So You’re Getting a Puppy! Here’s how to Prepare and Tips for the Dreaded First-Night!
No house is a home without a dog. I truly believe this. However, getting a dog is no small decision. Dogs are another family member. He will need good food and health care. Neither of which are cheap. Like kids, you can’t take them to work or the pub and when you go on holidays they need kenneling, which isn’t cheap.
Asides the very real financial implications, dogs require a lot of time, certainly in the first year, from puppyhood through troubling adoescence, nutty teens and on into early adulthood. Sadly, with very little planning, people often expect the little fella to slip right into their way of life. For some dogs, that can certainly be the case. Thousands of years of evolution have produced an animal that is extremely adaptable, highly in-tune with our mannerisms and foibles, and they often learn quickly what is expected of them in your home.
For many others, however, if not most, it is an intensely confusing time for them. Separated from family, no longer allowed to wee on the floor or chew whatever they please, pups are faced with the foreboding task of understanding how you and your house works, not to mention a whole other language (one they never really learn, truth be told, but we think they do). This is made all the more difficult when their new parents do little to prepare.
If you are getting a dog then you need to get prepared and there is no better time to do this than before your pup arrives. Below is everything you need to know about his first few days, ensuring his settling in period will be quick and as stress-free as possible. You owe him that.
Picking the Right Pup…
Are you getting the right dog for your home? This is such an important question but sometimes the heart can rule the head. I’ve made this mistake. When my old girl Meg died, Mum (who she was living with while I was away in Australia) was distraught. Once a few months had passed we went looking for a new dog for her. Our neighbours had two beautiful, soft, calm and very cute blue-roan cockers. Both Mum and I (who should have known better) thought this smaller dog would be ideal for my Mum. People warned me that cockers can be a hand full but I ignored them. I was a Guide Dog Trainer after all!!!
To cut a long story short, we picked up Dudley, the most adorable pup ever, from a reputable breeder (the first non-rescue, non-mutt dog we have ever owned, I thought it best he grew up with Mum to make sure he was well behaved) in the Summer and by Autumn our mistake came home to roost. He was simply too much. Dudley is a high-octane dog. He has sleep and go-fast with little in-between. I feel he has learning difficulties but others are telling me he’s too smart to do what he’s told! He’s also very needy.
It all added up to too much for poor old Mum. She did her best but by the time puberty kicked in, and I arrived home, we realised Dudley was going to have to move in with me or Mum would be dead of heart failure.
I adore this dog, an incredible personality, but he’s definitely a lot of work and already three years of age, this “workload” hasn’t decreased. I got one of the nutty cockers you hear about. Wouldn’t change him for the world, of course, but he wouldn’t suit everyone. Don’t make the same mistake we did, and take the following things into consideration:
- What breed of dog would you like about the house and what breed of dog are you getting? Do these two tally with what you’ve learned online or from books on the breed?
- How much exercise does this breed typically need? If a lot (which is most), are you in a position to give it? You cannot rely on others.
- Will this dog take a lot of feeding? Good food is expensive. Can you afford that?
- Is this breed typically good with kids?
- Does the breed mind being alone?
- You must meet the pup and his parents of your pup before he arrives, how are they mentally?
Adopt or Buy?
Adopt. Adopt adopt adopt. We’re overrun with dogs here in Ireland from idiots who allow their dogs to roam as well as our disgraceful puppy farms. We are killing 3000 dogs a year as they do not have homes. Get on to your local shelter and inquire. You will need to do a little ground work – what is the dog’s history? What is his temperament now? Then consider the points in “picking the right pup”.
While the above may sound a little hypocritical considering Dudley came from a breeder, there are times when you might go to a breeder. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a particular type of dog (you won’t find many labs in shelters for example) and there’s nothing wrong with breeding them. But just because somebody breeds dogs does not mean that they know diddly squat about them as many people breed for the money, the health of these dogs down the road are of little to no concern.
Their is no great insight needed to allowing two dogs have sex in your back garden. You the soon-to-be-dog owner must start from this basis. Trust us earned.
If using a breeder then keep the points below in mind. One thing that is not on the list is “talk to the IKC”. Many breeders are “IKC registered”. Very far from a gold badge of quality, you do not have to do anything to be this, you simply apply and pay. The IKC do not see it in their remit to check on the quality of the breed stock or pups, nor do they hold anyone to account. At best it means nothing. At worst it is grossly misleading for unsuspecting clients.
