It’s that time of year. Christmas is my favorite holiday. Family. Friends. Food. It’s also the time of year where puppies come into our lives as Christmas gifts. It’s exciting and new and the kids, if you have them, are over the moon. Sometimes it’s love at first sight. Sometimes it takes a little time for everyone to come together.
Getting a puppy from a breeder, rescue group or shelter will require a lot of patience, love and time. We can’t expect our new furry friend to be perfect right away. So here are five things you can do to make the transition easier for the both of you.
If you have children, it’s time to teach them the proper way to handle animals. When you’re introducing the child and dog to each other it’s important to give your pooch a lot of space and time to meet. It’s exciting and our first instinct is to pick up the puppy and squeeze it tight with all the love in our hearts or if it’s an older puppy to run up to it and give it a big hug. This can cause a significant amount of stress on the dog. With a young puppy have your child or children sit down, put the puppy on the floor and let him or her approach your kids. The puppy will sniff and investigate and that’s important because that is what dogs do when they meet another dog or a human. At this point a puppy will either back off or crawl up into their lap. If the puppy backs off give them their space because they might be shy. After all, there’s a lot going on. Eventually they’ll settle into the situation and approach you or your kids again. Puppies are inquisitive.
If you’ve rescued an older puppy give them plenty of space. Again, let them approach your kids on their own. Let the dog set the pace. This is a lot for a dog to take in. Hopefully when you talked to the rescue they paired your family with a dog that is good with children but it still takes plenty of time for them to get used to new people.
In your home make a special space for the puppy. This space is off limits for kids and adults. This is a safe place where the dog can go and de-stress. Put their crate and/or bed there and if your the dog goes into its crate let them stay there until they’re ready to come out and socialize again.
I know this seems hard to do but it really is important for you to give your dog time and space to become part of the family.
You new puppy will probably be a little mouthy. What I mean is they will want to put their teeth on you. This is normal and can be handled gently and humanely. Puppies need to learn bite inhibition and if you don’t have another puppy or dog, that job falls to you. Ideally if you don’t have another dog take your puppy to a good, reputable doggie daycare. They should match up your puppy with other puppies or even an older dog who have similar temperaments not just throw all the dogs in one big room with very little supervision. In a good daycare facility there are playgroups which are closely monitored. Spray bottles are NOT used to diffuse fights. Do your research. Make this a positive experience for your puppy. The reason I recommend daycare is because in as little as a day your puppy’s mouthing will improve significantly. I’ve seen it myself time and time again.
If daycare is not in your budget then it’s up to you to teach your puppy how much pressure is too much. The best way to do this is to play with your puppy. When they mouth continue to play until the pressure is too much. When it is, playtime is over. This is what other puppies will do as well. Wait a couple minutes and if the puppy still wants to play continue. Everytime the pressure is too much stop playing. Your puppy will learn. Trust me.
House training is necessary as puddles in the house or piles of poop on the carpet is not fun but with patience and vigilance it can be done humanely and quickly. First, buy a crate. Some people think putting a puppy in a crate is cruel. Dogs are den animals and having a place where they feel safe is super important and if your puppy learns the crate is fun they won’t mind going in and spending some time in their safe space. I don’t recommend giving your puppy free reign in your home until they are reliably going outside. Pee pads are nice tools but don’t rely on them unless you plan on having your puppy pee on them for a longer period of time. It’s worth it to spend the time teaching your dog that outside is the only place for pee and poop.
Puppies will need to pee within 15 minutes after drinking water and poop 30 minutes after they eat. When I was house training my puppy I used a paper schedule that I hung on the refrigerator to track their fluid and food intake times. This helped a lot and we had only a few accidents all of which were my fault because I wasn’t paying attention.
When you take your puppy out it is not playtime. It’s all business. I recommend, at first, to take your puppy out on a leash and take them to the spot in your yard where you want them to pee and poop. This will make clean up much easier. Then it’s a waiting game. Give them about 5 minutes. There will be a lot of sniffing which is normal. If after 5 minutes they don’t pee or poop take them back into the house and put them in their crate for about 10 minutes. Then try again. Repeat this until the puppy relieves themselves. Also once they do go don’t immediately run back into the house. Hang out for a couple minutes to make sure they’re done.
If you like you can train your dog to pee or poop on command. Just as they are getting ready to go say “good pee or poo”. This sounds silly but if you stick with it when they get older you can say “go pee” and they will know what needs to be done. This can really come in handy in inclement weather.
I should have put this first because it’s so important. Sign yourself and your new puppy up for behavior training. This will not only help your puppy to become a good member of the family but will also form a wonderful bond between the two of you. There is so much to say on this topic. As a certified dog trainer myself I could write a whole separate blog post about this subject. All I’ll say right now is to do your research. I think you’ll find that experts now recommend positive reinforcement training. I personally recommend clicker training. It works and makes training much easier because the clicker acts as a communication tool between the two of you. I’ve been clicker training for over 10 years and I’ve seen the benefits even with dogs who have had a hard start in life.
Expect to invest your time at home in the training not just in class. The trainer will show you how to train your dog and the practice at home will reinforce the training. It takes time and patience but the benefits are huge.
That’s all I’ll say on the matter. I’ll write another post on this subject in the future.
Finally enjoy yourself and your new furry family member. Playtime is a great way to form a lasting relationship with her or him. Tug is fun and, contrary to popular belief, does not make your dog aggressive. Fetch is also a great game and is pretty easy to teach. You can also use playtime to train your dog as well. Keep it all positive, fun and kind. Kindness goes a long way.
Patience is key and it can make the time you spend together a positive experience for the both of you. I wish you and your puppy happiness and a long and healthy life together. Happy New Year!