Most of our puppies are or will be in their new homes this week. We have a few tips that make the adjustment period easier for everyone.
Meeting the puppy
It is helpful and important to remember that all dogs, and puppies especially, learn with smell first, then sight, then touch and last hearing. As hard as it is, resist the impulse to talk in a high squeaky voice. Let the puppy meet you with his nose first!
First night home
Crates are awesome for sleeping because you don't have to worry that the puppy will wander into your room or house and pee somewhere while you are asleep.
Our puppies are all introduced to a crate very early in life. We always have a crate open in the puppy pen for naps and bedtime. We have had great reports of the puppies' first nights! Offer the last meal around 9 or so then take up all food and water. Let the puppy play and explore. Make sure he goes both pee and poop then let him sit with you/the family until he is drifting off to sleep. Pick a late bedtime! At that point just pop him in the crate and turn off all the lights. Make sure the blanket we sent home with you is in the crate so he has a familiar scent. If he is whining, sometimes it helps to completely cover the door with a sheet or blanket. Don't let him out if he is whining or crying or he will whine and cry every time he is in there. If he is really screaming then at least wait until he stops to take a breath to open the door, take him back outside and let him get sleepy again and start over.
He will probably wake up once during the night to go to the bathroom. Don't talk or play or pet. Just take him out to the potty area and then put him right back in the crate.
We like to take the puppy straight outside to his outdoor potty area before introducing him to the house. Take a handful of yummy treats (freeze dried liver! )to reward outside potty behaviors. Once in the house, set the timer for an hour and take the puppy outside diligently. He will need to pee after waking up, after playing and after eating. If you don't have both eyes on the pup, put him in his crate or outside. We always use a high value food treat to reward potty until the puppy is asking to go out on his own.
Don't punish the pup for accidents unless you want a dog that hides in the closets or behind the couch to pee and poop. If the pup has an accident then you didn't watch him closely enough.
*Can I just mention--in my humble opinion--the dog door is the greatest invention since sliced bread! The dog can let himself out and can stay home overnight... Life with dogs has been noticeably easier since we installed a dog door!*
Training doesn't have to be overwhelming. Basically, any behavior that is rewarded will continue. In the beginning we treat liberally for any behavior that we like--
The pup looks at me instead of the cat=treat. (treat is food, petting, picking up etc--we keep stashes of treats all over the house so the puppy thinks rewards can appear anywhere at any time!)
The pup walks up looks at me=treat.
The pup walks up and sits=treat.
The pup sits nicely while the toddler pets him=double treat.
The pup starts to put paws up on us=nothing (no treat, no petting, no talking). Be patient--once you start rewarding sitting as a default behavior it will happen more and more often.
Don't reward nervous or timid behavior. Resist the impulse to pet and 'comfort' a puppy who is whining/crying/hiding. This is important. Most dog bites are fear based (the dog is afraid...). Remind visitors to let the puppy meet them with smell first. Give everyone who comes to the door a little treat to offer once the pup has had a chance to sniff and greet. If he sits he gets double treats! If the pup is afraid of something it is okay to step between him and the 'scary' object until he calms down but don't pick him up or pet him.
Have a stash of acceptable chew toys available all the time. If the dog picks up a good chew toy--give a treat (food, petting, attention etc.). If he picks up your favorite shoes, remind yourself to put your important things away and replace the shoe with an acceptable chew toy.
It is faster and more effective to reward good behaviors than it is to punish bad behaviors.
We love using a clicker to teach a new behavior, but if a clicker is intimidating or unfamiliar then use what you have. We have found that we don't have to have a clicker to reinforce everyday behaviors.
One more note--we always, always use a high value food treat to reward 'come.' 'Come' is one of the most important behaviors we want our dog to have. In the beginning even coming across the kitchen when called gets a food reward. Work up to calling the pup from another room and then from the back yard etc.
Most important--have fun and don't worry too much. Puppies are babies. They learn fast and they are forgiving. Keep working on it and you will have a fantastic family dog!
The puppies have all been leaving to go to their new homes this week. It's bittersweet to have them leave! Every dog is going to a really great family though so that makes us happy.
I thought I'd put together a new puppy essentials list.
Here are some things that have helped us through those first few puppy weeks:
1. Crate. We like to have a crate that is big enough to hold the dog for a least a year. For these puppies that means the crate needs to be able to have a dog up to 40 or 50 pounds. Crate training is really helpful for house training and for those times when you just need the dog out of your hair.
