Congratulations — you’re finally getting a dog! Not many things are cuter than a frisky, furry friend to cuddle and call your own. You’re definitely going to love your new buddy and all his cute antics. As he gets bigger, you’ll have a life-long pal to go on hikes, play Frisbee in the park, and sit on your lap while you watch TV.
But are you ready for the big day? Do you have what it takes to be a puppy parent? If you’ve never trained a puppy before, don’t worry. We’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about bringing home a new puppy, including what to expect in the beginning as far as behavior and training. From choosing the right food to tips for puppy-proofing your home, it’s all right here.
Choosing the Right Pup for You
If you haven’t already picked out your furry friend, you have some decisions to make. Consider the size of your space and your daily level of physical activity. If you’re a couch potato living in an apartment, it doesn’t make sense to bring home a working dog like a Border Collie. Love hiking and camping? A Chihuahua won’t be able to keep up. It also pays to research a breed’s personality and temperament: Are they good with kids? Great guard dogs? Be honest with yourself about your wants and needs.
We’d also be remiss not to mention that mixed breed dogs (mutts) also make great pets! These are the dogs you’re most likely to find available for adoption from a shelter, and they’re the ones in the most need of a loving home. Mixed breeds tend to have far fewer health problems than purebred pups, and a dog you rescue is sure to be a devoted companion. If price is an issue, adoption is far more affordable than buying from a breeder as well.
Puppy-Proofing Your Home
Before you bring home your new puppy, take the time to get your house in order. Puppies are curious, and they learn about the world with their mouths. Keep them – and your favorite stuff –safe by taking the following steps:
- Keep loose items off the floor. Shoes, potted plants, children’s toys — pack it all up and keep it out of reach so your pup doesn’t chew on everything you love. Be especially vigilant about small items, which can become a choking hazard.
- Clean off table tops and low shelves. Sit on the floor and have a look around to get a dog’s-eye view. If you have breakable items displayed at tail-height, move them to higher ground.
- Wrap furniture legs and electrical cords. Teething puppies are notorious for damaging chair and table legs. Wrap these temporarily with plastic sheeting to protect them. The same technique can be used for wires that trail along the floor to protect your pup from a shock.
- Add barriers indoors and out. If you can’t watch your puppy every moment, use baby gates to keep him corralled in a puppy-proof area. Outside, check your fencing for any loose bits or hollows through which your pup could escape. It’s also important to make sure pools are securely gated.
- Check for poisonous items. Finally, look over your home and yard for any poisonous plants, chemicals, or other items. Household cleaners, fertilizers, plants like foxglove or lily of the valley, medications, and even food like chocolate and coffee can all be extremely harmful to dogs. Keep these carefully stored or get rid of them entirely before you bring home your new puppy.
Supplies for Your Puppy
To be ready for the big day, you’ll also need to have several supplies on hand:
- Paper. You’ll need a lot for paper training as your puppy learns to wait until it’s time to walk for potty time.
- Food and water. You’ll need dishes for these, plus a mat to keep underneath to protect your floors. Water from the sink is fine; as for food, you’ll want to choose a formula specially designed for puppies, who need high-protein diets and lots of nutrients while they’re growing.
- Puppy treats. Use these as rewards during training. Specially formulated dog treats are healthier than table scraps.
- A crate and/or comfortable bedding. Your pup will need a place to sleep, so have a crate or special bed set up in a quiet corner right away.
- A collar and leash.These are crucial for getting your pup outside for potty training and walks.
- Chew toys. Be ready to teach your puppy to use a chew toy by having them handy. When your puppy starts chewing on inappropriate items, switch it out with a chew toy.
- Paper towels. Accidents happen, so be ready with ammonia-free cleaning supplies.
What to Expect During the First Few Weeks
First and foremost, expect to spend a lot of time interacting with your new pal — you won’t be able to help yourself! It’s a good idea to schedule a vacation day or two around your puppy’s arrival to get a jump on training — and to enjoy your new pet — if you can.
Your new puppy will be overwhelmed at first, as he’s in a new place with total strangers. Go slow, and teach your kids to be gentle. They should never try to snatch a toy from your puppy’s mouth or stare directly into his eyes (aggressive acts, in doggy terms). Young children should not be left alone with your new dog until everyone is better acquainted.
When you first get home, show your puppy where to urinate. When you go inside, give him a chance to explore, and be sure to show him the paper training area if you’re using one.
A few hours before bedtime, take away food and water and play with your puppy to tire him out. Right before bed, take him outside for one last bathroom break to decrease your chances of him having an accident overnight. Don’t be tempted to let your puppy sleep with you — it’s a hard habit to break!
Your puppy will make mistakes and have accidents for the first few weeks, and you’ll have to be diligent about training. It’s a good idea to sign up for dog training classes when your pup’s around two or three months old. Practice those skills on a daily basis! The younger you start, the easier it is for your dog to learn, and you’ll gain confidence working with your dog from the get-go.
It’s also a good idea to get your puppy to the vet for a checkup within the first few weeks. You can get great advice about food and training, and you’ll know that you’re off to a healthy start for a lifetime of fun with your new best friend.