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What to Expect When Bringing Home a New Puppy
Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time in any family's life. Who doesn't want a little ball of fur curled up on their lap, crying, peeing, and/or possibly throwing up on you as you drive home? I know I did! When I turned 30, I treated myself to a birthday gift: an 8-week old pug puppy named Malcolm. Although we always had dogs growing up, and I knew that I wanted one of my own, I also knew that I was not emotionally ready to handle the pressures of a puppy until I was around this age.
Raising a puppy can be one of the most joyful, rewarding experiences short of raising an actual child. The unconditional love that I feel for this little guy, and the number of times a day his quirky pug face makes me smile, is truly priceless. But raising a puppy isn't all fun and games, and it's important to be realistic about what to expect when bringing a new puppy home.
Your puppy will be quiet, timid and scared.
Taking a puppy from his mom, his littermates, and the only environment he's ever known is a traumatic event. Your puppy will be quiet, nervous, and cuddly when you first get home because he is scared out of his mind. It's tempting to want to share your excitement with family and friends, but try to refrain from having a bunch of people over and letting them all hold him. It's important to let him acclimate to his new owner and new home first.
Your puppy may not eat right away.
Whether you get your puppy from a pet store or a breeder, make sure you ask what brand of food they've been feeding him. Most reputable places will give you a small bag to take home with you, that way he can keep eating the food he's accustomed to. Do not try to start feeding him the brand of your choice right away; his sensitive stomach may not be able to handle it. If you are going to opt for a different brand, wait a few weeks until he is settled, and then begin switching to the new food gradually. Your puppy may be so scared that he can't eat right away. For Malcolm's first few meals, we had to moisten his kibble with warm water, and even then he wouldn't eat it out of the food bowl. I had to put a single piece in the palm of my hand, and let him eat it from there. He wouldn't drink from his water dish either, but he would suckle drops of water off my fingertips. (If this had gone on any longer than two days, I would have tried alternative methods, like giving him water from a bottle, but he started eating and drinking on his own.)
Your puppy does not automatically know what's expected of him.
As humans, we know that we want our puppies to only go to the bathroom where and when we tell them to, to walk properly on a leash, not to bark unnecessarily, and not to bite. As animals, puppies simply don't know these things until we show them, tell them, and reinforce their good behavior while correcting bad behavior. One of the best things I read while training Malcolm was this: "If your new puppy has an accident, don't yell at him for making a mess; apologize to him for not taking him outside in time."
Pay attention to your puppy's cues, and trust your instincts.
Don't necessarily believe everything you read, although there is a ton of great information out there. I read that most puppies have to use the bathroom about 30-60 minutes after they eat, so it drove me crazy when I would take Malcolm out at that time and nothing would happen. I'd put him back in his crate for 15 minutes, take him out to try again, and still nothing. I'd repeat this over and over (not an easy feat when you live on the third floor!) but to no avail. Eventually I realized that his body just followed a schedule that may not be typical, but it was unique to him. When we feed him in the morning at 6am, he won't poop until 10am. When we feed him at 3pm, he'll hold his bowels until 7pm. He's older now, but even when he was very young this was the case.
Remember that success doesn't happen overnight.
Training your puppy is a long, arduous journey. Parents, siblings, and other people you trust can be very valuable during this process! There were days where I just didn't understand my puppy's behavior and would get frustrated at myself wondering what I was doing wrong. Why was he barking so incessantly? Why wasn't he peeing on schedule? Why wouldn't he stop biting my feet? It was on those days that we'd take a trip to my parent's house, and I'd let them love, play, and baby him for a while so I could maintain my composure. Malcolm was mostly housebroken by the time he was 4 months old, but there are some breeds that take up to a year to fully house train. A puppy is not going to just "get it" on the first try, and you can't expect him to. But be patient with his needs, be consistent with your praise, calm and constant with your corrections, and your puppy will grow into a well behaved, respectful dog, while giving you back more love than you could ever imagine!