I regularly receive emails from readers with new puppies asking for advice on everything from food to training to exercising to gear and more. Since I’m such a dog person and I share so much about our dogs with you, I thought that I’d sprinkle a few pet posts in here and there.
I’m going to start general today with some of my top 10 tips for raising a puppy. While they are so cute and fluffy, they are a ton of work!
Be prepared for what you’re getting into.
Nothing makes my blood boil more than those stories about families who adopt puppies only to drop them at the humane society a week later because, “They peed all over the house and were too much work. It just didn’t work with our lifestyle.” Remember, when you bring a 7-week old puppy home you are basically welcoming a baby into your house. Do you expect children to be potty-trained and well-behaved straight out of the womb? Of course not. It takes time…and training. So before you even make the choice to bring a puppy home, ask if you can handle it at this point in life. Are you prepared for the work it takes to raise a puppy? Will you freak out if the puppy has accidents inside? Has your family had a real discussion on the responsibilities for caring for the puppy? If you can’t handle a puppy, consider adopting an older and calmer dog. There are so many in need of homes.
I remember thinking on quite a few occasions with Zoey, “Oh my god…what have I done? I totally forgot that it was this hard. Can I do this? Will I ever love her as much as Sullie?” These are normal thoughts. Stay the course. You can do this and it’s worth it.
Embrace the crate.
I cannot sing the praises of crate training enough. First, it’s important to adopt the mindset that crate training is not mean. It’s actually a wonderful way to create a safe place for the pup and it facilitates good potty, eating and sleeping habits in addition to giving you peace of mind that the puppy isn’t going to destroy your house while you’re away. I’ll write a separate post on the ins and outs of crate training soon.
Start training early. And hire a professional.
Sullie was my first pup 10 years ago and while we did an okay job training her, we definitely could have done better. While she is overall the sweetest and most well-behaved pup ever, she is still no fun to walk on a leash. I did the Petsmart Puppy Kindergarten with Sullie and while it was “okay,” I knew I didn’t want to go that route with Zoey. I don’t agree with some of their training techniques (personal preference) and I wanted a deeper dive into training.
We made the investment to hire UberDog here in Charlotte to help us with training Zoey. They did several in-home session and we have lifetime group classes (that we need to take advantage of). It was totally worth the investment for us. Before choosing a trainer or training program, make sure that you agree with their training method and beliefs. I’m in the “positive as possible” camp when it comes to training so UberDog was a great fit for us.
Make sure you’re committed to doing the work you need to do for training your dog. They’re not going to learn everything they need to know through one training session with a trainer or a class every week. It’s day in and day out work at home. Also, take responsibility for some of your dogs bad habits. Case in point, Zoey still jumps up on the counter and eats things. While I get mad at her, it’s mostly our fault for failing to do the proper training to stop the habit.
Dogs are so smart and they want to make you happy. You just have to train them!
Be patient with potty training.
I had this dream that Zoey would just be potty trained within a week of coming home. WRONG. We had so.many.accidents no matter how diligent I was about crating, looking for signs she needed to go, how many trips we took outside, etc. It seemed like she could just squat and pee in an instant. While there are definite dos and don’ts of potty training, you just have to give them time. A puppy’s bladder is not matured enough to hold it for any length of time until about 4 months old. Before this they literally have to go when they have to go.
Hitting that 4 month mark was magical and we had very few accidents after because we’d done all the work on good potty habits before. Another friend of mine recently brought home the cutest lab puppy but she was so upset because he was having accidents everywhere…including in his crate. I encouraged her to be patient and he did eventually mature out of it.
Just a note: I am not a fan of using puppy pads in the house. I personally don’t ever want to train my dogs that it’s okay to go inside. But that’s just my opinion, I know for some city dwellers or those with small dogs it can work well.
Love on your puppy from day one if you want a dog that likes to cuddle.
As you all know, I love to cuddle with my girls. When Sullie was a puppy I received advice (I can’t even remember where from) to hold her belly up to teach her a) that I was the alpha/one in charge and b) to trust me and relax and it worked so well. To this day she loves to be held belly up and she’s also an excellent spooner. I did this with Zoey as well and although she’s an independent wild child (so much more so than her sister), she loves quiet cuddles. We have family cuddle parties every morning and at night before bed. 🙂
Keep your puppy close.
You have to watch puppies like a hawk. Turn your back on them for a second or let them wander into another room and you’re looking at a potty accident or them getting into something. With Sullie, I shut her in whatever room I was in at the time and with Zoey, her trainers encouraged us to leash her to us no matter where we were in the house so that she was never more than 4 feet away when behavior needed to be corrected. We hooked her to chairs, coffee tables, cabinets, etc. What I’m trying to say is…we spent a lot of time together and she was never unsupervised.
A tired puppy is a good puppy.
Regular play sessions and walks are great for wearing puppies out but you also want to mentally stimulate them as well. Zoey would sleep for 3 hours after a 30 minute session with her trainer. It wiped her out! So remember, physical AND mental stimulation. In addition to training activities, there are all sorts of toys that you can purchase that mentally stimulate them too.
Offer a variety of appropriate things for your puppy to chew.
Puppies are going to chew, period and the end. It’s important to give them lots of options for appropriate things to chew so that they’re not chewing your furniture. Every dog is different so offer different textures, shapes and sizes and be sure to follow the age guidelines listed by the manufacturer. Related to the idea of loving them from day one if you want a cuddler, if you want a dog that loves to play with toys and balls, offer them early so they get in the habit.
I’ll do another post about our favorite toys, bones, accessories, etc.
Mess with your puppy.
When Sullie was a puppy we messed with her all the time (bows in hair, case in point…ha!). We pulled on her ears and her tail (gently), put our hands in her bowl while she was eating, rough played with her and my ex even shot a cap gun while she was eating to get her used to loud noises (not my idea but…it worked). I did this (minus the cap gun) with Zoey too and it really helps to develop a dog with a good temperament. I wanted dogs that weren’t sensitive to having their ears or paws touched or groomed, were cool with kids messing with them and that didn’t have food issues. The food training was especially important to me because I didn’t want to deal with any food guarding or aggression issues. I’ve trained both of my girls to eat on command and they could care less if I came in and took the food away or touched them while eating.
Socialize your puppy.
Get your puppy out of the house! We took Sullie everywhere with us…on adventures around town and on road trips. As soon as she had the appropriate shots to play with other dogs, we scheduled play dates. Same with Zoey, I was taking her to the gym with me daily from the first day I brought her home. You want to get your puppy used to the world outside of your house so that they are relaxed and not anxious when you take them out in public. The play dates are great for helping them learn to socialize with other pups and for wearing them out.
Bonus: have fun!
The puppy phase will be over before you know it so soak up that puppy breath, puppy belly and puppy fluff. You’ll have a rambunctious teen on your hands soon enough!
I’d love to hear your puppy advice! Share your best advice and stories in the comments below.