Getting Down to Business

Your Puppy’s First Week Home, Part Three

I’m going to do my very best to give you an overview of clicker training. I can talk for days about this multifaceted training method and the benefits and science behind it. For the purpose of this particular post I will be brief and save the detail for later entries.

Danner is ready for some clicker training!

Danner is ready for some clicker training!

So what is a clicker?

A clicker is simply a tool used as an event marker. When the dog performs the desired behavior, you click! The click tells the dog, in uncomplicated black and white, exactly what they did right. They learn when they hear the click a reward is coming.

Clicker training begins as classical conditioning, think Pavlov, but quickly becomes operant conditioning the minute the animal repeats a behavior in order to get the reward. Operant conditioning creates an animal that acts with purpose, as opposed to acting out of habit. While we want our dogs to perform certain tasks habitually, we also want our dogs to behave with purpose. A dog that performs tasks intentionally is eager to learn new skills and will remember those tasks years later. They have control over their actions and the consequences, and they are enthusiastic because they know how to make the consequences pleasurable. This develops confidence and helps them feel secure in their surroundings.

So, why does clicker training really work? I know you’re wondering what’s going on inside the mind of this enthusiastic little pooch of mine? For more on the science behind clicker training, watch for my next entry! I’ve got an entire post full of cool, geeky, sciency stuff!

Lola, PhD, Human Training and Psychology

Lola, PhD, Human Training and Psychology

There are many reasons we use a clicker as the event marker:

  • A click is a sound that a dog won’t hear in any other environment. It means, without a doubt, they did something right and a reward is coming!
  • It’s not emotional like your voice. You can say the same word in many difference ways and the tone in your voice and your body language can tell the dog many different things. A click only means one thing.
  • You can start training immediately instead of waiting to build a relationship, because clicker training actually builds a strong and solid relationship.
  • Training sessions can last longer because they hold the dog’s interest and dogs stay motivated because there aren’t any distractions, just the dog, the behavior, the clicker, and a reward.
  • It becomes the greatest game on the planet. It’s their goal to figure out what makes you give up the treats!

Getting Started

Here are the 3 simple and easy steps to clicker training:

  1. Get the behavior through capturing or luring
  2. Click to mark the behavior
  3. Reinforce the behavior with a reward

There is a process calling “loading” or “charging” the clicker. It makes a positive association with the clicker by helping the dog to realize that the sound means food is coming. Some trainers still load the clicker while others just jump right in and start. It’s no doubt the clicker will “load” itself in just a matter of minutes. If you choose to load the clicker sit in the floor with your dog and click then treat. Do this over and over for a few minutes. Most dogs will pick up on the fact that the click means food is coming within the first 10 to 20 clicks.

Capturing

Now you are ready to capture and reward your first behavior. Put your treat bag on your waist, and get your clicker ready…here we go!

With your dog in front of you and your clicker in your hand wait patiently until the dog offers a sit. The instant the dog sits, click, and without saying a word reach into your treat bag and reward your dog.

  • It’s important to note that you shouldn’t have your hand resting in your treat bag. It’s too distracting for your dog. Be sure to wait for the behavior, then click, and then reach into your bag for a treat.

When you give the reward, bend down to your dog and try to put the treat in their mouth before they have the opportunity to jump up. Don’t encourage jumping by treating when they have feet off the ground.

  • Instead of overloading your dog on food and treats, and potentially helping them to gain unneeded weight, portion out your dog’s meals for the day and use their kibble as treats. The small size of kibble makes for a great quick and simple treat and it will prevent them from overeating.

Now that you have clicked and treated once, stand patiently and wait for your dog to offer the behavior again. When he does, click immediately, and then reach into your bag for a treat.

Timing is crucial in clicker training. You are communicating with your dog the exact behavior you want them to repeat, so be sure to click at the exact moment your dog sits, and not when they pop up in anticipation of a reward.

It is also very important to remain completely quiet during training sessions. Don’t add any distractions to the environment by talking. The click is enough reward for your dog. They don’t need to hear “good boy!” after each behavior. At the end of the session, reward them with tons of verbal praise and petting.

Adding a Cue

Adding a cue to a behavior is simple. Once your dog understands what they are doing to get a reward, simply anticipate when the behavior is going to happen and say the cue a second before they do it. Then, click and reward with a treat. Keep your voice cool, calm, and collected.

