Surviving the First Week
By now, you are no doubt overjoyed at the arrival of your new little pup! What is cuter and more wonderful than a puppy? Absolutely nothing, if you ask me ?
The first week of getting to know your puppy is an important time for bonding, establishing some routines, and starting to lay the foundation for a great relationship and communication. It is normal for a puppy to be a little out of sorts at first. Have patience and remember that your puppy has just left his mom and all his siblings. He’s in a brand new environment with a new set of humans and possibly new canine pack mates too. That’s a lot for a baby to take in and adjust to! It is normal for a puppy to feel excited and anxious, and it is your job as his leader and protector to help him feel safe and comfortable.
Helping your Puppy Love the Crate
Have your puppy’s environment (crate and pen or gated area) ready before he even arrives, so that when he arrives, you can allow him to sniff and explore his space. Keep the location of items like food and water bowls consistent so that he knows where to find them. Think carefully about the location of the crate in your home. Sometimes, people find it helpful to have two crates, one in the bedroom for sleeping at night and a second one in an area where the family spends a lot of time for use during the day.
You’ll want to start right away with making the crate or pen area into a positive place that he enjoys. Put his toys in there and have treats “randomly appear” in the area so that he finds them and thinks of the crate as a great, fun place and source of yummy treats and food. Make sure to feed him in the crate initially so that he is not too distracted while eating and also to help ensure that he will not have an accident in there. (Dogs don’t like to go to the bathroom where they are going to eat.)
Another consideration you’ll want to address is toileting. Will you use wee wee pads at all? Or will the puppy learn right from the start to go outside? In my professional opinion, outside is always best (assuming that your veterinarian is okay with the puppy going outside in your area – always check first!). So you’ll want to make sure you’re taking him out frequently and praising him lavishly when he goes to the bathroom outside. That said, 8 and 10 week old puppies have very limited bladder control, and in the very early stages, it can be useful to use wee wee pads VERY BRIEFLY, especially in situations where the owners may have to leave the puppy unattended for longer than his bladder can possibly hold. In those situations, it is not fair to put the puppy in a crate where he might have no choice other than to soil himself, so giving him access to a wee wee pad would be a good idea. Remember that your puppy will not be able to “hold it” overnight for quite a while. It is important to plan for this and set an alarm to get up and take him out overnight proactively so that he can relieve himself before he gets uncomfortable and starts barking.
Setting the Tone for Success at Night
Some barking or whining when he’s in the crate alone those first few nights is totally normal and to be expected. Sometimes putting a stuffed animal or a ticking clock in with him can be helpful to simulate being with his mother and littermates. You may find yourself tempted to take him out of the crate and let him sleep in your bed when he gets fussy, but please resist! It is important for your puppy to get used to sleeping on his own, and doing that would only make it harder and put him at risk for developing separation anxiety later on. After a few (possibly tough) nights, your puppy should start to get the hang of it and to feel more secure and comfortable in the environment. He will learn that you are always going to provide for his basic needs (like taking him out of the crate to go to the bathroom BEFORE he gets desperate), and he will begin to love the crate and see it as his little safe place for taking a rest.
One of my many puppy scholars, relaxing after a session!
If you’d like more help with getting your puppy started out on the “right paw”, researching puppy trainers and finding a good one (like me!) to help you navigate the first 6 months is an excellent idea. My training comes with a lifetime guarantee of support, so I’m not just there for the first 6 months, I’m here to guide you through whatever challenges come up throughout your dog’s life!
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