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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

5 Tips For Surviving Your Puppy's First Week

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

It's that time of year again, Christmas is fast approaching which means PUPPIES for presents!

Gifting a puppy for Christmas is a lifelong commitment and there are no returns or exchanges. It's important to understand the responsibility and the care that it takes to raise a puppy properly. You should be prepared for your new member of the family before they come home, puppy's can quickly become overwhelming if not prepared!

Puppies demand your attention, time, they will hijack your date nights and you have to put in the effort. Your new puppy is going through major changes when you first bring them home at eight weeks, they have changed homes, left their littermates, and are adjusting to a whole life. Not only that but they are also for the first time able to experience fear, this is called a fear period which is one of two your dog will have in their life time. It is vastly important that we ensure our puppy has good experiences during this time to avoid them becoming fearful of people, places, or things.

The first week you want to establish a routine and schedule with your puppy right away. Dogs and puppy's thrive best when on a routine, this is because they do not have to worry about what is or is not going to happen. When we are predictable with our puppy's schedule we reduce stress and anxiety.

My goal is to set you up for success when brining home your new bundle of fur! Below you will find tips for puppy proofing, training, socialization, and supplies you will need to survive your first week with your puppy.

Tip #1 - Begin Potty Training Right Away

Immediately set up a schedule for feeding, water, and potty breaks for your puppy. Puppies 8 weeks of age should be going outside for potty breaks every one to two hours. Yes you read that correctly every one to two hours, your puppy has not yet learned how to hold his/her bladder so frequent potty breaks are essential to potty training success. Feedings should happen at specific times during the day, this is going to enable you to predict when your puppy needs to use the bathroom. The same goes for water, for a puppy you do not want to leave water out 24/7 for your puppy as they do not know impulse control and will likely engorge themselves. This will make potty training very hard and you will be going outside with them every 15 minutes. You still want to make sure your puppy is getting enough water, so offer it in small quantities frequently through out the day. And lastly dogs perform behaviors that pay off, meaning EVERY-TIME your puppy goes potty outside you must reinforce them with a high value treat the moment they are done. So not wait until you have gone back inside as then you are only treating your puppy for coming back inside with you.

Tip #2 - Puppy Proof

Management is the Key to successful potty training and to prevent unwanted behaviors from developing. If your puppy continues to get into your shoes, put them in a closet, put them up high, or use baby gates so they no longer have access to them. If your puppy is stealing the toilet paper, close the bathroom doors or use baby gates to prevent access to that area. See where I am going with this?... Your puppy does not know right from wrong, they will chew things you don't want them to, nip at your kids and chase the cat unless you use proper management. Not only that but if you allow your puppy to have full access of your house they will likely have accidents, especially if not supervised. When you are not able to supervise your puppy they should be in a confined area that is safe and away from things they could chew or get into that are dangerous. We recommend the use of crates, baby gates, play pens or you can keep your puppy on leash to keep them close to you.

Tip #3 - Socialization is Top Priority

Focus on whats important, you want to expose your puppy to a variety of different people, places and things. However this should be done strategically, you want to make sure that your puppy is having good experiences. Having bad experiences during this stage can be detrimental to your dogs mental wellbeing, it can cause fear and even aggression. You also want to learn how to read your puppy, and allow them to experience things at their own pace.

Tip #4 - Provide Mental and Physical Enrichment

It is not just enough to feed, water and potty train your puppy you also have to make sure you are providing them with proper mental and physical enrichment. Mental enrichment is any activity that improves or enhances your dogs mental state. These activities typically mimic natural behaviors that your dog exhibits such as digging, foraging, etc. Activities as such help your dog learn to problem solve and be more confident. Some examples are a snuffle mat, puzzle balls, long sniffy walks, and trick training. Physical enrichment is just as important, just like humans proper exercise helps reduce excess energy, stress and anxiety. There are multiple ways to provide your dog with proper exercise such as chasing a flirt pole, playing fetch, tug of war, swimming, agility training etc. When raising a puppy we have to think of them as a whole, when we don't meet our dogs needs unwanted behaviors develop such as jumping, excess barking, and destructive chewing.

Tip #5- Begin Training Immediately

Puppies have the ability to learn starting around 3 weeks of age, which means when you bring your puppy at 8 weeks you should begin training right away. Training right away can prevent many unwanted behaviors from ever developing such as jumping, destructive chewing, counter surfing etc. Every interaction you have with your puppy is a learning opportunity for them, because puppy's will repeat behaviors that have good outcomes. For example if your puppy barks and it leads to a treat, attention, a toy, affection, or anything the puppy wants, they will repeat it again in the future. At 8 weeks of age you can teach them basic obedience, loose leash walking, how to sit politely for petting, potty training and the list goes on.

Prepare for your puppy and you won't be overwhelmed

Puppy's are overwhelming even to an experiences owner, being prepared not only sets you up for success but it sets your puppy up for success as well. Establish a good routine, potty train right away, puppy proof EVERYTHING, socialize them properly, provide them with essential mental and physical enrichment and sign up for an obedience class! You can thank me later....

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