With so many people getting puppies and dogs over this past year, I thought this might be a useful post to write. If you already have your dog, you’ll know it can be challenging initially, so I’d like to share 7 top tips for new dog owners, from my own experiences with dogs.
Expect it to be hard work
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s actually the most important tip, I think.
Do not underestimate how much work you are going to need to put into settling your new dog into your home.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, and of course like people, all dogs are different, but do the best you can to clear your schedule for a while to be on hand for training and bonding with your dog.
Do ensure you prepare for your new arrival, I have shared a list of important things to do before bringing a puppy home if you’re not too sure where to start with this.
The more time you put in now, the faster you will find yourself with the dog that you want to have, a well-behaved dog and great company.
Be prepared to put in the time now, do your research into training, attend classes and work hard with your dog.
Socialise, socialise and socialise!
This is absolutely key.
To help ensure your puppy is confident in the world, they need to be gently exposed to many experiences and environments when they are still learning, typically up to around 16 weeks old.
Socialisation will help make your dog less anxious around everyday experiences, such as busy roads, crowds, loud noises and more, and they will also be more capable of handling new things introduced to them later on in life if they are confident dogs.
Attend training classes
We are fortunate to be able to access plenty of training tips and suggestions online. We can watch YouTube videos sharing training and these are really useful,
Do this, follow these tips, but don’t do it instead of classes, do it as well as.
There’s a lot to be said for working with other trainers and talking over any issues with them. You will also be training in a different environment where other dogs and people are around and test your dog when there are distractions.
Anticipate what your dog is going to do
This will help you in two ways.
Firstly, when they are still new to your home, they don’t know ‘the rules’ They don’t know where the toilet is, what they can and can’t chew, what’s playing and what’s a problem!
The best thing you can do is anticipate that they will attempt to chew or eat everything, can might toilet anywhere. So make it easier for them to make no mistakes by removing all potential issues from their environment. Set up a situation where they can make very few mistakes, so you are just reinforcing good behaviours, rather than trying to discourage unwanted behviours.
Secondly, it helps to anticipate what they might do so you can distract or reward at the right times. For example, you don’t want them to jump up at a visitor, so prevent that from happening in the first place and reward for it when they stay on all four paws.
Supervise new relationships
Do ensure you are on hand to supervise any new relationships, and this includes your family.
If you are your dog’s primary trainer, you are the one your dog will need to trust. Your bond should be strong with your dog and you are the one they will trust to keep them safe. This includes interactions with new people.
Allow your dog to approach new people and be on hand to calm any nervousness or over exuberance.
Remember that not all dogs want lots of affection and attention, some want to be left alone at times. Ensure that your dog has a safe place to be and don’t allow other people to grab at him/her or force them into closer contact that they enjoy.
If you have children, spend some time talking to them about how they should treat your dog with respect and how they should play with him/her. If they are too young to understand this, you might want to keep them separated if you’re busy and unable to supervise.
Exercise and stimulation
If you have a puppy, remember the guidance around exercise and don’t walk them too much whilst they are still growing.
Of course dogs need walks, but there is plenty you can do in addition to walking with them to keep them fit and stimulated.
You can play games with them, from fetch to hide and seek to tug of wars.
Try to play to your dog’s natural instincts when you play. For example, we have a scent hound so he loves playing games where he needs to seek things out using his nose. He is not as keen on retrieval based exercise, but I’m sure if you have a Labrador, he’ll love it!
Any training will be great for them and it serves to tire them out too. It gets their brains working so can be as tiring as a good walk.
Similarly, when you are out on walks, remember that sniffing is stimulating for their senses and again tires them out. Sometimes our shorter walks can end up being more tiring for Herbie if he picks up several scent trails whilst he’s out, and he loves following them.
Remember, it will get easier!
It is hard work having a puppy or new dog in your home. It can feel all-consuming. And exhausting. I wrote the truth about life with a puppy when Herbie was younger that explains it all!
It is all about putting in the hard work in these first few months. It is well worth investing effort now as though it can be difficult, it really will pay off.
Laying out boundaries and training and rewarding the positive behaviours that you want to see now will work for you over the longer term.
Yes, there will be ongoing challenges and training, but it will get so much easier after these initial weeks and months. Keep going!
What tips would you add here?
If you’re still considering a dog, you might find Is a Miniature Dachshund for You? to be a useful read.