Congratulations on your new puppy! They’re cute, squishy, roly-poly, and have that sweet puppy breath (and razor sharp teeth!) But what now? How do we turn this little ball of happy energy, into a well-mannered, socialized, man’s best friend? Puppies are not easy! They don’t come ready to go “out of the box.” The work you put in is exactly what you will get out.
I was lucky enough to add another Vizsla puppy to my pack recently, and it’s been a completely new experience the second time around. Banks came from a reputable breeder. If you’re looking for a breeder of ANY breed, I strongly encourage you to contact the national parent club of that breed, typically (insert breed here) club of America, and ask for reputable breeders that follow that breeds code of ethics, that bred specifically for temperament, health, and function. When I brought Banks home, he had been thoroughly socialized, temperament tested/matched to my family, was completely potty trained, crate trained, and was extremely happy and healthy! This not only made our lives easier, but it laid the foundation for the well-mannered, socialized, friendly, best friend that I now have. We have been bonding over all sorts of training, from field and bird dog work, conformation (show), to simple yard and house training, but mostly, over the outdoors. Banks has been my hiking and camping partner (he rode in my Kurgo G-Train dog carrier backpack as a little puppy), since we brought him home at 10 weeks. There is no better way to strengthen and create the bond between you and your puppy than to explore together!
Not every puppy comes from the most ideal situation, but how we set them up to succeed is what will make the biggest difference in their future. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve put together since bringing Banks home. I hope they can make the first few months with your new puppy go smoothly.
Puppy Proof your house! With Banks, we rolled up our rugs for a few weeks, made sure shoes were picked up off of the floor, and were diligent about picking up socks, clothes, bags, and more. Make sure you set your puppy up to succeed!
Tether your puppy to you in the house at all times! A young puppy shouldn’t have free reign of the house until they’re understanding of rules and boundaries (and potty trained!). I used the Kurgo Quantum Leash for a hands-free tether with Banks.
Potty Training: Set a schedule and stick to it! I took Banks outside every 15 minutes, and after every meal. Your puppy will likely need to use the bathroom during the night, make sure you use the time to ONLY go to outside, and not as a playtime. I would take Banks out of the crate without talking to him or encouraging excitement. We went outside, and he went directly back into the crate (he did get a few snuggles first though!)
Feeding: Your puppy should be eating at least 3 times per day while they’re young. Hand feeding encourages soft mouths and can discourage biting. It’s also an amazing way to strengthen your bond. I love to use feeding time to do short 5 minute training sessions with Banks! Feeding in the crate is a great way to promote crate training and make it a more positive place. Puzzle toys and snuffle mats are also great ways to burn some of that puppy energy!
Veterinary Care: Make sure you get your puppy to your new veterinarian within the first 48 hours of bringing them home for a wellness check. The vet will go over general care and preventative care with you, ensuring a healthy life for your new puppy! Together you can also decide on the vaccine schedule you want to follow.
Crate Training: This is one of the most important steps to take when bringing a new puppy home! Playing crate games, feeding in the crate, and using rewards and short spurts in the crate will all encourage puppies to love their own safe place. Crate training will also make potty training a breeze, as well as keep your puppy safe from all of the dangers of chewing and getting into things they shouldn’t around your house! We trained Banks to sleep in his crate (most of the time), so that if we are away on a trip, he always has a safe place in different environments. Keeping the crate covered, and giving special treats (Banks loves frozen peanut butter stuffed toys!), are also easy ways to ensure a positive, comfortable experience!
Introducing your puppy to other dogs in the house: If you have other dogs, socialize them to other dogs and puppies, so that the transition with the new puppy goes smoothly. The introduction of your new puppy to your current dogs should be on neutral ground in a controlled situation, ideally with one adult for every dog. Remember that puppies learn from being corrected by adult dogs. Do not leave puppies unattended with your adult dogs.
Safe toys: Stay away from rawhide, rope, antlers (these are too hard for puppy teeth), or toys they can easily chew apart and ingest. Banks loves frozen stuffed toys, bully sticks, no hide chews, dehydrated ears (lamb, rabbit, cow, etc.), and natural treats. Always supervise when giving new toys, treats, or chews. Puzzle toys and snuffle mats are always great toys that require a lot of mental stimulation and will burn some puppy energy!
Training: Always set your puppy up to succeed, and praise for good behaviors. Shaping is ideal in puppy training, and it encourages puppies to explore on their own. If your puppy isn’t doing what you want, it is most likely because you haven’t shown them what it is that you’re expecting of them. Jumping, biting, or barking may be cute as a little puppy, but remember that puppy will grow up, and if it won’t be cute for them to do as a grown adult dog, then don’t allow it as a puppy. My favorite first commands to teach are “leave it,” “down,” “stay,” “come,” and “place.” We did not teach Banks to “sit,” as it can interfere with conformation and hunt training.
PLAY! Make sure you get outside to play and bond with your puppy! Playing a relaxed game of fetch, taking a walk or rolling around in the grass with your new pup will all strengthen the bond between you two. Using a flat leash and collar or harness, take your puppy for a short hike! Be aware that your puppies growth plates are nowhere near closing, and their little joints and muscles cannot take a long walk. Allow them to stop and go as they please. If you’re wanting to bring your puppy on a longer hike- Kurgo’s G-Train dog carrier backpack is perfect for strapping them in and taking them on the go!
Socialization: If you take away anything from reading this, I hope it is the importance of socializing your new puppy. It is our job as new owners to make sure we fill our puppy’s little minds up with positive social situations! The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is within the first three months of life. Acknowledging this, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated. Their position statement on puppy socialization is worth a read.
Now this does not mean you should take your puppy to the dog park, or somewhere you know there have been many dogs who are not vaccinated! Enrolling in a puppy class (as early as 8 weeks according to AVSAB, with a minimum of one set of vaccines at least 7 days prior to the first class, and staying up to date throughout the class), is a perfect place to improve training, strengthening your bond, and socializing puppies in an environment where risk of illness is minimized. Banks and I also love to frequent dog friendly stores (always call your local store before going to check if they’re dog friendly). We've been to Lowes, TJ Maxx, Academy Sports, Home Goods, and some great breweries and restaurants together. You can find a more thorough list in your area through a google search. Socialization also occurs in your home. Inviting neighbors, friends, family, and trusted dogs over will continue to build their positive experiences. Things such as running the vacuum, playing the radio, or taking them in the car all during those first three months of life will really set them up for success as they grow.
What else have you found that helped you get through the puppy stages? Let us know below!
Lauren Gwinn is a writer and photographer and runs Palmetto Moon Pointers, a blog about hiking, backpacking, and travel with dogs. You’ll find her in the mountains, or on the back of her horse, always with her two Vizslas, Sutton & Banks, and border collie/Heeler mix, Deuce, by her side! Follow her adventures @palmettomoonpointers on Instagram and visit her blog: http://palmettomoonpointers.