If you are a soon-to-be puppy parent…congratulations! You must be so excited for your new arrival and this is the start of a pawsome chapter in your life.
As the saying goes however, 'fail to prepare and prepare to fail', which is so true when you are thinking about welcoming a new puppy into your family home. In this post I share lots of things you can do before you even get your puppy that will really help give them an amazing start and prevent many puppy problems developing.
Firstly, try and put yourself in your puppy's paws…it's going to be a really scary time for them. Everything they have felt safe and secure with has been left behind and they have arrived in a very alien world after a scary car journey. Your house is full of new (and therefore potentially worrying) smells, sights and sounds and they don't have their mother or littermates for support.
There's a big chance that they could be overwhelmed, and that's why as a 'Puppy Parent' it's up to you to help them make sense of their new home and build their trust.
When you pick your puppy up, it's important to focus on how pup feels rather than what they do…so your mission over the first few weeks is to create as many positive experiences for your pup as you can. This is your chance to help your puppy get used to the world around them, grow confidence and to help prevent fears or anxieties down the line.
You can set both you and your puppy up for success by taking the following steps.
1) Getting your home set-up for your new arrival
There are a few things that will really help you settle your pup in, so it's a great
excuse to get shopping well ahead of puppy coming home!
Things to buy include:
A comfort blanket - If possible take a cuddly blanket to the breeders a few weeks ahead of bringing your puppy home and ask the breeder to leave it in with puppy's mother and littermates so that it carries those scents from their old home environment into their new one.
A Den - this could be a crate or a pen (or even puppy proofed room)
This is possibly one of the most valuable tools you can have to help keep puppy safe and help them to settle. It's going to be their very own safe space which is going to pretty much be their luxury bedroom with a lovely bed, comfort blanket, safe chews, toys and water. The Den has an added bonus of being a really useful housetraining tool and also provides a safe place for puppy to be popped while they cannot be supervised. Helping pup love their Den is going to make your life so much easier!
We want puppy to love their Den so it's never going to be used as a time out or a place to put puppy if they've been "naughty". From day one, invest a lot of time in helping your puppy create hugely positive associations with their den so that it is a place that your puppy:
- Feels safe and secure
- Finds amazing things
- Can go several times a day to nap and chill out and build "alone time"
- Just absolutely loves
Other things to get before you bring pup home:
A comfy bed - food and water bowls - different kinds of toys from quality sources - a range of puppy friendly chews - a lightweight collar, lead and harness - 'treats' that are suitable for puppies - a dog ID tag - enzymatic cleaner - a suitable puppy food.
You could also get a safe hot water bottle or 'heart-beat' toy as a comforter, These can be helpful, because in most cases your puppy will have been curled up with mam and the rest of the litter for comfort and now they no longer have that option. A hot water bottle filled with warm water, not too hot, or toy will help recreate this feeling. You can wrap it in the scented comfort blanket and make it always available to puppy when they need it, especially at night or in the Den.
2) Decide on the sleeping arrangements
I keep my puppies are within touching distance during the night in the early days. It is important that you are are close to them if they need you and so you are there to settle them when they wake. This can be achieved by having the Den upstairs in the bedroom next to you or that you sleep near to pup's Den. This is not going to be your life forever just for the first few nights and then you can start to incrementally increase the distance as you move the Den towards where you want it to be.
3) Get the Den set-up ready for them coming home
Set up the Den in a position it where pup is not going to feel secluded so choose somewhere where the family hang out.
When puppy comes home you can help them build the love of the den right from the start by:
- having a lovely comfy bed and toys in there
- popping their comfort blanket in there too
- feeding pup in the den
- scattering yummy treats for pup to find
- giving passive calming activities to do such as lick mats and snuffle mats
- supervising them with appropriate chews
- having active rest periods when you can settle your pup with you close by
Spend a lot of time that first day getting them to love their Den and that's going to be the focal point of all things awesome happening. You are going to throw the kitchen sink at convincing pup that the Den is the cool place to be.
Allowing open access for your puppy to go into the den and explore and find amazing things (food) in there. This is because the food fairy (you) is going to visit the Den regularly and when puppy goes in there they are going to find the yummy stuff they left. As a result, pup will want to keep going in voluntarily to check it out for more good stuff! Encourage puppy to visit several times a day to see whether there is a tasty bit of food to find.
4) Puppy Proofing
Puppy proof everywhere, then puppy proof again! Make sure you puppy proof the house and make sure there are no "illegal" chew toys lying around…if you don't want puppy to get it, then pick it up and put it away.
If puppy chews something you've left lying around then we say it's your fault not
your pups and that anything left lying around is fair game. Constantly puppy
proofing will help keep your pup safe and prevent them getting access to
anything that may cause them harm.
Don't forget to puppy proof the garden too to make sure that you remove toxic plants and any other dangers. Restrict access to potential hazards if they can't be removed.
One of the best ways you can keep your pup safe, housetrain and prevent unwanted behaviours occurring is to manage your home environment. Restrict movement where you don't want puppy wandering off, use baby gates, close doors and pens to help you where appropriate. Try and always make sure that their is a designated 'puppy minder' and if you can't supervise them all of the time, then popping them in their Den will keep them safe.
Finally it's P Day...picking puppy up and coming home
Try and pick puppy up early morning from the breeder so that you have a full day for them to explore the home, meet the family and build up their "Den love"
before bedtime. Make sure you take the comfort blanket and a safe chew with you and that puppy is safely secured near you on the journey home. Have water available too. If you are travelling long distances then make sure you plan in how you are going to enable pup to go to the toilet during the journey.
I hope this information helps you get ready for your new puppy and sets you on a path to give them an amazing start.
If you want to find out more about how to settle your puppy in, housetraining, socialisation, puppy training and also get straightforward and practical guidance to help you through the first six months of puppyhood, my 'Raising a puppy made simple' guide is definitely for you. It is packed with information and advice to help you navigate this crucial time in your puppy's life and set them up for life. You can also find out where to get the suggested products mentioned.