Written by Kailly Muthard, CPDT-KA of Educanine Training Services
So, you’re having a puppy! It is an exciting time. But there is a lot to know to make sure you and your new puppy are successful. Here are some tips and things you need to know to start off on the right foot!
Acclimating to Their New Home:
Get ready for some sleepless nights. While puppies can often be flexible and adaptable, a lot of them need time to adjust to their new homes. Life is very different away from mom and their siblings! It can also be very lonely, since us humans don’t speak their language. It is good to be comforting and supportive of your puppy during this time. Usually, they settle in within a couple of days. You can help them get comfortable by providing a secluded crate for rest and sleeping with a bed or blanket, cover overtop and a stuffed toy like a Snuggle Puppy.
The first thing you’ll want to get started on is house training. Puppies can hold their bladders one hour per month of life when they are awake. If you are lucky, they will hold it much longer when they are sleeping. To help them understand where to go, make sure they don’t have too much space in the house to roam. Keep them secluded to one or two rooms. Take them out to potty once every hour and/or after certain events like waking up from sleep, after meals, after large drinks of water and after vigorous play. It can help if you also keep a log of when they are going potty, whether it’s in the house or outside, so that you can start to understand their schedule. Remember, accidents are normal!
Puppies bite! Sometimes a lot! For the most part, this biting is normal and should subside over time, with the right interventions. If you feel your puppy’s biting is concerning, contact a certified dog trainer for an assessment.
Puppies explore the world with their mouths. They also have sharp teeth to help them fend off any would-be predators. Put these two things together and we humans will be suffering from some scratches over a few months. But puppies need to bite us to help them learn bite inhibition. This means learning how to adjust their bite pressure so that they do not cause an unintended injury when they are older, and their jaws are stronger. Bite inhibition cannot be taught to adult dogs, which makes learning early even more important!
One tip to help you get through the puppy biting stage is by first understanding why your puppy might be biting. Are they hungry, thirsty, tired, or needing to go potty? Are they uncomfortable with how you are handling them (picking up, grooming or vet care)? Or do they really want to play? Any of these answers are possible. Knowing which one can help you to reduce the biting sooner rather than later.
Start Training Now:
In addition to attending puppy class or hiring a private, in-home trainer, you can start reinforcing good behavior right away! One thing puppy parents, myself included, can forget is to be proactive rather than reactive. Often, we see our puppies relaxed in their beds, chewing on an appropriate toy, or sitting nicely for us. In those moments we think, “better not interact or he may get too excited.” But, if you only interact with your puppy when they do negative things to get your attention, they will keep doing those things because they know it will work! Make sure to pay attention to when they are doing things right and give them some form of reinforcement, like food, praise, toys, or play.
One way you can do this is by using the SMART x50 Method, created by trainer, Kathy Sdao. SMART is an acronym for See, Mark and Reward Training. When you see your dog doing something you like you can mark it by saying yes or good then giving a reward. The number 50 refers to 50 pieces of kibble from their daily meal allotment. You will set aside 50 pieces of food from their regular meals each day and use them to reward your dog for doing the right stuff throughout the day. If you don’t use them all by the end of the night, you can give them to supplement their feeding. This will help you go from frustrated and reactive to happy and proactive! Give it a try!
Hang in There!
Puppyhood is a fun and frustrating time. Use these tips and hire a positive reinforcement trainer to help your puppy develop into the best they can be!
Kailly Muthard, CPDT-KA
Educanine Training Services