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6 important tips for new puppy owners

Updated: Jan 15, 2023

Getting a puppy is a tremendous commitment and starting it right is very important for your new family member to feel safe and welcome in your home.

Congratulations new pet parents! What an exciting time!

When adopting your puppy, they should hopefully be at least 8 weeks of age or older, which is the best time for them to leave their mum and litter-mates. At this age, they are physically and mentally developed enough and have received adequate socialisation with their own species. However, the socialisation period doesn’t just stop here, as the next 8 weeks will be just as critical for your new pet.

Socialisation means having interactions with the same species, or other species, in a socially acceptable way. Through socialisation, animals learn what normal behaviour is, what is safe in their surroundings and what could potentially be dangerous, and they develop communication and survival skills. It sounds very important, doesn’t it?

To ensure that your pet is socialised effectively and positively, it should be supervised in the process. Similarly, children have to learn how to navigate life in a social group, including arguing and reconciling at times, and therefore an adult needs to be nearby to provide guidance and to resolve conflicts.

Enrolling your puppy in a well-organised puppy school, led by a reputable dog trainer, is essential - It is the best environment for them to learn social skills.

As the critical socialisation period for a puppy is between 8 and 16 weeks, you should start puppy schooling as soon as possible and no later than 12 weeks of age. You do not need to wait until your puppy is fully vaccinated. A reputable dog trainer should have all the precautionary measures in place to minimise your puppy’ risk of catching an infectious disease.

Outside of puppy school, on the other hand, you should only allow your puppy to socialise in a safe environment until they have received all their vaccinations. In general, meeting healthy dogs with a known vaccination and medical history is safe. Meeting in a house, or other indoor environment, can also be considered safe from infectious diseases that are circulating in the community. I suggest holding back on taking your puppy out for a walk, or visiting dog parks, until 2 weeks after the immunisation schedule has been completed. During this period and before you can go for a walk, teach your puppy to wear a harness and walk nicely on a leash around the house and in the backyard.

Positive reinforcement should be the only method of training that you use to teach your puppy. This way, you will become a respectable leader for your puppy, whose company they fully enjoy. Use food, treats and praise to make the training fun, encouraging and rewarding. Punishment has no place in modern science-based animal training as it will damage your bond and relationship and create deep-seated fears.

Introducing your puppy to their new home – all the basic requirements.

I am sure you have already organised most of the essentials such as beds, toys, food and water stations or toilet training tools.

Beds are comfortable resting places that the puppy should have access to throughout the house. You can have as many beds as you like your puppy to have. I would suggest placing one in the activity hub of the house, and one in your own resting area.

Puppies will seek out a companion to feel safe. After all, they only just left the litter where they had companionship 24/7. A sudden change in their environment and companionship schedule can be very stressful. If your puppy is crying or seeking attention, offer gentle petting and vocal reassurance to help them settle.

Food and water stations must be easy to access. Elevate the bowls above the ground to your puppy’s shoulder height. It is important to ask the previous owner what the puppy was being fed. Keep the puppy on the same food for a few days and make a slow transition to the new diet over a week. In general, I recommend a premium quality puppy diet that suits the particular breed to ensure a balanced nutrition. These products can be found at your local pet shop and vet.

Have you heard of enrichment feeding tools? They are essential for both mental and physical enrichment.

Another important question to ask the previous owner is how they toilet trained your puppy. For example, did they use puppy pads or the lawn? At 8 weeks of age, your puppy should have some idea and preference around toileting. To minimise frustration (for both yourself and your puppy), try to keep it simple by working with the routine your puppy is already familiar with. That means taking your puppy to the toilet when they have the urge to go, which is usually:

1) just after getting out of bed

2) after a meal

3) before bedtime

Decide on a specific location for toileting and try to stick with it. If it is somewhere outside, or inside on a puppy pad, always go to the same place. When done right, and when there is a routine with consistent rewards, your puppy will learn the quickest. Never punish your puppy for getting it wrong, punishment will set you back as it has detrimental effects on learning and mental health.

Did you know there is an over-the-counter pheromone called Adaptil? Dog mothers release a pheromone after giving birth, which makes her puppies feel safe and calm. Adaptil mimics this pheromone and is scientifically proven to help puppies during the transition period to a new environment. I highly recommend having the Adaptil diffuser plugged in a day before your puppy’s arrival.

The excitement of meeting the family - time to meet your puppy!

I understand that puppies are very cute and cuddly. But just take a moment to think about how you would like to be greeted by an absolute stranger in their house. With an intense amount of physical touch or with a gentle and friendly welcome?

A good way to introduce your puppy to your house is to put it on the floor while everyone is calmly sitting down. Let them discover the environment, by sniffing, approaching people by choice and even urinating and defecating without being screamed at! Being able to do things by choice, and at their own pace, equals less stress. It can also be helpful to throw a few treats on the ground, so your puppy feels positively rewarded for their exploration. After everyone has greeted your puppy nicely and gently, you can show your puppy around their new home, once again, slowly and at their pace.

When your puppy is not sleeping at night

With the excitement of getting a new puppy, you will most likely have (or already had) some sleepless nights. This will probably also affect your new family member. It is not uncommon for puppies to wake up in the middle of the first few nights and feel a bit anxious. Make sure the bed is in a warm location, where it is quiet and you are nearby.

Give your puppy reassurance whenever they need it. Puppies should be sleeping during the day as well, since they require about 12-14 hours of sleep per day - which is quite a lot, isn’t it!. If you see your puppy taking a nap during the day, please do not disturb them.

Keep your puppy safe while they explore

Puppies are always busy and they love exploring the world with their mouth. As part of your puppy’s development process, it is very important for them to be able to do so without facing bad consequences.

  • Do a safety check around the house to make sure nothing chewable and small is accessible to them.

  • Close the doors of the rooms that you do not want your puppy to enter.

  • Have childproof locks on the kitchen, bathroom and laundry cupboards.

  • Keeping your puppy in a confined and safe area is important. Apart from baby gates, crates can also be very important tools. Crate training your puppy should be on your first week’s to-do list.

  • Regarding outdoor safety, remember that some plants can be toxic to dogs and that the yard should be properly fenced.

Health check - tick!

Take your puppy to the vet in the first week, so they become familiar with the medical environment and the staff. Bring lots of treats with you and offer them during the entire visit to create a positive association with the vet. Regular health checks can help to detect issues early and will guarantee a healthier and happier life for your puppy. It is essential to go for a check-up to the vet at least once per year.

Training a new puppy is not a simple task, and it is absolutely okay to ask for help. You can contact us if you find yourself hitting a hurdle (which a lot of people do). We offer puppy behaviour consultations to help you identify what your puppy needs, what they are trying to communicate and what you can do to improve your training techniques and strengthen your relationship.

A free health check of your puppy is included, during which we will make sure that they are healthy and happy. We will also provide you with nutritional advice, and we will answer any other questions that you may have!

I hope this article will help you to navigate the first 8 weeks of your puppy’s life. Our next blog post will be about your puppy transitioning from toddler to young teenager.

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