If you have decided to bring a dog into your home you will have done your research into the breed that fits your lifestyle and the age of the dog appropriate for you. If you have decided a puppy is the right fit for your family you should realise that although at 8 weeks they are old enough to leave mum they are still very much babies and for most people it is not smooth sailing. Here are some things to keep in mind when bringing a puppy home:
Curiosity & mischief
When puppies are brought into a new environment they want to explore everything. Unfamiliar surroundings and natural curiosity lead them to wreak havoc when left to get up to no good. Like human babies wanting to explore everything through touch, puppies will do the same expect for a dog that means using their mouth. If theft to their own devices they will soon realise that shredding toilet roll, chewing on shoes and furniture is fun. When leaving them alone try to provide a space where they can keep safe and away from hazards such as a crate or pen.
Supervision and distraction are usually the best tools to avoid destructive behaviour, provide stimulating toys when left alone even for the shortest time. Hide wires or cables and keep everything out of reach. Puppy training is a must but don’t expect everything to fall into place straight away, it will take time.
House training is frustrating however very important. After being allowed to do their business wherever they are when with mum, being expected to go outside straight away can be difficult for them understand. Consistency and patience is key!
Take the puppy outside at regular intervals and praise when they go outside, if accidents happen make sure to clean up well and use products that mask the smell to avoid them trying to use the same spot. Also make sure to pay attention to the signs! If a puppy is sniffing the floor and pacing or sat by a door quickly get them outside. Providing puppy pads for indoor use is a good idea, this can be moved closer and closer to a door and eventually outside.
Once your puppy is settled in the home and had all of the necessary vaccinations you can begin socialising with others. The early months are the best time for new experiences as it will help to form a well-rounded animal. Meeting other well behaved animals will help boost their confidence and will provide them with invaluable experience. Even if they have not had all of their vaccinations, carry them around or sit on a bench and watch the world go by to get them used to loud noises and interesting smells.
Puppies often learn to control the force of their bite on their mum and littermates. They let each other know when it is too hard by letting out a yelp, known as ‘bite inhibition’. As a new puppy owner you need to teach them how to play and develop social skills by letting them know how hard is too hard. Don’t be afraid to correct them by moving away or use a short sharp noise. Again be patient, if it becomes an issue as they grow, further training may be required.
3-6 months old is when most dogs begin teething. This means they will chew on anything they can find to help relieve teething pain. Paired with boredom/curiosity you will be faced with a destructive chewer. This process is completely normal and should not be discouraged unless on something they shouldn’t be chewing– only replaced with appropriate objects such as puppy chews and toys. Freezing a flannel or carrot can be a soothing chew to alleviate their pain.
Jumping and Barking
Jumping up may not be that noticeable when they are little but when fully grown it can hurt or even knock someone over. Breaking a bad habit while they are young is best before they get used to it. Try turning away and ignore the behaviour, reward when they stop or sit to wait for your attention and provide further training if necessary.
Puppies love attention, as mentioned above – and will do anything to get it. They soon figure out that by making a noise such as barking they will get some sort of attention. A way to combat this is to praise when they are quiet to discourage attention seeking barking. Training a bark on command will also enforce that this behaviour is only acceptable when you allow it.
6 to 18 months is around the time puppies are blossoming into young adolescents. While mounting isn’t always sexual behaviour and can be a sign of dominance, because of this many dogs do not like it and it can cause scraps. Neutering can sometimes help reduce the likelihood of your dog mounting others, but otherwise training with a lead and a strict command can teach them not to do it.