Luring

If your dog doesn’t want to offer behaviors at first, you can use luring to move them into the desired position. Use food rewards, or a target stick, to lure the dog into a down position. When they reach the desired position, click and treat! Be sure to fade the lure out early on. You don’t want your dog dependent on the lure.

Be Aware

  • Body language is a way that canines communicate and you need to make sure you are communicating the correct things to your dog. Don’t move about too much, slump over, wiggle, etc. during training. Be still, calm, and only make necessary movements.
  • Every time you click you MUST give a reward. If you click by mistake, you still give them the treat.

One misconception about clicker training is that once you start the dog won’t perform a behavior without the clicker. You can begin to phase out the clicker and reward using the “lottery method” after your dog is proficient in the behavior. They will still perform the behaviors because they know a reward is coming, they just don’t know when. It’s gambling. You buy the lottery ticket because there’s always a chance of a huge payout. Just remember to give a high reward periodically and lots of praise.

After food rewards are phased out, cues are also rewarded during everyday situations. For example, when the dog comes and sits calmly beside you, you reach over and pet them. If they were to jump in your lap they would be completely ignored. The petting is the reward for the appropriate behavior. Rewarding in different ways such as petting, with a toy, a retrieve, etc. leaves the yummy food rewards for learning new and exciting behaviors.

If your dog already knows the sit cue, work on a different behavior such as down, shake, touch, etc. Take some video while you go through these steps and post it on the Facebook page! I want to see how well y’all are doing. Good luck!

Amos is demonstrating his favorite trick below:

Danner knows what a click means!

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But the Cat Gets to Poop in the House

Your Puppy’s First Week Home, Part Two

Yes. Your puppy is adorable. And yes, it’s fun to have him running about the house and sleeping in the bed at night, but unless you enjoy cleaning up after your bundle of fur when he poops and tee tees in the floor, you’ll need to house train him.

House training is probably the most important behavior to teach a new puppy. It’s your job to cultivate the pup’s natural instincts and help teach him where he can potty and what’s totally off limits. When puppies first begin to walk they naturally leave their “den” to eliminate. You, as the new owner, must provide an appropriate potty area, and timely trips outside, so the puppy can continue with their natural desire to leave their living area to potty. Many dogs, that never learn proper potty protocol, end up in shelters or turned out on the streets and homeless. There’s no reason for this to happen. It’s an easily trained behavior and with a little effort and consistency on your part, your puppy will be house trained in no time.

Prevention is Key

In order to prevent your puppy from ever having an accident you need to supervise your puppy whenever they aren’t in their crate. Keep them in either an enclosed area of your home or in a playpen where you can supervise their play.

Dean enjoys hanging out in his playpen while I work with other dogs around the house.

Dean enjoys hanging out in his playpen while I work with other dogs around the house.

You can also have them on leash, with you, while you are walking about the house, or sitting and reading a book. Just make sure they cannot walk away and potty somewhere in the house.

A young puppy should be taken outside and given the chance to eliminate every two hours. It’s also necessary to give them the chance to potty outside after a play session and after they’ve had water. Typically a puppy can hold it for as many hours as his age in months. For example, an eight week old puppy needs to go out every two hours. Just like us they can hold it for longer at night, because they are inactive, but they should still go out to potty about every four hours. By four months old, a puppy can hold it for four hours, and can usually sleep through the night.

Home Sweet Home

Puppies learn to love their crates fairly quickly. It’s natural for them to need a place of their own. In the wild their den is a safe and comfortable retreat where they can get adequate rest without worry of becoming someone else’s meal. Young puppies need frequent naps, so several two hour nap sessions, in the crate, spread out throughout the day are appropriate. Your pup should also sleep in the crate at night. Not only does the crate provide a cozy place for them to rest, but it also keeps them out of trouble when you are sleeping. A young pup is curious and has a need to chew. The vet bills can become enormous if your pup chewed and swallowed something during the night that becomes lodged in their gastrointestinal tract.

