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!