Updated: Mar 6, 2019
Bringing a new puppy into the house is an exciting time. The joy that comes with the addition of a new family member is only second to the incredibly cute puppy antics we all know and love. However, this is also a time that requires intentional preparation if you want to maximize your chances of having a well adjusted pet. If you have decided to bring a young dog into your home, you should have a strong understanding of the weight that this responsibility brings. Making the puppy’s transition swift, comfortable, and optimal for training will set the stage and make the bigger challenges more manageable. Neglect these pre-requisite preparations and you are likely to pay a steep price. The same behaviors that were once reminders of all that is right in the world can evolve into a nightmare of behavioral problems and unnecessary grief. Let’s review some essentials that will set you on course towards realizing that dream of having the perfect puppy partner.
While there is no substitute for how we interact with dogs when it comes to training, we can make the process more efficient by accepting some realities. The first of this is that puppies have needs. They need appropriate exercise, mental stimulation, adequate inclusion into the family system, and to be taught the right outlets for their normal puppy urges.
Gather the “must-have” equipment
One important areas that’s often overlooked is building a puppy-friendly toolkit. Having collected the appropriate equipment such as training toys, crates, and barriers – you can focus on creating successful outcomes during the course of puppy’s first few days. In addition to their health needs such as exercise, mental stimulation, and a strong emotional bond, puppies also require proactive efforts to channel their normal impulses into human-appropriate outlets. I have found that having some important items on hand before the puppy comes will make it significantly easier.
Here is a short list of some items that I strongly recommend:
Crate or kennel of the right size
Flat collar & 6 foot leash
A number of puppy-appropriate hard chew toys (e.g. nylabones, sterilized organic bones)
Toys that can be stuffed with food-based reinforcers (Kongs and other similar treat-dispensing toys)
Bowl for water
A soft toy that can be used for “tug” (either rope or rubber will do)
Tennis or rubber balls for fetch
Stain and odor pet cleaning product
Training pouch for carrying treats
Select a suitable confinement area
In the early stages of house-training, the environment your puppy is in will need to be managed constantly. When they are not under constant supervision, they will be confined to either their crate (short term) or to their long-term confinement area – within the puppy-proofed bounds of the playpen. Choose a quiet space in the home away from heavy traffic where you can set up the puppy’s quarters. It is important to ensure that the floor is non-porous to discourage the dog from using it to relieve themselves. Although not all dogs will be deterred by a hard surface, it makes for easier clean up in case of accidents. Instilling the idea that ‘separation is normal’ can be reinforced by teaching your dog to self-soothe and become independent. Giving them a quiet space and teaching them acceptable “hobbies” will be an important part of a bigger regimen that prevents future separation anxiety.
Develop a plan and identify potential problems
Training a puppy comes down to teaching desirable behaviors and preventing undesirable behaviors from occurring in the first place. This is best achieved by taking some time to think through the particulars of your situation. If there are other pets in the house, you should consider how you plan on limiting their contact in case you encounter problems. If you will not be around for hours during the day, consider who can take the puppy out during those periods of time. Spending some time anticipating issues beforehand will allow you to be better prepared to handle the problems you did not anticipate later. Being thoughtful and evaluating your situation must be included in your decision-making about whether or not you should get a puppy.
Raising a dog is one of the most rewarding experiences. The amount of work, effort, patience, and time that it takes are easily worth the lifelong companionship. However, it is important to always think from the dog’s perspective and realize that every behavior that a dog offers is perfectly in line with the learning history they have developed thus far. It is never too late to correct and remedy problem behaviors, but it’s far more preferable to not put yourself in that position in the first place.
For more information on how to train your dog and what to do once he or she finally arrives, be sure to subscribe to the email list and my YouTube channel for upcoming video tutorials.