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It is always a great event when a puppy arrives in its new home. However, integrating a puppy into the household is not always easy, and there are some very important things to remember.


The first weeks of life together will set the pattern for your pup's behaviour in future years and lay the foundation for the relationship between you and your pup. In order to avoid problems of miscommunication and misunderstanding it is important to appreciate that:


Dogs are different to human beings. Although many of their emotions may be similar, they don't have the same level of intellectual and emotional capacity as adult humans.

But equally:

Dogs are not devoid of feeling and understanding.

Your puppy is a living creature with a range of behavioural needs and unique communication methods, which differ from our own.


Communication involves all of the senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch). Dogs use a combination of instinctive behaviours and more complex learned responses in order to get their message across.

The way your puppy reacts and adapts to its new surroundings will be unique to your pup. Its behaviour will have been moulded by a combination of factors including genetic influences from the parents, early environmental influences and early social interaction with its own and other species and what it has learnt from these experiences.


We outlines the general principles of raising puppies and preparing them for life as part of your family, but it is important to remember that every dog is an individual and that the rules may need to be adapted to suit your particular situation. If you have any doubts or concerns you should contact your veterinarian practice for advice.

Very few puppies are fully house-trained when they enter their new home, and most owners are prepared for a period of extra cleaning when they take on a young pup. However, in many cases the process of house-training is unnecessarily long and drawn out, and as a result there is considerable tension between pet and owner. Remember that many puppies do not have full bladder control until they are around 4 months old.


By following a few simple rules and avoiding some common mistakes, you can maximise your chances of success and make the whole house-training process far less stressful for you and your puppy.


Spot the right moment

It is important for your puppy to be in the location in which you want it to toilet when it feels the need to relieve itself. If you take your puppy outside when it is most likely to want to go to the toilet (after every meal, when it wakes up, after drinking and after play) you maximise the chances of it forming an appropriate association between being in the right spot and relieving itself. Every time your puppy makes a mistake and goes to the toilet in the house it learns an inappropriate association and the process of house-training is slowed down. Although it may sound drastic, setting an alarm for intervals of two hours during the day and night and taking your puppy outside on a regular basis can be one of the quickest and simplest ways of house-training.


Reward works better than punishment!

If you ensure that you are with your young puppy when it is outside (or the designated spot on the balcony for apartment dwellers), you can give some form of reward to coincide with the process of toileting and thereby encourage your puppy to see toileting in the appropriate place as a good thing to do. Praise or food can be used, but it is very important that the reward is given immediately following toileting (i.e. within 1/2 a second) and not once the puppy is safely back in the house.

The puppy has arrived!

SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

When your puppy arrives in your home it may be the first time that it has been separated from its mother and littermates. Until now its mother will have been the most important figure in the puppy's life and when it enters your family it will need to form new attachments and social bonds.

HOUSE-TRAINING

Young puppies will transfer the attachment they've had with their mother onto new family members who can provide its essential needs of food, warmth and comfort. In many cases the newcomer will appear to form a particularly close bond with particular family members. It values the family as a source of comfort, and with the security of a reliable relationship as a foundation, the puppy is able to set off on its voyage of discovery in a human orientated world.

Although a strong bond between puppy and owner is beneficial in the early stages, there comes a time when the puppy needs to develop its own independence. Loosening the bond may be difficult for both pup and owner at first, but you need to remember that this is a vital part of your puppy's development. Decreasing the level of attachment does not involve ceasing all affectionate interaction and you can still have a great relationship with your puppy as long as it is on your terms. From now on you need to ensure that the initiative for social interaction comes from you and not from the puppy. If this process is completed successfully your puppy will learn that social interaction is not always available on demand and this will enable them to cope with the periods of solitude that are associated with being a domestic pet (e.g. times when you go to work etc). Puppies that fail to 'grow up' in this way, and remain dependent on their owner for all their social needs, will be prone to behavioural problems when they are left alone and may go on to develop behavioural problems known as 'separation anxiety'. There may be a genetic predisposition for some breeds or individuals which find it more difficult to adapt to being alone compared with other breeds.


Puppies do not inherently know how to walk on a lead and it is important to introduce your new arrival to a lead and collar as soon as possible.

At first, put the collar on your puppy for a few days, and let it get used to this little constraint without you attempting to take it for a walk.

Then attach a lead to the collar for just a few minutes and let it get used to this before you attempt to take it for a walk.

Make sure the clip is not too big or heavy for a young puppy.

When you pull on the lead, do so gently and get your dog's attention by clicking your tongue or talking to it. As soon as it follows the direction of the lead, reward it with a small food reward and verbal praise. Don't worry if it only takes a few steps on the first occasion.

Once the puppy is happy to walk alongside you on its lead you should encourage it to make regular eye contact with you by making interesting little noises, providing treats and praise to get its attention. In this way, the dog is encouraged to be in communication with you during walks.

The lead is a very important communication channel between the dog and owner and tension and frustration are easily transmitted down the lead. Many cases of behaviour problems, such as aggression towards other dogs, are made worse by this negative communication. Try to ensure that you are always calm and in a positive frame of mind when communicating with your dog whilst it is on the lead.

WALKING ON A LEAD

OBEDIENCE TRAINING

There is a lot to learn about puppy training and it is wise to seek expert advice regarding training for your new pup. There are many different puppy classes, obedience training programs and dog and kennel clubs that offer different levels of training and classes. Ask your veterinarian for guidance to establish a training program suitable for you and your new puppy.

In addition to specific training, puppies also need to learn how to control their own behaviour and limit potential injury to others. Part of this process involves learning that the use of teeth and nails are not acceptable when interacting with owners and other pets, and it is therefore important not to encourage their use during play. Play should be directed to appropriate toys instead.