There are few events in life as special and life changing as welcoming your new puppy into your life. I remember the day I went to the breeder to pick up my baby puppy Chilli. He was so incredibly brave and came back to London with me via train, cab and tube.
How to prepare for a puppy
I remember the excitement I felt once I had met little puppy Chilli. I fell in love instantly. And as he was already 7 weeks old, I only had to wait one more week to take him home. Yes, at that time breeders allowed the puppies to leave their mum at 8 weeks. I believe this has changed now to 12 weeks. I decided to go to Pets at Home and do a proper “baby” shop!
How to stop a puppy from whining
Your puppy’s first night is here. Dogs are pack animals which means they are hardly ever alone. They are interdependent, needing each other as a pack or family to survive. So when you bring your cute little puppy home and it’s night time, he or she has never ever slept alone before so fear and feeling lonely is only a natural reaction. The siblings sleep all huddled together feeling each other’s heart beats and body heat. Don’t forget your puppy doesn’t know it’s new home, he or she barely knows you so it is very likely your pup will cry.
Don’t underestimate the intensity of that cry! It is heart wrenching. A lot of us will find it very difficult to hear and bear. You might be tempted to bring your puppy into your bed with you. This is of course a natural instinct and it will create a very strong bond. But you need to ponder whether you are willing to have this closeness for the life of your dog. If your puppy never learns to be alone, how will it cope?
So if you do decide for your puppy to sleep in its own bed what do you do when your puppy starts crying?
You have 2 options: Ignore the crying altogether and after a few days the puppy will stop crying. But this is quite harsh. Unfortunately at the time I met Chilli a lot of the breeders were giving me exactly that advice. The downside to ignoring your puppy’s cries is that you are indirectly psychologically teaching your pup that he or she is alone and needs to be self soothing, self dependent. The other option is to rush to your puppy and cuddle and soothe them. This will stop the crying of course but you are teaching your puppy learned crying. The pup will learn that whenever it cries Mummy or Daddy comes. Imagine what a powerful tool that is! I personally think you run the risk of your dog becoming so attached to you that it might suffer from separation anxiety in the future.
So if both options are extreme, what do you do? Perhaps try this: place the puppy’s bed on the floor next to your bed. The puppy will feel your presence, smell your company. He or she will know you are there and that he or she is safe in this new den next to you. After a few nights, maybe a week you can try moving the puppy’s bed into another room. By that time the bed or crate will feel like a safe home. Do note that every puppy’s character is different. Some tend to be more anxious while others seem to feel 100% safe everywhere and all of the time. So maybe observe your puppy during the day. See what feels right for him or her. If you have other dogs maybe your pup will feel comfortable to sleep in the same room as them but be sure that they are all individually crated. They do not yet know each other and leaving them together unsupervised is dangerous.
Crate training a puppy
I really wish I had crate trained Chilli as a puppy! It took me years to train him to feel safe in a closed space as an adult dog but yes he loves it now! The beauty of crate training is that you’re teaching your dog to relax in an allocated space. This means your dog can stop being vigilant and just relax and settle.
When I first heard of crate training years ago, I thought it sounded cruel and strange, the idea of “caging”. But it’s not, it’s actually quite the opposite! A confined space is a safe haven for a dog. Don’t forget in nature they have dens. Especially for a nervous or anxious or even just tired dog it is a relief. And don’t just think of crate training as a fixed crate in your house, it translates to any enclosed space including a dog bag or portable crate bag. This means that when you want to bring your dog in the car he or she will be used to jumping into a bag or crate and being still there. Or if you take a small dog into a pub or public place you can bring a good sized dog bag with you for your pup to settle in if the environment is too much. Or perhaps you have the builders over and there are too many things going on for you to safely monitor your pup, then you can zip him or her up in his or her crate and you’ll have peace of mind.
Do not expect to be able to do this with an adult dog who’s never been crated! Dogs need to learn what it means to be confined. If you force an adult dog he or she might end up hating all enclosed spaces and then you have a problem.
The other benefit of crate training your puppy is that it can be used to help with potty training.
Puppies don’t know how to greet strangers for example. Unless a puppy is very confident and outgoing, chances are it will be a bit weary of a new person it hasn’t met before. This is where you need to show the pup that he or she is safe and that it’s ok. You also need to tell people when it’s too much for your puppy. This can be a bit awkward but setting the right boundaries for your pup to flourish in is so so important. I didn’t understand this at the time and it pains me that no one told me. So I’m telling you this now.
So I would say that socialisation is the process of introducing your puppy to the world. Your puppy needs to learn what a car is, public transport, the postman, other dogs, your own family rules, traffic, outdoors vs indoors, etc. I have to tell you a story which really illustrates this. I was thinking of adopting a young girl Chihuahua for Chilli to have a little friend. So I found someone wanting to rehome her mother’ dogs. I went to visit them and the young dog was a bit shy but curious enough. I asked to lead walk her and the owner froze. I put the pup on the lead only to discover she didn’t know what a lead was! And what was even more shocking, I realised that she had never been outside of the house! She didn’t know what a garden or streets were. I took her outside and watched with an aching heart as this 9 month old little girl saw the outdoors for the first time. She was gazing around herself in awe, sniffing at the grass, the flowers, feeling the light. She was so mesmerized and probably overwhelmed she didn’t focus on any of us. All I saw was me on my hands and knees on the pavements of London luring her with treats to encourage her to walk. Sadly her lack of socialisation meant that I could not adopt her. It would not have been fair on her to be brought to a big loud city with so much unknown. You do not want this to happen to your dog in any aspect.
My advice is really to make sure you introduce your puppy slowly and carefully to your normal life and especially dogs. Socialising puppy with other dogs is imperative. They do need to be with their own kind. And you want a dog who is happy to meet other dogs. Chilli is lead reactive so greeting dogs on the street is impossible at the moment but once he’s free in the park he runs to greet all the dogs he feels safe around. That makes him so happy.
What exactly is puppy socialisation? When I first heard of the concept of “puppy socialisation” I definitely didn’t understand its true meaning nor how important it would be to the whole life of your pup. Dogs are social animals – they are pack animals, which means they live in families and need to learn the dynamics and appropriate behaviour in different situations. Puppies need to learn how to interact with each other, their parents and then the extended family if you like. Just see it like this – your puppy doesn’t come with a downloaded version of experience. Everything he or she experiences is NEW.
House training a puppy
Are you a first time puppy owner? I’m sure you have heard many stories about potty training a puppy! But let me tell you, puppy toilet training doesn’t have to be as stressful as you imagine it. First of all it really varies from breed to breed. Secondly, you need time. Your puppy needs you anyway and toilet training is no different. There are several ways to do this, depending on whether you live in an apartment or have a garden and if you choose to crate train or not.
This is perhaps the most obvious statement but unless you’ve had a puppy before, maybe you are not aware that your puppy is like having a little baby. You are its parent and it needs you. Puppies tend to sleep most of the day and having your pup snuggling into the crook of your neck or cuddling into your lap is one of the most beautiful feelings in the world. That connection you form is pure heart. They also need to eat frequently, around 4-5 times per day at the beginning. And this time you have together passes quickly. Puppies grow up fast and before you know it you have a teenage trouble maker!
You will have to slowly teach your puppy how to be on his or her own. Your social life will need to adapt for a while as you can’t just abandon the little one for a night out. Puppies need to experience you leaving the home and returning quickly. They need to understand you always come back. So the duration of your outing needs to be built up gradually. 10 things to teach your puppy blog post And some of the time you spend with your puppy you need to teach him or her various things such as wearing a collar and how to walk on a lead. It seems obvious but a puppy has no understanding of this.