I was in Dawsonville last Thursday with a new Home Dog Training client and his German Shepherd, Bandit. The lesson went great, and he was very excited about what he and Bandit learned that day.  Just as we were finishing up, his next-door neighbor stopped by. His neighbor was heading off to pick up their first puppy that afternoon. 

Puppies are a lot of work. Be prepared.

Seeing that I was a dog trainer, he asked if I had any advice on getting his new puppy off on the right foot (or paw). I love it when people have questions, so I finished up with my client and stepped outside to give him some suggestions. 

I began the conversation by saying that even though puppies are totally lovable and super cute; they take a lot of work.  We start off by visiting them at the breeder, the rescue group, or the puppy store.  When they are there, they look perfect, are fun to play with, and seem like no trouble at all.  We fail to realize that when we get this little, furry bundle of joy home, we are now in charge of their health, education, and safety.  This is where many of the “un-fun” activities and responsibilities begin to come into play.

I offered my standard “puppy guidelines” that he should enact when he gets his new puppy home.

First, don’t go on a crazy shopping spree to get him a lot of stuff he doesn’t need.
Puppies only require a few essentials to keep them happy and safe when they are first brought home.  I wanted to make sure that my client’s friend had purchased:

  • Dog crate with divider
  • Nature’s Miracle (for potty mistakes)
  • Some puppy chew toys
  • Small bag of a good puppy food
  • Food bowl and water bowl
  • Collar and a Harness
  • Six Foot Dog Leash
  • Several old towels (no need to purchase, just have some available)

When getting him toys, focus on the ones that encourage the behavior you desire.
No “tug of war” toys.  This is a natural game that all puppies play.  They win the game by having the object last and taking it away from you.  They will hang on to it for what seems like “forever”.  They want to win, so letting go is not an option for them.  We always get bored and let go. Although we didn’t care, this was huge for our puppy. We just “told him” that he is the winner. This means he can do whatever he wants. Just to let you know, this is bad for us.

“Squeaky toys”, although initially fun for us, are bad for our puppies.  The high-pitched sound from these toys makes our puppy go crazy.  I am pretty sure that you don’t want this type of behavior from your puppy.

Give your puppy chew toys such as deer antlers.  These are clean, safe, and keep your puppy from chewing chairs, table legs, floorboards, etc.  We also encourage the use of food toys such as Kong Toys.  These toys allow you to keep your puppy calm and directed towards the item you want him to focus on (i.e the Kong toy).  This activity helps your puppy to understand that it is natural to “just hang out”.

Socialize your puppy with the crate as soon as possible!
Many people inappropriately believe that the crate is bad because it has bars and looks like a jail.  Puppies have no idea what a jail looks like.

A key part of a puppy’s sense of protection is having a “secure place”.  No matter what is happening anywhere else, they can go in their “safe place” and everything is fine.  In most instances, the crate serves as their “safe place”.  Because of this, you should socialize the crate as a happy spot for your puppy.  Do the following:

  • Give your puppy his meals and treats in the crate so he associates the comfort of food with the environment of the crate.
  • Play with him by sitting just outside the open crate door while he is inside.  Let him go in and out as he wishes
  • Toss treats in the crate to encourage him to enter. Verbally praise him when he goes inside.
  • Move the crate around the house.  This will join his need to be near you (bonding) with the crate (safety).
  • Bring home a blanket, toy, etc. from the breeder, pet store, etc. where you picked him up. This will help create a sense of continuity as he is introduced your environment.

Play time is a critical part of your puppy’s learning experience.
Puppies learn their socialization skills through active play time.  Never play hard with your puppy.  You may hurt him or encourage him to continually play rough.  As he grows to be a big dog, the inappropriate play can amplify into aggression and physical dominance.

Play calmly with your puppy inside the house.  Play calm games such as rolling a ball across the floor or playing “find the treat”.  Focus and obedience can be taught by simply having him calmly on your lap.  Work on basic obedience exercises such as “sit” as part of your playtime.  Keep your more active games for outside in an enclosed area.  “Fetch” or “Catch the Ball” are always great puppy games.  Do not play the “Chase me” game with him.  This will promote his nipping and grabbing your pants.

Potty Training is always the first thing.
Many new puppy owners have a strange notion that their puppies have come home to them already potty trained.  They believe that by placing a wee-wee pad on the floor or opening the back door, their puppy will potty where and when they want. No.  Potty training is established on the owners’ understanding of when to get their puppy outside or where to place the wee-wee pads.

The biggest problem new puppy owners face with potty training is not watching their puppies.  It only takes ten seconds for a puppy to stroll off, potty, and walk right back.  The more your puppy “wanders for a pee”, the more your house will smell like a puppy toilet.  This smell will encourage him to pee in the house.  Always watch your puppy “like a hawk”.  If you don’t, you won’t catch his mistakes.

There are “rule of thumb” times you should take your puppy out to potty (or to the pad).  They are:

  • When he wakes up
  • After he has eaten
  • Before you leave the house
  • When you return to the house
  • After he has been playing or has been overly excited
  • Just before his bedtime

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over seventeen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.