It's Christmas morning and you walk up to your Christmas tree with your nice warm coffee you see your Christmas gift you have been begging for all year long: a puppy. This puppy is so cute and has a little red bow on its collar that just looking at it melts your heart. You rush over and pick up your new puppy and this puppy loves to cuddle, has puppy breath and is sweet as can be! This is the world's best puppy and it can only get better from here! Now we have more traveling, planning for New Year's and lots of people to host. This may be your first puppy or it's been a while since you've had a puppy, so now that you have gotten your puppy, now what do you do? Here are some tips to start you and your puppy off on the right paw:
Take your puppy to see the vet. It is always a good idea to have your puppy examined by a veterinarian to make sure the puppy is in good health and let you know if there are any concerning issues with your puppy you may need to worry about. Your veterinarian can also test your puppy for any intestinal parasites, which many puppies are prone to having, and treat your puppy for parasites as needed. Intestinal parasites are zoonotic meaning that you can catch them as well as other animals that your puppy may be in contact with so finding out sooner and treating sooner is not only healthier for you and the puppy, but it can save you some money in the long run when you don't have to treat other animals in the household. You also want to get your puppy on a vaccination schedule. Puppies need to have their immunity built up through booster shots. Parvovirus is a dangerous disease puppies are susceptible to and boostering your puppy for this disease is absolutely critical and should not be taken lightly.
Give your puppy time to adjust. It is a huge change for a puppy to go from being surrounded by its fellow littermates and a handful of people to being in a new home with people it doesn't know and without its siblings it has known since birth. This is an overwhelming time so if you met the puppy before you brought it home and it was bouncy and excited, but is now shy and quiet, keep this in mind. Your puppy will need time to adjust and process this change so do not force your puppy into coming out of its shell. Let your puppy come out at its own pace and be supportive and encouraging as your puppy makes strides. Some puppies take more time to adjust than others. Some dogs may take an hour while others may take days or even a couple of weeks. Again, give your puppy time to adjust. This also is probalbly not the best time to travel or board your dog. Adding more changes or stressors to your puppy by dropping your puppy off at a boarding facility with a bunch of loud dogs is probably not the best idea. If you have to leave your puppy and you got your puppy from a breeder, see if the breeder will keep the puppy until the holidays are over so your puppy has less drastic changes to try to cope through. If you are having holiday parties with lots of people, keep your puppy in a quiet area so your puppy is not overwhelmed by all of the commotion. You may certainly introduce your puppy to new people, but do 1 or 2 people at a time and take it slow. If your puppy seems scared or uncomfortable, end the interaction.
Puppy-proof your house. Ideally this will be done before you have gotten your puppy, but if it hasn't been, do so now. Lay flat on the ground and notice everything your puppy may have access to, especially any wires. If there are wires your puppy can potentially get to, figure out a way to cover them up. If you have a lot of wires you can't really cover up, consider getting a small PVC pipe and threading the wires through that so your puppy doesn't have access. If there are rooms your puppy isn't allowed in, keep those areas closed off. Are your shoes out? Those dangly laces are lots of fun for dogs to chew on and not so fun for owners. Keep your shoes locked away where your puppy can't get to them. If you have children, are all of their toys picked up? Children's toys can be a major choking hazard or foreign body waiting to happen and your dog doesn't know that those aren't toys for dogs. In order to keep an eye on your puppy for potty training, do you have baby gates set up so your puppy can't wander off for accidents? Knowing where your puppy is and what it is doing at all times is the best way to prevent accidents. Do you have a cat? Does the puppy have access to the litter box or is it blocked off? Nothing is more disgusting than having to take a "cat brownie" out of your puppy's mouth. And yes, this one is from experience.
Start good habits and create a routine from day one. If you have a lab that you know is going to be a large dog and don't want jumping on people when it's over 50 pounds, don't let your puppy start jumping on you and other people. If you want a dog to walk nicely on the leash, start while it is still a puppy. If you want your dog to be potty trained, start while it is still a puppy. It is 100% easier to set a puppy up for success and train good habits, than to try to correct problems later on. Dogs also thrive on routines and patterns. If you set up consistent potty training schedules, feeding schedules, walking schedules, etc, your dog will know what to expect and the behavior will match accordingly.
Find a good puppy class. A good puppy class is like a behavioral vaccine or behavioral booster shot for your puppy. A bad puppy class is like directly exposing your puppy to an actual disease (like parvo) and hoping your puppy doesn't get sick. A puppy class should have socialization at the heart of its curriculum as that is the most important thing for puppies. Also, make sure those trainers actually know what socialization is. If they play a game such as "pass the puppy" and force a scared puppy to interact with strangers, the trainer probably doesn't actually know what socialization is and is creating a recipe for a fearful or anxious adult dog in the future. A puppy class should require puppies be updated on their booster shots. A puppy class should also teach a variety of things to teach puppies how to actually learn and problem-solve. A puppy class should not be the same curriculum as their "manners 1", "obedience 1", or "level 1" class, but with dogs instead of puppies. Puppies are at a different developmental level as adults and classes should not be the same. If you go through a website and every see the words "alpha", "dominance", or "be the pack leader" as how they train, run away and do not turn back. Puppy classes are not meant to be the only class you ever take with your dog, however, they are one of the most important.
Lastly, have fun and enjoy your puppy. Build a good relationship with your puppy based on respect and trust. You have a living, breathing puppy, not a robot. Play with them, be affectionate, show you love your puppy. Yes, puppies are hard work, can be stressful, and sometimes make you wonder what on earth you were thinking. Puppies also melt your heart, are dependent on you, and just want to have a good time with you. Be patient and relax. Enjoy your puppy and start this year off with your puppy on a great path.