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Your New Puppy!

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

How exciting! You have a new puppy to welcome into your home.

Read on to find out how to make this experience as stress free as possible for everyone concerned.

It’s important to prepare and plan for your new arrival. We all know the saying ‘fail to prepare – prepare to fail’ and we want to succeed in the life that we have with our new pup.

So, make sure that your home and garden are safe and secure. Think about what areas you are going to allow your pup to have access to in the house and any potential dangers that might be attractive for a small inquisitive pup – houseplants that may be poisonous, electrical cables that could cause an electric shock if bitten through, small objects on coffee tables that could be swallowed, for example.

At ‘The Really Useful Dog Training School’ we believe that providing a solid foundation of training for your pup is the way to go. Start as you mean to continue by playing the games from day one so that they become part of your way of life with your pup and they become integrated into your day-to-day routine.

This is the time in your pup’s life when they are developing and changing hugely – their brain and body are growing at an incredibly fast rate. This means that your pup not only needs play and stimulation to facilitate this development, but also adequate rest. This is often an overlooked aspect of your pup’s development. Puppies need to sleep a lot, but they also need to spend a lot of their waking time learning to be calm and settled. Spending time on this aspect will reap rewards as they get older and then are able to be calm and settled wherever you take them. They, of course, also need to learn how to interact with their surroundings and we achieve this through playing different games which means that they are developing their relationship with you as well. Training in this way is fun and rewarding for your pup (and you!).

Puppies (and adult dogs) are learning from every interaction that they have. We want the pup’s learning to be as positive as possible and for us to have as much influence on what they learn as possible. A lot of undesirable behaviours or ‘bad habits’ that dogs learn are often things that they’ve learned ‘by themselves’ and which are very rewarding for them. For example, you let them out into the garden for the first time and there’s a squirrel on the grass (or a bird, or the neighbour’s cat, or some leaves blowing). The squirrel runs and the pup chases it and ‘Hey Presto’ your pup has had his first lesson in squirrel chasing. It’s been an immensely enjoyable, and therefore rewarding experience, and it’s likely to be repeated. As the behaviour becomes more established it’s likely to become ‘generalised’ to other things that move – a cat, a cyclist, a jogger, cars – and before you know it you have a problem in that every time your dog sees something moving he chases it. This means that you then have a dog that you can’t let off lead outside. This behaviour has been learned without any input or training from you! Think about how many other behaviours your dog has the potential to learn in this way without any input from you – barking at the postman as letters fall through the letterbox, counter-surfing for that tasty bit of food, raiding the bin, chewing on your favourite shoe, pulling on the lead to get to the park These behaviours are ‘self-rewarding’ for the dog, they don’t need any input from you to learn them.

So, what do we do? We want our interactions with our pup to be positive and rewarding. We don’t want to have to punish or reprimand our dog as this is detrimental to the relationship that develops between you and will produce either pain or fear in the pup.

The easiest way to do this initially is to reduce the opportunities that the pup has to learn things that we don’t want him to learn. If a dog doesn’t get to do the behaviour he won’t ‘learn it’, and conversely, the more opportunities the dog gets to perform the behaviour the better he gets at it – practice makes perfect! (this also applies to older dogs that may have learned undesirable behaviours, or you may have a new adult rescue dog). How do we do this? We can manage the environment/surroundings that the dog is in. Don’t let him have unlimited and unsupervised access to the house! Make use of crates, pens, baby gates to contain him to an area. As you work with your dog on the games which are teaching him concepts like self-control, calmness, flexibility, optimism/confidence for example, you can gradually increase the access that he has to other areas. Crates and pens allow a safe and contained place for your dog to begin learning how to be calm and settled. You can place him in his crate with a stuffed Kong, a Licki mat, or a long-lasting chew to let him settle. This produces a calm emotional state in the dog which is rewarding and the more opportunities the pup has to practice this calm behaviour the more solid the learning will be. When the pup is contained in within an area in this way (it might be the kitchen with a baby gate at the door, or a puppy pen for example) it’s also much easier to notice when he’s doing behaviours that you want – maybe lying quietly and calmly – and you can use this opportunity to reward it by calmly giving a treat every now and then to reinforce the behaviour. This is an easy way to begin ‘boundary training’ which are some of the games that we teach in our training programmes.

Using crates, pens and gates in this way provides safety and containment for your pup. After all, you wouldn’t just leave a toddler to have unsupervised access to everywhere in the house, why would you do it with your pup? Remember he’s just a baby with a lot to learn about the world and you can be the guide to what that learning will be.

With just a little thought and some small changes you can make life for you and your pup much easier and less stressful and a positive experience for both of you.

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