You must be so excited to welcome your new puppy home. I bet you are dreaming of all the adventures you will have together and the cosy evenings cuddled up. The tips in this booklet are designed to help you and your new puppy settle into your new life together as seamlessly as possible.
Setting Up Your Home
You know how people child proof their home when they have a toddler? Well, your new puppy should be treated the same way. If left to their own devices, your puppy could make all sorts of decisions, like where they sleep and where they go to the toilet.
Honestly, one of the best investments you can make right now is a puppy pen. I like new dogs to have one completely puppy-proofed space in the house where they can spend time unattended if they need to; in my home this is normally the kitchen. You want it to be somewhere they can rest and get used to the sounds of the house and in a space you will be able to spend lots of time with them.
I then have closed doors or baby-gates to key areas of the home: the lounge, upstairs, blocking the front door. These will help you keep your new puppy safe whilst you also teach them how you want them to behave in different parts of your home. For example, I want my puppies to learn that the lounge is a room to be calm, so we only spend time together there when my puppy is already relaxed and when they can be closely supervised by me. Some people don’t want their dog to sleep upstairs. Having baby gates in place during those early months can really help establish rules and routines without having to feel frustrated or have eyes in the back of your head - you’ll be amazed at how much mischief your new puppy can create in a matter of seconds.
Other important things to consider when you are puppy-proofing for your new dog are:
Have you cleared away anything you don’t want your dog to grab hold of?
Have you kept the food securely out of their way?
Have you given them a safe place to rest where they will never be distubed?
Have you given them plenty of things which you are happy for them to chew and play with?
Lots of people bring their puppy in and let them explore the whole house on day one, but if you want to avoid having excited puddles on your landing carpets, then believe me when I say: it doesn’t hurt to take things slowly.
Have you ever put the wrong fuel in your car and watched it grind to a halt? Or have you ever put the wrong batteries in a remote? Nutrition can be just like that. If you put the right food into your dog, you can have a huge impact on their health and behaviour. But if you put the wrong food into your puppy, it can cause all sorts of problems.
The most important thing to do is to put your dog on the best quality food you can afford and to add in fresh, dog-safe food whenever you can. People have lots of different opinions on whether kibble, cooked, or raw dog food is the best, but my advice is simpler: avoid anything with a very high carbohydrate content or with lots of grain/rice/potato as a filler, avoid foods with meat ‘meal’ instead of whole meat, and use a food which has minimal additives. You can use the brilliant website All About Dog Food to find out about the nutritional values of the food you are buying.
Remember, food should also be an experience every now and again. Using enrichment feeders and allowing your dog to experience a wide variety of safe foods will help them both digestively and behaviourally. which gives you 50%
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The First Three Days
You have just brought home your tiny bundle of joy and you are very excited. You want to show your puppy off to everyone and everything - why wouldn’t you? Puppies are, after all, ridiculously cute.
But let’s just take a second to look at things from your puppy’s perspective. They have just left everything they have ever known: their mum, siblings, familiar humans, their home, all the smells and sounds they have ever experienced. Then they have met a stranger and been on quite a long car journey, maybe even learnt what a motorway sounds like for the first time. Then they have arrived into a different world entirely, with new people and sights and smells to experience. It’s been a big day!
In summary, coming home day might be exciting for you, but it’s probably exhausting and overwhelming for your young puppy.
So what should you do?
Keep their world small. For at least the first 24 hours, but preferably the first 3 days, try not to overwhelm them. Have one room set up in your house and let them spend the majority of their time there, getting used to the sounds and smells of their new home.
You should also focus on building your relationship with your new puppy. Lots of scientific studies show that your dog will be happier, healthier, and easier to train if they have a secure attachment with you. This means that for the first few weeks, you should be available for them as much as you can be.
Some great ways to begin building a relationship with your new puppy include:
Hand feeding them their meals
Playing with them
Holding them and cuddling them when they want
If you have other dogs or animals in your home, give them some time to get used to each other. Use baby gates, play pens, and closed doors to give your established animals time away from the new puppy. Try not to put much pressure on them to be the best of friends right away - relationships which develop slowly are more likely to be successful in the long run.
Hopefully your breeder has already done lots of work getting them used to different sounds, sights, and household experiences. But remember, your puppy is still very young and the world is very big. Let them spend some time adjusting to all of the changes in their life and start learning the rules of their new home.
Rest and Sleep
Puppies need much more sleep than adult humans. Once they are an adult, on average your dog will likely need to sleep for up to 14 hours per day. Puppies, however, can need upwards of 18 hours of sleep per day.
