If you’re getting a puppy for the first time, you need to make sure every member of the family is ready. Here’s a quick and easy puppy training guide to a smooth introduction.
Do plan your puppy’s collection in advance – you’ll need a dog carrier and a warm blanket, plus water for longer journeys. I will advise getting a puppy collar with Adaptil, which imitates dog hormones and reminds your puppy of mum. Make the journey as calm as possible; it’s probably best if you don’t bring the kids. Instead, ask them to prepare the perfect welcome at home.
Don’t be alarmed if your puppy sounds distressed, leaving its mother is a big life change. Bringing a puppy home is super-exciting for the family but perhaps less so for the puppy, so it’s your role to ensure [the transition] is as stress-free and happy as it can be. Talk to your puppy quietly so it becomes used to your voice, and try not to smother it with attention. Your puppy may cry at night at first and it can be upsetting to listen to, but leave lights off and try to avoid letting your puppy sleep with you or your kids, unless you’re prepared to have an adult dog on your bed for the next 15 years.
Understanding your role
Do involve the whole family. Children can learn a lot about respect and compassion by looking after a pet, so make sure everyone has a puppy-related job, however simple, such as clearing a place for its bed or tidying away valuables at floor level.
Don’t get confused about your role. The best dog owners are care-givers and educators, rather than enforcers. You just have to teach your dog how to love and respect you.” Be consistent in this role and get the whole family on board.
Creating the right environment
Do set aside time to help your puppy settle in. Puppies need company in the early days, so avoid any activities that will take you away from home for long periods. And once you get home, allow your puppy to just “be”; tempting though it is to have everyone round to visit, it isn’t the best for the puppy in the first few days.
Don’t assume that your puppy understands the house rules. In those early weeks, everything is new and puppies investigate things by putting them in their mouths. You have to set up your environment so that your puppy is less likely to make mistakes. Explain to every family member that if something is precious (like toys, shoes, smartphones or the TV remote control), it needs to be kept out of your puppy’s reach.
Do set clear boundaries. One of the biggest mistakes puppy owners make is to confuse their new pets with inconsistent messages. Write down your ground rules and pin them up where everyone can see them, then make sure every member of the family sticks to them. This can include toilet-training, sofa access (or not), the bedtime routine, voice commands and your puppy’s rewards. Stick to the same cues, for Puppy’s name, and for Sit, Down, Leave and Come. Your puppy wants clear structure, so the consistency of everyone who interacts is key.
In particular, be firm about biting. Puppy-nipping is funny at first but a bite from an adult dog is dangerous. Make sure your puppy realises from an early age that nipping isn’t allowed. Don’t be too tactile. It’s hard to resist giving your puppy a stroke but, where possible, you should try to use touch as a reward action for your puppy. A pat or a cuddle is a reward to a dog, so if you show physical affection when your puppy is misbehaving it will think that type of behaviour is acceptable and may repeat it to generate another cuddle.
Training your puppy
Do start training early and regularly. Puppies learn the most between the ages of eight and 16 weeks, so it’s n never too soon to begin. Too often, dog owners see training as an hour of specific activities, whereas it should be wrapped up in your family’s whole lifestyle. You can’t just train your dog when you feel like it.
Socialising your puppy
Do give your puppy lots of new experiences. Once your puppy’s vaccinations are complete (this usually happens by the age of 13 weeks), you can start puppy socialisation. Take your puppy to lots of new places, walk on different surfaces (grass and sand, as well as tarmac), and try out different types of transport. Your puppy also needs to safely meet different pets and people it doesn’t know. Puppy classes is a good way for socialisation and early training.
Proactivity is key here and will form the habits of a lifetime. When you start to socialise after the first few days, remember that dogs need positive association with things, places and people, not just exposure to them.
Don’t forget to introduce new sounds. Your puppy should become comfortable with the sound of the vacuum cleaner, hairdryer, telephone, TV and kids’ toys.
Do enjoy your puppy. Your training and guidance will be rewarded with unconditional love from your dog for the rest of its life.