Below are some tips on managing the first weeks with your new puppy. Remember, just as with a new baby, the first few weeks can leave you feeling a little overwhelmed as well as being joyful! It gets easier as you and the pup get to know each other and develop a routine.
Before You Leave The Breeder Or Shelter
- Your pup should be ready to come home at around 8 weeks. Puppy’s should not leave their littermates before that time, as it is a crucial socialization period for the pups. Some breeders may wish to send the pups home even later, based on the individual development of their dogs.
- If possible, get a Toy or Piece of Fabric from the breeder or shelter that has the familiar smell of the dogs surroundings on it. This will be a comfort to the pup during the trip home, and during the first nights. You may even be able to drop off an article of your clothing with the breeder in advance, so that the pup can get used to your smell.
- Find out as much as possible about the puppy’s current Routine — when, what, and how much does the puppy nap, how often do the pups go outside, etc. You can try to mirror this routine when you get home.
- Ask Questions! — you may want to develop a list of all your questions in advance. The breeder is a great source of information on rearing the pup, and this is a great opportunity to get advice. Good breeders are also happy to have you call if you have questions later on.
Once You Get Home
- Try to bring the pup home Early in the Day on a day when you will be home. If you have weekend’s free, try to bring the pup home on Saturday morning. This gives you and the pup some time to adapt to each other. Spend the day showing your pup around the house and introducing family members. Try not to overwhelm the pup — although your friends may be eager to meet the new pup, its generally best to wait a few days for him to settle in first.
- Visit the Veterinarian within the first few days of bringing your puppy home, and get a full check up to identify and possible health problems. You’ll want to bring a stool sample so the vet can check for parasites. (see section on choosing a vet for more information)
- Develop and try to stick to a Schedule for you and the new pup. Try to feed the puppy at the same times every day, schedule times to take the pup out to relieve himself, times for exercise, for play, and for napping.
- Begin your House Training and Crate Training right away (see section on Crate Training for more information). Your puppy will probably need to go outside every hour or so. Always take him out first thing in the morning, last thing at night, after meals, and after periods of play. Avoid yelling at the pup if he makes mistakes — it is your job to make sure he gets outside, so keep a careful eye on him.
The First Weeks
- Most experts agree that pups should be kept away from areas frequented by other dogs until they have completed their puppy vaccinations. This means you’ll want to avoid taking your pup to the dog park, or to pet stores at first.
- Socialization is an important part of your pup’s development. During the first weeks, you’ll want your pup to have positive interactions with different kinds of people — men, women, children, the elderly, people wearing baseball caps, people carrying things, people on bikes, etc., as well as experiencing different environments. You’ll want to work to make sure these interactions are positive — keep some treats on hand, and let people offer them to your pup. Take your pup for rides in the car, to get him used to this.
- You’ll want to begin Training your pup right away. Remember, Consistency is the key to early training with your pup. Don’t indulge him just because he is little — behaviors like jumping up that are cute in a puppy will not be as cute in a 70lb adult. Begin to reinforce positive behaviors now! Remember to always be consistent in letting the pup know what you want from him.
- Trying to get your dog use to you Handling Him will help a lot in the future. Gently touch his mouth, ears, feet, head, tail, etc. Your aim in to get him comfortable with being touched anywhere. Be gentle, and try to keep these interactions positive. You may want to feed him small treats as you pet him. The more your puppy gets used to being handled, the easier it will be to trim his nails, clean his ears, and brush his teeth.
- When your puppy Bites or Mouths you, yell out “ouch!” and turn away. Ignore the puppy for a few moments, then calmly return to playing with the pup. Try to avoid overexciting the puppy, as this will increase biting. You may want to include a chew toy when playing with the pup, and encourage the pup to bite on the toy rather than at you.
- As soon as your pup has completed his puppy shots, you should consider a Puppy Training class. A class can help you learn how to work with your puppy, and provide reinforcement and support both for you and the pup. Classes are also a great opportunity to socialize your pup with other dogs, and for you to meet other dog owners. For more on Training see the “Ongoing Training” section.