Ten tips for bringing home your new puppy

Did you or someone you know get a puppy for Christmas this year? Are you sitting with an adorable puppy snoozing away in your lap right now, wondering what exactly you are supposed to do with this thing for the next 10-15 years? That puppy breath with be gone before you know it, but don't worry, with my top ten tips to a new puppy you will be ready! 1. The first night: your puppy may very likely cry. I know it's heartbreaking, but you just have to let him cry it out. I suggest to set an alarm every 3 hours and get up and take him out to potty (you shouldn't have to do this more than the first few nights). You don't want to ignore a cry if he really has to go, but you also don't want to reward crying. Put a blanket, towel or sweatshirt in the crate that they can snuggle up with. I also like to put a warm water bottle (a Nalgene or some other hard plastic they can't chew) and also a clock with a second hand that ticks - these two things act like the warmth and heartbeat of his litter mates and can be very soothing.

2. Potty training is a full time job. Some puppies pick it up much easier than others - it can take 2 days or 2 months. As a general rule, take your puppy out to potty within a couple minutes of eating or drinking. Their little bodies are so tiny whatever goes in comes out almost instantaneously. When you go outside, wait until they go to come back in. If they try to play, ignore them. Use a command, I say "go potty", and use it consistently. After they go potty, praise them in your best cheerleader voice with love and treats. 

3. Socialize, socialize, socialize! According to Dr. Ian Dunbar, "as a rule of thumb, your puppy needs to meet at least a hundred people before he is three months old." (read more here). Socializing your puppy will play a huge role in determining your puppy's temperament for years to come and you only have about 4 weeks before the socialization window closes! This article talks about socialization with people mostly, but I think it is important to expose puppies to people, babies, sights, sounds, other dogs (as long as you know they are fully vaccinated and healthy), car rides, etc...  You can't socialize your puppy enough during this time and please believe me that you will be very glad you did in the long run. If you think I'm a little too excited about this socialization thing, maybe you can relate to this: excuses to not socialize your puppy.

4. Bite inhibition. Puppies like to bite, partly because they are exploring their world and biting is how they play with their siblings, and partly because they are teething. Those little puppy teeth can be needle sharp, but not nearly as painful as a grown dog, so now is time to teach them how to have a soft mouth. This is surely something you will go over in your puppy kindergarten class, but here is a great article to give you a head start.

{my life of dogs} when I was 9 our black lab had 11 puppies at our home. It was summer and I spent most of my dogs playing with the puppies. We have a hilarious home video of 11 puppies chasing me down the hill and I am screaming and running full speed to dive onto the hammock. My legs were full of bloody little scratches from the herd of puppies biting at my legs.

5. Puppy classes. Your puppy may be a very quick learner, he may have mastered "sit", "down" and "stay" at 9 weeks, but I still highly recommend a puppy class for these reasons: 1) the training is more for you than the pup, 2) it's great socialization and supervised play - it's easier to prevent behaviors than try to fix them later, and 3) you have a professional to answer all the questions that come up over those crucial 4-6 weeks - google has it's limits ;) Here are a couple I recommend:

Jeff Tinsley and Sound Animal Services

Paws 4 Training first week at home

6. Teething. Your pup isn't necessarily trying to be a troublemaker, he may be teething and actually be in pain! Try giving him an ice cube. Also, you get a rope toy wet, put it in the freezer overnight and let you pup work on that for a little numbing relief.

{my life of dogs} My lab, Bailey, used to love to push an ice cube around the hardwood floors and slowly gnaw on it.

7. Toy basket. If you are anything like me, the 2nd most exciting thing after getting a puppy (1st being the actual puppy of course...) is going on a dog toy shopping spree. Make sure to pick up a toy bucket or basket while you are at it. Only let you pup have three toys out at a time, and rotate them every couple days. If they are all laying out at once, your pup gets bored of them and can possibly think that everything on the floor (your shoes?) are fair game. 

8. Pet Insurance. I know, this may sound crazy, but this is essential. I hate to break it to you, but something, at some point, is going to happen with your puppy. Maybe they ate a lego and now aren't eating or pooping right, or maybe they get a cough, or who knows.... but it will happen, and you will feel a lot better about swiping your credit card knowing that you will be getting up to 90% of the bill back. I highly recommend it to all of my clients and every time they go to the vet they tell me how happy they are they have it. My favorite company is Healthy Paws Pet Insurance - use this link and save 10% off for life. Another great company is Trupanion - both are local!

 {my life of dogs} My fiance has a 9yr old German Shepard without insurance and he has spent over $20k on surgeries from eating socks, tire biter toys, etc.... Don't learn the hard way!

9. Keep a routine! Dogs are very routine based animals and they like things kept the way they are supposed to be. Routine will keep your puppy happy, so try to feed them, walk them and everything else as consistently as possible.

{my life of dogs} Bailey knows when I pick out my clothes whether we are going to play or I am going to do something out her. She dances or pouts accordingly.

10. Don't get overwhelmed! As I'm sure you are already aware, a puppy is a huge responsibility and a lot of work. It will get harder before it gets easier. It can be frustrating trying to communicate with a little pooping/peeing/chewing/barking/whining creature that just looks at you with that head tilt and puppy eyes after chewing your couch cushion. The time and commitment you put into this puppy will all be worth it one day. Bailey was one of the most stubborn trying puppies I've met to this day - but I consider her (and her faults) my biggest accomplishment and every day I look at her and am proud of how far we have come. If you need a hand, hire a dog walker! One of the services I provide at ballwalkpark are puppy visits - myself or Nancy comes over for a 20 minute visit and help reinforce potty training, provide socialization and play time, and help guide you through the stages of puppyhood. I also provide a puppy package that are two puppy visits a day - timed to be 3-4 hours apart so your puppy is never alone too long while you are at work. There are a lot of great dogwalkers in Seattle - set up consultations and make sure you are a good fit with your walker and it is someone you feel comfortable with.

Training a puppy can seem like dieting - there are hundreds of books and methods and opinions on how to teach the same thing. It can get really frustrating and if you try to take everyone's advice you will lose your mind. Figure out what works best for you and your puppy and stick with it - consistency is key. We are all a little different and so are our dogs - what works for one dog may not for another and there is nothing wrong with it.

And most importantly, take lots of pictures!!! Puppies grow up way too fast - capture these precious moments!