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When You First Bring Your Puppy Home...
When you first bring your puppy home, you may be dying to snuggle with and love on your new puppy. However, please keep in mind that all of this is new for your furry new family member! They are experiencing all of this for the first time -- a new "pet parent," new home, a new yard, new scents, and so on. It's a lot for their little puppy minds to take in! Keep this in mind, and try not to immediately overwhelm your new puppy!
First... Let Your Puppy Settle In... and Then Expose To New Things!
While you definitely should try to avoid overwhelming your puppy on its first few days in its new home, you do want to make sure that you expose them to new things! It is important to start socializing early, in order to end up with a well-socialized, well-rounded adult dog.
This socialization includes touch, sight, and sound Here at Southside, we begin socialization with your puppy as soon as it is born. We want to make sure that all of our puppies are familiar with human touch, and more importantly, being touched / handled in various places on their body. You may know of some dogs that do not like their paws, tails, ears (etc.) touched, or even that do not like their nails trimmed. This can be due to a lack of desensitization as a puppy. At any age, it is important that you be able to touch the dog's paws, trim the nails, and so on, and this begins early. To work towards getting puppies used to these sort of touches, we start by trimming the nails when the puppies are young. We also make sure to touch and massage the puppies' paws, feet, tails, and all over their bodies. This should be continued when the puppies go into their new homes. While we would not suggest that a new home actually pull roughly on a puppy's fur or tail, some firmer touches, such as a gentle tug, can help desensitize the puppy towards being touched in such a manner. This can be useful, in case a child was to interact with the puppy in such a way. Finally, at a young age, we start gently getting the puppy used to having their mouth opened. This should also be continued in their new home, and can be useful at any age, when there is a need to give medication, for vet checks, or possibly even to dislodge something stuck in the dog's mouth / throat.
In addition to touch, it is also important to expose the puppy to new sights and sounds. Keep in mind, your puppy may be shy and reserved when first encountering new things, whether those new things are objects, sounds, or even other dogs or other people! Shelties are known to be reserved around strangers, which was beneficial when they had their jobs guarding and herding sheep. This may carry over to other aspects of their life as well, which is why socialization is so important. When we get a new puppy or new dog, we like to take them on walks through the town. We take them to the pet store, to city parks, and so on -- basically, to places where there will be lots of people, smells, and sounds! The idea behind this is that we want them to get used to a variety of different situations and different things, so these will not upset them, later on in life. While some puppies will be more fearless, others will startle at softer sounds. Therefore, exposure to a variety of sounds, as a young puppy, can significantly help desensitize the dog to this.
It is important that you socialize your new puppy as much as possible when they are young. Keep in mind that the first few weeks with you, the puppy may still be settling in, but a balance can be found between working on socializing, while not overwhelming your puppy. Also important when you bring your new puppy home is that they will need to learn the rules of their new home and what is expected of them, which means...
Set Rules and Boundaries as Soon as Possible
One of the most important steps to creating a well-adjusted puppy is to set rules and boundaries as soon as possible. The time that it will take for your new puppy to learn the rules of the house depend on the individual puppy, so make sure to allow for some error and accidents, while the puppy learns what to do!
One of the first things you will want to do, when you bring your new puppy home, is to show them where to go potty. When we bring any new dog home, we take them out in our back yard with our dogs and we let them sniff around and potty. When the puppy does potty there, we praise your puppy. When you are doing this, make sure you praise, give treats, and do whatever it takes for your puppy to understand that, "yes, THIS, is where I am supposed to go potty."
If the puppy starts to go potty elsewhere in the house, you want to re-direct this behavior. While we do not condone negative reinforcement, it is perfectly fine to tell the puppy, "no," and to scoop the puppy up and take the puppy outside, to hopefully finish pottying in a more appropriate place. If they do finish pottying outside, be sure to praise them, as that is the correct behavior that you are looking for, and want to communicate this, as clearly as possible, to the puppy.
In addition, it is important to set "rules" about what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable. Chewing is a big one -- puppies LOVE to chew and get into mischief. For example, your trash may smell really good to your puppy! While in a perfect world, we would all be watching our puppies and would stop any bad behavior before it starts...in reality, we understand that there will most likely be a time when you will catch your puppy doing something undesirable, such as digging through the trash. This is where correction and / or re-direction, at an early age, are very important. If you see your puppy start to get up on the trash can, or chew the furniture legs, you want to correct this immediately. If you brush this off as "he's just a puppy!," this will be a harder habit to break, later on. When you see your puppy doing something undesirable, you should tell the puppy "no," and offer the puppy a toy that they CAN chew on. This will re-direct the puppy's attention to an appropriate object, and this tactic can be useful for a variety of situations.
Keep in mind, this "setting boundaries" may not only apply to your new puppy, but may also apply to younger family members as well! Not only do you need to teach your puppy boundaries, but sometimes young children as well. Often, young children may play rough with puppies, try to ride them, poke at them, or pull their tail. A good rule of thumb is that you should never let a child do anything to a puppy that you wouldn't let them do to a newborn baby. Don't trust your toddler to carry your newborn? The toddler should probably not carry the puppy around either. Don't want your toddler pulling on the leg of your newborn? Don't let them pull on the tail of the new puppy. Your puppy will thank you for this.
Put Puppy on a Schedule, If Possible
Just a quick note here on potty training. Puppies should be able to hold their bladder for an hour for every month old that they are. So a 2 month old puppy should be able to hold their bladder for 2 hours, while a 5 month old puppy should be able to hold their bladder for 5 hours. Of course, while they may be able to hold it, it may take them some time to understand that they are not supposed to potty in their crate. Once this concept is grasped, it is a good idea to take them out more often than necessary, so that they do not strain to hold in their pee or poo.
Also helpful in potty training is to restrict food and water after a specific time of day. Until our dogs are reliably potty trained, where they let us know when they need to go, they would not receive food or water after 10 pm, so that when we let them out for their last potty later in the evening, they would (hopefully) be good until the morning. Though, of course, as puppies, we'd still anticipate some accidents and late night wake ups, to let the puppies out.
Possibly the Most Important Expectation (if you had a previous dog)
One thing that I feel that everyone should consider for a new puppy is puppy classes. I train my dogs throughout their lives, working to keep their minds active and constantly trying to teach them new things (Kailey learned the "wave" trick at 9 years old). Puppies can greatly benefit from basic "manners" classes, where they can learn to sit, down, stay, and other basic obedience behaviors. Further, these classes gives you access to trainers who can answer questions you may have about any other training questions you may have (though of course, I am always happy to answer questions and help, if I am able). If you do take your puppy and decide to take his or her training further, and have them become a sport dog, whether that be in tricks, agility, flyball, frisbee, or other dog sport of your choice, let us know! We'd love to know how they're doing, and of course, would be happy to offer any tips / tricks that we can!