What should you expect when you bring home a new puppy:
The homecoming of my dog, Kino, was one of the most
cherished times in my life. However, this exciting time
wasn’t without its challenges. I just celebrated the 1-year anniversary of bringing Kino home, and my reflection on our first year together helped me appreciate the value of the hard work and preparation it took to set us up for success. In this article, I’m going to share my top 5 tips for surviving the homecoming of your new puppy!
Tip 1: Find a Quality Veterinarian
The health of your puppy is paramount. A great veterinarian will guide you through the process of their essential vaccinations, recommendations for additional shots (flea/tick, heartworm, etc.), and suggestions for the neutering or not. The most important quality in a veterinarian, besides their knowledge, skills, and licenses of course, is their ability to present information without pressure in decision making. Investing the time in finding the right vet for you pays for itself over the course of your dog’s life.
Tip 2: Puppy Proof Your Home
Puppies are masters of the craft I like to call “find things I shouldn’t destroy, then destroy these things.” My method for setting puppies up for success is by taking preventative measures rather than having reactionary responses to behavior I don’t like. I strongly recommend taking the time to create an environment ideal for their natural desire to explore, sniff, and chew by filling their environment with appropriate toys, chews, and obstacles. Also, removing hazards and not-for-puppy objects from the spaces they’ll spend time in is equally crucial to their safety and your sanity.
The last Puppy Proofing tip I offer is one that is commonly overlooked; limiting the freedom your puppy has in the house. The more rooms puppy can explore, the more opportunities for doom and destruction they’ll create. Start with one room for the first few weeks and gradually expand their access to the house as they learn the rules and advance in maturity (baby gates are going to be your best friend).
Tip 3: Establish Rules and Boundaries in Your Home
Tip 2 and 3 work hand in hand. The sooner you create a puppy-appropriate space and establish what your dog can and can’t do in your home, the stronger the dog’s understanding of these rules will be for the duration of their lives. Explaining to your dog when playtime starts and when playtime is over, teaching your dog where to go potty, what furniture is off-limits, and more.
When establishing boundaries, it can be helpful to write them out in their simplest form. Dogs thrive when the rules are black and white, so you’ll want to avoid uncertainty, inconsistency, and grey areas.
Tip 4: Socialize your Puppy
Socialization is often understood in the narrow lens of “make sure your puppy adjusts well to new people and dogs.” While this is a part of socialization, it’s not the full picture. Socialization is the process of acclimatizing your puppy to the variety of stimuli they’ll encounter throughout their lifetime. The sound of a loud truck barreling by on the street, the feeling of tall and prickly brush in the woods, the overwhelming amount of scents that exist in high traffic downtown areas.
The examples above are a small subset of stimuli your dog will encounter throughout the course of their lives. Setting up your puppy for long-term success includes building their confidence when encountering a new-to-them stimulus and desensitization to each stimulus.
Tip 5: Connect with a Professional Dog Trainer
My best advice for any new dog owner is to connect with a reputable professional dog trainer! Raising a puppy can quickly become an overwhelming amount of responsibility. Having a professional dog trainer in your corner to teach and guide you through dog ownership will transform your journey with your dog.
If you recently got a new puppy, send us a message! Here at DC Doggo, we offer professional dog training services in Maryland, Washington DC, and Arlington, and virtual training nationwide. We would love to guide you and your pup through this exciting and crucial time.