You just walked out of the animal shelter carrying a soft puffball that’s going to grow into a 60-pound dog in just 1 year.
You’ve got a list a mile long for your first pet store shopping trip. And while that 10- or 15-year commitment is playfully gnawing on your fingertips, you’re making mental notes on how to start puppy training on the right foot.
No doubt about it — raising a puppy can be complicated. But there are ways to help ease the transition for Boomer.
3 Things to Know Before Bringing Your Puppy Home
1. Consistent Training Is Key
From consistent commands to expectations that don’t change with time, training relies on stability.
It’s your job to decide at the beginning what commands you will use, what rules you’re going to enforce and how to go about doing it all.
“Make sure everyone in your household knows — and follows — the rules,” says Andrea Arden, author of Dog-Friendly Dog Training.
A new puppy will be drawn to every distraction around them. Don’t add to their confusion by being vague with your command training. They’re not going to understand what you want if you use multiple phrases for the same command. Choose just one — for example:
- Or “Lie down.”
- Or “Go lie down.”
And, as Jonathan P. Klein, CDBC, CPDT-KA, recommends, make sure your entire family is on the same page with training.
Don’t change your expectations of your dog’s behavior as they get older. If you allow them on the couch when they’re a puppy, they’ll assume they’re allowed on the couch as an adult.
According to trainer/behaviorist Beth Jeffery, it’s “not fair to your dog to change the rules at different times and expect him to adapt just as easily as humans do.”
2. Socialize Your Puppy Safely
Socializing your new puppy while they’re young will help them deal with new situations calmly as they grow older.
But socializing them with other dogs too early may actually be hazardous to your pup’s health.
Puppies go through a series of vaccinations that may not be complete until they reach about 5 months of age. Before that series of inoculations is finished, your puppy is more susceptible to the diseases that adult dogs rarely have to worry about.
The most common vaccinations are for:
- Canine distemper
- Coronavirus (though not the same coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which, as of this post’s publication, does not yet have an available vaccine for humans or dogs)
Some of these diseases can be fatal if contracted, so keep your pouncing puppy at a safe distance from other dogs until your vet gives you the green light for socialization.
3. Don’t Forget That Your Puppy Is a Dog
The novelty of having a puppy can lead you to make certain choices that you might not make otherwise — like letting them eat from your plate at the dinner table.
Treating your dog like a human is a common mistake — it will deprive them of many things that can make them healthy and happy. For instance, feeding your dog food from your plate can:
- Lead to unwanted behavior, such as begging or “dumpster diving” in the kitchen garbage.
- Cause obesity, which can lead to other health problems.
- Cause poisoning, especially if you aren’t very careful about what they eat.
Stick with a high-quality diet and supplement it with a limited number of dog treats for rewards.
Watch this Australian Shepherd puppy get some positive reinforcement training:
Must-Have Supplies for Your New Puppy
Puppies, like children, need constant stimulation. Providing them with many types of toys will help them develop and, thankfully, occupy them occasionally so you can rest. Try getting one of each toy:
- Latex or rubber
Your puppy will probably choose a favorite, but it’s good to keep a few choices around in case they get tired of the same toy.
Maybe your new puppy came equipped with a collar and leash. If they didn’t, do you know what you’re looking for? There are a lot of options for collars.
If you don’t have experience training a new dog, avoid styles like choke and prong collars that, when used incorrectly, may lead to injury.
Consider starting out with an adjustable nylon collar, which can expand as your puppy grows.
3. Puppy Pads and Cleaning Supplies
Accidents will happen — that’s part of having a puppy.
Aside from constant vigilance, which is almost impossible, consider also arming yourself (or your lovely floors) with some puppy pads. They make cleanup a breeze after a little accident.
Your new pup won’t know to eliminate on the pads initially, so work with them on that and be prepared to clean up after them if they don’t quite make it to the pad.
4. Food and Treats
Puppy food is another obvious necessity. Go with what your pup has already been eating before they came to you and gradually introduce the food you’ll be feeding them from now on.
