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Your first day with your puppy

Posted in 'puppy training' on September 18, 2015, 12:00 am
"What do I do with my puppy when I first bring him/her home?"

I've heard this question a few times, and it was also something I wondered when I got my first puppy. It's easy to find articles and blog posts about what you should be doing with your puppy in terms of training. Basic training, housetraining, etc, but nowhere have I actually found information on how to spend the first few days with your puppy.

Your new puppy will obviously need down-time from training, and will also need a few days to settle in before you start formal training.

So what do you actually do the very first day you bring your puppy home? (And the next few days).

Here's what I do:

For down-time, pick an area where you will be comfortable for the day. Scatter toys all over the floor, have your puppy's crate in the area, and then sit on the floor or hang out in the same room with your puppy. Let him explore the area, the toys, the crate, etc. Talk to your puppy in a happy voice every time he comes over to you.

I usually get comfy, have a book or my phone handy, so I can just hang out while the puppy plays with all the toys and explores under supervision. (But you might want to have a camera ready and just watch the puppy explore and take lots of photos.)

Take your puppy out 1-2 times per hour, reward with treats for peeing outside. Your puppy will have very little bladder control at 8-10 weeks, so it's important to get him outside to form good habits right from the start. Read my post about house training your puppy here.

To start basic training, do loads of random recalls outside and inside. In the first hour a puppy is with me, I usually do about 20-30 short recalls, and reward with personal play, getting the puppy to chase me, tug of war, and treats. Within 2-3 days, your puppy will have a great recall.

Introducing the crate is a good idea. Have it open and get down on the floor and encourage your puppy into the crate. Scatter treats in there every time your puppy goes in it, or play tug of war with your puppy in the crate. Never close the door the first day, just reward every time your puppy goes in there and let him come and go as he pleases.

By the time it's bedtime, your puppy has a positive association with the crate and will be nice and tired and settle down quickly. In the crate I usually have a soft dog bed, a couple of towels and a blanket, so there are some bumps and a variety of textures to choose from. You can put a stuffed toy in there too.

Put the crate right next to your bed, close enough that you can stick your fingers in there, and the puppy shouldn't cry at all. He might whimper a little, but should settle down quickly as long as he can see, hear, and touch you. Cover 2 or 3 sides of the crate with a blanket so the puppy won't wake up at 6 am and be ready to get up. If your puppy whimpers in the crate during the night, put a leash on, carry him outside, let him pee, then carry him back in the crate. No rewards or talking, you don't want there to be any reward for waking you up in the night. If you do this, most likely he will sleep through the night within a couple of nights.

That's your puppy's first day!

The next few days are very similar, but I would introduce a play pen where the puppy can stay when not directly supervised, and would also close the crate door for short periods to get the puppy used to being in the crate. Make sure your puppy has toys to play with when you put him in the pen or crate, so he's distracted from the fact that he's separated from you.

Continue to work on recalls, and after about a week, you should be settling into a new routine and can start some basic training. Don't forget to enroll your puppy in a good puppy class.

Avoid having loads of people over the first week your puppy is home. Your puppy needs some time to just settle in. I know it's tempting to invite people over to meet your new puppy, but try to keep it low key for at least a few days.

Follow these steps and you're off to a good start and a great relationship with your new puppy.




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