Tips for new puppy caregivers
Have a new puppy and don't know where to begin?
See below for a brief list of things that should be considered that when taking care of a puppy.
*Please note that these are not categorized in order importance.
A young puppy does not have bladder control, and will need to go the bathroom after eating, drinking, sleeping, or even playing. At night, a puppy will especially need to relieve themself every few hours.
Be aware of signs that they have to go to the bathroom (sniffing and circling), and if these are noticed then take him outside.
Accidents will happen, and it is important to remember that no accident should be punished. This means do not point at the accident and scold them (i.e., speaking in a stern or loud voice), do not rub their nose in it, etc. Your puppy will not understand why they are in trouble, and in response to being punished they may learn to go to the bathroom in places where you cannot see it or when you're out of sight. Essentially, scolding doesn’t solve the problem, it just causes fear.
Instead, when an accident happens, simply bring them outside to see if they have to go still, and clean it up.
When they do go to the bathroom outdoors, provide lots and lots of praise. Both verbal and physical; so, pet them, talk to them, and give them a tasty treat.
Bringing them out to pee frequently will prevent a lot of accidents. It will also allow for a quick association to be made that the outdoors is the only where they go to the bathroom.
Just remember, that this process can take some time, and expect that accidents will happen.
DO: Praise when they go to the bathroom outside
DO NOT: Punish when they go to the bathroom inside.
The goal of leashing training is to have your dog walking nicely by your side and the leash is loose.
You want to reinforce their presence by your side using treats. You can keep treats in your pocket or a treat pouch when taking them for a walk.
To do this you want to be feeding them at your hip. You want to feed treats using the hand they are closest to, so if they are on your left you use your left hand. If you feed him using your other hand, so if you use your right hand when they are on your left side, you will be crossing over the front of your body and can accidentally be training them to start walking in front of you.
Begin by walking in circles in a less distracting setting (e.g., backyard). When you are walking with them, the only reason the leash should be tight is if your dog is pulling, not because you are pulling back, so you want to keep your arm still as much as possible.
If they start to pull you in one direction stop walking and/or change directions to teach them to follow you. Do not tug the leash, this can cause unnecessary strain on their neck.
It’s also a good habit to get them to sit before crossing a street. Eventually if this is routinely done and they are rewarded when they sit, they will learn to do this naturally during the walk.
DO: Encourage them to be by your side using positive reinforcement.
DO NOT: Tug on the leash if they begin to pull.
Puppies go through a teething process and an exploratory phase, during this time they will be very mouthy – that is, they will want to put just about everything in their mouths.
During play, only toys should be used. If hands are used to play with your puppy they will learn that hands are a toy that is safe to play with. As they get older, it will be more challenging to stop them from mouthing/nipping at hands when they get excited, and this can be problematic when children get involved.
If they begin to mouth your hand or something else they shouldn’t be, remove your hand calmly and replace your hand with an appropriate play item. By doing this you are showing them what you should be playing with. You are re-directing them to the right choice.
DO: Play with variety of toys.
DO NOT: Play with your hands.
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT TRAINING
PREVENTING RESOURCE GUARDING
Resource guarding is when a dog becomes possessive of items (food, toys, etc.) and display aggressive behaviours when someone attempts to take the item(s) away.
To prevent resource guarding:
- whenever they give something to you or you take something from them, reward with a treat
- teaching the cue “drop it” is also very beneficial
The cue “drop it” allows for them to give up whatever they have in their mouth and give it to you, so this will also come in handy if they have anything dangerous in their mouth.
PREVENTING SEPARATION ANXIETY
DO: Reward when they are quiet and confident. Practice short trips away.
DO NOT: Make your entrances and exits a big deal. Give them attention when they call for your attention.
Puppy proofing the environment is needed to ensure that nothing dangerous gets chewed on or nothing gets destroyed.
Things to be mindful of are (this list is not exhaustive):
- securing trashcans
- keeping all sharp objects away and out of their reach
- small items (rubber bands, jewelry, paper clips, etc.) can be a choking hazard
- put all medications away
- keep cleaning supplies away and out of their reach
- keep electric cords out of reach or concealed as they are chewing hazards
- supervising them in any open space (if backyard is not fenced)
Your puppy should be exposed to pleasant experiences with unknown dogs/cats, surfaces, places, strangers, and essentially anything that the young animal might come across as an adult, e.g., vacuums, veterinary clinic, children, etc. Going overboard on socializing your animal is never a bad idea, so long as it occurs within a controlled environment that produces a happy experience for your pet. The main objective of socialization is to get them used to the world in a positive manner, so that they become well-rounded adult dogs.
Avoid potentially stressful situations
Every experience they have should be as positive as possible. This can be done by either providing treats, verbal encouragement, or petting your pup to maintain their positive, happy-go-lucky temperament. It is best to avoid dog parks, especially as a means to socialize them, until they are well-socialized adults. This is because dog parks are uncontrollable, and thus the interactions they have with other dogs and other humans are less likely to be positive or stress-free.
Appropriately introduce them to a variety of people, animals
Safely introducing your puppy to other animals and different humans, will teach them how to properly interact with them. It is therefore ideal to introduce them to humans of different sexes, heights, appearances, ages, as well as dogs and cats of various breeds. Signing your puppy up for puppy classes or having safe and controlled puppy play dates with friends and relatives’ pets are great methods to help achieve this step!
Introduce them to a variety of objects and environments
When exposing your dog to new objects and environments, it is important to consider different sounds and smells that may or may not be commonly encountered in the household. Examples of objects and environments to expose your puppy to are: vacuums, veterinary clinic, the car, stairs, elevator, etc. The key is not to over stimulate your dog! It is best to introduce one new object or one new environment at a time, and provide treats, verbal encouragement, and pets when they are interacting with the object/in the environment in order to build a positive association for your pup. As a result, your dog will less likely be afraid of these items/environments as an adult.
Get them used to being handled
Many dogs over time become uncomfortable when handled in certain areas of their body – e.g., paws, mouth, ears, etc. – and worst case some dogs can display aggression when a certain body part is handled. By handling these body parts regularly enables them to become comfortable with handling, increasing the likelihood that they will not become fearful or aggressive when handled by you, a stranger, or even a veterinarian.
Keep it up!
Even though the most important time to socialize your dog is during puppyhood, it is important to keep up the socialization process throughout your dog’s life. Socializing should not stop once puppyhood is over, but should be maintained and continued as new things, people, and environments arise in their life and are encountered by your dog. For instance, properly introducing your dog to an elevator at 3 years old because you moved to an apartment building is still something that should be done.
Please consult an appropriate professional if you are in need of assistance with any of the above categories listed.