First Impressions: Starting Off On The Right Paw

Those first few days with a new puppy can be overwhelming. For everyone. Imp just left his biological family or caretakers. He may have traveled far to get to you and the poor thing doesn’t know where anything is yet. A calm consistent welcome is essential as it sets the tone for Imp’s life with your family.

Like all babies, Imp needs a safe place all his own. A crate or a cozy space with easily washed bedding is perfect. Toss toys and some treats in the crate to hasten his accepting it. Puppies sleep a lot so it’s essential that he be allowed to lie. Stick with whatever food he had been eating for at least the first week. If you decide to change diets, do so gradually by incrementally adding a little more of the new food per meal for a week. And have Imp checked out by a veterinarian as soon as he or she recommends.

Consider the first week to ten days the pre-training period. Here we’re showing Imp where to relieve himself, what to chew and where he’s allowed to venture. Transgressions are to be mildly interrupted and then immediately re-direct the pup to what’s appropriate.

It has been my (thirty-seven year) experience that people overreact to housebreaking. It’s urine not uranium, after all. Simply clean up piddles with an odor neutralizer and pick up ill-placed poop and show the puppy where it belongs. No big deal. Hang a bell on the exit door(s) and gently tinkle it every time the two of you step outside. Most puppies quickly learn to ring the bell by way of asking to go out.

From day one, take Imp into every room he will ultimately have access to for a few minutes a pop. Assume he’ll chew everything, so puppy proof as best you can. Puppies tend to be attracted to fringes and they treasure corners of (expensive) cabinetry and molding. Try spraying what’s verboten with a non-toxic chewing aversive like Bitter Apple and leave something legal right next to it. The message being: mahogany is bad but a fuzzy squeaking duck is AOK.

As bonding and confidence building are paramount when in doubt as to how to handle a situation, err on the side of gentleness. This may not always get the desired result but at least you won’t do damage that requires future fixing. Don’t worry, though, there’ll be tons of time to tighten the reigns anon.

by Jody Rosengarten

Jody Rosengarten of The Bark Stops Here has authored this post. Jody is an established author, Workshop Instructor, Dog Trainer and Behavioral Specialist. Jody’s books,“Rover, Don’t roll Over” and “Imp, The Imperfect Pup” have received raved reviews by her peers. Jody created The Bark Stops Here in 1980 and since then, she has helped thousands of dogs and their people to better understand one another.