Follow these steps to teach your new pup to love their crate:

  1. When you introduce your puppy to their new crate, don’t shove them inside! Instead, sit on the floor next to the crate, with the puppy standing beside you, and feed him some kibble. Next, place kibble on the floor of the crate and see if he will walk inside to get it. If he does, reward him by telling him “good boy!” and giving him a few more pieces of kibble. If he doesn’t readily walk in, you can pick him up and gently place him in the crate and drop a few more pieces of kibble. Speak very enthusiastically to the pup. Keep this fun and exciting! Don’t close the crate door, but allow your pup to enter and exit as they please, always rewarding them for entering the crate. Once your pup has gone inside the crate once, only give them kibble when they are inside. Do this for 5 minutes and then take your puppy out for a potty break and a short walk.

    A puppy is much more eager to enter a crate when kibble or treats are placed on the floor! It makes a very positive association with the crate.

    A puppy is much more eager to enter a crate when kibble or treats are placed on the floor! It makes a very positive association with the crate.

  2. After your walk, repeat step one.
  3. After your second walk, you can rest assured that your puppy is pooped. This time, sit beside the kennel and place kibble inside. When the puppy goes inside, reward him with some type of toy, and close the door. Kong toys, stuffed with peanut butter, make great crate rewards because it gives the puppy something to do until they fall asleep. When in the crate, don’t give them toys such as stuffed animals that can easily be ripped apart and ingested.
Dean loves his peanut butter filled Kong toy!

Dean loves his peanut butter filled Kong toy!

Important things to remember about crate training:

  1. Don’t isolate your puppy in another room by themselves. Remember, this is the first time they have been away from their mother and littermates. Keep them in a quiet area of the house that you will be in a good bit. Most pups will whine the first time they’re crated, and maybe even for several days. It’s important that they learn it’s ok to be separated from their family, and confinement is ok. If they don’t learn this now, they could develop anxiety disorders in the future.
  2. NEVER let your puppy out when he whines. Dogs continue to use behaviors that get them desired results. Don’t underestimate your pup and think he isn’t yet smart enough to figure out what gets him out of the crate! Just a few mishaps on your part and you can create quite a noisy dog that won’t give up and stop the whining because he knows you will eventually give in. Only open the crate door to let them out when they are quiet. This is teaching them that quiet and calm behavior opens the door.
  3. It’s important that you not put a puppy in the crate when they will need to potty. Make sure they eliminate before you put them in their crate, and then be sure to give them the opportunity to go out every two hours. If you notice your puppy waking up in the crate go get them and take them out immediately before they have the chance to start whining or have an accident.
  4. Set an alarm at night so you can wake up and take your puppy out before he wakes up and either starts whining or has an accident.
  5. It’s also very important that you be observant of your puppy and start reading his behavior. If you hear a whine that you think isn’t a typical “let me loose!” whine, go get him and give him the opportunity to eliminate. You want to prevent an accident at all costs. After the potty break, place him back in his crate. Don’t give him time to play. This was just a potty break.
  6. Reward your puppy every time you put them in their crate by giving them a treat, a toy, or some kibble. This makes a positive association with the crate and it becomes a great place for them to go.
  7. To put the behavior of going in their crate on cue, start by saying the cue every time you put them in the crate. When you place the kibble on the floor and the dog starts to walk in, say “Kennel! Good kennel, Dean! Good boy!” You can use any cue you choose. I taught my older dog, Lola, the cue “room” so I could tell her to kennel by saying, “Go to your room!”
  8. When you take your puppy out first thing in the morning, pick him up and go straight outside to your chosen potty spot. Once they’re a few weeks older and can hold it longer, you can start letting them walk from their crates outside so they learn the route to the appropriate potty spot. Make sure you still run to the door once you let the puppy out. They just woke up and have to go! Get them outside!

Putting Potty on Cue

It’s actually very simple to teach your pup to go to the bathroom in a specific area of the yard and to potty on cue. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Always take your puppy to the desired area of the yard to eliminate. When your pup is young and you are carrying him out to potty, simply sit him in the area and wait for him to go. Once he’s older and you are allowing him to walk on his own to the potty spot, run and encourage your pup excitedly to follow you to the potty spot. Reward with tons of petting and praise when the puppy eliminates in the correct area.
  2. To add a cue to eliminating, simply start by saying “Good get it done! Good boy!” once they start to potty. After you’ve learned to read your puppy’s body language better and you can start to predict exactly when they are going to eliminate, add the cue word before it happens. Right as they are about to squat say “Get it done!” and then reward them with tons of excited verbal praise, “Good get it done! Good boy!” and petting when they are done.
  3. You can use whatever cues you choose. I use “get it done” for tee teeing and “hurry up” for pooping. A friend of mine uses “High/Low” for both cues for his male dog. I thought that was clever because he wants his dog to go high and then go low!

