In these days of COVID and working from home many people are bringing home new puppies in record numbers. And you are one of those people.
Hopefully, you carefully researched what breed is best suited to you, your family, your pre-COVID lifestyle, and your skill level. Now that you have picked the best breed for you, you need to research the breeder. Just like all breeds of dogs are not created equal not all breeders are created equal.
You’ve found the right breed, the right breeder and now you’re getting ready to bring your bouncing bundle of joy home! But now what? There is so much conflicting information on the internet. Do you get out there and socialize or wait until your puppy has all their vaccinations? Do you let them sleep in bed with you or should you make them sleep in a crate, even if they are whining? How long can you leave them alone? Potty training? TRAINING training?
I’ll attempt to give you a few short answers to at least get you started.
SOCIALIZATION VS VACCINES:
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior says in their position statement that once puppies have at least one set of shots they should join a puppy class as soon as possible. Socialization is an incredibly important part of having a well-rounded, confident, and social adult dog. Of course, you have to do what you and your veterinarian feel most comfortable with, however, I suggest starting puppy classes or a Day School with a well-qualified, positive reinforcement dog trainer.
WHERE SHOULD PUPPY SLEEP? There is little solid research on this topic available. I wasn’t even able to find a blog from a trainer I respect to reference here. I think that tells us how little consideration we give this issue. Which stinks. That being said, I do have opinions about what works best for most folks and puppies. Because puppies are exceptionally social and just came from sleeping in a giant puppy pile with their littermates, I never recommend trying to have your new puppy sleep in a different room from you. They will whine and cry throughout the night because they are scared about being alone for the first time. You do not need to have your puppy sleep in bed with you, but you should have their crate close to the bed. Giving them a stuffed Kong, warm blanket, hot water bottle, and even one of those old school clocks that ticks could help ease some of your puppy’s anxiety about being alone. But still, be prepared to get up a few times a night for potty breaks. You need to balance allowing your pup to fuss it out and not allowing them to become overly stressed, potentially causing larger behavior issues down the road. If you are struggling please contact a well-qualified positive reinforcement trainer right away.
LEAVING THEM ALONE: There will be times when we will have to attend to errands or we will have to work and our sweet puppy cannot join us. However, we get concerned about our new, young puppy being alone. I strongly encourage folks to make a plan before you bring a puppy home. If a puppy is potty trained the puppy can usually hold its bladder as many hours as it is months old. So, if you have a 12-week old puppy, they could be home alone without an accident for three (3) hours. If you are going to be gone longer than that I strongly suggest hiring a well-qualified professional dog walker to assist. However, this is another topic with no definitive answer.
POTTY TRAINING: Often I get calls about potty training issues. I always ask if the puppy gets a treat once they’ve gone potty. The answer is almost always yes! So, what is going wrong? I usually follow this answer up by asking for the parent to give me the exact detailed routine. Usually, it goes something like this: “Fido goes potty. Then we play a little bit but sometimes we go straight inside. Then I ask Fido to sit while I get his cookie out of the jar, and give it to him.” I do love this because we are using positive reinforcement, but to reinforce a sit upon entering the home, not for going potty outside. Dogs do have wonderful memories but reinforcement needs to happen immediately following the desired behavior. So, you want to give the cookie the moment your pup finishes going potty. They’re peeing or pooping and as soon as they stand-up tell them they’re awesome and give them a cookie.
Also, keep a close eye on your pup. If you are not actively interacting with them please crate them or tether them to your belt. By crating your puppy you are reducing the chance of an accident when you’re not looking, and tethering allows you to do something like washing dishes while still being mindful of your puppy’s behavior. Veterinarian and Certified Professional Dog Trainer Dr. Jen Summerfield has excellent tips on potty training on her blog.
TRAINING: There is a lot of conflicting information about the best method to train a dog. Some people believe punishment-based training is the right thing to do. Others believe following the science of positive reinforcement training is the right thing to do. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has an excellent list of what to look for when choosing a dog trainer.
You’re on a positive reinforcement trainer’s website so of course, I’m going to tell you that positive reinforcement is the way to go!
We have over 30 years of research showing the pros of positive reinforcement vs the cons of punishment-based training. I could list a bunch of those studies for you, but I’ll only give you this one. This study does a direct comparison of positive reinforcement training versus shock collar training, finding that positive reinforcement is more effective and has more reliable outcomes than punishment-based training. From an anecdotal perspective I know I have seen dogs become happier, more confident, and more bonded with their people. I have seen the opposite happen when punishment is used. I’m not sure about anyone else but I know I want my dogs to be happy and enjoy being around me!
CONCLUSION: I hope you found this information to be helpful with your new puppy. If you have more questions or are ready to sign up for a puppy class, contact us! We’d love to work with you and your new baby.