Jen our Head Trainer talks about her beautiful puppy Darwin - Welcome Darwin - here is what happened in the first few days
I recently welcome a new family member to my household - Darwin, a wirehaired vizsla puppy! There was lots to consider to ensure a smooth transition to our household, as well as introducing him to our two house cats and my parents' two dogs who it was important he got along well with. With this experience fresh in my mind, I wanted to share how I prepared and what I did!
To prepare for Darwin's arrival, I set up a crate with a surrounding puppy pen. Using both a crate and pen gives me more options in terms of what space to give him - puppies need 18-20 hours of sleep a day and it's important we don't leave them unsupervised around anything we don't want messed with while they are learning the ropes, so getting their sleeping quarters right is important. Darwin has a crate with a crate liner, vet bed and blankets to ensure it is cosy and comfy. His pen has space for another dog bed, toys and his water bowl, as well as room for him to doze there if he'd like. This has been great for helping me learn what his preferences are at this stage of his life and ensuring he gets those all important naps throughout the day!
I also started stocking up on toys WELL before Darwin arrived, buying a couple every time I stopped at a pet shop! Toys provide our pups with the chance to experience different textures and noises, something legal to bite/chew and plenty to do while they are awake! An abundance of toys has been a total lifesaver in ensuring Darwin always has an appropriate outlet for natural puppy behaviours!
Another important consideration when bringing Darwin home was who would be with him - puppies who are left to cope alone or "cry it out" will experience high stress levels, meaning high cortisol levels and this can cause a dog to grow into an anxious adult and even cause separation anxiety. It was of the utmost importance that Darwin form a strong, secure bond with us and feel safe in his new home. This meant scheduling our work around him - even taking time off to ensure someone was there - and sleeping downstairs to help him learn to settle in this new environment without his littermates for the very first time. Puppies also simply cannot "hold it" all night, so planned toilet breaks during the night are important if you want the house training process to go as quickly as possible!
Before introducing him to the cats, I made sure there were no dead-ends around the house where the cats would feel cornered. I also set up baby gates and the puppy pen before Darwin arrived, so the cats could get used to navigating over and around these and the only new thing for them to worry about would be the puppy himself. When Darwin arrived, we allowed the cats to meet him straight away with no restrictions. The focus was also on ensuring there were barriers, so Darwin could chase or harrass them, and supervising him carefully. They have quickly grown in confidence around him, and are still able to spend time anywhere in the house without worrying because they have lots of high levels and safe routes to easily avoid him if they want or need to.
When introducing Darwin to my parents' dogs, we used a similar approach in terms of management and barriers. This was to ensure Darwin could meet the understandably very excited older dogs safely and didn't have a scary experience, as this could cause ongoing problems down the line! My parents actually have a garden very well designed for this, as they have gates separating certain areas, but you can simply use harness/leads to keep the dogs under control if you don't have this option. As my parents' dogs are very sociable, I was happy for them to meet in their garden - if you are concerned that the dog your puppy is meeting might not be thrilled, it's a better idea to meet in neutral territory and I would highly recommend speaking to a trainer for guidance to ensure you are not going to cause stress for either dog or create a potentially dangerous situation.
We met in the garden, and I was there to offer Darwin reassurance and support throughout the introduction process. With a gate between them, they could check each other out without us worrying about anyone getting bowled over! I let Darwin explore the area before letting one dog in at a time to say initial hellos. They then went into the house while Darwin explored the rest of the garden to familiarise himself, before bringing the older dogs out on leads and then again letting one off at a time. My parent's dogs both have a solid training foundation, which meant me and my dad were able to use verbal cues to direct them and they were soon able to give Darwin space, focus on some training exercises and allow him the space to observe and build his confidence.
We had set up a crate in a quiet part of the house, and settled Darwin down for a nap after all the excitement! When he woke up, he was keen to join us in the rest of the house and having had the time to process the introduction he was feel confident! We supervised these initial moments in the house and they were all soon playing together happily.
Whatever the situation, the most important thing to remember when introducing animals to one another is to ensure everyone is physically safe - while my parents' dogs are social, I knew they'd be excited and they are bigger and stronger than Darwin, so barriers and leads were important in those early moments - as well as emotionally supported. Being there for your animals to offer reassurance and guidance, and to step in if you have any concerns, is so important! The introductions both to our house cats and my parents' dogs went better than I anticipated and I know this is down to the careful and compassionate approach we took to both scenarios.
If you need help with your puppy why not book a 121 and classes to get all the training and advice you need - Book here - Our puppy classes are available in Stowupland, Ipswich, Martlesham, Colchester and Barham.