There are entire books devoted to this topic, bringing a new puppy home. I know, I’m working on one right now. However, my presence online has helped me to understand the needs of the masses. There are many folks out there that for whatever reason, are brining a puppy home today.
They need help. And a book won’t help at all right now.
Before we can talk about logistics, about techniques and methods, we have to start with you. Your mindset in becoming a dog owner is the single most important tool you have at your disposal.
When used correctly, you are set up for a long adventure of daily learning and satisfaction with your dog. Fail to use it properly, and you will be a prisoner to your dog’s myriad of bad habits and problematic behaviors.
You need to realize there are those of us who have done this way more than you have. Not only have we raised numerous puppies of diverse breeds in our own homes, but we have done this with many others and guided them through the process. Understanding and embracing the idea that you can benefit from the guidance of others is a giant first step. The fact that you are reading this article shows you are already in good shape with this.
Know Your Role, or ROLES
While you might want to be known as #1 Cuddle Buddy, what you want should take a backseat to what your puppy NEEDS.
Your puppy needs structure, consistency, guidance, and leadership. With that said, you have the corresponding roles that go hand in hand with your puppy’s needs. I find myself having to explain this concept over and over again to new dog owners as they get the terms “love” and “affection” confused.
Love would be giving the puppy what it needs to be happy, healthy, and balanced. Affection is something you give your dog, most readily identified as cuddles and physical expressions of “love”. The best way to respect and honor your puppy is to embrace its needs as a species. From there you must take on the roles associated as the provider for each one of those needs.
Structure and consistency means you need to be a meticulous planner. Animals thrive on routine and you must plan a routine that works with your schedule to a degree, so that you will be able to carry it out with diligence. People say the best diet is the one you will follow. I say the same thing when it comes to setting a schedule for your puppy. First realize that bathroom breaks, exercise, and training will NEED to take place multiple times daily. Then simply adapt those times into your schedule in a manner that will allow you to carry them out seven days a week.
Guidance and leadership means you will need to be a teacher and a leader. You must identify the behaviors and expectations for your dog then apply a well planned training routine to TEACH the dog. Whenever anybody tells me their dog won’t listen or that their dog is stubborn, the first thing I think is “that poor confused dog”. Before you EVER say your dog is stubborn and defiant, you must honestly and objectively ask yourself what you did to teach the dog the behavior you claim it is refusing to do. Chances are, you failed miserably to communicate your desires to the dog.
Don’t feel bad, humans are notoriously horrible at communicating with other species, let alone their own.
What’s Your Plan?
You MUST have a plan. Take out a sheet of paper and write down a list of expectations you have for your puppy. Will he be allowed on furniture? What rooms are off limits? Where will the crate go? (read more about crate training HERE). Where will the puppy go to the bathroom?
Figure out these super important things BEFORE the puppy comes home. Your puppy will be learning from you 24/7. Make sure the puppy is learning what you WANT him to learn, the alternative will not be pleasant.
Now that you know what you want from the puppy how will you teach him these behaviors and expectations?
If you do not have any intention on taking time each day to teach and train your puppy, then you need to not get a dog. Seriously. I am not going to sugarcoat that for a second. Part of owning a dog is about training and communicating with them. Otherwise you will not have control of your animal. This animal has teeth remember? Training your dog is a responsibility, not an option.
With a young puppy, reward based training is the best option. You want to build a trusting bond with your puppy. Constantly yelling at the puppy is not a healthy way to build trust and respect. Do some research on how animals, including dogs, learn. I go into some important details HERE.
Learning how to use a clicker will make training your puppy easier than you could ever imagine. Remember, we want to focus on telling the puppy all of the things we WANT him to do. This is much easier than the alternative. To get started with using a clicker, I have put together a super simple series you can get started on, just click HERE.
Ok, time for some quick logistics. You have your crate set up and your plan is made. Now you are on your way home with a new puppy in the car.
