How To… introduce a puppy to new things.

As you may or may not already know, we recently got a puppy. Well, by recently I mean two months ago. And those two months have been pretty awesome, but also a bit of a trial, as all puppies are. However, between our shared knowledge of dogs Jon and I managed to completely calm her about new things in a matter of weeks. So this is how we went about doing it.

1: Noises.

Dogs don’t like new or loud noises. Even grown dogs get stressed by things like fireworks. But when you live on a junction with fields everywhere, there are plenty of loud sounds. Clattering, banging, large engines, fast bikes, sheep being transported… She couldn’t really afford to be scared of all of them. But she was.

The way we diffused this was by making sure she didn’t have an excuse to panic when we were in the patio. We kept calm ourselves, after all, she won’t die of being a bit scared. If she was running and playing, we would encourage her to keep playing. If she ran inside we would call her out and pet her and comfort her. If she stayed out we would give her repeat praise until the noise had gone on its merry way. This way she slowly learned not to run from these sounds. They still startle her, but she no longer barks, urinates in fear or runs away.

2: Other dogs.

I find it very odd when a dog is not good with other dogs. It’s often because of poor socialization as a puppy. If you had a puppy that lunged at every person who walked in the house, would you hide it away and let it continue the aggression, or would you punish it for violence and slowly socialize it? Just as we make sure our pets are fine with other humans, we need to make sure they are fine with other dogs.

Lamu is encouraged to meet other dogs when the owner says they are friendly. For small dogs we let them communicate on the same level. For large dogs, we first hold her up as they sniff her, then place her on the ground if they don’t get too excited. She knows she can hide behind us, but gets plenty of gentle praise for positive interactions.

3: Other pets.

We also had Wallace the cat. Wallace is a very sociable cat and needs a lot of physical attention, fuss and love. Which meant he saw the new arrival as a challenge. On the cat front, we had to make sure his needs were met: food, shelter, attention, freedom. He became very outdoorsy and avoided the dog at first, but as he grew familiar he became comfortable with being in a room with her and eventually with sitting together on the sofa.

On the puppy front, she was obviously too boistrous for a cat. To balance this we introduced them both on the floor in an open area, holding her and letting him decide how close he wanted to get. After a few encounters she realized he didn’t like too much fuss and submitted to him, which is fine as they now don’t interfere with each other’s lives too much.

4: Hoovers and loud appliances.

Like loud noises outside the house, except these are inside. Within five minutes Lamu went from being nervous about the hoover to being fine with it.

Step one was introducing her to it, letting her sniff around it and inspect it.

Step two was moving the head of the hoover without putting it on.

Step three was putting it on with a warning (“go”) and then turning it off after a few seconds, repeating until she was used to it.

Step four was letting her get near when it was on.

Step five was combining movement and sound for short bursts of hoovering.

Step six was hoovering properly.

During the proper hoover session she urinated in panic, but quickly calmed down and watched it after that. She was given a treat for following as I hoovered and watching me put the hoover away.

This whole process may need to be repeated the first five times you hoover around your puppy.

5: Collars and leads.

Third attempt at collar training. Already comfortable in it.

Third attempt at collar training. Already comfortable in it.

I suggest starting with the collar first and introducing the lead properly later. Get your puppy still in the calmest way possible (I found that restraining was too upsetting, but lightly controlling her with my arms as I buckled the collar was easier for both of us) and slip the collar on and into the right position. Immediately feed her a treat and praise her. Leave it on and distract her from it by playing or cuddling for an hour or two. Then, remove it and give her another treat and praise.

The third attempt she stopped trying to remove it and just kept wearing it. It was a bit itchy, but other than that she didn’t mess with it. She even napped in it.

The one thing I would advise is not to leave puppies unattended in full collars as they aren’t collar-aware yet and may get it caught and hurt themselves.

For lead training, start with just passive lead use. Attach it to the collar when the puppy will be mostly carried or sitting down, like at the vet or in the car. Build walking by using treats and toys to tempt the puppy forwards whilst wearing the lead. Eventually it won’t bother them and the walking training can begin.

6: Enclosed spaces.

