Reading short stories about other people’s crazy experiences with puppies or dogs can be entertaining. I hope you enjoy my stories about our first golden retriever and collie puppies. I’ll include tips for dealing with a new puppy in your home without losing your mind (and your new pair of shoes) now that I am a seasoned, professional dog trainer.
Sascha’s first ride home
We weren’t able to view any collie puppies until the following day, but by the time we were half-way home with Sascha, our new golden retriever puppy, we were relieved that we’d had to change our plans. We had stopped at least twice at rest stops to clean up her mess and to take her out for potty breaks. To save the upholstery, I had decided to sit in the back seat with her. This didn’t prove to be easy. Although her fur was as soft as eiderdown, and she looked as cuddly as a teddy bear, this puppy did not like to be held. And, on top of that, she was all teeth and nails. By the time we got home, my hands and arms were scratched and bleeding. And it was only early afternoon.
“Oh my God, she’s peeing on the carpet!” Joel shouted. And a second later, “She has your sock!” Joel’s voice had reached a desperate pitch. A fluff-ball bounded past me with Joel in hot pursuit–and he wasn’t laughing.
I grabbed a towel, my arms still soapy, and ran after him. Sascha was lost in her game, baby growls erupting from her throat. She flopped down, intent on tearing my sock to shreds, then moments later fell asleep. My head spun from jet lag, I craved sleep, and I couldn’t imagine another eight hours awake with this puppy. “What do we do now?” I asked Joel. “She has so much energy!” I looked over to where he had collapsed on the couch, rubbing his eyes. “Aren’t you going to clean the carpet?” I asked. “And what are you going to do about her biting? She’s YOUR puppy!”
“You clean the carpet. I’ll grab that puppy book,” he said. He left the room and returned with our book on puppies.
We followed the advice of “that puppy book” diligently. It had been written a few years earlier, in 1982, and used correction and fear-based tactics. At that time, all training was correction based, a military approach that had been used to train war dogs. Unfortunately, in 1986, Dr. Ian Dunbar, the father of pet-dog training, was just launching his career, and had not yet published his books Before You Get Your Puppy and After You Get Your Puppy which have saved the sanity of millions of new puppy owners around the world. But the book we bought was all we had, and although some of the techniques made us cringe, we tried them because we felt we ought to, and because we were desperate, and because we wanted a well-behaved dog.
- Be rested when you bring home your puppy. They require a lot of patience and work, especially when they aren’t yet house trained.
- Transport your puppy home in a crate with a washable, soft bed in it with chewable toys available. If possible, have a second person with you to help transport the puppy in the car.
- Don’t be alarmed if your puppy is car sick. Puppies will often outgrow this as their inner ear matures. Ask that your new puppy not be fed before the trip home
- Leaving their litter mates and mother is traumatic for puppies, especially if they are 8-10 weeks old which is considered a fear period. They are very sensitive to their environment and new stimuli during these fear periods. So protect your puppy from potentially scary experiences for a day or two–rough handling; too many people accosting him; loud, scary noises such as TV, vacuum cleaner, and traffic; then GRADUALLY expose him to new things in a non-threatening way.
- If your puppy won’t eat at first, it is most likely because of stress. Pick his food up after 20 minutes and try again an hour or two later. Always leave a big bowl of fresh water available to him.
- Don’t be alarmed if your puppy bites and scratches. Puppies need to bite to learn how to control their jaws as adults. This extremely important skill is called bite inhibition.
- Prepare for your puppy at home with long and short term confinement areas, and lots of puppy-proof toys that will stand needle-sharp teeth tearing into them (Kongs–a rubber toy that can be stuffed with treats, nylabones, ruffwear toys, etc). They need to chew. The confinement areas will make your puppy feel more secure and will help you to teach him the kinds of behaviors you want him to learn, free of corrections. More about this on my next blog.