One of the BIGGEST mistakes people make is “too much too soon”. They bring the puppy in and everybody is crowded around wanting to play and cuddle.
DO NOT DO THIS.
DO NOT DO THIS.
The first day should be a very quiet, easy, and low key day. Try and take the puppy for a walk or romp in the yard before entering into the home. Once you go inside, take the puppy directly to his area where the crate is. Now is the time to introduce the puppy to the crate.
This is time for the puppy to learn where in the home he is allowed and where he will go outside to the bathroom. This is NOT the time to introduce to new pets and non-pack members. Don’t bring the puppy home when your 12 year old is having a slumber party. The quieter the better.
If you have other dogs, hold off on the first meetings. Let everybody get used to the smells associated with the new puppy. When you do venture into the introduction please make sure the older dog(s) are first exercised INTENSELY. We always want calm and tired dogs when we plan on making any introductions.
Silence Is Golden
You have heard the old adage, now it’s time to put it to use. Another huge mistake people make when brining a new puppy or even adult dog into their home, is too much talking. My advice is incredibly simple, no talking to the puppy for seven days, a full week.
Yes, you absolutely read that correctly. Let’s evaluate that reaction of shock you are currently having. Why is this so odd of a suggestion? What possibly do you even have to say to the puppy? You must have forgot the very blunt reality that your puppy has NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.
If the puppy has no idea what you are saying, yet you are constantly talking to you it, you are actually doing a wonderful job at training your puppy to IGNORE YOU. Then six months from now, when your puppy tunes you out when you are giving commands that you never really were clear in teaching the puppy, you will be frustrated and confused at why this is happening.
Here is a reminder on dog communication that I go into far more detail in my book Operation Dog (which you can get for FREE by clicking HERE). Dog’s have a complex communication system that is comprised of smells, visual cues and body language, and audible sounds. That order is intentional, with audible sounds being at the bottom of the list. Your dog will know your energy and mood by your smell as well as your body language. Take advantage of that. That first week the puppy will be studying your body language intensely. This is good. By eliminating all the jibber jabber coming out of your mouth you will be forced to be even more intentional in your actions.
I will be very blunt. If you don’t like the sound of this, then you might want to reconsider some things. This strategy is based on the reality of dog psychology and canine communication. If you do this, you will have remarkably more effective communication with your puppy than if you don’t. My clients all give me a funny look when I first tell them they are forbidden from talking to the puppy. After a week or two, they can’t contain themselves with excitement at how much their puppy seems to “understand them”. It works, whether you like it or not.
Affection & Bond Building
Hold off on all the cuddles. I know, you got a dog simply for the purpose of cuddling. That was your mistake, not your puppy’s. Building a bond of trust and leadership has very little to do with cuddles. You actually want to be very neutral in the beginning. Affection should ONLY come as a reward for good behavior. If you feel the need to give your dog some belly rubs make sure you walk away from him and then make some type of indication that you want him to come to you. When he does, its belly rub time!
Affection is a reward and should NOT be given freely.
Another huge mistake folks make is giving the puppy way too much freedom. Your puppy should be confined to a crate or playpen at all times unless you are paying 100% attention to him during play or traning.
By limiting the puppy’s freedom you are preventing the puppy from getting into trouble. You must TEACH the puppy the expectations of each and every room in your house. This can’t be done unless you are focused and intentional. The alternative is a puppy who roams around getting into trouble and you constantly frustrated yelling “NO NO NO NO”. That is horrible for your bond. Instead, control the puppy’s environment so you can set him up for success and instead say “YES YES YES”!
This is a quiskstart guide. Entire books and videos exist on the subject as well as more detailed articles on this very blog.
Commit yourself to doing what is best for your puppy, not you.
Your puppy has needs, recognize and respect them. Then provide for them.
Cuddles and affection matter more to you than your puppy. Be sure to make them valuable by using them as rewards for desirable behavior.
As more articles are posted, I will update this article with all the appropriate links.