, 2 hours was too long. I had to make sure I was up every hour and fifteen minutes to hour and a half during the night for the first two weeks. We live in an apartment, so we didn't really have room for an overnight puppy-potty area like many people sometimes create for their new puppies. I also do not like this method because I do not want the dog thinking it's okay to potty in the house anywhere.
- You will be exhausted. More than any other advice I found prior to getting my dog, I truly wish someone had told me this, because it was something I wasn't prepared for. A huge part of this goes along with the previous bullet. Waking up every (approximately) 2 hours in the middle of the night for two weeks will seriously put a damper on your mood. You will be very tired. It will feel like you have a newborn child. Granted, I don't have any children yet, but every time I tell a mother my process for taking him out at night, they respond with, "Oh my gosh, it's like you have a baby! You must be so tired!" Because of this response, I feel my comparison is pretty spot on. And yes, I am tired. I'm still quite tired after 4 weeks. Now that my puppy is 9 weeks, I wake up every 3 hours in the middle of the night instead of every hour and a half. It might still sound awful to you, but to me it feels like mountains of more sleep. I had forgotten how glorious sleep is and I will probably think this for many more weeks to come when my dog becomes able to hold his bladder for longer and longer periods of time. Another "tired" factor is the fact that your puppy needs so much attention and dedication. It wears you out emotionally and mentally trying to teach him right from wrong. I mean, he can't help it. He's a puppy! But his constant need for attention and your required presence around him nearly 24/7 to ensure he isn't destroying everything you own just adds onto the amount of sleep you're not getting.
- Praise, praise, praise. Your puppy loves to please you and most people recommend you should train your puppy with treats. I read this and bought a good amount of treats, planning to do so. However, I discovered that my puppy didn't even really like treats the first two weeks that I had him. I'd try to give them to him and he just didn't really care. I even bought soft ones, since he didn't have big teeth to chew up the hard ones. And I didn't buy him those cheap $2 bags of treats that a lot of dogs end up not liking. Regardless, treats weren't really his thing at first. What this puppy did respond well to, was praise. I have given my puppy about 3 treats after he's had a successful bathroom trip and two of those, he's left in the grass without eating. On every other trip, which must be near 100 now, I just lavishly praised him and pet him and played with him after he went potty outside. He was so happy about me praising him and it has worked just as well (if not better) than giving him treats as potty training. He still has some accidents from time to time, but he usually only has these if I've accidentally slept past my alarm to take him out (it happens, I'm pretty tired). And they are now just pee accidents, no recent poops in the house. As a slight update, he does like his treats more now at 9 weeks, but he still doesn't really go crazy for them like I've seen most dogs do.
- Be Constant with Corrections. Dogs learn through repetition. If you are training your dog not to do certain things, correct them the same way each and every single time. It feels monotonous and can try your patience but it will help you in the long run. A trainer we spoke with told us that when we tell him to stop biting us in 4 different ways "no bite, don't, stop it, quit," it's very confusing for the puppy because he's getting a new command every single time and he still doesn't even know what the first command meant. This is also true for things you want your dog to do. If you're training your dog to go to the bathroom outside on command (which I did and am so grateful I stuck with it), using different commands each time is going to confuse him. He doesn't know that "bathroom and "potty" mean the same thing so be sure to use the same phrasing every single time you're training. He just wants to do what you're telling him so make it easier on him to understand what you want.
- Love your puppy. This is simple. It doesn't need an explanation. They deserve all the love you can give them because they love you with everything they have and know. Never forget how much you love your puppy. He never forgets about you.
© 2014 Katherine Shaffer