0-8 Weeks: Preparing For Your New Puppy
In this series, I am going to take you through the process of setting your new puppy up for success. I will include steps you should be taking for potty training, feeding, obedience training and tackling puppy behaviors as they come. Each month, there will be a new article on the next stage of your puppy's development. If you are wondering where to get your puppy, what kind of puppy you should get, or if you should even get one, check out this article on Bringing Home the Right Dog. This first post is about preparing your home and family for your new puppy to come home. Whether you are getting your new puppy from a rescue or a breeder, puppies should not be separated from their mom or littermates until they are about 8 weeks old. This gives you plenty of time to prepare.
Decide on Household Rules
Before you bring home a new puppy, or adult dog for that matter, you and your family should decide on the household rules before they ever step paw into your house. This way you can start the process of teaching and enforcing those rules from day one to minimize confusion and to create good habits from an early age. Some examples of rules you will want to decide on are: Will they be allowed on the couch? Sleep in your bed? Are there rooms you don't want them in? A certain area where you want them to potty? Whatever rules you decide on, make sure that everyone in your home knows the rules and will follow them.
Make a Potty-Training Schedule
Keeping to a schedule is important when you are potty-training a puppy, so setting up a schedule now will make it much easier. The general rule is a puppy can go 1 hour between potty breaks for every month old they are. So when your puppy first comes home, that is 2 hours. By figuring out a schedule now, you can fit them into your normal routine, instead of shuffling to try and fit your routine into a potty break schedule. Anytime your puppy has been napping, eating, or been inside for a while, the first thing you should do is take them outside. Once they go to the bathroom, you can play, cuddle or train. For someone who works 9-5, a potty schedule might look like this: potty at 6:30AM, breakfast and potty at 8:30AM, potty at 10:45AM, lunch and potty at 1:00PM, potty at 3:15PM, potty at 5:30PM, dinner and potty at 7:30PM, and then potty breaks at 9:30PM, 11:45PM, 2:00AM, and 4:15AM. That's a lot of potty breaks, but remember as your puppy gets older and starts to learn where they should go to the bathroom, you can slowly start to increase the time between breaks. Your goal is to never let your puppy get to the point where they can't hold it and pee in the house.
Divide Up Puppy Chores
If you live alone, then this part is easy, you get to do everything, but if you have a partner, children or roommates, now is a good time to decide who will be responsible for what. Now these don't have to be hard and fast rules, that would be unrealistic, but having a general idea will help things run smoothly. Some ones you may want to consider: Who will feed them? Clean up their messes? Take the puppy for a short walk? Take them on potty breaks in the middle of the night? Take them through puppy training? This may seem like overkill, but you don't want to miss something and end up with an accident on the floor.
This one is kind of fun, whether you are shopping from your own stash of supplies or buying from a pet store, it is always fun to do. Having everything ahead of time will make it easier for the puppy to transition to your home and ensures you don't have to make a last minute stop to get one last thing. At the minimum, you will need a food and water bowl, puppy food, a leash and collar, a way to contain your puppy, and a couple toys. You may also want to consider things like treats, a dog bed, a harness, a variety of types of toys and chews, shampoo, a brush and nail clippers and poop bags. When picking out collars and harnesses, remember that puppies grow fast. So you may want to get the next size up and tighten the straps as much as possible so you don't have to get a new one quite as soon. When picking out toys, get at least one chew toy to help relieve some of the teething pain.
Set Up a Space
You want to set up a space for your puppy to leave them in when they're alone. I recommend a kennel, but you can also block them off in a small area like a laundry room, bathroom or corner of the kitchen. It is important for potty training that this is a small area. big enough for them to stretch out in, but not for them to run and play. Make it nice and cozy with something soft to lay on and a chew toy. This is meant to be an area for night, naps and quite time. You will also want a larger area for some solo play when they are awake, but you don't have time to watch them. This can be a larger area like a yard, a whole room or larger area sectioned off with an x-pen. This area should be puppy-proofed and have a few different toys to play with. This is important for your sanity. Puppies are curious and always want your attention, so having a place where they can entertain themselves and you don't have to worry about them chewing up a pillow or peeing on your new rug is a huge stress reliever.
Choose a Vet
Now is a good time to look for a vet. You will need to take your new puppy to the vet soon after they come home. Some breeders and rescues even have it written in their adoption contracts that you have to take them to a vet within so many days. So to avoid rushing to find one with an appointment availability, go ahead and start your search. You could ask friends, family and neighbors for recommendations to help guide you. If you are adopting from a rescue, you may want to ask if they have any veterinarians they have partnerships with since you may get a discounted or free visit if you go through them. Whichever vet you choose, know that you are going to be there quite a bit over the next few months.
Now is the time to get a lot of the prep work done to make the home-coming as smooth as possible for your new puppy and your family. Taking the time to set your new puppy up for success ensures that they will be happy, healthy and a well behaved adult. The next post in the Puppy Grow-Up Guide will be about the first week you bring your puppy home and transitioning them from being with their mom and littermates to being a member of your family.