Adding a new member to the family is no easy task. Especially when that family member enjoys unusual pastimes, like chewing on hardwood floors and eating their own faecal matter.

A puppy is like a cute little hurricane; they bring so much joy and laughter into our lives. But they are also little forces to be reckoned with. They have so much to learn when they come home with you that first day, and no matter how many books you read, tutorial videos you watch or people you talk to, nothing can quite prepare you for the love and the madness that will come with those first few weeks of puppy-hood. 

We’re going to spend a brief moment breaking down the essentials with you. What are the most common questions I get asked by new owners, and what are a few things that you can do that will make both of your lives easier, strengthening your bond, and giving you a few less grey hairs? 

What can you do to make that first week easier, before you’ve even bought your puppy home? 

Set your boundaries early

What is a complete no-no for you, when it comes to dog ownership? Do you mind having your dog on the sofa, or sleeping in your bedroom? Is it important for them to be able to walk beside you, off lead? Are they going to be spending the majority of their time with you, at work, or will they be left on their own for many hours of their day? Do you want to be able to greet them without them jumping up at you?

Teaching your puppy good habits from the very beginning, with clear cues of what you want from them, will make your life much easier in the long run. You don’t want to be unteaching them the habits you consider bad, that you were responsible for implementing in the first place. 

Puppy-proof the house and garden  

Prevention is better than a cure. Scout your home in the weeks before you pick up your puppy. Anything that is below the height of your legs is a dopamine-fuelled discovery for that curious puppy of yours.

Try and view your house from their eyes and think what would catch your attention; shoes in the hall, pot plants in the corner (look them up and check that they aren’t toxic!), cables, wires, curtains, rugs, toilet rolls; anything that can be picked up and tugged and chewed.

Dogs use their mouth to explore their world, and this new and exciting home for them is full of adventure just waiting to be had. If you don’t want your puppy’s nose to venture into your sneakers, then don’t make them available to the puppy in the first place. 

Ensure you have the appropriate information from the breeder or rescue centre

When sourcing a puppy, it is important to ask the right questions. Who are the dam and sire? Have they had relevant health checks specific to their breed? Have the puppies been vet checked and microchipped? What have they been wormed with? Have they had any vaccinations? What food have they been weaned onto? Reputable and honest breeders will offer this information to you without having to enquire, and will often provide their buyers with information packs, but arm yourself with these questions before you go to pick up your pup. 

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Pre-book a veterinary health check

It is always a good idea to touch base with your veterinary clinic (and finding a good one if you don’t already have one!) and organise a new puppy health check within the first week of having your puppy home. That way you can chat about their parasite prevention, vaccinations, have your puppy weighed and checked over, whilst getting them used to a new environment that they will be frequenting (hopefully not too regularly!). They will have a positive experience at their first visit with lots of treats and cuddles from the staff, and their health plan can be implemented immediately, giving you one less thing to think about. 

Once your puppy is home

Feeding: keep them on the same diet they were weaned onto whilst they are settling in and feed 3-4 small meals a day 

Have a bag of the same food that was given to them by the breeder ready for when you get home. Undoubtedly your puppy is going to be quite stressed on that first day, and with that huge change in their environment, it isn’t uncommon for them to have an upset stomach.

We want to make the transition as easy for them as possible, and a double whammy of changing them to a completely different food can cause many restless nights and accidents that could have been avoided. If you want to change their diet, it is best to do it after they have settled in, and to transition them to their new food gradually over a period of at least a few days. 

Provide them with a safe, quiet space: crate training 

It is paramount that you create a quiet space for your puppy to retreat to when they are tired, or want their down-time. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a crate, which you can make as comfortable and cosy as you like.

Some people create a den under the stairs or simply have a puppy pen that houses their bed and bowls. This is the place where they get introduced to their toys, their treats, their food. You want to make it the greatest place in the world for them – have crate parties!

With a little bit of training and persistence, your puppy will soon seek out the crate of their own accord. Not only is it for their benefit, you have the additional relief of knowing that when that door to the crate is closed. You can shower, cook your dinner, leave the house, pour that glass of wine and know that they are not plunging their mouths into the foam of your sofa cushions.

Ensure they are getting an adequate amount of sleep and down-time 

Puppies need up to 18-20 hours of sleep per day. With sleep finally a trendy entity in our human world, research supporting our fundamental requirement for a good night’s rest for our health and wellbeing, we also need to make sure that our quickly growing canine friends are getting the sleep they need to make all of those mental and physical developments to the best of their capacity. Develop a good routine; sleep, toilet, eat, toilet, play, toilet, sleep, and that over-tired biting and hyperactivity may settle down completely.  

Start basic training early 

They are information sponges in the first four months of their life. Teaching them their basic commands straight away can make important strides in your human-canine relationship. Choose the commands that are most important to you, get started on their recall early, and you will find that the puppy laps it up. Treat their training time as play and reward their good behaviour. 

Toilet training can require a little bit more persistence, and many clients put a lot of pressure on themselves to have it sorted within the first week they are home. But remember, a puppy does not have control of their bladder and will require frequent trips into the garden on an almost-hourly basis. The added benefit of creating a routine for your puppy that involves their crate, is that toilet training becomes easier. 

Enrichment toys 

Allowing your puppy to engage in their natural behaviours (sniffing, licking, playing, scavenging) will only increase your puppy’s satisfaction and strengthen your bond in the long-run. Snuffle mats, lickimats, stuffed kongs, puzzle feeders, playing hide and seek, throwing dry food out into the garden and getting them to hunt for it. There are many ways to keep your puppy’s brain and instincts active, and you can get creative with this!

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Get them used to being examined 

Open their mouths, check their ears, play with their paws, cut their nails, check their bellies, siphon through their fur. It will allow you to continue checking them thoroughly in the future, and make their future veterinary visits stress-free.  

Socialisation 

The first 12-16 weeks of their lives are critical for socialisation. Once they’ve had their first vaccination, call around and see if there are some puppy socialisation classes. Take them to the veterinary clinic and plop them on the weighing scales. Start introducing them gradually to different stimuli, so that by the time they are fully vaccinated, they are ready to be plonked down onto the floor without their legs shooting up as though the floor is lava. 

Vaccinations and worming

Puppies will require two or three booster vaccinations from approximately eight weeks of age. It is important that in this time that you follow the directions from your veterinarian and exercise caution with walks and outings before they are completely covered. 

Ordinarily, puppies require worming at three, five and seven weeks old, and from there will go on a regime suitable to the environment and your needs. There are a variety of different products. Ranging from your simple gastrointestinal worming products, to all-in-one medications that cover against fleas and ticks, and also include heartworm and lungworm cover.

At your puppy’s first health check, discuss which parasites you should be protecting them against. 

But most important of all…

Enjoy the chaos! They will grow up before you in an instant. 

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