Oopsy! There’s a Poopsy!

It’s important to know how to handle an accident in the house. Never scold your dog. This can teach him to pick a more secluded area, away from you, in the house to eliminate. It can also encourage a dog to eat his feces to hide the fact that he had an accident. It’s your fault if they have had an accident because you didn’t take them out frequently enough, or you weren’t supervising them. You can go ahead and punish yourself by rubbing your nose in the accident, instead of your puppy’s. 😉

If you see your puppy in the middle of eliminating in the house:

  1. Interrupt them with by saying “oops!” and carry them outside immediately. Place him down in the appropriate potty spot and wait for him to finish.
  2. As he is eliminating calmly say your cue word and “good boy.” When he’s finished, give him tons of praise!
  3. Be sure to clean up the mess thoroughly. Use an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate any traces of animal waste.
  4. Now, supervise your puppy better, and give him the opportunity to potty in the appropriate spot by taking him out more frequently.
  5. It’s important to watch your puppy and if you suspect they potty more frequently than they should, take them to the vet. There are several common issues that could be present and are easily fixed with medication, including a urinary tract infection.

You are now well on your way to having a potty trained puppy! Good luck!

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Social Butterflies

Your Puppy’s First Week Home, Part One

One of the most important things you can teach your puppy is that the world is a safe, fun, and amazing place. No one wants their new friend to be scared when they experience something new. We want them to be confident, and if at times they experience some insecurity, we want them to turn to us for guidance. The pup’s mother starts the process of socialization, the breeder continues it, and once the puppy is home with you it’s your job to carry on with good socialization. If you do the work to properly socialize your puppy, they will grow into a confident and outgoing adult.

Dean and his litter mates, with their mother, Hazel.

Dean and his litter mates, with their mother, Hazel.

The moment your puppy is born they begin learning. By playing with their litter mates they become aware of their surroundings and develop their senses and physical abilities, as well as learn about the hierarchy process, bite inhibition, and communicating amongst themselves. Human interaction is just as vital to the socialization process. Without proper handling and introductions a puppy can have great difficulty forming relationships with people in the future.

Many people see a fearful and/or aggressive dog and immediately think the dog was abused at some point. While this is sometimes true, improper socialization can also lead to this type of fearful dog. Developmental stages are very important. Understanding what your puppy is experiencing during each stage can help you better prepare for training and socialization.

From three to seven weeks old, puppies begin to learn how to be a dog. They learn specific behaviors and communication methods, such as body postures, from their mother and littermates through playful chasing, biting, barking, and wrestling. This is the ultimate time to introduce loud noises, different types of surfaces, and strange objects. Pups are curious, brave, and eager to solve problems.

During the next developmental stage, eight to 10 weeks, a puppy experiences it’s first fear period. This coincides with the time young pups, in the wild, begin to explore their new world outside the safety of their den. Mother has taught them well, and they are aware of certain dangers that exist. Without caution, they could end up dead.

While you shouldn’t stop your work on socialization during this time, introductions should be made carefully and tactfully. Everyday objects can cause a pup to feel real fear and can permanently affect the rest of their life. Everything should be kept positive and exciting. During this time, don’t assume your puppy will be eager to meet every person, go to every place, or approach every object. If you observe hesitation, encourage the puppy in an exciting and positive way with treats and enthusiastic vocal praise. Take it slow. Make progress over time but don’t rush an introduction.

