A puppy moves in
It’s a dream come true for many people: having a puppy become a part of their life. Understandably, the excitement of welcoming a new family member often drowns out the reality of the work that lies ahead. All those good boys and girls don’t raise themselves, after all. But don’t get discouraged, enjoying your life with a well-adjusted, balanced, and happy dog at your side will be worth all the effort you put in.
Before move-in day
To avoid the added stress of realising that you’re missing some of the essentials, take the time before move-in day to make sure that you have everything ready for when your new puppy settles in. The less you need to run to the store for emergency purchases, the better.
Two bowls, one for water and one for food, heavy enough that your puppy can’t just flip them over in excitement, are basic necessities, along with a leash and collar. A comfortable dog bed, in combination with a dog crate, can be a very helpful tool in raising your puppy. It can be used to create a safe space for your dog, where he can rest or retreat to if he feels stressed or overwhelmed. It’s also a great asset in house-training your puppy, but more on that in a bit.
No matter what kind of diet you decide on later, having high quality puppy food at home is essential for your dog’s health. If you’re unsure what will best suit your puppy, ask your breeder or vet for advice. Speaking of the vet, it’ll take a lot of stress off of you if you look into veterinary clinics in your area ahead of time. Your puppy will need a health check, vaccinations, and get chipped - if not already done at the breeder. So take the time to find a vet you like and trust, or ask your friends, family or colleagues for recommendations. Additionally, knowing which clinics are open 24/7 in case of emergency, will help you save vital time if you ever need to act quickly.
Some things you can’t know before your puppy has been with you for a while. For example, what toys it prefers or which treats it likes best. Having a couple of different options available can be helpful for navigating the first few weeks, plus your puppy will be thrilled with the selection.
If a toddler has lived in your house before, the following should come easy to you: conducting a recon mission and checking for things that can be potentially dangerous for a curious resident. Nothing is safe from an energetic puppy, so wires, cords, cleaning supplies and the like should be kept out of reach or be made puppy proof.
Last on your task list is to find out about local policies and laws to make sure you know which steps need to be taken once your puppy has moved in. Knowing about your country’s requirements is part of being a responsible dog owner and will help to keep your dog and others safe.
Training your puppy
As with many things in life, being mentally prepared for a challenge that lies ahead can give you the confidence to navigate whatever is being thrown your way. Right from the start, be aware of the fact that the first two months with your puppy will be a very intense and challenging time.
It is advisable that during the first weeks together with the puppy, you take leave to have enough time for the puppy to settle in.
Getting used to each other, establishing a routine, training your dog and gaining his trust takes time and the most helpful trait you can employ is patience. Your efforts will pay off over time, so don’t get frustrated with yourself or your dog for not getting things right straight away.
Your new puppy has a lot to learn, and what better way to acquire new skills than with lots of positive reinforcements and treats? No matter what command you’re tackling at the time, rewarding your dog generously whenever he does something right will help you to keep his attention and to associate the commands with positive feedback. Basic commands, like ‘Sit’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Down’ are a great starting point to get used to the training and will help you to keep control of your dog when venturing into unfamiliar environments, that might be stressful for your dog.
To make your life and that of those around you a lot easier, teach your dog ‘manners’ and discourage unwanted behaviour early on. A puppy pulling on the leash or jumping up on people might be cute at first, but remember that most dogs grow both in size and weight and an adult Labrador Retriever pulling you towards every squirrel he sees will not be an enjoyable experience. While navigating a public space, remember that you share it with people you don’t know anything about, so don’t assume that they won’t mind a dog, no matter how cute, running up to them out of the blue.
To reduce the risk of walking through a puddle of pee in your socks, start the potty training as early as possible. A puppy will need to relieve itself every few hours, so take enough (short) walks during the day and reward it whenever it does its business outside. At night, the dog crate can be of great help, but take the time to make sure your puppy feels comfortable and relaxed in it. Let your puppy sleep in the closed crate next to your bed, so if it needs to pee it actively has to make itself heard in order to be taken outside. This requires consistency and endurance on your part (especially in the early morning hours) but it will get your puppy house-trained in no time.
While all of this might sound like a lot of work at first, remember that it is time you are investing to help strengthen your bond. Knowing that you can trust your dog to listen to you creates a sense of security on both sides and will make everyday life and your time together much more enjoyable.
Of course it is also very important to meet your puppy's need to play and have fun with you but especially with other puppies - preferably in a fenced area with well-socialised adult dogs and other puppies - so wonderful new friendships will soon develop for dog and master.
Time to let your anticipation off the leash
Now that you’ve done the work of preparing yourself and your home for when your puppy moves in, it’s finally time to get excited and giddy about the new adventure that lies ahead. Life with a dog is an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding experience that will make you laugh, tug at your heartstrings, and make you see things from an altogether new perspective. By investing enough time and patience at the beginning of your journey, you’ll be rewarded with a loyal companion for many years to come.