Have you ever spent time with an over tired toddler who is refusing to sleep? Have you noticed that they seem to wind themselves up very easily and can be incredibly challenging to calm down? Well, young puppies are much the same. Us humans often make the mistake of thinking we need to keep our puppy busy at all times and give them lots of stimulation in the hopes we’ll avoid having a restless puppy overnight. Unfortunately, this often has the opposite effect and you end up with a puppy who is hyperactive and silly.
It is essential for your puppy’s wellbeing and development that they are given lots of opportunities to rest. It is very common for puppies to sleep poorly in the first few days they are in your home, so you should anticipate that they will need a lot of sleep in the first week that they are with you. This is perfectly normal and all part of their adjustment.
You will want to give some thought to where you want your dog to sleep. Your dog can happily sleep on your bed or in a crate or anywhere else for that matter: you have to make the decision which works best for you and your family. Wherever it is, make sure it’s somewhere you can sleep close by for the first few nights. You will find out more about our advice for sleep training a puppy in our Puppy Academy: Foundations course or One-to-One Training.
When you are raising a puppy, one of the most important things to focus on is their attachment to their family - that’s you. A secure attachment to their family really does make all the difference when it comes to avoiding common problems like separation anxiety and challenging behaviour.
In an ideal world, you would spend several weeks at home with your new puppy whilst they settle in so that you can build that bond together before beginning to leave them for short periods. However, that’s not always possible (though if you want to petition the government for paid pupternity leave, you have my full support) and many of us have to return to work sooner than we’d like.
Don’t worry. These few things can help supercharge your bond with your new puppy.
Time: As much as possible, be available to meet your puppy’s needs and spend lots of time with them. It’s probably best not to book a holiday for the week they come home or spend hours of your evening at the cinema. Instead, spend time playing and cuddling and taking at least 1000 pictures of your adorable new family member.
Food: Your new puppy will probably be eating three meals a day, and this is an excellent opportunity to supercharge your bond. As much as possible, and with at least half of each meal, hand feed your puppy. You can use this for some simple training, to teach them their name, or just as a way to spend time together doing something your puppy enjoys.
Trust: You are going to want to endlessly cuddle your new puppy. If no one has told you about puppy smell yet, then be prepared to be overwhelmed. And their tiny paws are so squishy. Honestly, the level of cute that a puppy brings to your home is indescribable. Sometimes, though, this can make us humans a little bit grabby with our new puppy. As much as they might look like it, your puppy isn’t a cuddly toy. If your puppy falls asleep in their bed, leave them alone to rest. If they don’t seem to want a cuddle right now, let them be. It’s hard to do, but it will help you win their trust.
Security: This new world will be a little bit overwhelming to your new puppy, and they might even get scared every now and again. It’s absolutely the right thing to comfort your puppy when this happens. Think of yourself like their new blankie and make sure you are there for them when they need you.
Keep Their World Small To Start
The best way to help your new puppy settle into your home is to take things slowly. In the first three days, I don’t recommend letting your puppy meet anyone other than the people and animals they live with. You will no doubt be excited to show your adorable new ball of fluff off to all of your friends and family, but that can wait a few days whilst they get to know you.
When you bring them into your house, give them access to a couple of rooms where you can easily get them out to the garden. Gradually introduce them to more rooms in the house over the next few days so they can map out their new home.
How to Manage Introductions: New People and Dogs
Once your puppy has begun to settle into their new life with you, you can gradually begin introducing them to the other people (and animals) who will be in their life. There are two very important questions you should keep in mind when you start doing introductions: is it important that my dog meets this person/dog? How quickly should that introduction happen?
When it comes to those important introductions, we go slowly. With people: meet somewhere quiet where your puppy has plenty of space to move away if they choose to. Ask the person to sit calmly and allow the puppy to approach if and when they are ready. Then use the three second consent rule when each new person greets your puppy for the first few times. If your puppy appears to be overly boisterous around new people, ask everyone to completely ignore them until they have calmed down and then try again. With other dogs: the slower the introductions, the longer the friendship lasts. I typically start with scent swapping and move slowly from there. You can find out even more tips and tricks for socialising your puppy in our dedicated blog.
Children and Dogs: How to Build Lifelong Friendships
We’ve all got that wonderful Disney image of dogs and children being the very best of friends. It’s such a lovely way to grow up, surrounded by animals. If you are going to be sharing your home with dogs and children, there are a couple of things we can do to help.
The very first thing I do is help the children to learn how to be safe around all dogs, including their new puppy. There are some brilliant resources aimed at teaching young people about how to be safe and sensible around dogs. For example, this video by Wood Green Animal Charity can be a great place to start. I also like the resources by Dogs Trust which help teach about Dog Body Language.
The most important thing to remember is that, no matter how much you trust your puppy or children, you should never leave them alone together, especially whilst they are still learning how to be friends. If they can’t be watched, then pop your puppy into their secure puppy pen areas with a tasty long-lasting chew or a stuffed Kong. The brilliant Family Paws Parent Education has wonderful resources about how to safely introduce children and dogs, which it is well worth you taking some time to read.
