8-9 Weeks: Puppy's First Week Home
The first week your puppy comes home is vital for setting your new puppy up for success. It is much easier to create good habits from the beginning than it is to break bad habits in the future. At this point, you should have already prepared to bring your new puppy into your home. If you haven't, take the time now, to set your puppy and your household up for success.
The First Hour
Your new puppy is likely to be a little confused and a little stressed. Remember, their whole world just changed and it's up to you to show what their new world is going to be like. The first thing before you even go inside, is to try and encourage your puppy to go to the bathroom. Set them up for success so that they don't have to go while you are trying to show them around. After they have gone, take them inside on a leash. They should not yet have free reign of your home yet, that is only asking for trouble. Show them around the areas they will be, let them explore, sniff and get to know their new home at a relaxed pace. Make sure to show them their crate, play area, water bowl, the door to outside, their toys, etc. Basically anywhere they will be and anything they will need. Let your puppy go at their own pace. This should be a fun and positive experience. Don't drag them from place to place, but gently guide them and let them fully explore each space. This is also a good time to meet any other family members. Hold off on other animals, but introduce them to any partners, children and roommates that live with you. Have the people get down to your puppy's level and let your puppy approach them. Make it a fun experience with treats and play. Once they have explored and met all their new family members, it's nap time. Puppies sleep a lot, and such an exciting and new experience is likely to tire them out. Check to see if they need to go potty one more time and put them in their crate. Toss several treats in to encourage them into their crate and give them something to chew on. Refer to your potty schedule that you have already made to know when to let them out next.
Crate training is the best way to potty train your puppy and ensure that they stay out of trouble. Every time your puppy has an accident or chews on something they shouldn't, they are learning behaviors that will cause conflict in the future. When introduced properly, a crate is a relaxing and calming place for your dog. Make sure your crate is small enough that your puppy can stand up, turn and lay down in, but no bigger. You want it to be small enough so that they cannot pee in one spot and lay down in another. Start by tossing treats near the door to the crate. Your puppy may be a little wary of it at first, so you want to entice them to be around it. Once your puppy seems curious, relaxed or excited around the crate, start tossing them just inside, so your puppy has to reach their head in to get the treat. Keep tossing the treats farther and farther into the crate until they have to fully enter in order to get the treats. Now you can start to close the door for very short periods of time to get your puppy used to being in there. It's also good to feed your puppy inside their crate. Put their food bowl all the way in the back so that they enter on their own and close the door behind them. By associating the crate with food, your puppy learns that this is a good place to be.
The best time to start potty training is day one. You should already have a schedule made up for your puppy and it's time to start following it. Your goal is to prevent accidents. At this age, your puppy can be expected to need to potty every 2 or so hours. So, every 2 hours you should take your puppy outside. At this point, do not expect your puppy to know to tell you that they need to go out, it is your job to anticipate. Many puppies will need to go potty after every meal, nap, or play time. Take your puppy out on leash, so that they don't get distracted and try to play. You can give them a cue, so that they learn to go to the bathroom on command, or you can simply wait. Give lots of praise and a treat every time they go outside. If they don't go to the bathroom or they are too excited and distracted, take them back in and put them in their crate for a couple minutes and then try again. Don't leave them loose unless they have gone potty or there will be a much higher chance of them having an accident.
Your new puppy is in a critical point in their development for socializing, so you want to take advantage of that. Socializing isn't just introducing to people and other dogs. It's also letting them experience new sights, smells, sounds and textures. Your puppy is already experiencing new people and lots of new things this week. Your home is new, you are new, the smells are new. So take advantage of that and introduce things in a positive way to help your puppy build confidence. Encourage your puppy to run across different textures, like grass, concrete, carpet, mulch and whatever you have access to at your home. You can use treats, play or simply yourself as a reward to encourage them if they seem a little nervous. You can also start introducing some sounds at a quiet level by playing a video on a low volume. You can slowly increase the volume if your puppy shows no signs of stress or fear. If they do, lower the volume to where they aren't bothered and let it play during meal times and play time. Especially sounds like thunderstorms and fireworks that many dogs develop anxiety around. For more information on this read the post on How to Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks. If you have other animals in your household, this is also a good time to introduce them. Move slowly to set them up for success.
Like everything else in this post, the best time to start obedience training is day 1. At first, you are going to be focusing more on them learning to train than specific commands. This week focus on hand feeding, luring, name recognition, and introducing a leash. Hand Feeding: You want your puppy to learn how to gently take treats from your hand. You are going to be giving a lot of treats in the upcoming months, and you don't want a sore hand from all the little nips from getting the treats out of your hand. Put a treat on your flat palm and cover it with your thumb. If your puppy is gentle, nudges and licks, then you let them have the treat, if they use teeth, you keep it covered. Luring: Put a treat in your hand like before and slowly lead them a few steps. You are trying to get them in the habit of their nose following your hand. You can start with a strait line, then move to circles, going above their head (like a sit), between their feet (like for down), etc. Name Recognition: A dog's name is a way to get their attention, and is often used as an informal recall. To teach them their name, say it and immediately follow with a treat. You are loading this word so that when they hear it they get excited and turn to you without even thinking. Keep doing this until every time you say their name, they look at you or come to you. Introducing a Leash: Leash is a critical training tool as well as an essential part of their life. Now is the time to introduce it. Some puppies get freaked out the first time they have a leash on, some stop moving, some try to back out of it, some try to run away from it and some have no problem with it. For your puppy, choose a light weight leash and start in a confined area like a room of your house. Once you put it on, try to keep it loose. So if your puppy freezes, stay near them. If your puppy is trying to back out or running away, move with them. Once the initial reaction has calmed use treats or toys to encourage your puppy to you. Move around the room encouraging your puppy to follow you. Once they understand the game, you can try it in different areas.
Your puppy has just left their littermates and they are going to see you as their new playmate. Dogs and puppies play bite and mouth with each other and so they are naturally going to apply that same behavior to you. However puppy teeth are sharp, and we don't have fur to protect our hands. Every time your puppy play bites, stop playing with them and ignore them for a few moments. You can then get a toy and reintroduce play or start a training session. Those few moments are important so that your puppy does not learn that biting = reward. However, your puppy still has the energy and excitement, so you do want to help them get out that energy in a positive way.
All of this might seem like a lot of work, and you are right. Puppies take a lot of time and patience. But by putting in the work now, you are going to save yourself a lot of headaches in the future. Come back next month for week 9-12 in the Puppy Grow-Up Guide.