Let me preface this post by saying that I am not an expert. I repeat, I am not an expert (on anything) on dogs. But, after having multiple puppies in my lifetime, and after these last few months with Trigger, I decided to put together a list of tips to help you in surviving the early months with your puppy.
Surviving The Early Months With Your Puppy
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Now, let’s get started!
- Crate train! Since dogs will not void where they sleep, a crate is invaluable in teaching your dog to hold his bladder and helps immensely in the housebreaking process. Dogs are den animals by nature, and a crate gives your puppy a safe place to retreat to or relax in. And since puppies need constant supervision, a crate can provide a safe place for your puppy to stay if you are not able to watch him. Our puppy’s crate has literally saved my sanity – sometimes I just need to know where he is, know he is safe, and not have him under my feet when I need to attend to other matters. (and by the way, Trigger loves his crate!)
- Establish pack leadership early and often. This is not some mumbo-jumbo dog psychology. Pack order is a REAL principle in the animal world. You should be the first to walk out the door and the first to enter the house. You should eat before your dog eats. You should have a calm, dominant demeanor, and expect (not request) your dog’s calm submission. Otherwise, your puppy will be running your house in no time.
- Do not assign human rationale to your puppy. So many of us see our pets as members of our family and actually as little “people” in animal form. The mistake here, though, is to think that when he disobeys or doesn’t listen or has an accident in the house, she’s doing it on purpose or to push your buttons. Dogs have personalities for sure, and as they get older sometimes they’ll play with your emotions a little, but puppies are pretty much a blank slate and need to LEARN what is expected. I read somewhere that if a puppy has an accident in your house, it’s your fault, not his. You were not paying attention to his schedule or his signs. Don’t get mad, don’t yell, don’t think that your puppy should have known better. Your puppy is not reasoning things out, he’s just trying to learn. Teach him.
- Decide on commands, use them, and have every member of your family use them. Cesar Milan, better known as “The Dog Whisperer,” is a hero of mine when it comes to dogs. I have learned so much by watching his show, reading his books, and visiting his website. He does not use word commands, but more regularly a series of sharp noises and deliberate touch. This might work for you, too. Our family has decided to use verbal commands like “Home” (for when she needs to go to her crate), “Outside,” “Go Now,” and others, and they’ve worked well for us. The tricky part was getting all the kids to say them regularly. But puppies seem to notice every detail, so you need to be a unified front when teaching. This takes effort, time, and patience. And more than anything else: consistency.
- Establish a relationship with a vet you trust. Fortunately, I have a vet that I have always loved and trusted (they kept our Izzy alive when an emergency vet was pushing to put her down). Puppies need a lot of instant care. It’s common for them to contract worms, and they need a lengthy series of puppy shots in order to be considered fully vaccinated. If not just for your puppy’s own care, you need to keep them healthy if they are to be around your children, your neighbors, or other dogs. Find a vet you can consult with, ask questions of, and who will work with you for your puppy’s well-being. If you’re in Southwest Georgia, check out Cuthbert Critter Care!
- Get your puppy used to being handled. Touch his ears, his eyes, his paws, his tail. Everywhere, and from day one! Let him know that you have that right. Let him know that you will handle him responsibly. Our puppy had only been home a few days when he got sick and I had to start shoving huge pills down his throat. I’m grateful for that experience, though, because it assured me that I had the nerve to handle him however I might need to, and it let him know that I was allowed to do that.
- Provide your puppy with a variety of chewing options. One, two, even three toys does not a puppy toy box make. We had to buy several different toys to see what Trigger would gravitate to. A puppy’s need to chew is insistent, though, and if you don’t want him heading to the dining room table anymore, you need to invest in finding toys that will do the trick. And a word to the wise: don’t think you’re past it all if your puppy’s chewing subsides. You get a second round of it when they lose their puppy teeth and the adult teeth start cutting.
- Be as physically active as you can with your puppy. Before your puppy is fully vaccinated or has his rabies shot, he may not be allowed in dog parks or even for long walks in your neighborhood. That doesn’t mean you can’t tear it up in the house, though! Or the backyard, for that matter. Get him used to a collar and leash in your own yard, and run him in circles if you can. Puppies experience a bizarre phenomenon known as “FRAPing” – Frenetic Random Activity Periods. Usually twice a day – once in the morning, once at night – their whole demeanor changes and they begin running around as if possessed. Even their eyes looked glazed and distant. Helping them to release their pent up puppy energy may help with these times, and may get him prepared for regular walks and activity outside your home.
- Connect with other puppy owners. I have never in my life felt the need to talk to another cat owner (specifically about the cat, I mean). That’s because practically all you need to know is to feed it, put a litter box out, and there you go. Dogs – and especially puppies – are a whole other matter, and can sometimes feel like the biggest mystery you’ve ever tried to unravel. I think it helps to ask other people questions, compare stories, even ooh and ahh at cute puppy pictures.
- Have fun! I mean, why did you get a puppy in the first place? They’re sweet, they’re cuddly, and they add so much to life! Our Trigger can be silly and surprising, and he has seemed to bring out something unexpected (in a good way!) in every one of us. I take him for a walk every morning, and it has started to be the most relaxing part of my day. Amid cleaning up the accidents and getting them to sleep through the night and teaching them what is expected, there’s a ton of fun to be had with owning a new puppy.
What do you think of “Surviving the early months with your puppy”?
Do you have a new puppy at home? Are you planning to get one? Tell me if surviving the early months with your puppy has been helpful to you and if there’s anything that you feel like I should add!