Treats are also great if you want to start training early. Even young puppies can learn basic commands if they have a delicious morsel of motivation.
5. Squirt Bottle
If your new pup is gnawing on the baseboard again for the umpteenth time and you’re on the other side of the room, a quick jet of water from a squirt bottle may be just the thing to break their concentration.
Not everyone agrees on the use of a squirt bottle. Do your research and consider consulting a professional trainer to decide what’s best for your situation.
One day you’re going to blink, and your puppy will be full-grown — and all you’ll have to remind you of that 8-pound mound of fur is the photos that you took. So be sure to take plenty!
Your Puppy’s First 24 Hours With You
Here are a few other things you may want to have on hand when you bring your new puppy home:
- A crate already set up at home.
- Pet-proofing around your home.
- A plan about house-training in place. Yes, there’s always puppy daycare and responsible dog walkers, but pups need to eliminate almost every 30 minutes.
- ID tags and licenses.
- This is extremely important: Make a vet appointment either the first day or in the next few days. If the puppy appears healthy, you can gather your thoughts and questions together and go to the vet within the week. Most reputable rescue groups have a vet check the pups in their state of origin as well as the adoption state, but this can be a cursory vet exam, and things can happen in transport.
Your resources for initial additional help should come from your vet’s office, your trainer or your rescue group.
Naps, Naps and More Naps
Your puppy will quickly wear out from all the excitement of discovering their new home that first day. Like human babies, puppies tire quickly.
So when you get home with your new pet, have a warm bed prepared and allow them to take a nap (or as many as they need) so they can process all these new changes.
When your puppy is awake and alert, let 1 person at a time handle your new pup, and slowly introduce more people.
If you have children, talk to them before bringing your puppy home. Explain the importance of being calm — no screaming, yelling or running up at full speed.
Many children will need a gentle reminder when you arrive — something like, “Remember what we talked about; we don’t want to scare them.”
One of the most important supervision periods with your new pup is the first day. This is when your puppy-proofing is put to the initial test.
- See if your puppy manages to get into areas that you hadn’t considered, such as closets or under furniture. Make any necessary adjustments.
- Supervising them “allows you to begin teaching him the house rules,” says Liz Palika of Embrace Pet Insurance. “You don’t want him to learn bad habits. So interrupt him should he begin chewing on shoes or tugging on the drapes, and then show him where his toys are and teach him that these toys are fun. Praise him when he plays with his toys.”
- Finally, accompany them outside — they may run into another animal, eat a dangerous plant or even run off. Know that they may not respond to your calls if they don’t know their name or commands yet.
Your Puppy’s First Vet Appointment
So you made your pup’s first vet appointment within the first 24 hours of bringing them home, and the big day has finally arrived!
Arrive at the vet’s office early or, better yet, email the paperwork before your first appointment. The office can start a file for your pup and carefully go through the vaccine and medical history.
Another thing to consider? Pet insurance after adopting your puppy. Your vet staff can help you with this, but it helps if you’ve done some research and have any questions.
Good rescue groups usually give you some info on insurance. Your new pet is often covered minimally and for a short time period, but consider buying your own policy soon.
You will probably have a lot more questions in the first month. Keep channels of communication open with your vet and your rescue group, if applicable.
The technicians at your vet’s office are great resources about puppy stuff. They like to be of service, so call them!
Watch this French Bulldog expend energy and get totally tuckered out:
Taking Steps to Raise the Best Dog
There’s no denying the excitement, joy and hilarity that ensue when a 4-legged tumbleweed with boundless energy takes over your home.
But the hard work that comes with this goofy new addition is important if you want to raise the best dog possible.
- “Canine Coronavirus Highly Pathogenic for Dogs.” Emerging Infectious Diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3291441/.
- “Raising a Puppy: The First 24 Hours.” Embrace Pet Insurance. https://www.embracepetinsurance.com/waterbowl/article/raising-puppy-first-24-hours.
- “The 6 Mistakes Dog Owners Make That Can Turn Angels Into Demons.” Healthy Pets With Dr. Karen Becker.