When deciding to buy a puppy, think about your lifestyle. What breed of dog are you looking for that suits your lifestyle e.g., your home environment, space, and work commitments? Do you like lots of holidays throughout the year? Are you a lazy person? If you are a lazy person, then for example a Malinois dog will not suit you! You need to know how much time you will have to train and exercise your dog; can you afford a dog walker if you work long hours? Bringing a puppy into your family is a big decision in your life whatever the breed that you buy. This is a lifetime commitment because they are part of your family. Make sure everyone in the family is on board in wanting to get a puppy.
Research is important.
Research where are you going to buy your puppy from. Pedigree pups should be Kennel Club registered and the breeder should be on Kennel Club assured breeders list. Crossbreeds also have their own clubs, so you can look on their websites for approved breeders. Do not buy puppies online, from pet shops or from puppy farms.
Puppies should not leave the bitch until they are 8 weeks old, but some breeders will wait till they are 12 weeks old before selling them. Always ask to see the Dam and make sure that she is nice and friendly and not nervous because temperament can be inherited.
Your pup will need to go to the veterinary centre for their vaccinations, worming, flea treatment and microchipping. Microchipping is a legal requirement. Pups can have antibodies from their mother until they are 12 weeks old. This natural immunity can prevent the puppy vaccines from working. Therefore, a lot of Vets still recommend vaccinating at 8 and 12 weeks of age. Some Vets do not like the L4 vaccine for Leptospirosis because of reported vaccine reactions and they still use L2. Have a chat with your Vet about pet insurance.
You will need a puppy proof home to keep your puppy safe, so it is a good idea to have this ready for when your puppy arrives home. Therefore, I like playpens or crates if used correctly and not abused because they are a great training tool to have. Make the crate or playpen a positive place for your puppy by putting their bed inside and their enrichment toys, such as a food stuffed Kong or a snuffle scent mat with treats because this can be very calming and a brain stimulus for your puppy. Place your puppy’s crate in the quietest corner of the most used room in the house, such as a family room so that your puppy does not associate crating with feeling isolated. The crate or play pen should never be used as a punishment for your puppy, only positive training should happen with the crate.
Introduce your puppy to the crate gradually and never force your puppy inside it. At first get them comfortable going in and out on their own by tossing a few treats inside without closing your puppy in. Do not forget that your puppy has come into a new environment, so everything is going to be very overwhelming and stressful to begin with, so take baby steps. If you find your puppy is not settling at night in their crate, set a crate up in your bedroom, this way you can gradually get them used to crate training and not feeling isolated. Then you can start moving the crate towards your bedroom door, then eventually on the landing when your puppy is more confident about being in their crate.
Your puppy will need life skills socialisation, this does not mean taking your puppy to the local park and letting them mix with people and dogs that you do not know. This can be very damaging to your puppy’s training and their future behaviour if your puppy is not getting the correct socialisation.
When socialising your puppy make sure to take it slow and be aware of your puppy’s limits. Make the interactions positive and give plenty of treats and praise. Everything is new to your puppy, so every encounter is an opportunity to make a positive association. The idea behind socialisation is that you want to help your puppy become used to all types of sights, sounds, and smells in a positive manner. Proper socialisation can prevent a dog from being fearful of children, or of riding in the car, and it will help them develop into a well-mannered happy companion. Improper socialisation can lead to behavioural problems later in life.
An 8- to 12-week-old puppy will be quiet and small even if it is a puppy of a large breed. Puppies are physically vulnerable and a bit clumsy. They need plenty of supervision, therefore the crate or puppy pen is clever idea when they cannot be supervised. Expect your young puppy to sleep a lot during this stage. Most puppies will sleep about 18 to 20 hours a day to support their fast-growing brains and bodies. I cannot stress how important that is to let your puppies sleep and have some chill time. So, for example if you have a young child and your child is over excited playing with your puppy, your puppy could get over excited and may start mouthing and go over the threshold because they are overtired. This is where your dog's behavioural problems can start to develop if you do not intervene. This is when your crate training will be very useful, you can place your puppy inside their crate with some calming enrichment puzzles, for some relaxation and sleep time.
An overtired puppy.
What does an overtired puppy look like? You might be thinking that it will be easy to spot an overtired puppy, but some of the symptoms can be very confusing. Your puppy might show only a couple of signs or all of them within a few minutes. A tired child can be a nightmare and tired puppies are no different! A tired puppy can nip and bite, and if they do out of nowhere, it could be because they are getting tired and do not have any other way of expressing themselves. Hyperactivity though it might seem counterproductive, some puppies become more active when they get overtired. When your puppy is eventually sleeping or resting whatever you do not disturb them let them sleep.
Do not leave your puppy for hours inside the crate (or any dog for that matter) because puppies still need house training, and they need frequent breaks. It is important that you do not leave your puppy during the day for extended periods in the crate because this can cause a lot of stress to your puppy and even lead to separation anxiety or isolation stress. They could also start having accidents in the crate.
When your puppy is out of the crate do not give them the run of the house until they are fully house trained. Baby gates are a clever idea so you can manage the situation, the more freedom the harder it will be for you to house train your puppy. When you start your puppy toilet training, take them out, if possible, every hour into the garden, always go outside with them, so you can reward them with a treat when they have been to the toilet. Times to take them out also include after sleeping, eating, drinking or playtime because this is normally when they will need to go outside to the toilet.
Look out for signs that your pup may need the toilet. The signs include sniffing the ground, turning in circles, and starting to squat. If you see these signs, then gently interrupt your pup, and take them outside to see if they will go the toilet. If they go to the toilet then reward them, if not just quietly return them indoors. But make sure that you give them enough time to do their business before returning them inside, patience is key.
Never punish your puppy for toileting in the house because this will make your puppy more anxious, and this will not help your puppies toilet training to improve because they are still learning what to do. Puppies have smaller bladders than older dogs, so they need to urinate more often than adult dogs. Many puppies will not gain full bladder control until 4 to 6 months old. If your puppy goes the toilet in the house, simply disinfect the spot with a non-ammonia based product and remove the smell with a pet odour neutraliser.
If you have children.
Just as puppies need training, so do children. At the earliest age, you can begin to teach the fundamentals of respecting animals and their boundaries. The first thing to teach your child is that the puppy is not a toy! They are living and feeling being that needs love and gentle treatment to grow up happy and into a well-mannered adult dog. Children could be inclined to include the puppy in their play activities, but young puppies need time to adjust to their new home. Puppies are not toys, but they do enjoy and need playtime to learn good manners and grow their bond with their family! Teach your children that certain games, like fetch for example is an appropriate activity to engage with the puppy. Encourage your kids to always try and be gentle with the puppy, even during playtime! Remind your kids that activities like pulling on the puppy’s tail, or ears or pocking them, for example are hurtful and may make the puppy fearful and cause them to snap or nip especially as the puppy grows. It is best that when kids are playing with the new puppy that you are present and ready to show them the correct way to play together.
Getting ready to walk your puppy.
First, you will need to get your puppy to wear a collar/ harness and leash inside your house before going outdoors so they can get used to wearing the harness. This slow and steady approach with treats and praise for encouragement, helps your puppy make positive associations with the harness.
Then, before attempting a walk outdoors practice going for a walk inside your home with fewer distractions. Puppies can begin basic training and loose lead walking in your home or garden as young as eight weeks old. I recommend using a harness for your puppy to start walking as opposed to a collar, this will protect a puppy’s neck and back from potential injury caused by lead pulling on a collar.
It is important if you are struggling with puppy training invest in some help with a dog trainer/behaviourist.
JP Holistic Nutrition