For example, to introduce a puppy to a noisy air purifier in your home, first turn the machine off. Sit next to the air purifier and call the puppy to you. Give him treats and praise. Place treats around the machine, or even on it, and encourage the puppy to eat them. The next step can be immediately after the first, or it could be the next day depending on how your pup did with the initial introduction. Next you should place your puppy in another room while you turn the machine on a very low setting. Get your puppy and return to the room with the air purifier, but remain a great distance away. Place your puppy on the ground and give him a treat. Sit on the floor next to him and scoot a bit closer to the air purifier. As the puppy follows you, give him a treat and a lot of encouraging praise. Continue getting closer and closer to the machine and rewarding your pup for following you. The moment you sense hesitation from your puppy, stop. Scoot back to the previous position and reward your puppy. You can try scooting closer again, or wait until tomorrow. Be very observant of your pup’s behavior. Be on the lookout for cowering, tail tucking, his ears being down, lip licking, or yawning. If you see these behaviors, back up a step and then proceed. Some stress is ok, and even good for a puppy, but you shouldn’t flood the puppy with a spooky experience. Give them the chance to make the decision to be brave and take a step forward. Then reward like crazy. Once you have gotten all the way to the noisy machine, back all the way back up and repeat the above steps with the machine turned on a higher setting.

While socializing your puppy, his health should be first and foremost in your mind. Remember, taking your young pup (who hasn’t yet received all of his shots) to the local pet store or dog park isn’t the best idea. Think about it. Were you required to show shot records or verify your puppy didn’t come from a litter that had experienced a potentially deadly disease such as parvo or distemper? No, and that means that no one else was required to do that either. You are exposing your puppy to an environment that potentially could have dangerous diseases that can affect their health. Don’t do it. Your puppy isn’t losing anything by not getting to run amuck with others at the park, and they can still gain the vital socialization needed to become well-rounded dogs through other options such as these:

  • Have everyone in your home interact with the dog.
  • Invite friends and family, and their safe, friendly, and healthy pets to a meet and greet at your home. Follow the puppy introduction guidelines in this post.
  • Take your puppy to as many safe places as possible. But keep the safety guidelines in mind. You will have to take your puppy to the vet for their shots, but you don’t have to let other patrons pet your puppy, or place your puppy on the floor at the office. You should even go as far as to carry the puppy from your car into the office, and never set him down. If you don’t already know about parvo, trust me, you don’t want to learn about it.
  • Introduce your puppy to as many different animals, objects, and situations as possible. Don’t forget to work with objects such as nail clippers and a dog brush! Again, keep safety in mind and find healthy animals for introductions, and keep your puppy in safe locations.

There are tons of ways to make socialization fun for your pets. The possibilities are endless. Here are a few examples.

  • Give everyone in your family a different treat and have them sit in a circle on the floor. Place your puppy in the center and let each person call him, and pick him up or handle him in some way, then reward him with a treat and place him back in the center of the circle. The next person should call the puppy and handle him in a different way, then reward and place him back in the circle. It’s very important for pups to learn that being handled in different ways is ok, as well. Some examples of ways to handle a puppy are to hold him on his back in your arms, to hold a front paw in the air, to hold him in your lap and lightly squeeze an arm or leg, to carefully open their mouths, to examine their ears, etc. Think of situations the puppy might find himself in that would require him to be comfortable with different types of handling.
  • Place an object on the floor and a curious puppy is going to go straight to it. When they do, use a clicker to mark that behavior and then give them a treat. The puppy is likely to go back to that object because it landed him a delicious reward. When he does, click and treat again! Move away from the object, further and further as the puppy successfully go to and touches the object, to make the game more difficult. The puppy will be so excited that he figured out when he goes to that strange object treats come, that he won’t be as hesitant to approach a new object when the game changes the next day. This is also a great way to start work on recall.
  • If you find your puppy in a particularly difficult situation but you have an adult dog that already knows everything is ok, you can let them work through it together. Make sure the adult dog and your puppy have bonded first, then, let the older dog approach the scary object first. Place the puppy on the ground and see what happens. If he walks towards the scary object and the adult dog, praise him and give him treats! We know a lot about canine communication, but we can’t compete with nature. An adult dog will be able to communicate whether or not the situation is dangerous much more effectively than any human.

Handling Techniques for Socialization:

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During socialization, your puppy needs to meet several new dogs and people (including children) a week. Just because you have kids and one other pet doesn’t mean your new puppy will get what he needs. It takes a lot of effort, but the work will pay off. Don’t miss out on the opportunity, as the window of time for socialization will close around 16 weeks of age. You want your dog to be a part of your every day life, and a member of your family. Spend time now, working with your puppy, so that he becomes a well-rounded and happy member of the family.

socialbutterflies

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Everything But The Kitchen Sink

Bringing Your Puppy Home, Part Two

When you decide to bring a new puppy into your home, one of the first things you should consider is the must-have gear to care for a puppy. Here’s a quick list of necessities with some details about each to get you started.

