As little Hank was chewing and tugging on the electrical cords, Sophia thought to herself, “what have I gotten into?” Having a new puppy can be overwhelming at times, but it also can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Dogs, in many ways, are the best of human emotions; they are pure love, loyalty, and companionship. They are the friend that you can always count on and the companion that loves you no matter what.
Puppies literally are on a different level in your house. They are low to the ground and see everything from a different perspective. Before you bring your new puppy home, think about things from its point of view. Dogs explore the world with their mouths; they naturally pick up things and chew. Think of what is within their reach that is chewable. Cardboard, wood, leather, plastic, and fabric are fun for puppies to chew. Try redirecting the chewing behavior to an appropriate toy. Hank has a squeaky lion toy, a Kong to be stuffed with food, a baby Nylabone, and a rubber ring with a rope. You may have to experiment with a variety of things, but you will find your dog’s favorite toys. Remember, the dog is just being a dog and it is up to you to protect it and train it to live in a human’s world.
Dogs are always learning. Whether you are trying to train them or not, they are always watching you and the world around them. If you pick up your phone at night and spend 20 minutes scrolling, the dog will learn that when you sit in your chair and pick up that phone, she has unsupervised free time, and this would be a good time to use the bathroom in the house.
House training can be a fun game and when it is done well, it is a great bonding experience between you and your young pup. Sophia said that one of her happiest moments with little Hank was when he first used the bathroom outside. You can make a positive connection with your new dog by giving many tiny treats throughout the day and you can accelerate training by timing the delivery of the treats and praise. Rewards reinforcing desired behaviors are most effective; punishments can cause unexpected and undesired consequences. Make it fun with plenty of rewards and plan to spend extra time with your new dog. It will be a project that will take up your time and attention. Sophia said, “You have to go through the trials of puppyhood to get a well-socialized dog. If you put in the work, you will reap the benefits.”
Create a master plan. Will you travel with your new dog? Will he stay in a crate when you are gone? Where will he sleep? Plan all these things out in advance and set the routine in motion from the very start. Of course, house training is a time for bonding, but also go on walks together and take your dog places. As puppies grow, they go through certain socialization periods. They need to be exposed to many different sights, sounds, people, and places. Some puppies are shy and will need to be exposed slowly to the world, but in general it is good to take your puppy out for new experiences. Take him to the hardware store or out in public but avoid exposing him to places where a lot of other dogs have been. This can expose him to diseases that he is especially susceptible to while he is young and has not yet completed his puppy vaccines.
A veterinarian and a dog trainer can be great resources to help you even before you get your new dog. There are lots of questions and things to think about; don’t be afraid to pick the brains of people who deal with these things every day. Your puppy will need vaccinations about every three weeks until she is 16 weeks old, and those vaccines will be slightly different for each dog, depending on things like lifestyle, age, and size. Your puppy will need good-quality puppy food while she is growing and will need to be tested and treated for intestinal parasites and other parasites as well. There are many options for prevention and treatment, and it is worth a consultation with your veterinarian. Give your new dog support and training through puppyhood and she will stick with you through thick and thin, waiting patiently with a wagging tail.
Dr. Jeff Smith is a veterinarian at Danville Family Vet and has been serving the area for over 25 years. Sophia Decker is a Licensed Veterinary Technician and Hank is a Bassett Hound.