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Make The New Puppy Experience A True Pleasure

By Mark Forrest Patrick

Bringing a puppy home can be an exciting time for you and your family member. Unfortunately, it can also be a stressful time for all concerned. Some pre-planning for the big event can reduce the stress and make the new puppy experience a true pleasure. First, you should put some thought into your puppy’s day-to-day routine, and for that we will start with feeding. You will want to look for a high-quality food with healthy ingredients. You should discuss any special nutritional needs for your breed or breed mix with your veterinarian. When feeding your puppy, you will want to establish feeding times and try to adhere as closely as possible to them; dogs are creatures of habit and will know when it is time to be fed. You may be tempted to leave food out for your canine friend so that he/she has access to it when you are not there. Avoid this temptation; some breeds have a habit of overeating if the food is available and run the risk of obesity and the health risks associated with it. Just as important, you want your puppy to understand that you are the provider of his/her food and therefore the “alpha dog”. He/she will respect you as such and be more likely to obey. Play time will be an important part of your puppy’s day and will give you the opportunity to establish yourself as the leader of the pack in your household. Understand that the leader (you) will start and stop all games. If your puppy brings you a toy as an invitation to play, take the toy and set it aside for a few minutes. Then, initiate the play time. Make sure you have possession of the toy when you are ready to end playtime. You never want to chase your puppy to regain possession of the toy. Possession of the toy establishes dominance in your puppy’s mind. Start early and train your puppy to drop the toy and bring the toy to you before ending playtime. Avoid roughhousing and tug-of-war games with your puppy. Roughhousing can establish rough and even aggressive behavior such as jumping on and mouthing you or other people in your home.

Exercise is also an important part of your puppy’s daily routine. Initially, playtime may be enough, but as your puppy gets older, you will want to initiate daily walks. A comfortable fitting harness, 6 foot leash, and poop bags are all important to have when walking your puppy. A harness is recommended instead of a collar; collars can slip off easily. A solid leash as opposed to a retractable leash is preferred. Retractable leashes tend to get tangled and don’t allow you as much control of your puppy. Both playtime and walk time are opportunities to establish yourself as the alpha dog. You are going to want to use positive reinforcement training with your puppy will respect you, not fear you. Good quality treats are an important part of positive reinforcement training. Always reward your puppy when he/she obeys, either with a treat or positive words, touching and tone. Sleep time for you and your new puppy is just as important as the rest of the day. Your new puppy’s sleep quarters should be a small crate. Big enough for him/her to stand up and turn around. Keep the crate in a draft-free area. For the first three weeks, be prepared to take your puppy out on a leash to a predetermined relieving area when he/she cries during the night; it is his/her way of letting you know he/she “has to go.” When he/she is done, put him/her right back into his/her crate, no treats or playtime allowed. He/she should go back to sleep fairly quickly if you follow these rules. A comfortable blanket or an unstuffed toy to snuggle with may help she/he transition from sleeping with his litter mates to sleeping alone. If he/she whines during the night, resist the temptation to put she/he into your bed. Once established, this is difficult habit to break. A puppy in your bed may be cute, but think about sharing your bed with a full grown dog for ten-to-fifteen years. A lot of people do it. Just be aware of the long term consequences of bringing little Elmo or Lola to bed with you. Your puppy will quickly become a part of your family and you will want to give him/her all the love and good quality of life that the human members of your family enjoy. May you have many happy years with the newest member of your family.