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What You Need to Know as A First Time Pup Owner

Written by: Kassie Dickson, CDBC, CPDT-KA

So you’re getting a puppy, now what?

We’re going to answer some of your questions and point you in the right direction to keeping your pup safe and having their needs met!

How do I prepare my home for a new puppy?

Start with Puppy Proofing!

I like to suggest people start to move items at their pup’s level, so anything your dog has easy reach to (typically floor to knee height) items like --cords, plants, books, shoes, candles, pens/pencils, kids toys, headphones, and anything similar need to be moved out of your pups reach. Anything potentially dangerous, a choking hazard, or poison, like plants or medications your pup could ingest, or your favourite runners (although not likely dangerous, seriously frustration-inducing if your pup chews them!). Make sure to move those too.

For those things we can’t move, I suggest managing the area or environment, by placing baby gates and barriers or even just ensuring that you have an appropriate safe confinement for your pup when you can’t be watching them around those items.

Try to remember, this isn’t forever. This can just help to avoid chewing mistakes on your pup’s part. Eventually these items will be back to their normal places with less management from you. If you set your pup up for success from the start, they’re less likely to fumble in the future.

Check out What does the first week, month, and year look like? for more tips on being a first time dog owner.

Where should your puppy sleep the first night?

You pup should spend their first night as well as their puppy down time in an appropriate confinement space. This is an area set up for them to be as safe and stress free as possible. This means when you bring your pup home, instead of a welcome parade, give them a quiet space with items that will create positive associations.

So when you arrive home for the first time, instead of playtime with the family, treats, toys, people, and neighbours, try giving your pup some rest time in their confinement space with a long lasting treat, or their food. Practice this throughout the day, not just at night when your pup will be alone. A puppy needs an average of 14-16 hours of sleep a day because they only spend about 10% of their time sleeping in REM sleep!

So remember if your pup is irritable, bitey, or at certain times of day acting out, they’re probably just tired!

If your pup is crying, it’s best not to let them cry it out. It’s important that if your pup is fearful of being alone, we don’t make it scarier for them by perpetuating that fear and teaching him that being alone is in fact something to fear. Instead, comfort your dog and go at their pace, create positive associations with being alone, use food/treats to get them comfortable with their sleep and confinement spaces. 

What is a good puppy schedule? (when to feed, when to begin taking them outside/walking them)

It’s important to remember that every puppy is different, their dietary needs should be something you chat with your veterinarian about but typically, to begin with, a puppy will usually be fed 3 times a day. As for a schedule to take them out, I typically recommend taking your pup out to eliminate immediately after taking them out of confinement, shortly after eating and drinking, or anytime they change activity. If your pup goes from playing to sniffing around, from chewing to up and around, take them out!

Make sure heading out is fun, exciting and rewarding for your pup, this makes potty training your pup a lot easier.

When to start training my puppy? 

You can start training your pup right away but keep all training sessions short and successful. Remember that our pups learn every day through cause and effect. Classical conditioning is in effect all the time which means your puppy is constantly learning, so remember that we can always be shaping behaviour. Through teaching our pup appropriate items to play with and chew, as well as manners when eating their food, we can reduce the chances of resource guarding or counter surfing. So begin integrating training into every day.

How soon after you get a puppy should you take it to the vet? 

Depending on when you pick up your puppy they may often have received their first and sometimes even their second set of vaccinations but it’s important to ensure you find a veterinarian that not only aligns with your values for how you plan to train your pup but, also for how you want your pup to be treated during veterinary visits and exams.

There are times we can’t choose where needs outweigh our wants for our pups, but for the most part our veterinarians and their teams can help us implement many fear-free tactics and cooperative care for our dogs to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress and make seeing the vet a good experience.

I recommend making several fear-free visits to the vet. Remember your veterinarian's time is important, if you have questions about any part of the process, don’t add them to your health check-ins or vaccine appointments. Book a visit with your vet to make sure they have adequate time to answer your questions and help you. You should ensure that you do a regular check in with your veterinarian, typically once a year.

Start by having fear-free visits that don’t involve shots or intrusive exams. Make them fun, your pup will thank you for it!

Check out our go-to Essential New Dog Checklist for everything you might need to welcome your new pup home ❤️

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