As exciting and wonderful as it is to bring home a new puppy, we know it can also be an incredibly overwhelming time! This new addition joining the household is often a huge adjustment, both for them and for us. There’s lots that needs to be done to get puppy started on the right foot, so we thought we’d write those new puppy owners among you a helpful To Do list!
Register with a Vet
One of the first things you need to do is get registered with your local vet practice. They will be able to do an initial check up and get you booked in for those important appointments like vaccinations!
Get Booked into Classes
Training and socialisation are vitals aspects of successfully raising a puppy, and group classes are perfect for providing both – with professional guidance and support! Puppy will need to have their second set of vaccinations before they attend but many trainers have limited spaces available, so it’s well worth booking ahead now to secure you and your pup’s place in your desired class.
Check out our full class calendar to book your first block in our Puppy & Dog Training classes, here: https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/classes/
Book Online Training
While it’s important we wait until our puppies are vaccinated to ensure they are safe to attend classes, our puppies are still little sponges of information and are learning so fast during these early days! Get ahead of the game and start building a strong relationship and teaching good happens right away by utilising online training that you can do at home, whenever suits you and your pup!
Check out our online training school, Dogversity, here: https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/dogversity-online
Find a Good Groomer
Even a dog with a short, low-maintenance coat will need their claws taken care of regularly. If this isn’t something you’re confident doing yourself, you’ll need a groomer. Start looking into groomers ASAP and finding one who seems right for you and your pup – a bad groomer can cause lifelong phobias through poor handling of your dog! Groomers are often booked up weeks in advance, too, so it’s worth finding someone now who you can get puppy booked in with – a basic puppy groom to get them used to the grooming environment and process is a good idea.
Establish Good Routines for Puppy
Your new puppy will need regular toilet breaks, naps throughout the day and probably at least one loo break during the night! Start planning these into your day rather than simply being reactive. Regular trips outside to go to the toilet will avoid accidents in the house while your pup is unable to “hold it” and make house training a much smoother process. Ensuring your pup has a quiet space and gets into a routine of napping during the day is important, as puppies need a LOT of sleep (18+ hours a day!) and not getting enough will turn them into irritable, bite-y little gremlins; so getting ahead of this issue benefits you, too!
Check out our Puppy’s First Steps course on Dogversity for more tips on establishing routines!
Build Relationship and Trust
The lessons your dog learns during these early stages are going to have a big impact on their outlook on the world later in life, so start off on the right foot and work hard to build your relationship with them. Training – online and in classes – is one brilliant way to build communication and strengthen your bond with your puppy. You can build trust through simple handling exercises – check out our Puppy’s First Steps online course for tips on how to teach your pup to be feel safe, confident and relaxed about being handled.
Don’t Overwhelm Them
Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time and there is a lot of pressure on us to socialise our young dogs. Socialisation includes exposing our dogs to all sorts of things in their environment, not just humans and other dogs. Under-socialising dogs is rare but over socialising is easily done and can cause some serious problems as our dogs get older. Take things at your puppy’s pace and don’t rush – it’s much more valuable to ensure they have positive experiences than just pushing them to have a lot of potentially stressful or scary experiences. Check out our blogs on puppy socialisation and meeting other dogs for more insight on how to approach socialising your puppy.
Puppy Socialisation: https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/blog-post/the-things-you-need-to-know-about-puppy-socialisation/
Meeting Other Dogs: https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/blog-post/obsessed-with-dogs/
Hopefully, your breeder will have sent your puppy home with some interim insurance – many good breeders offer this and it’s worth enquiring about it if they’ve not mentioned it before. Whether or not they have this temporary cover, though, it’s important you get this sorted ASAP. Insurance policies usually have a 14-day grace period after the policy starts, in which you can’t make any claims. So, it’s vital you get your policy sorted right away to make sure your puppy is covered as soon as possible, should anything happen. If a puppy becomes injured or ill, the vet bills can often be astronomical – not being insured could be life or death for your pup, so don’t wait around to get this organised!
Get Puppy Used to the Car
This is a big one – a dog hating the car and not travelling well can make life much more difficult than it needs to be, so getting them used to it right away is a really valuable thing to invest time in. Ensuring that you have a safe and secure set up for them, such as a crate in the boot of the car, will help avoid them feeling unwell or having an unpleasant experience (check out our blog on transporting your dog for more info). Short, gentle exposures and good experiences near and in the car, as well as short journeys to get them used to travelling, will all help. If you start noticing your puppy has an aversion to the car, speak to a trainer ASAP so they can help you get ahead of this issue before it progresses!
Start Training Right Away
As we’ve mentioned already, puppies are little information sponges and are learning so fast. Starting to build communication with your dog and teach them good habits will be of huge benefit, both for you and them. Knowing what to do and having that line of communication will reduce frustration in your puppy and help them having a more enjoyable time getting to know you and their environment. Some simple, useful exercises to get you started include:
Reflex to Name
A simple way to making sure your puppy has a good association to their name and responds reliably when they hear it. All you have to do is say your puppy’s name and then feed them – rinse and repeat! For this one, it doesn’t matter what your puppy is doing – we’re just teaching them that, when they hear you say their name, good stuff comes from you. You’ll start to see your dog naturally responding when they hear their name once the association is made in their head. Practice it in short sessions around the house, garden and – once they’re able to go out – in lots more places!
Offering eye contact is a brilliant habit for our dogs to get into as it means they already being paying attention to us when we might cue any other behaviours we need from them. Just like reflex to name, you’ll want to work through each stage of this exercise in lots of different places, but getting started at home right away is perfect! Direct eye contact can sometimes feel a bit unusual and like pressure for our dogs, so we don’t lure the behaviour or put it on a cue for this reason – we want our dogs to be happy and comfortable offering eye contact, not to feel they have to for any reason.
Start by watching your puppy and, as soon as their nose points in your direction at all, say “good!” and feed them. Once they’re pretty focused on you, progress to tossing some food on the floor somewhere between reps so that they turn away from you, allowing you to wait for them to reorient back towards you. When they’re doing this nicely, next time your puppy’s nose is pointing towards you, just wait. They will probably glance up at some point to see whether you’re paying attention and why that treat hasn’t arrived! The instant they glance up towards your face – even if only for a fraction of a second – say “good!” and reward them. Rinse and repeat!
Teaching your puppy that looking at your pays off really well is one of the most valuable lessons you can teach them and will give you a brilliant head start when you are able to attend classes.
Find its are a simply exercise where you toss a treat or several on the floor and encourage you dog to go searching for it with their nose. We can put this on cue but saying “find it!” as we throw the food down and then pointing out the food on the ground to our puppies. As they start to learn that “find it!” means there’s food available on the floor, you can start to make your gesturing less obvious – don’t lean as far down to point out the food and eventually just gesturing in the rough direction of where the food is.
This is an incredibly useful skill for a few reasons. Sniffing familiar smells actually helps calm our dogs down, so using food tossed on the floor is a great way to help our dogs settle while out and about – both if they’re a bit overexcited (eg if they’re started being a bit jumpy and bite-y!) or a bit anxious and worried. Read more about how scent work affects our dogs here.
Find its are also a great way to give our dog an outlet for behaviours they natural enjoy – every dog loves to use their nose! This also gives us another way to deliver food in a fun and exciting way for our dogs and we can use them both to get them engaged and focused and also as a way of rewarding them that’s more fun than just handing food directly to them.