Pups may often need to be enclosed for car trips, visitors, vet trips or bedtime, to prevent mischief. But puppies also hate being left alone in enclosed spaces. We used crate training to keep her calm when it was bedtime, house-break her and make sure she was fine with a crate for when we need to contain her as an adult.

You need to start by introducing the puppy to the space. Let them walk around in it, in and out, sniff it and roll on the ground. This will make it more familiar when the time comes as well as get their scent on it. The bedding should be nylon so it can’t be damaged and can be wiped clean.

Encourage them in and out of it and to think of it as a nice space by putting treats in it and keeping the door open. Practice closing the door and then feeding treats through the bars for further reinforcement. Also plenty of praise for calm, quiet behaviour.

When the time comes, make sure the crate is pleasant. A dog-safe hot water bottle and an item of your clothing will ease the puppy’s nerves a little. Make sure they have made their ablutions (gone to the toilet) before putting them in. Encourage them in like it’s just training, close the door and feed a treat. Then cover the main entrance for nights and moving. Plenty of praise for good behaviour.

For night-times, after a certain time do not check on the puppy. The first few nights it may be distressed, but reacting to the noise will reward the puppy. Instead, make sure the puppy is well around 10-20 minutes in and then leave it. It should be calmer by the fourth or fifth night.

7: Get em early.

The crucial part to all of this is that it must happen when the puppy is young. The longer you wait or the more you drag out the training, the longer it will take to calm your puppy down. If you introduce new things within a week of getting the puppy then you will save yourself a lot of trouble.

And that’s how we got Lamu calmed down and settled into her new home. It helped that she was a very young (8 weeks), fairly confident puppy already, but this advice applies to most puppies in their new homes.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… prepare for a puppy.

We got a puppy just under a month ago. Her name is Lamu, after this girl. And she is adorable. But there are some things you need to do in preparation for having a puppy. Both Jon and myself have owned dogs in the past and had some idea what she would need, but for a first time dog owner, here are some preparations you will have to make.

How to prepare for a puppy.

1: Secure everything.

Puppies are like toddlers. They will knock things down, get onto furniture you didn’t think was accessible, chew and break things and dunk things in their food and water. Make sure everything valuable is well out of reach and dangerous places and breakables are secured.

2: Breed specifics.

Many people know to learn about their breed’s common ailments, but all breeds have specific behaviours too. Learn about the things your dog was bred to do, its temperament and its needs. For example, boxers are sociable, high-energy dogs that grumble and “talk” a lot. They will be boistrous and it is not necessarily out of defiance all the time.

3: Crates and beds.

For the purposes of house breaking and obedience training, it is worthwhile to raise your puppy in a nursing crate or dog cage for the first few months, until it knows not to soil the house or break into rooms where it hasn’t been invited.

4: Shopping.

Sometimes the person you are buying or adopting the dog from will give you some toys, blankets and food for them. But you will still want to buy a dry puppy food mix well in advance, as well as a couple of durable toys. Please bear in mind that whilst adult dogs can eat a wholefoods diet including raw meats, due to breeding methods and domestication puppies’ immune systems aren’t always quite as strong, so you will want to transition them from puppy food onto cooked foods and then onto raw foods if you wish to feed them that way.

5: Pee Pads.

These are a lifesaver. They smell of a dog toilet, which will encourage your pup to urinate on them. Keep them near the door so that the pup begins to associate walks with urination.

6: The house.

Depending on your dog’s temperament it will either own the place or be very shy and nervous. To keep it calm, introduce it to the house one room at a time, starting with the room where it will live. For the first few days, keep the puppy mainly to that room and only let it through occasionally. This way it will adjust better.

7: Other pets.

Introduce other pets very early and when the other pet is at their most confident and comfortable. You don’t want the puppy to think your other pets are inferior pack members or it may get snappy with them.

8: Walks and meal times.

Decide on a walk time and meal times long before you get the puppy. You want a time you can commit to, when you won’t be bothered about being woken up with barks (dogs don’t understand weekends) and when you won’t be rushing or trying to fit in other arrangements. Immediately before and after work can work very well for a walk followed by a meal.

And that is how we prepared for our new puppy.

How about you? How did you prepare for your new puppy? Feel free to offer anecdotes and advice in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!