- Talk to the breeder. Can you see their dogs? Do you like their set up?
- A waiting list is a good sign.
- Have they any references that you could talk to?
- Will your pup be adequately socialised in the first 8 weeks (do not take pups younger than 8wks)?
- Meet the parents of your pup. This is most important. If you can’t, why not?
- DO NOT BUY PUPS IN CAR-PARKS. WHY AREN’T YOU PICKING IT UP FROM THE HOUSE?! You need to be able to see Mum, at least, in the home. Some scum will have the pup in their house but no parents, no siblings, no bed where the pup has been sleeping. This pup was likely transported to a house to make it look like it wasn’t farmed. Welfare of all aside, farmed pups are extremely poorly socialised and will have massive health problems.
If you buy a pup from a puppy farm you are condeming more dogs to a terribly cruel and inhuman existance. You are not “saving” that pup. You are fuelling the production of more.
BEFORE PUPPY ARRIVES
Few people have more experience settling new pups into a house than me! I was Pup Supervisor with Irish Guide Dogs for three years. This is where you have up to 50 pups at a time staying with families for the first year of their life. We spent a lot of time finding the “right” families (those that had a bit of time being the chief requirement!) and even more time getting these families ready. I have settled literally hundreds of pups into homes, homes that produced very happy, confident and reasonably well-trained pups down the line, with happy and confident being front and centre. The reason being, a happy, confident dog is easily trained down the line. An overburdened, poorly socialised, stressed and shut down pup will struggle with life, likely forever.
Confidence is heard to instil and too easy to take away
To achieve a solid pup, our pup-raisers needed a lot of attention at the start – an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure, and all that. There is an art to producing a relaxed pup and it generally comes from a relaxed parent. That relaxation generally comes from preparation.
Preparing Your Home
First of all you need to “puppy-proof” your house. This means putting out of reach those things which might injure, frighten or harmful to your pup, or which are valuable to you. Anything at floor or nose level is likely to be investigated by chewing, as this is how puppies explore. So move everything up! If it’s down, it’s fair game. It’s not his fault, it’s yours!
Ensure pup has no access to sharp objects or electrical wires and put all poisons out of reach. All cleaning agents, detergents, chemicals, medications, cosmetics, personal care products, must be kept in “puppy-proof” cupboards. Remove all snail pellets and the likes of rat poison. These are attractive to pups.
Invest in a pup pen or crate before your pup arrives…
We can’t recommend these enough. So easy to use. Check out our handy article on how to introduce dog crates properly and pick one up before your pup arrives.
What to feed a new pup…
Pups eat should be eating fresh meat from three and a half weeks of age. They will be on minces with bone in it from 4 weeks of age. I strongly recommend a fresh, biologically appropriate meat-based diet for your young pup, there really is no alternative. Young pups need a mix of meat muscle, organ meats (liver, heart, kidney), some fresh cartilage and bone to grow all their bits correctly. They are, after all, little meat eaters.
They will eat the same type of food as an adult though pups need a little more fat in the first year. And they are eating a lot more of it. When you puppy arrives he will be eating a whopping 10% of his body weight PER DAY in fresh food! You can buy pre-made raw dog foods or you can make your own puppy food. This article on feeding pups explains what they need, how much they need and cool little extras that they will appreciate.
This article on feeding pups explains what they need, how much they need and cool little extras that they will certainly appreciate!
Some feeding tips:
- While you should certainly leave him alone most of the time when he’s eating, occasionally put your hand in the bowl of a young pup, usually adding some bits in but sometimes taking some food out. This will practically eliminate food aggression/possession (in case kids decide to try). It will be normal for him, nothing to worry about.
- Do measure his food, it’s easy to over-feed them. Get an idea of what one tablespoon of meat mince weighs so you can count your spoons.
- Do not feed your puppy for half an hour immediately before or after exercise as this may be linked to bloat in deep chested dogs
- From the very start, I advise owners to consider whistle training their dog. This means, from day one, before I plonk that food down on the ground in front of him, I blow a dog whistle three times. If you do this every meal he will very quickly learn that whistle means dinner. This is a powerful tool and it is the first step to teaching your pup excellent recall of which will be the envy of dog owners in the park. We’ll show you how to develop it later.
