The squeals of delight will fill the house and eyes light up when anyone, young or old, sees a new puppy underneath the Christmas tree! There is nothing quite as sweet as a puppy. But it is important to remember they are babies, and they require a lot of care and attention in their new surroundings.
Experienced dog breeder Erika Swenson, Newark, Illinois, said bringing home a new puppy is exciting and stressful for both the puppy and the new owners. She and her husband, Seth, own Big Grove Farms and have been raising and selling Teddy Roosevelt Terriers for about 12 years. They originally purchased the small, heavy muscled, thick structured terriers for rodent control on their farm, but quickly fell in love with the animals. Today they raise the dogs for both their show quality and prey quality.
They have added two more breeds to their kennel – Bernese Mountain Dogs and Corgis.
“The Bernese Mountain Dogs are the protectors; the Terriers work for us keeping the rodents and things under control. Then we have the Corgis that are just fun. We really enjoy them, and they are so popular. We’ve had cattle here, and they will work cattle too. They will hunt mice too right along with the Terriers,” Erika said.
While the Swensons are experienced dog breeders, they have witnessed first-hand the excitement of customers picking up puppies to take to new homes numerous times. Erika recently shared her top tips to prepare for bringing a new canine companion home.
1. Do your Homework
A new puppy is exciting for everyone in the household, but there is a lot to know about bringing a new puppy home. Make sure you have researched the breed to know what to expect from your new pup. Is it a high-energy breed and will require a lot of exercise? Or does it prefer to curl up on the couch next to you? Every breed is different, and every animal is different, too.
Erika also advises to talk to the breeder via phone or Facetime prior to picking up the puppy to find out all the details about the animal since there is so much excitement on pickup day. Ask questions about the brand of food the puppy eats, its vaccination schedule and any other questions you might have about litter box training or sleep patterns. Most breeders will provide you with information at pickup, but it is good to have the pup’s preferred food on-hand when you get it home.
Finally, be sure to have all of your supplies when you get that puppy home. Those include a crate with a soft baby blanket or stuffed toy, stainless steel food and water dishes that clip to the crate or are sturdy enough not to tip over and antlers, hooves, bully sticks or heavy-duty chew toys. Erika advises against rawhide chews as they disrupt the digestive systems when ingested.
“Invest in a good bowl that doesn’t tip over all the time those first couple of weeks. Nothing frustrates a family more than constantly picking up the food or picking up the water that got spilled. It is worth it to invest in the stainless-steel little buckets that clip onto the crates. Get the cutesy stuff later,” she said. “Also forego the dog beds until they are past the teething stage. Just use baby blankets because if they chew a hole, you’re not picking up stuffing from the beds.”
2. Form, Stick to Routine
Your new puppy schedule might seem like the schedule that resembles a baby: sleep, potty, eat, potty, repeat. That is normal.
“When you are bringing a brand-new puppy home, it is no different than bringing a brand-new human baby home. If your human baby is hungry at 8 o’clock and hungry again at 8:30, just feed it. The puppies are growing, they are nervous when they first come home. Just feed them when they want. I know that isn’t going to be ideal for potting training, but at the same time, they are 8-weeks old, and their bladders aren’t that big, so it is hard to start that potty training first thing out of the gate when you get home,” Erika said. “For nerves alone and to keep things as similar as when they left our house, just think about it – they have never had to spend a day alone on earth. They have always either had their mother and their siblings or just their siblings to being all alone.”
She also emphasized that a routine is very important to potty training your new pup. Any time it wakes from a nap or eats or drinks, you need to take it outside to go potty, even if it was just a short while earlier. Also, if your puppy has been outside for 30 minutes and has not gone to the bathroom, put it back in its crate for five minutes and wait to take it back out. Animals typically won’t go to the bathroom where they sleep.
In addition to a schedule that you keep, also keep the crate in the same place. Dogs appreciate continuity and will be accustomed to their crate being in the same room as you had it from the beginning.
3. Train to the Crate
Speaking of the crate, continue to treat the crate as a safe space that is used for sleeping, travel and containment when you are not in the house. Dogs are den animals, and they feel safe in the closed in dark areas. Erika suggests ways to help them sleep as puppies.
“Get a big stuffed animal, put it in the dryer to warm it up and put it in the crate at bedtime with the puppy to help mimic a sibling. Also, at bedtime, put a blanket over the crate to keep out light and noise,” she said.
The Swensons do litter box train their puppies, and if you find a breeder that litter box trains puppies, good for you! This is serves as a safety net in the crate, while the puppies are still very young and trying to learn to control their bladders. For example, if you are gone for three hours, but they can only hold it for two, at least they have their litter box in their crates. If your new pup is litter boxed trained, but that is not for you, you can still use it as a way to train your dog outside. Just put the litter box in the area in your yard where you want it to potty, and that is where it will go.
A litter box trained dog that doesn’t have a box in its crate will usually sniff or scratch around the crate for a few minutes when it is ready to go outside. This is a sign to you, and will buy you a little time before an accident.
Most importantly, Erika reminds that crate training should never be a punishment time. It should be a happy time, and the crate should be their safe zone.
4. Love and Advocate for your Pup
Although a puppy can be a lot of work, with feeding, potty training, and making sure it doesn’t chew everything in sight, it really is true that dog can be man, woman or child’s best friend. Puppies grow into dogs, and they can become the most loyal companion known when properly cared for. Make sure you play with your puppy every day; most dogs love a ball or toy that they can retrieve. It is important to keep small items they could choke on out of their reach, and don’t tease them with their toys, as they will become territorial.
Finally, Erika said puppies need shots at about 8-, 12- and 16-weeks old, which means you will need to check with your dog breeder to make sure they have received their first round of shots before you pick them up. She said that all of their puppies have received their first shots, and if this is the case, you should not need to take pups to the vet for 3 to 4 weeks, unless you suspect it is sick. When you do take them to the vet, carry them in; don’t let them walk on the floor and ask the vet or vet tech to wash their hands, disinfect the scale, wall next to the scale and table, to keep from spreading any harmful germs from other dogs to your new pup.
Puppies are cute little creatures, but they are a lot of work; but the work is worth it for a loyal best friend. With Christmas around the corner, it’s not too early to start doing your homework before you bring home a new puppy. It will be worth it to hear those squeals and see those smiles!