Adopting a new puppy is a fun and exciting time, but it can be a bit overwhelming for a first-timer who does not know where to start. Bringing your new puppy home is a crucial moment since it is the first opportunity for you to bond with your new companion. The key to helping your pup adjust to a new home is being prepared and patient. This adjustment period can range anywhere from a few days to a few months.
Before You Bring Your Puppy Home
To ensure a smooth transition for your new puppy, here is a checklist for what you should accomplish before bringing your new puppy home:
Decide where your puppy will be spending the majority of his time. Since the change of environment from either a foster home or shelter to your home may cause confusion or stress, your new pup will likely forget any housebreaking training they may have had. Oftentimes, your kitchen is the optimal space for easy clean up of any spills or accidents that may occur in the early days.
Dog Proofing – Before bringing your dog home, you will want to dog-proof the area where they will be spending the most time over the first few months. This is a process similar to baby proofing. This means relocating any rugs, plants, or other breakable items, moving household cleaners and chemicals to high shelves, taping up loose electrical cords, installing baby gates, setting up a crate, and any other necessary residential renovations.
Get all the dog supply essentials. This includes a leash and collar, separate bowls for water and food, a dog bed, a gate, treats, toys, and supplies for grooming. Have cleaning supplies on hand for any accidents that may occur in the early days of housebreaking.
If you plan to crate train your puppy, have a crate set up and already prepared for when you bring your new pup home. While some may consider crate training to be cruel, they actually help train your dog while also helping to ensure the safety of your dog and you, especially for breeds that are prone to destructive behavior or known to be heavy chewers. Crate training a puppy teaches them bowel and bladder control as well as limiting chewing to objects within the space of their crate. In reality, providing a dog their own space within a crate makes them feel more comfortable. Crating your dog in the car increases their chance of surviving an auto accident, while also lowering the chance of causing one.
There are many different styles and varieties of dog crates, but molded plastic or wire crates are the most commonly preferred. When shopping for your dog, do not be afraid to splurge and buy them the very best. The American Pet Products Association found that pet owners in the United States spend more than $60 billion a year on their pets. This includes everything from individual hair extensions, dental gel, and drinks such as beer and wine that are alcohol-free and completely safe for dogs. Although, all a healthy dog needs is constant access to clean, not dirty water. Visit a warehouse store or a wholesale liquidator to find the best deals on everything from dog supplies to wooden coffee stirrers, ATM paper, and screw plug heaters.
The crate should be large enough for your dog to lie down comfortably, stand up, and spin around in a small circle. This is of utmost importance if you are using the crate as a housebreaking aid. The crate should be your dog’s own space for resting and safely chewing on toys, not a pen for exercising. When purchasing a crate for a puppy, keep the eventual size of your dog as an adult in mind. Until your pup grows to full size, any extra space should be barred off in some way. Old wire refrigerator shelves work perfectly as barriers.
The general rule of thumb for how long a dog should be crated at a time is not longer than one hour per month of age, up to eight to 10 hours maximum, which is the average workday. It is recommended to follow each period of crating with at least one hour of aerobic exercise. If you enjoy playing frisbee or jogging, these are activities you can do with your dog. If your dog is not that energetic, try going for a walk or throwing a ball or a stick.
Since young puppies need a lot of feedback and stimulus from humans in the early months, try to avoid using the crate too heavily during this time. Three and a half to four month old pups can be left in a crate for about six hours overnight, though they will likely not be able to exercise bladder control for that length of time during the day. Puppies younger than this will have to be taken out at least once in the middle of the night.
During the early adjustment period, your puppy will need attention during the day. If you are unable to attend to your puppy during the day, you should hire a dog sitter or a dog walker. Make sure your puppy is accustomed to their crate before leaving them alone for an extended period of time. If they are left alone and unaccustomed to their crate, a puppy can panic and damage the crate and possibly hurt themselves. In addition, never leave your dog in a crate wearing a training or correction collar. It could get caught on the crate and possibly choke the dog. If your dog’s crate becomes worn or damaged, you can find used parts online.
Your dog can be slowly weaned off of the crate when they grow out of adolescence or about 18 months old. Adolescence is known to be a time of unpredictable behavior for puppies, so proceed with caution when weaning your dog off their previously established crating schedule. Try not to leave them unattended for more than a few hours at once. As their behavior is unpredictable at this time, your dog’s behavior may be fine one week and then particularly destructive another.