2. Clicker and treats. We can't say enough good about clicker training. Haven't heard of it? Read through a few articles here. We just discovered freeze dried liver treats from Petsmart. We have been cutting them up in smaller pieces so they can be swallowed in one bite. They are light weight, they don't smell and they don't get our hands dirty. And the dogs go crazy for them.
The puppies beg to be picked up every time we go near the pen so we do 'gate training' a lot. We just lean over the puppy pen gate (totally quiet--we don't talk at all) and treat the pups who are sitting politely. Sometimes there is only one sitting to begin with but as soon as the others notice that the sitting pup is getting treats they all join in.
Who was fastest to figure out that sitting earns the treat?--Cheddar (Orange)
3. Flat buckle collar and non-retractable leash. Retractable leashes aren't sturdy enough to walk an unpredictable puppy. And they can cause some serious damage if they tangle around feet or hands! We like a plain six or eight foot leash.
4. Food. We use Nature's Domain (high quality and cost effective) from Costco and we also love Taste of the Wild dry dog food. We feed our dogs NuVet vitamins. When the puppies are together as a litter we have food and water available at all times. When we have a new puppy in our home and we are potty training, we feed on a schedule-- three times a day.
Feeding on a schedule helps predict when to take the pup out to potty. (What goes in must come out!) We like to measure out the entire day's food amount and then use it throughout the day to help with training. We almost always hand feed our puppies. Hand feeding helps the pup learn that we are the food providers and that food belongs to us not them.
We feed adults twice a day.
5. Enzyme based Carpet Cleaner. Of course the goal is to avoid potty training accidents but cleaning up an accident promptly and correctly is an important part of the process. Dogs will pee where is smells like a 'bathroom.' We like Nature's Miracle but any enzyme based cleaner will work. Our advice?--just buy the gallon size. It cleans up all kinds of messes.
We can't believe how much the puppies have changed over the last week or so!
The puppies look curlier and are developing that signature doodle rectangular shaped head. Purple and Orange seem to have a little bit of a narrow snout. Green, Black and Blue are the whitest coats. The others are a beautiful light cream. Orange, Green and Red are the curliest. Tan, Yellow and Red are the smallest. Blue and Brown are the biggest and surprisingly, the most mellow personalities. Green and Orange are a little bit higher energy. Both are very smart and love to be with people.
The puppies are experts at the dog door. When Paisley goes through the pen to get outside they all try to get through the door after her at the same time. Sometimes there will be five or six little tails wagging, stuck in the door. It's pretty hilarious. I'll have to get a picture of it one of these days!
While the puppies are used to 'going' outside, they will still require some potty training when they get to their new homes. We haven't allowed them access to the main part of the house so that they can learn to stop playing and run outside when needed. It won't take much work for them to figure it out but it will require some effort to get a reliably trained dog.
Here is a link to one of our favorite potty training articles:
Housetraining Basics by Peggy Tillman
Want your dog to ring a bell to go potty? Here's a great step-by-step article by Aiden Bindoff.
Happy fourth of July! It's been a busy week around here!
The puppies are nearly seven weeks old and they received their first shots. This is where my RN training comes in handy. We did the shots here at the house where the pups are most comfortable and where we don't have to worry about diseases that may be lurking in our vet's office. All the puppies did great. In fact most of them didn't even seem to notice! A couple kind of whimpered and then hopped down to roll in the grass. Sweet little guys.
We also had temperament testing done. We were thrilled (though not surprised!) to see that the puppies almost exclusively received 3's and 4's on their tests. The exceptions were with the touch and sound sensitivity and restraint. The touch test involves pinching the webbing between the puppy's toes until they react. The only puppy who even looked to see what was going on was blue. I don't know if that even counts as a reaction! They pretty much all scored 1's for the touch and sound sensitivity. I'm not surprised. Unexpected handling and lots of strange loud noises have been a part of these puppies lives since birth. We can thank our six noisy kids for that!
They also scored almost all 5's in the restraint test. It didn't bother them to be held on their backs. Gray and Green were the most wiggly of the bunch but even that was fairly mild.
They are just getting ready for a growth spurt so we expect to see lots of changes over the next week or two.
In the mean time everyone is lounging around tolerating the 100 degree+ temperatures!