Your puppy’s first week at home is crucial.
Most people spend it feeling exhausted and worrying about housetraining (which is difficult, time-consuming and important. More on that another time).
The thing is, you won’t get to ‘housetrained’ in a week and, in fact, you can train your puppy where to pee at any time. But there are other things that need doing RIGHT NOW.
From a developmental perspective, your pup is going through a phase of rapid brain change and it is now, NOW, that you can build resilience into your young dog. Resilience that will last you well throughout the next 15 years. It’s kind of important.
Disease is against you. Your vet, quite rightly, will have advised you that your puppy “can’t go out” until after the second vaccination (usually around 10-11 weeks, depending on when you start). What they actually mean is that your puppy can’t be in contact with the ground where unvaccinated dogs (who can carry disease) have walked, peed and pooped.
But your pup still needs to see the world. Or at least, your version of it.
So get a bag, a buggy, a trolley, a bicycle basket – whatever you need that enables you to get your pup out and about with you safely. In the past week, Pretzel has been on 5 buses, 4 trains, an underground journey, 3 car trips, one taxi outing, met a hoard of British, Hungarian, Polish (and probably other) guys (we have builders working here), seen loads of kids of all ages, bicycles, skateboarders, traffic, been to the park twice every day (more kids, bicycles, other dogs – from a distance) been out for coffee, for lunch, to the supermarket, the outdoor market, the vet (4 times so far – 3 of which were just to say “hi” and get fussed over) and mostly just sat securely in her dog carrier experiencing loads of environmental change. And learning that it’s all fine.
The most important thing in all of this? Your pup MUST be comfortable. He / she doesn’t have to be touched by everyone to have a good experience (in fact, at this stage you don’t want people crowding around, especially if your pup is unsure). Just looking around and being fed a piece of kibble or a treat by you will create a positive emotional response to all the new things you are seeing. Be careful not to overwhelm: a tired or hungry puppy will find it much harder to cope with new things so several short outings in one day are usually better than one big adventure. Be led by your own puppy, but believe me that a shy pup needs this to happen even more than an outgoing one, just in a gentle and reassuring way. You are your pup’s secure base, from which he / she can safely explore the world, so make sure the pup knows this.
1. Put your pup in an Adaptil collar or use the spray version on his / her carrier, or even your own clothes. This will help the pup to cope with being out.
2. Several small outings are generally more appropriate than one big one a day. Your pup may nap in their carrier which is great, but of course while they are sleeping, they are not really learning!
3. Avoid overwhelm. Your puppy mostly needs to just see things at this stage. Ensure you have kibble / tiny treats with you so that you can ensure your pup feels good about things. Feed liberally and especially in response to anything that seems a little worrying to the pup. This is NOT about forcing him / her to meet people. Plenty of time for getting up close and personal later!
4. If you live in a quiet rural location, be sure to take your puppy into town as regularly as you can (at least 3 times a week at this stage). Exposure to as many sights, sounds, smells, touches (e.g. surface changes) and tastes (within reason) as possible now will have a huge effect on your pup’s brain development.
5. If your pup learns to calmly accept novel experiences now, you have built the firmest possible foundation for a long and happy life together.
Next week: why you should introduce your pup to Starbucks! It’s not what you think…