Factors Which Impact Your Dog’s Personality
There are many factors which will impact your dog’s personality, but these can mostly be broken down into these four categories: learning, environment, genetics, and self.
Learning: Your puppy will come to you with a history of experiences and education from the first few weeks of their life, and then you get to continue this learning. Your puppy is learning all of the time, even if you aren’t actively training them anything at all, so think carefully about the behaviour you want from your adult dog and have plans in place to teach this from day one.
Environment: How big is your garden? Who will your puppy share their home with? How often will you walk your puppy? Will you train them every day or every now and again? How many hours do they need to stay home alone for? Will they have regular access to adventures or are they more likely to get a short walk around the block? All of these things can impact who your dog is. The truth is, some dogs are better suited to certain environments than others, so it’s important to be realistic about the lifestyle you lead and the lifestyle your new puppy needs.
Genetics: Humans have bred dogs for thousands of years for certain jobs. These dogs can be largely grouped as follows: Natural Dogs, Sight Hounds, Guardian Dogs, Toy Dogs, Scent Hounds, Gun Dogs, Terriers, Bull Dogs, Herding Dogs, World Dogs, and mixes of these breeds. The job your dog was bred for will have a massive impact on their behaviour and health, so it’s very worth doing some research into this aspect of them. For example, Gun Dogs were bred to retrieve so they like carrying things in their mouth, whereas Guardian Dogs were bred to guard a person or property, so they are predisposed to bark.
Self: This is your dog’s own personality; their likes and dislikes. We can learn a lot about our dogs based on their lifestyle, environment, and genetics, but some things will be completely personal to your pup. Will they like the rain or hate it? Do they prefer chicken or fish? Will they like running in long grass or will they prefer sand between their toes? You have all of this still to discover and shape, which is so exciting.
To find out more about how these things impact your dog’s personality, I really recommend the outstanding book ‘Meet Your Dog’ by Kim Brophy. She is an expert in dog behaviour and is the original author of the above LEGS model.
The Basics of Training: Rewarding What You Like
All puppies need lots of training to help them reach their full potential. The very best thing you can do is sign up to group or one-to-one puppy training to get the most out of these first few months with your dog. It’s important, though, to keep these few key principles which will help guide you with this training.
Reward what you like: Any time your puppy does something lovely (stays sat down when greeting someone, lays down calmly on their bed, or checks in with you on a walk) you should reward them. There are a few different types of reward: food, play, and functional (things your dog already wants, such as sniffing the lamppost). Your puppy will have preferences, so you can use different rewards based on how reward-worthy it was. The really great stuff can be paid with the best game of tuggy or fresh meat and the just okay stuff can be paid with some low-value kibble.
Set them up for success: The more often your puppy practices a behaviour, the more likely they are to do that same thing again in the future. So, if every time you open the front door your puppy practices running out of it, they will become an expert at escaping. Or if they successfully steal food from the kitchen counters regularly then they will just keep on jumping up because it works for them. That’s why it’s a good idea to use management to stop them from practicing behaviours we don’t really want them to do. When the front door is open, pop them behind a baby gate and scatter some food on the floor so they have something better to do. Keep the kitchen surfaces clear or keep the kitchen door closed if that’s not going to work for you.
Train alternative behaviours: If your puppy finds their voice and loves to bark every time the doorbell rings, train them to lay quietly on a bed. If your puppy jumps all over people when you are waiting at the side of the road, train them to sit and wait quietly. Rather than telling your dog that they are getting it wrong, teach them how to get it right. Not only does it work, it’s also a lot more fun for you and your puppy to concentrate on how to be awesome.
Ignore or redirect what you don’t like: Picture this: your puppy is barking and barking at you; you just can’t seem to get them to stop. So you give them something to eat; they wolf it down and the barking starts back up again. So you take them to the garden in case they need the loo and end up having a quick game of fetch. You head back inside and, low and behold, the barking is on again. Nothing seems to be working, so you pick up the lead and head out for a walk.
Now look at it from your puppy’s perspective: they have learnt that they have an awesome superpower. Your tiny puppy can control their humans with a bark! Amazing. All it takes is a few shouts and the human comes running. Just like that, you’ve taught your puppy that barking is really reinforcing and they should do it more often.
Do You Need More Help?
Even experienced owners can need some extra help when they bring a new puppy home. It’s really worth investing in the relationship you will share with your dog, because they will hopefully be a big part of your life and family for years to come. You’ve taken a wonderful step by getting help to be prepared in the first few weeks, but booking further classes with a dog trainer is a wonderful way to help set you, your puppy, and your family up for success.