Preparation is key when bringing a new puppy home
How exciting, you are getting a new puppy. It is a lot of work but starting out right, to prepare for the new puppy can make all the difference.
If you are still deciding if a puppy is right for you check out my earlier post here. It will give you plenty to think about when making your choice.
Critical Socialisation Period
Most puppies will leave the breeder between 7 and 10 weeks. It is important to prepare ahead of time and be ready to start as soon as puppy arrives.
As puppies grow they go through many changes, and stages of life. The critical socialisation period happens from 8 weeks to approximately 16 weeks. At this age your puppy is experiencing its most optimal time for making social connections and exploring the environment. Many of the associations about what is safe versus unsafe, good for me vs bad for me are made during this time. The learning which takes place during this period provides the foundation for the behaviour of adult dogs. That’s not to say that they stop learning after 16 weeks. But from 8 to 16 weeks your puppies brain is optimised for learning. It is because of this that being prepared, ready to help them settle in and explore their environment from day 1 is so important.
To best help your puppy this is the time to expose them to people of different shapes and sizes, as well as dogs and other animals. Learning about the world around them is very important. It is a key time to expose your puppy to different sounds, sights, smells, surfaces and other varied objects.
Keep experiences positive, your puppy should feel secure, happy and relaxed. This period is optimised for all learning, fearful or overwhelming experiences can also have a long last impact.
Given how important the critical socialisation period is, it is important to prepare and be ready when bringing your new puppy home. Every day is an important learning day for your puppy so you want to have everything ready for them. Be ready to start settling them in to your family, settling them in to routines and learning about their new home once they arrive.
What to Buy in Preparation for Your Puppy
By no means a comprehensive list but here are some things to think about getting before puppy arrives at home.
- A collar with an ID tag. A harness and lead for walking. Puppies grow fast, be sure to check the sizing daily
- Food and water bowl
- Crate, puppy pen and toilet pads
- Baby gates or barriers to prevent puppy from exploring where they shouldn’t
- A comfortable bed and blanket
- Variety of toys – chew, stuffed, squeaky, rope, plastic, scrunchy
- Car travel accessories –seat belt clip, car seat, travel crate
- Food and training treats
- Grooming supplies
Preparing Puppy’s Own Space
Having a space ready for your puppy is a great to prepare and be proactive. I recommend having a pen/room set up for your puppy. A small pen with a crate to sleep in, access to water and a place to toilet. A selection of toys to play with and chew on is great too, especially if you rotate them each day. The purpose of the pen is to provide a safe place for your puppy to be when you are not watching them. They can get up to all sorts of mischief if given free reign from the get-go.
It is also a great idea to have a towel or blanket, something that smells like the litter mates and mother to help ease them in to their new home.
A puppy pen is great for setting a routine, feed time, play time and sleep time etc. While in the pen your puppy cannot chew shoes or toilet on the carpet. When outside the pen they are being watched by you. It’s a fantastic way to manage your puppy and maximise opportunities for desirable behaviour.
Importance of finding a good puppy school
Raising a puppy is a lot of work and it is not always sunshine and roses. Be sure to get some help. To prepare, look up local puppy classes. A good puppy school will provide expert tips and information you need to raise your puppy. It is also great to be around people experiencing the same thing you are. For your puppy this is an optimal place to socialise with other people and puppies outside the home.
Call your local vet and ask around. Here are a few questions that will help you find the right puppy class:
What are the trainers’ qualifications and experience?
Do they have any? Remember this is a critical time of learning for you and your puppy. You want to ensure you are set up for success.
What training methods do they use?
Be sure to look for a trainer who is using reward-based, positive reinforcement training strategies. Fearful and overwhelming experiences can have a long-lasting impact on your puppy. Therefore, the training should be a fun and pleasant experience.
How many puppies per class?
Too few puppies and your puppy will have limited chances for socialising with other dogs, too many and they may be overwhelmed. A group of 4 to 6 puppies works well.
Is the space safe and clean?
Puppies at 8 weeks are not fully vaccinated. While it is important to socialise them, it is also important to keep them safe and healthy. So, check what precautions they take to keep the environment clean for unvaccinated puppies.
What is included in the puppy class program?
There is so much to learn when it comes to puppies. There is a litany of experiences and training to do with them so they can live their best life. Puppyhood provides the foundation for adult dog behaviour so it’s important to capitalise on this as best you can. Trainers, vets and groomers all have a list of things they feel are most important based on their own experiences. There are few things I think are of key importance based on my own experiences.
Socialisation is a word that appears a great deal when talking about puppies. This is the process whereby puppies learn key skills to interact appropriately with their social group as well as behaviour confidently in their environment. Learning that the world around them is safe. Having a variety of experiences with different people, dogs, sights, sounds, smells and textures. All these experiences should be done so that puppy feels safe and good throughout. As part of this you also want to make sure your puppy is comfortable being handled by you and by strangers like the vet or groomer.
Being comfortable on lead and wearing a harness and collar.
You will want to take your dog out, at least for walks. To do this safely and responsibly it requires that your dog be on a lead. This can be fun for you both and you can start getting your puppy used to the equipment and encouraging loose lead manners early on. The more comfortable your dog is in their walking equipment and the better behaved on lead the more enjoyable it will be for you both to adventure out in the world.
Being comfortable on their own.
Your puppy has likely been with litter mates and his mum, he may not have experienced being on his own. The puppy pen is great for introducing this in a way puppy feels safe and happy. While I don’t advocate that dogs spend most of their time on their own, as they are social animals. It is likely they will need to be on their own at some point. When you go to work or visit the grocery store. It is best if your dog is able to relax and amuse themselves when left on their own.
Teaching them life skills.
Skills that will make their time with you fun, safe and happy for everyone. This can be sit and wait, rest quietly on your bed, leave it, give, coming when called. These are all skills we can use to teach our dogs what is appropriate and desirable behaviour. What is appropriate and desirable will change from house to house, and family to family. Your individual needs and wants will impact what is important for your puppy to know. For example, getting up the couch is ok for some and not for others.
Be sure that the trainer and puppy school you choose will address your concerns. You will be your puppies guide through their whole life. Teaching them what they need to know to live their best life with you. Find a trainer and a school you feel comfortable with. A school that will teach you how to best care for your puppy.
It is a big job raising a puppy. Be sure to ask for help if you need it. There are many experienced trainers who can support you, and help prepare for your new puppy. Sign up for my blog to receive training tips and info straight to your inbox.