First and foremost, your new puppy will definitely want to eat! Food and water bowls are essential. There are several options out there, and to help you decide which is best for your new family member here are a few facts about each.

food_bowls

  • Stainless steel is a non-porous material and bacteria can’t seep into the surface, making it an ideal choice for food bowls. They may not come in a wide range of colors, but they are quick and easy to clean. Stainless steel also resists rust and other stains, making it a great choice for long lasting dog bowls. Toss them in the dishwasher for a quick clean, or if needed you can use bleach and other disinfectants without damaging the bowl.
  • Ceramic bowls are heavy and make a great choice for dogs that like to tip over bowls, scoot them around on the floor, or pick them up and parade around the house. They come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes but, without a proper glaze on the bowl, ceramic can harbor bacteria and is not easily cleaned. Be sure to look for a bowl labeled food safe and lead free. If your ceramic bowl gets cracked, go ahead and toss it and purchase a new one. Bacteria will find it’s way into the scratches and grow.
  • Plastic bowls aren’t the best choice for your new family member. Plastic is not a very durable material and can scratch or be chewed easily. Bacteria will hide in those scratches and thrive. They are the cheapest option, but you’ve already committed to the best care for your new puppy, so shell out a few more dollars for a better food and water bowl.

Puppy food is a vital part of this equation. Without a good well-balanced food formulated for your puppy’s needs, they can’t grow up to fulfill their greatest potential. If you have a large breed puppy you will want to seek out a food specifically formulated for large breed pups. These foods are created with the bones, muscles, and fast growing tendencies of these dogs in mind. The same principle applies to smaller breeds.

When purchasing puppy food be sure to choose one with DHA (Docosahexaenioc acid). DHA is a natural omega-3 fatty acid that is essential brain development and function in young mammals. The primary source of DHA for puppies is originally the mother, but just like human babies, your puppy’s brain continues to develop after birth. This makes DHA essential to your new puppy’s diet. The benefits are endless and studies have proven the importance of DHA for trainability of puppies. You can read more about the studies conducted by Hill’s Pet Nutrition and The Iams Company by following the links below.

http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.241.5.583

http://www.vet-magazin.at/firmennews/industrie/eukanuba/Forschung/Effect-of-Docosahexaenoic-Acid-on-Puppy-Trainability/Effect-of-Docosahexaenoic-Acid-on-Puppy-Trainability.pdf

The next essential item your puppy needs is a crate. He will spend a good amount of time in his new “den” as puppies need their sleep and a safe refuge from the chaos of everyday life. Appropriate size crate is a must. To find the right size here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Choose a crate that is just large enough that your puppy can stand up and turn around. One main purpose of the crate is house training and the size is important because of the dog’s natural instinct not to soil his den. If the den is too large, they might eliminate in one area, and sleep in another. To do away with the need to purchase several crates as your dog grows, companies have developed crates that you can purchase to fit the adult size of your dog, and block the excess area with a divider. These are great options, just remember to block off an area just large enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around.
Dean helps show an example of an appropriately sized crate.

Dean helps show an example of an appropriately sized crate.

  • When you go shopping for a crate you will see several options including plastic, metal, and the collapsible fabric kennels. Keep in mind that the primary use of the crate at this time will be for house training, so you can rule out the fabric crates. The wire metal crates are a good option to have in a busy area of your home because the dog can be a part of their surroundings. A crate is also a place of refuge to a puppy, a safe haven, and a place to “get away from it all” when they need some alone time. Plastic crates are great for this purpose. Puppies will learn to feel secure and comforted while in their new “den.” Of course, the first couple of nights your puppy will cry in their crates. This is not because they don’t like their new dens; it’s because this is likely the first time they have been isolated from their mom and litter mates. It’s a great idea to place their crates in your bedroom so they feel like a part of their new family.
Danner doesn't mind being the guinea pig in the example of an incorrectly sized crate! :)

Danner doesn’t mind being the guinea pig in the example of an incorrectly sized crate! 🙂

Although your puppy might not wear a collar full-time, it’s a great idea to have a collar and leash for safety. If you are taking your puppy out to the bathroom in a public area you will want a way to keep him safely near you. Be sure to select a collar that isn’t too heavy for him. One of my favorites is a soft nylon collar. They come in a ton of colors and are easy to clean should your puppy decide to play in a mud puddle!

