Puppy Homecoming - the Sequel!
- THE FIRST DAY HOME: Here’s some of the best info I’ve found (it’s adapted from vetstreet.com)… The first day with your new puppy will involve traveling, whether it’s a short distance or a long ride in a car. This is the perfect opportunity to start teaching your puppy to love his crate. We will provide a towel for bedding that has the scent of his mother and littermates. That will go a long way toward making him comfortable in his new surroundings. When you arrive home, take him to his designated "potty spot" in your yard and keep him on a leash. Try to make sure he potties before you bring him indoors. Praise him and give him a treat when he does. Keep him on leash inside also — free run of the house is still far in his future. Sit on the floor with him or on the sofa, if you plan to allow him on the furniture. Love on him and talk to him, so he gets to know the sound of your voice and touch of your hand. This is a great time to start teaching him that it’s OK for you to to touch his paws, look inside or sniff his ears, rub his belly, touch his tail and groom him with a soft brush. Remember that puppies don’t have good bladder or sphincter control yet, and excitement can make them need to pee or poop. Take your puppy out to potty again after 15 to 20 minutes of play. Then let your puppy spend a short amount of time in his crate. This is a big day for him, and he needs some time to himself, so he can process his new situation. It’s okay to have the crate in the living room or some other area in the home where people are coming and going, but don’t bug him while he’s in there. Unless he needs to go potty, walk away calmly if he starts to whine or bark. Don’t let him out until he’s being quiet. After crying for a short time, he will probably fall asleep. When you take him out of the crate, immediately take him to potty and then have fun with more play time!
- HOMESICKNESS: Puppies will likely miss their littermates and their moms (their real mom and me) for the first several days. I will be sending home with you a cloth that they all have been sleeping on... It helps calm them in their own crate when they are missing them. At night, it’s also recommended to: put a heating pad set on low or hot water bottle underneath their bedding in the crate (see below for example); have a ticking clock nearby; and have soft music playing. Sounds a whole like advice we got for our own babies, right? (Here, I have lullabies playing every night to help calm them and also to signal that's it time to sleep. If you want to play the same music during the transition time to your home, the name of the album is "Dream a Little - the Little Series Lullabies").
- Can you tell I'll be missing them??? ❤️
- DRESS FOR SUCCESS: Wearing a long-sleeved sweatshirt is always a great idea. Those puppy teeth and toenails are razor sharp! And be sure to double-tie your shoelaces… these pups have an uncanny talent for untying them and making you trip!
- TOENAILS & TEETH: Toenails need to be trimmed once a week. Use infant nail clippers and a regular fingernail file. Right now it’s a two-person job. There are lots of good YouTube videos about this. And remember, puppies will chew on everything, including you! They are constantly teething and want to chew on things to make their gums feel better. When they bite you, say "no biting" in a stern voice and redirect then to some other kind of play. (Some recommend that you yelp like one of their litter mates when the play has gotten too rough.)
- BE CAREFUL OF FALLS: These guys can jump off your lap or out of your arms before you have a chance to blink! Their little bones are still very fragile. So hang on tight to them and try to hold them next to your body – they feel more secure that way too. Supervise carefully when younger children are playing with them.
- OTHER DOGS IN THE FAMILY: During at least the first several days, keep your other dogs (especially large dogs) on a leash when around the puppy. Large dogs can innocently hurt puppies’ fragile bones by just trying to play with them. Let them get acquainted first through the fence of the play pen.
- OUTSIDE RULES: Only take them to what is considered a "safe" area in your yard. Until they are 16 weeks and fully vaccinated, they are susceptible when on grass where unvaccinated animals have been. In fact, they haven’t been able to go out on the grass here until after their 6 weeks shots. Also, until fully vaccinated, don't take them to dog parks, pet stores, humane societies, etc. where you don't know if unvaccinated animals have been there. Parvo is a really scary deal!
- FEEDING: Puppies should be fed three times a day. It’s easier for puppies to digest smaller meals, and their energy levels don't peak and fall so much with frequent meals. Some folks recommend hand-feeding them for the first several weeks – it’s supposed to quicken the bonding process and improve their ability to learn various skills (because they learn to focus their attention on you at an early age).
- BATHING: Right now, puppies don’t need to be bathed with dog shampoo. If they get especially dirty, just a quick rinse with warm water will do. Be sure to dry them quickly.
- GROOMING: The general rule of thumb is that they should be groomed for the first time only after they have had all their shots – many recommend waiting until they are 6 months old. Before you make the first appointment, prepare your pup to be handled in ways he might not be used to. For example, regularly tickle their paws (including between their toes), ears, and tushies, which are some of the areas the groomer will be working on.
- HOUSE TRAINING: See our webpage on House Training for lots of recommendations. Just remember, when you take them outside to potty, be sure to take them to the same spot every time. And be patient… it typically takes several months before they are fully trained.
- ENTERTAINMENT: These puppies love it when I make different noises with my mouth. It's one of our favorite games. Go figure! Be sure to have a lot of different toys! Puppies get easily bored and need to be stimulated by variety. Keep some toys back and rotate them through the play pen area. They particularly like rope chew toys and climbing in Amazon boxes! (Just be sure to remove the box once they start tearing paper pieces off of it.) The toys need to be tough. They shouldn’t have any pieces that the pups can chew off and swallow or any stuffing that can come out if it’s ripped apart. For the same reason, avoid any rawhide toys.
- SOCIALIZATION (adapted from information on vetstreet.com): A puppy, like a human infant, has a critical learning period, a period when he is soaking up all kinds of information about the world around him and how he should behave in it. This critical period lasts at least until he is about 12 weeks old and can continue til 16 weeks, so make the absolute most of this rapid learning stage. Of course, he’ll still learn afterward, but the things you teach during this time — good and bad — will really stick in his memory, so make sure it’s the right stuff. The goal is for him to have lots of positive experiences with friendly people, dogs and cats.
Meeting the neighbors, learning the sounds in your home and neighborhood, and going to the veterinarian for the first time are all part of your puppy’s socialization process. Once he's been with you for a week, it’s time to turbocharge his introduction to the world.
During his critical learning period, your puppy should meet at least 100 different people, not just the same 10 people over and over again. To get the numbers up, introduce him to the people delivering mail and packages and the gardeners in your neighborhood. Take him for short car rides and on errands, where you can take him into local businesses, such as the dry cleaners, a private postal service or an open-air shopping mall. (Be sure he potties outside immediately before you take him onto the premises, so he’s always welcome back.) If it’s a place where other dogs might go, carry him in a puppy sling or backpack or put him in a cart and don't expose him to other dogs until your veterinarian tells you he's had enough vaccinations. Take treats for strangers to give him.
Meeting new people and having lots of different experiences is important, because it gives a puppy broad experience to draw on later in life. A puppy who has met only middle-aged people or only your friends or neighbors doesn’t cope as well when he meets other types of people, such as young children, people wearing uniforms, people in wheelchairs or people from other cultures.
A little adversity during this time is good for your pup’s adventurous soul. Moderate amounts of stress during the socialization period can prepare a puppy to be ready for anything. Give him a change of elevation by putting him on top of a picnic table or clothes dryer, or surprise him with a toy while playing peekaboo.
These simple things during this critical period can help him become unflappable as he matures, putting him on the right path for learning and easy adaptation to the world!
SAMPLE OF HOT WATER BOTTLE MENTIONED ABOVE: