Once you bring your puppy home, that’s when the fun begins. And the hard work. Lots and lots of hard work.
By Kaelin Tully
Your puppy’s first month at home can be broken down to three main categories: routines, patience, and playtime. Let’s cover them one by one.
Getting your puppy used to the routines of your household is crucial in their early months of life. This is when they learn what “normal” is and also when they’re most receptive to training (through positive reinforcement).
However, you’ll also have to adjust your schedule to suit your puppy. For example, your puppy won’t be able to delay its bathroom needs until you decide you’re ready to wake up; be prepared for a few late and sleepless nights as you housetrain your puppy. Sometimes this can be supplemented with potty pads to help with the initial bumps in the road. This may also coincide with crate training, the process of teaching your puppy that its crate is a great place to spend a few hours at a time. Even though you may get woken up many times throughout the night, it’s good to have a morning and evening routine to follow with your pup.
During the day, your puppy may not be able to communicate when it needs to use the restroom or go outside, so start taking them out at regular intervals (i.e., within 10 minutes of them eating or drinking). These intervals can become spaced out over time, but it’s good for your puppy to know that you will regularly take them outside and they don’t have to make a mess inside.
You should also be prepared to enroll your pup in obedience classes fairly early on. This will both make your life easier and provide your family with a sense of security when it comes to your puppy. Don’t forget: just like with humans and school, you’ll need to practice your training “homework” between classes. This will give your pup some structure and easy ways to earn some treats.
Additionally, you may want or need to enroll your puppy in a doggy daycare service. This is especially true if you’re not able to constantly monitor your pup, but it can also provide an excellent way of socializing your dog around other dogs/environments easily.
Your puppy’s first month at home will also have a couple of veterinarian visits, typically for an initial check-up and then for any subsequent booster shots, your puppy will need. Getting them used to your vet’s office early is a great idea.
Did we mention all the potty accidents enough times already? Between those and your puppy not knowing the difference between what’s a chew toy and what’s a shoe, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to be patient with your pup.
It’s hard being a puppy! Everything is new and different almost every day. They’re learning and growing and expending so much energy that it can be hard to keep up with. While it’s hard not to, try your best not to lose your temper with your new buddy. Their home environment should be calm and nurturing; obviously, accidents will happen, especially as everyone is adjusting in those first few weeks. Forgive yourself and your puppy for any mistakes that may pop up, and remember that any major ones can always be fixed with proper training.
Your puppy will also continue to lose some of their puppy teeth during this time, which means they’ll be teething as the new ones are growing in behind them. They may use their mouths more than usual and bite quite a lot, which is totally normal and understandable. Teething is no fun!
You may be surprised at how much energy your pup can use every day! And at how fast they can fall asleep for a nap right after. It’s essential to create the right time and space for your new dog to play and get some much-needed exercise. Dogs that don’t receive the right amount of playtime may exhibit “acting out” behaviors; on the surface, these may make them seem like bad dogs when in reality, they just needed to let off some steam.
Playing with your dog is more than just watching them play; they love to interact with you and learn from your behaviors as well. Try having a variety of toys, especially as you discover what type of play-er your dog is (do they rip squeaker out? do they eat stuffing if given a chance?). Having toys where you can insert treats or other desirable goodies is good for your dog’s development and puzzle-solving skills.
More than just indoor playtime, make sure your dog gets proper amounts of time outside. Sniffing around the block may tucker your puppy out more than playing with them inside. Turn their potty breaks into walks as long as they can handle; small breeds with small legs may not be able to go very far at first. It’s also helpful to socialize your puppy with other dogs, animals, and humans. Be sure to limit that to trusted friends and family though until your dog has had all its necessary shots. Once you feel comfortable, you can also start taking your pup to designated dog parks and runs; most of these include off-leash options to really let them run out some energy.
As always, your dog’s health and safety should be first, so try to avoid pushing them to their physical limits. This will be different depending on the breed, of course, but just keep in mind what your dog is capable of doing plus what level of exercise is required to keep them active and healthy. Your breeder or vet will have good recommendations specific to your breed and unique pup, so never be afraid to reach out to them with questions!
Just as every dog is different, so is every dog owner. Everyone’s first month with their new puppy is unique. Essentially, you’re providing food, shelter, and enrichment for an 8- to 12-week-old creature. You’ll be cleaning up spills, measuring out proper amounts of food, taking them in for their booster shots, meeting other puppies and dogs on the street, and so much more. It’s a whirlwind built on very little sleep, so do your best to keep up with your pup, and you’ll do great.