There are many expectations and excitement connected with bringing a new puppy home. The puppy is going to move away from its mother and siblings and it is important that the house is prepared for a soft and nice transition to a new home, both for the puppy, but also so that the fresh dog owner will succeed.
Maren Teien Rørvik can help you with what preparing and what you should think about in the first few days. She has a master degree in biology and ethology, specializing on dog behaviour and is a qualified dog trainer. Together with her own dogs she has been a part of the Norwegian National Team for obedience and won World Championship and Norwegian Championship in obedience. She is also competing a bit in agility and did herding and sleddog sports earlier too. In the past few years she has worked as a full-time dog trainer and host for the Norwegian TV-series "Superhundene" and "Fra Bølle til Bestevenn". Now she is due with a new program, "Valpeskolen" (which means puppy school in Norwegian).
Puppy-proofing the house
Before the puppy comes you should puppy-proof the house, clean up the loose cables and other small things that can be tempting for a little puppy to chew on.
- It can be nice to set up some stair rails to divide the space and limit which rooms can the puppy access. If one can have the puppy within sight at all times it is way easier to get them house trained, than when they are constantly on the go to discover the whole house alone. If you have a garden, you should check that there are no small holes on the fence where the puppy can go out, or you can set up a smaller "puppy garden", where you can leave the puppy out a bit without them being able to run away.
The puppy should have its own place in the house where there is loads of space for it to move around. For most puppies, a crate is not providing enough space, so it is recommended to fence a bigger area with a puppy-proofed gate.
Since puppies are a bit worse at regulating their body temperature, they should have a good dog bed, but also an area with bare floor, so the puppy can choose if it wants to lay on something soft and warm or on the solid and cold floor. The puppy should always have access to fresh water. To make sure the puppy is having a good time alone and avoid chewing on furniture or other interior objects they can get some chew toys or treats, such as ox ears or tail.
Introduce the puppy to the family
Once the puppy has arrived to its new home, it can greet the members of the household in its own pace. Sit down on the ground and let the puppy come to say hi when it wants.
- You can lure the puppy, but keep the volume down and act calm, so the puppy gets to also discover and sniff around the room too. If you have a baby, you can hold the baby in your lap and let the puppy carefully sniff while you can protect the baby from getting bitten by a playful puppy.
If you have a cat, you can let it in the room while you have the puppy protected in your lap or in the puppy pan, to avoid scratching and painful playing. Dogs and other animals can be introduced out on a walk, while moving. It is easier to have a successful introduction if the dogs are out walking with their owners in the same direction, than to introduce them face to face inside.
- When they meet face to face in a closed area, they can get easily tense, so it is easier to avoid conflicts when they can relax a bit and just run free outside.
Peace and quiet
In the first period in the new home the puppy needs to be together with the owner most of the time in order to be calm and quiet and build a good bond. During the nights the puppy should be in the bedroom, or you can sleep on a mattress in the puppy area or next to it.
- It is completely normal that the puppy cries a bit until it gets used to its new surroundings, and it`s our job as dog owners to act calmly and make the puppy feel safe. You can ask the puppy to lay in its bed and cuddle there. Lay down next to the puppy`s bed and have a hand in the bed until t calms down. Most puppies also have to go now once during the night to excrete.
Puppies cannot hold their bladder so long, so they have to go out often. Most new dog owners are actually quite surprised how often puppies have to be let out!
- The rule of thumb is that the puppy has to go every time after sleeping, eating, playing or training. And the only thing puppies do are sleeping, eating, playing and training! It means that the puppy has to go out each time when they change between an activity, or even more often.
Sometimes it can mean the puppy has to go out every 15 minutes when they are awake and active. Before they excrete, they often trot to the corners and start to sniff around, if you see this you should quickly let the puppy out into the garden and wait until it excretes. Walk around a bit to make the puppy sniff a bit and calm down so it can excrete. If you don`t have a garden you just do the same, but with a leash in an area with little vegetation.
- The less accidents a puppy has, the easier it is to make the housetrained. If the puppy ends up excreting in the house, there is no point in scolding it, you should rather try to remember to take the puppy out more often.
Training to be alone
Already from the first day at being home you can begin with training a bit to be alone. It is important so that after a while you can leave your puppy alone at home.
- You can basically start with making the puppy feel comfortable in its pan. Take a small walk, so that the puppy gets to be a bit active and then is ready to take a nap. Give it something good to eat or chew on, and once the puppy laid down and is calm you can leave the room and run some errands in the house, like cleaning the kitchen or do a clothing wash, before you go back or pass the puppy pen. Continue doing this while moving around naturally in the house and passing the puppy pen from time to time.
After a while, it will be completely natural for the puppy to relax at its place even though you are running around. If the puppy is still calm and relaxed, you can also go out for a few more minutes.
- If you are unsure if the puppy will stay calm when you are going outside you can use a babycall or set up a webcamera, skype call or something similar, so you see what is happening while you are away. If all goes well, there is nothing stopping you from leaving the puppy alone already on the first week, but to make sure they feel comfortable and become housetrained, you should never leave them alone for longer, than they manage to hold their bladders.
If the puppy gets very stressed when it is left alone, you have to pay more attention to this and have a more systematic training for leaving them alone. Go back to try to calm the puppy down for starters. Always begin the training when the puppy is tired and is ready to rest or sleep.
In the first period of having a puppy it`s only about enjoying the chaos, because yes, it will feel quite chaotic and overwhelming sometimes. Try to calm down and prioritieze to bring the puppy to as many different environments as possible, to meet different people and nice dogs. You can also start teaching recall, sit and stay early on, but it does not do anything if you wait a few weeks with this. By teaching these to the puppy you build a good relationship and it will be easier for the puppy to understand what you want from them after a while. Use rewards and reward each small progress, so your puppy will become eager to learn and work.
Remember that the puppy has to adjust to the life you are living. Therefore you have to find your own ways and own rules
-Think through how you want your life with your dog to look like once your puppy will grow up, and set up the training according to this. The time you invest in your puppy will pay off in the next 10-15 years. Enjoy the puppyhood - it goes by very fast, and you will miss it in a few years.