The final and most important essential you will need when welcoming your new puppy into your home is a trusted veterinarian. You are likely bringing your puppy home at seven or eight weeks of age, so they have already had their first round of vaccinations. Each veterinarian might have a slightly different protocol regarding the timing of vaccinations, but most of the time your puppy’s next round will be at nine weeks of age, then 12 weeks, and the final round at 16 weeks.

There’s a very good reason for putting your puppy through so many rounds of shots. Puppies are born with natural immunities and continue to receive antibodies from their mother’s milk. This begins to diminish between five and eight weeks of age and continues to decline until 12 to 16 weeks of age. If your puppy still has a significant level of maternal antibodies when vaccinated, it won’t be effective. As the natural immunity dissipates, vaccinations begin to trigger the immune system to produce it’s own antibodies.

Go ahead and schedule an appointment for your new family member before picking him up. Be sure to get the vet records for your pup from the breeder or rescue organization and take them to your appointment with you. Together with your veterinarian you can create a plan to ensure your puppy gets the care he needs through vaccinations, micro chipping, and heartworm and flea and tick preventatives.

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Welcoming With Open Paws

Bringing Your Puppy Home, Part One

Bringing home a new, furry family member is an exciting occasion, but you must remember a few essentials to make the transition for your puppy the best it can be. Your first concern when bringing home a new puppy should be the safety and well being of your new family member. You have to ensure you can meet all the needs of a young pup. A few essentials include an appropriately sized crate, a well balanced and nutritious puppy food, a collar and leash, food and water bowls, and a trusted veterinarian.

You have your supplies and your new puppy. Now what?

Arriving home is exciting and you want to jump straight in and let your new pup meet everyone and every pet at your house, but suppress that desire. Successful introductions are critical to how your puppy will integrate into the current pack.

When two-legged family members meet the puppy for the first time, have them squat down, leaning slightly backward with their arms open; then they can call the puppy to them with a soft and excited voice. Everything with your puppy should be fun and exhilarating. Never crouch over a puppy or stare directly into their eyes. If a puppy is nervous about the introduction, don’t rush them. Sit on the floor and wait for the puppy to decide to come to you. When they do, reward them gently and enthusiastically with lots of “good puppy!” and petting.

When meeting a new puppy, sit on the floor with your arms open. This is a very inviting posture to the puppy. Avoid leaning forward, as well as reaching for the puppy.

Introducing four-legged family members should be done, initially, on unfamiliar ground. Choose a neighbor’s yard, or a walk around the block. This allows them a chance to meet in a small way, and exert some energy before going back home and getting to know each other even better. Don’t walk into your house and place the puppy on the ground and expect your adult dogs to accept him with open paws. One thing is for sure, the adult dog won’t be elated at the arrival of your new family member. Over time, they can learn to be great friends, but be patient and respect the rights of your older dogs. You are in charge of the introductions. Set both dogs up for success and be aware of whether or not anyone is uncomfortable at any time and be ready to remove that dog from the situation.

Walking your new puppy with your adult dog at the initial introduction is a great way to allow them to meet while enjoying a walk and burning some energy.

Dogs have a language of their own and adult dogs are masters of communication. Puppies, on the other hand, haven’t yet learned the rules. Heck, they don’t even know rules exist. Interactions between an adult dog and a young puppy are invaluable when it comes to teaching the rules. All older dogs have limits, and puppies have to learn to respect them. Until everyone learns to respect each other you are in charge of watching, and interpreting, the exchanges and stopping any inappropriate behavior before it escalates. Once you have walked both dogs, head home and first remove all toys, food bowls, bones, etc. that your adult dog might feel are “theirs.” Always supervise any playtime between your older dog and your new puppy. Provide a place to escape such as a crate or access to a bedroom for your older dog should they decide they don’t want to play anymore. If they retreat to such an area, respect that and allow them some alone time. Do your research on canine communication. Don’t punish an adult dog for growling at a puppy. Observe and be ready to intervene, but allow the exchange to happen. Your adult dog is only explaining the rules to the new little guy. After a few weeks your dogs should be getting to know each other well and forming a lasting bond.

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