A crate can provide a state of mental and emotional calmness for both a dog and its owner. You would not hesitate to use a leash for your safety of your dog, so the same should apply to a crate.
Picking Up Your Puppy
Training your new puppy will begin at the time you go to pick them up. Therefore, you will want to have a list of commands already prepared. By using these commands right from the start, any possible confusion will be prevented and your dog will learn their commands quicker.
What you say to your new puppy and how you say it is more important than you might think. Depending on the tone of your voice, your dog can distinguish between corrections, commands, and praise. Corrections are to be spoken in a lower sharper tone, commands require a firmer and stronger tone, while praise should sound pleasant and exuberant. When using commands, be sure to precede each one by the name of your dog. When teaching your dog a new command, you may have to assist them with the action. Dogs do not have an innate ability to understand words. Instead, they learn commands by being able to associate certain actions with corresponding words.
It is important to be consistent with commands and not intermix them. For instance, if you command your dog to “Sit down,” you are actually giving your dog two different commands, “sit” and “down.” It is also crucial not to stay consistent with your commands and be sure not to interchange them. If you want your dog to get down from the couch or a chair, use a command like “off” or “down,” but do not use them interchangeably. Choose one and stick to it. This will prevent confusion and fast track the training process.
When talking to your dog, remember to communicate positively, which will help build a positive relationship. Like humans, dogs often work best when there is a reward involved.
The First Day
Everyone knows that moving can be incredibly stressful, even dogs. Just like humans, dogs need the time to adjust to a new home and possibly even a new family. The Animal Rescue League of Boston recommends introducing your new dog to family members and other dogs one at a time. Bringing a dog into a completely new environment with unfamiliar people, sounds, and smells can throw off even the most well trained and housebroken dogs.
Here is a checklist to help keep track of everything you want to keep in mind throughout the day you bring your new puppy home.
Ask their previous owner about their feeding schedule. After picking up your new pup, you will want to keep them on their previously established eating schedule for a few days at least. This will prevent any gastric distress due to a change in diet. When changing your dog’s diet, be sure to slowly wean them off their old dietary habits.
Safely secure them in the car. When driving home, make sure your new puppy is safely secured, preferably in a crate, for the sake of their safety as well as yours. This will be a confusing and stressful time for them so make sure you take the necessary precautions. If your dog is not crated and has an accident in the car, do not worry and do not take your anger out on your new puppy. The car and its interior can be easily cleaned with soap and water, a steam cleaner, or a car shampoo.
Take them outside as soon as you get home. This is in case your dog needs to relieve himself. Spend a good amount of time there so they can get comfortable with the area and its surroundings. Even after this time, be prepared for your puppy to have an accident in the house.
Leave the crate door open. If you are planning on crate training your new dog, leave the door open so they can wander in and out as they please. This will help them be more comfortable inside their crate later on.
Begin a schedule as soon as possible. This includes time for feeding, toileting, and exercise or play. Your dog will also need time to be alone, even if they whine, do not give in and comfort them. Give them attention for good behavior instead.
Keep the first days quiet and calm. For the first few days, try to limit excitement or anything that may agitate your dog as much as possible, such as strangers or the dog park. This will allow them to settle in and give you a chance to get to know them and begin to bond.
Give them a tour of the house. Put your dog on their leash and let them explore their new home and sniff around as they please. This is a great time to practice commands like “No” and “Leave it.”
Expert dog trainers say that you will not see a dog’s true personality until a few weeks after adoption. They may be a bit shy as they get to know you and become accustomed to their new home. Dogs are creatures of habit, so set a schedule and stick to it.
The Weeks to Follow
Within a week of bringing your new dog home, find a qualified veterinarian and schedule a routine health check-up and ensure that they have all the necessary vaccinations. After you have found a veterinarian and your dog has had all the necessary vaccines, you will be permitted to take your dog to the dog park or group training classes. If need be, you can ask your veterinarian for a trainer’s recommendation. It is best to choose a trainer who practices positive reinforcement and reward-based training techniques.
When bringing a new puppy into your home, remember to be prepared and patient. Set and stick to a schedule, and you and your dog will share a long and happy life together.