The big day’s finally arrived – time to pick up your new puppy.
You’ve probably done plenty of research into whether to get a dog, sorted out your puppy insurance, and maybe even done a bit of new puppy shopping, but it’s a good idea to actually think about what you’ll be doing in that crucial first 24 hours, and beyond.
Oli Juste is a dog trainer and behaviourist who has offered his expertise in Channel 4’s Puppy School.
“Socialisation starts as soon as you bring your pup home,” says Oli. “Puppies need exposure to different situations, environments and ‘things’ to help them develop into happy and confident dogs.
“Fromcar trips, automatic doors at the supermarket, and vet visits, to hoovers, children and other dogs – pups need to be exposed to as much as possible, in a calm and positive way.”
“Socialisation should take place before they’re 16 weeks old, and can shape their behaviour well into adulthood. If your puppy has missed the critical window, be patient and introduce them to new environments slowly,” says Oli.
What you’ll need for day one
Before you go to pick up your puppy, get ready for training success by making sure you have these essentials:
Puppy pen and/or stair gates
Tough toys that can’t be easily chewed
Treats - choose small, healthy training treats to avoid overfeeding. You can cut them into tiny pieces to make them go further.
Puppy pads, a decent mop and puppy-safe cleaning solution
A timer or stopwatch
Four puppy lessons to start on day one
These are Oli’s top tips for helping new pet parents train happy, healthy pups from that first day, and beyond
Lesson one: Toilet training
Dogs are contextual learners – they learn by doing and experiencing. Here’s some advice for getting started with toilet training - and if you want to go further, check out our full puppy house training schedule.
Start by taking your puppy outside on the hour, every hour. When your puppy goes to the toilet, give them lots of praise and treats. Be sure to do this only when they have succeeded, rather than too early or you might disrupt their flow.
You will start to notice a pattern to your puppy’s toilet times. Try taking them to the garden to fit in with this pattern.
Importantly, never tell your dog off when toilet training since this will discourage them from doing their business when you’re around. Like all puppy training, positive reinforcement is best.
Lesson 2: Discourage jumping
Jumping up is a common problem for puppies and dogs. Here are some tips for addressing the issue on your puppy’s first day at home:
When you first get your pup home, manage the environment by using baby gates or puppy pens if needed.
Don’t underestimate the power of ‘sit’ from an early age - you can start this on day one. If your dog learns to sit for the desired amount of time, you can use the simple command when your pup meets people.
Practise ‘sit’ in a range of places and for different periods of time to help your puppy become a sitting pro.
Lesson 3: Puppy biting
Puppy teeth are very sharp and, while nibbles aren’t usually a sign of aggression, puppies need to learn that biting or chewing people (or furniture) isn’t good behaviour. Consider the following advice from day one:
Puppies are cute but respect their personal space and don’t play rough with them as this can encourage them to bite.
Whatever you do, don’t shout at them. Dogs learn best when you are clear about the behaviour you DO want.
Instead, make sure you redirect the biting with a toy and if your puppy bites your hand, stop interacting with it briefly (turn away, no eye contact) so that it learns the importance of boundaries.
Lesson four: Prevent separation anxiety
On day one, it’s probably best to make sure you’re available for your pup all day. But sooner or later, you’ll have to leave the room - and the house - without them. Here are some things to consider:
Gradually adjust your puppy to being alone over the first few weeks. Start by leaving the room for a few moments in those early days and gradually increase the time away.
Leave your puppy with something to keep it occupied, like a toy or some treats. The goal is to keep your pup’s brain cognitively engaged so it doesn’t process anxiety.
Puppies need short bouts of activity and plenty of rest.
This is what a typical day might look like for your very young puppy:
|Quiet time/crate training
|Garden breaks if needed - you might need to set an alarm!
You can use this schedule as a basis for your day, but adjust it to your own puppy. They might need more frequent garden breaks, for example, or you might want to do more training and less playtime - or vice versa.
The main thing is to have a plan ready for that crucial first day - then you can adjust and adapt as your puppy grows.