- Clean, fresh water must be available to your new pup at all times. Rainwater is greatly preferred to the heavily chlorinated crap we have to drink!
AFTER PUPPY ARRIVES
It is always an exciting time when your puppy first arrives. As first impressions are very important there are a few points to remember. Your puppy will be eight weeks old and will not have been separated from her mother and litter mates before. She also will have just experienced a car trip, her first one, with people she has not met before. It is normal for her to feel a little unsure, unsettled or even overwhelmed by all the new experiences.
Therefore, it is very important that you help your puppy adjust to her new environment in a quiet, positive manner. One way of helping is to ask your neighbours and friends to wait a few days before they visit. Do not allow children to overwhelm the pup – they will get plenty of opportunities to play very soon. Allow pup to roam around outside and have a good sniff. Introduce him to all his toys etc. The first day or two is a free for all. Very, very positive. He knows nothing and nothing should be expected of him.
The Dreaded First Night…
OK, the first few nights are not going to be easy. There are two lines of thought on how to proceed, both involving a crate / pen. You are free to choose which you prefer. One way belief is that your dog should be put to bed where you intend him to be forever more (a nice quiet corner in the kitchen say). The other way is to bring the crate up to your room and each night move the crate further away from you, eventually into the hall and then into the kitchen, easing him into it. You’re free to choose which you prefer but both begin the same way.
First, you must ensure your pup has been correctly socialised to her crate, as above. Before bedtime, ideally the pup should be kept awake for her last two hours, a few games, a little adventure in the garden (also a chance to wee), etc, thus ensuring a good nights sleep! Remove water 2hrs prior to bed time. The first few nights you should put him to bed at least half an hour before your bedtime as nobody wants to lie in bed listening to a poor upset puppy!! Also, if he hears and sees you mooching around he will settle quicker. Using a tidbit (e.g. a frozen carrot) encourage the pup inside and close the door. Make sure the sheet is covering the roof and maybe one exposed side and continue your normal going to bed routine. It is important that you do not give him attention for a little cry as this will encourage more crying. You must be strong.
Cries during the night are common, and those in the early morning even more so, but puppy will very soon get used to the routine and settle into it. If you get up at 4am for that cry you will be doing so for a long time. Again, it’s up to you how you raise your kids but if you tough out the first one or two times you (and he) will be fine.
In the morning you will allow the pup out of the crate and straight out to the toileting area for a wee (often having to pick sleepy pups up like wet sponges!! If he wees outside a treat goes in
Teething and chewing…
Despite your best efforts to puppy-proof your house you need to accept that pups might chew them. It’s a minor side effect of raising the greatest animal on the planet. Wooden furniture, corners of walls, tissue, children’s toys, socks and pants, are all very inviting during teething time. Growing all those teeth at the same time is sore. It occurs from 4-10wks of age and again at 20wks when the adult teeth come down). Your pup needs things to chew. These include meaty bones, safe from 4 weeks of age, more on safely feeding bones to dogs here. Ice cubes are another great one as they numb the gums for a bit. You can jazz up ice cubes with some edible treats inside so he has to chew his way in. Frozen carrots are great too.
If you’re not watching him then he needs to be somewhere safe that he can’t do damage, like his pen. As a final resort, you can paint corners of chairs or the likes with invisible taste deterrents such as bitter apple, aloe / citrus oil, to deter the pup from table legs, say. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they make them more appealing! But they are the last resort, he prefers bones, trust me.
Never give your pup anything you don’t him to chew in future, the classic mistake being an old shoe. After all, what’s the difference between and old shoe and a new one?!
Finally, remember, everyone wants to pat his head and face, it’s the cutest part, but he is teething. You need to try keep your fingers out of his mouth for the moment. If you allow him to chew now this can develop into a problem down the line. Dads are the worst for this as their fingers are generally the toughest. Grandads even worse!
If he chews your finger give a little yelp, stand up and stop playing with him for a second. He will think “what happened there, we were having a great time”. Dogs never want the attention to end. If it ends when they nip you, they will alter their behaviour to keep you around.
Next week: developing toilet training, and establishing the “wait” and “come” and picking a good vet!