This question gets me really excited because it means that the owner is beginning a fresh new start. Like any other new adventure it is combined with anticipation, expectations, a little fear and the desire to seek new information to have a positive outcome.
One of the most important things a new puppy owner can do is to prepare for the arrival. The first three big puppy challenges are housebreaking, mouthing and biting and creating a foundation of basic obedience.
Housebreaking is a challenge with a new puppy. It is so tempting to get caught up in the cuteness and allow them everywhere including your bed when they cry. This is not a good idea as they often will pee there. Instead choose a crate that is appropriately sized so that your puppy can walk in, turn around and lie down. If it is bigger they may also relieve themselves there. In the beginning use a small towel instead of a bed inside just in case they make a mess. You will want to get your dog used to the crate by leaving the door open and keeping it where you are. You can put treats and a soft toy in the crate and practice shutting the door. Make sure puppy gets enough exercise during the day or he will be up all night.
If you have an open floor plan think of where to place your gates so that the puppy does not have too much freedom. Make sure to make your home safe for puppy removing things that they can get into that might be harmful. If you cannot watch your puppy they should be confined otherwise they will poop and pee where you least expect it. Take your puppy outside to go potty after they wake up, if they circle and sniff, after a play session, and after eating and drinking. That’s a lot of going outside but things will begin to settle into a pattern. If your puppy is successful going outside add a word and praise/treat when they are successful. Your best opportunity is when they first wake up. The moment they are up and moving pick them up and take them out. If you let their feet touch the floor there is a good chance they will go to the bathroom so carry them out in the beginning.
Mouthing and Biting will happen within days of coming home. At first there is usually a lot of sleeping but once they are over the shock of leaving their litter mates they will look to you for that rambunctious fun and it is not pretty. Those sharp teeth will get into everything so you will need to be prepared. Every puppy should come with an appropriately sized Kong or similar toy that can contain an item like peanut butter. I like to freeze them and have on hand when those teeth hurt and cause them to bite. There are also soft toys that contain no stuffing that are great to use as substitutes when puppies become mouthy. We offer as a substitute and praise when they take. There are also many biting deterrents like Bitter Apple that can be sprayed on hands and other surfaces like clothing to deter this behavior.
Puppies like to chew lots of soft things so please put those things of value away until puppy goes through this period of growth or keep the puppy in a safe place.
The umbilical method uses a leash to keep puppy at your side so that you can monitor and direct his behavior. This is often very useful for training as long as you remember that puppy may need time to go to the bathroom or crate time.
Basic Obedience should start the moment the puppy arrives. I know this may seem unbelievable but puppies are so smart they learn every moment they are with you. Start teaching your dog some basics like sit and down. You can also start teaching self control behaviors like waiting for the food bowl and leave it. For the food bowl I have my dog SIT and then put down the bowl as I say “okay”. This teaches the puppy to learn to please you. For the leave it I put the treat in my hand. I have another treat in my other hand. When I tell them to leave it I wait until they give up trying and treat from the other hand. Then I switch to other items. Tricks are a fun way to teach obedience and get children involved. I like having families choose their commands and then keeping their list in a place like the kitchen so they all use the same words.
Having a puppy can be a challenge but the time you spend training at this important time will really be worth it.
Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT), Consultant for Pet Therapy, Writer for AKC Family Dog and Gazette, Owner of Canines Can Do. Dorice has trained dogs since childhood and her dogs have received many national and international awards. She was mentored by master trainer, Bill Delaney and continues to study with international competitors and renowned trainers Betsy Scapicchio and Diane Goodspeed. She is a certified evaluator for the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program and an evaluator for the Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs. She was elected into the International Honor Society for Teaching, and participates in AKC and CKC performance events.