If you are a new puppy owner, currently feeling a little overwhelmed, here’s a guide to what’s important in your first week with a puppy.
Make sure you’ve got everything you need, ideally before your puppy comes home.
Did you know that a large part of your puppy’s training won’t come directly from you at all? It will come from their environment. So, crates, pens and gates will become your training assistants. By limiting the areas your puppy can access - and remembering to shut doors - your puppy will learn to play only with appropriate puppy toys and chews as they won’t get the opportunity to ‘steal’ your shoes or chew on wooden furniture and wires.
A little preparation will save you a great deal of time in the future as your puppy will naturally be developing good habits and, fortunately, good habits are as hard to break as bad ones.
Whether you learn how to train your puppy through books, puppy classes, individual training sessions or via an online course, do make sure you’re following modern, positive, methods that show you how to set your puppy up for success, and reward your puppy for getting it ‘right’, so there’s no need for punishment.
Over the coming months, your job, as your puppy’s guardian and teacher, will be to teach them the basic skills they’ll need to fit comfortably into your world.
But in the first few days, you’ll be settling your puppy into their new home and routine. So now is a good time to start toilet training, manage puppy biting and begin socialising your puppy.
Puppies have very sharp teeth, and they investigate the world via their mouths. Puppies will also naturally bite each other when playing. You need to teach your puppy that using their teeth is not an acceptable way to play with humans. Again, you don’t want to scare your puppy by shouting at them or holding their mouths or tapping their noses. It’s far better to teach them by simply offering a toy or chew for them to bite (rather than you) and, if they continue trying to bite you, stop interacting with them for a short while.
Remember that night-time may be scary for a young puppy, used to being with its siblings. For the first few nights, while they settle in, have your puppy in a crate or just their bed in your bedroom – or, if it works better for you, join the puppy in whatever room you’ve designated as the puppy zone. Having someone there will help reassure your puppy that they’re safe. It also means you’re nearby to take the puppy to their toilet area as most puppies will need to toilet once or twice during the night.
Socialisation is the term generally used to mean introducing your puppy to people young and old, other dogs and animals, and the sorts of things they’re likely to encounter in daily life from noisy vacuum cleaners to traffic, from lifts to car rides, shiny floors to bin bags blowing in the wind.
It’s important to socialise your puppy as much as possible before they are around 16 weeks old. At this time their brains are like sponges, ready to take on many new experiences. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, you may need to carry them around when introducing them to the world outside. Bear in mind that it’s not just a matter of introducing them to anything and everything – good socialisation is all about your puppy having happy, safe experiences in the presence of anything new.
So, be calm and patient and allow your puppy to take their time to get comfortable. If you also offer them some tasty treats in the presence of the potentially scary ‘thing’, this will help them feel good about it all. The more your puppy has positive experiences of new things in the first few months, the easier they are likely to find it when encountering something strange as they get older.
In the first week or so, the most important thing for your puppy to learn is that you are their safe place, their guide and best friend. There’s plenty of time for more training over the coming months. Your priority now is to relax, have fun playing with your puppy, and begin building that strong bond based on trust and understanding.
For more training advice, please visit our dog coach Vicky Carne's website.