How to Start Your Puppy Off Right

Jenna Matisz

Getting a new puppy is such a thrilling experience! The cuteness, the clumsiness – it’s all so exciting!

However, it’s important to remember that the first few weeks with your puppy will set his/her habits and relationship to you for the rest of his/her life.

No pressure, right?

Don’t worry! I know all of the Pinterest articles and online guides can be overwhelming but I’ve laid out the main pieces that you need to pay attention to when you’re bringing your new pup home.

Putting in the effort to be prepared and  intentional about how you interact with and train your puppy can make all the difference between a loyal, well-behaved dog and a yappy, jumpy dog for years to come.

So let’s get started!

Develop a routine and be consistent

Preparing a schedule or routine for your puppy prior to him/her coming home is essential because it will help your puppy’s body clock adjust and will provide structure for his/her life.

You’ll want to take a look at your family’s schedule and make a realistic routine that takes potty training, crate training, command training, and socialising into account. Remember that your new pup will need a potty break approximately every 30-60 minutes and that he/she shouldn’t be left in the crate for long periods of time.

Don’t forget that all members of the household (including kids!) need to be following the puppy’s routine in order for it to be effective. If Mom is being adamant about ignoring  puppy’s whining but Dad is giving puppy attention whenever he/she makes a peep, puppy is going to have a hard time learning right from wrong!

Be the pack leader

Along the same lines of consistent schedule, you want puppy to learn his/her place in the family. Dogs are natural pack animals and will automatically follow the person who is dominant, stable, and consistent. Although it will be incredibly tempting to turn into mush around your new puppy, you must demonstrate a strong air of confidence so that your puppy learns to respect you. If he/she feels that you are a pushover, you’re in for some bad chewing, barking, and jumping habits for years to come.

So how do you become the pack leader? Use a firm voice when giving commands, ignore unwanted behaviours, use strong body language, and be consistent with feedings and training.

A major mistake that many owners make is thinking that leader = discipline. You should not be disciplining your puppy for unwanted behaviours or mistakes with shouting, saying “no”, or physical force. This will only result in him/her fearing you.

Instead, ignore your puppy when he/she behaves incorrectly and praise and reward him/her when he/she behaves correctly. If you’re consistent, your pup will quickly learn the difference and become motivated to perform correct behaviours to please you.

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Start your puppy off right

Your puppy’s habits start developing the moment they enter their new home. The first thing you should do is bring your puppy directly to his/her outdoor potty spot. This will establish an understanding right from the beginning that this area is where he/she is supposed to go potty and minimise potential distractions.

Next, put your pup in an enclosed area (such as a puppy-proofed room or crate) and have people come in and say hello. Allowing your new pup to have free roam of the house will not only overwhelm him/her, but also diminish future boundaries.

After your pup has had a chance to explore his/her space a little bit and meet his/her new family, he/she is likely to be exhausted. Give your puppy some quiet, resting time in the crate but don’t go too far or else your puppy will think you have abandoned him/her!

Crate train

Having a crate is an important way that your puppy will learn boundaries and develop a positive association with his/her space. Crates are convenient and will keep your pup safe and your stuff from being chewed. Anytime you cannot directly supervise your pup, have him/her confined to the crate or an enclosed, puppy-proofed space.

For at least the first few days, you’ll want to keep puppy’s crate in your bedroom, especially at night. Otherwise, your puppy will feel lonely and scared in his/her new, unfamiliar surroundings.

If you hope to keep your puppy’s crate in another room long-term, move it incrementally. Have your pup sleep in his/her crate near your bed for the first few days and then each night, begin to move the crate closer to the bedroom door, then out in the hallway, and then closer to the desired area. This will allow your puppy to adjust to sleeping away from you without the shock of you suddenly being gone one night.

When your pup cries at night, simply take him/her out of his/her crate, directly to the potty spot, and then directly back in the crate. You do not want your puppy to learn that making noises will get your attention and affection during the night time (or anytime, really!). It will be difficult, but ignoring the urge to cuddle your puppy to sleep will be better for him/her (and your ability to sleep!) in the long run.

Potty train

Another essential piece you’ll want to start working on right away is potty training. As I mentioned above, you’ll want to immediately establish a potty spot the moment your pup gets home.

After that, following a consistent schedule to set your dog’s body clock is key. Puppy’s typically need to be let out every 30-60 minutes and you’ll want to take him/her out immediately after eating or drinking to avoid accidents.

When accidents do happen (and they will!), do not punish your pup. If you’re able, stop your pup mid-potty and bring him/her directly to the potty spot to finish up. If you’re not able, simply clean it up and make sure you praise and reward your puppy each time he/she does potty correctly.

Socialise

After a few days of being home, you’ll want to start socialising your pup. Don’t worry about this during the first few days as your puppy will likely be overwhelmed and will also need to get his/her vaccinations.

But after that, make it a habit to walk your pup in busy areas, take him/her to the dog park, and have him/her socialise with a variety of animals and humans. Socialisation is particularly important in developing your dog’s confidence and friendliness and in preventing anxiety later in life.

Focus on teaching basic commands

It’s never too early to start command training but you can certainly wait a few days until your pup has had a chance to settle in and get comfortable.

Start by  focusing on developing your pup’s understanding and proficiency in basic commands like “sit”, “stay” and “here” and work on proper leash training.

You can spend as much time as you would like on command training, but around 30 minutes a day is typically recommended. Be sure to break up your training sessions into 5-10 minute increments to prevent you and your pup from getting bored and frustrated.

Most importantly, be consistent. Reward and praise wanted behaviours and ignore unwanted behaviours. Keep that rule in mind and you can’t go wrong!

And there ya have it! The basics for starting your new puppy off right.

Work on these 7 areas and your pup is bound to develop healthy lifelong habits. Good luck!

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