To help emphasize the importance of the first weeks at home, I used to tell new parents that their little puppy was like a blank slate. Those first days were the perfect opportunity to set up great habits from scratch.
My goal was to get parents started right away on gently building good habits rather than allowing ones they didn’t like to develop and need changing later on. But, with the best intentions, my over-simplification allowed another vital aspect of their puppy’s learning to be ignored.
Your New Puppy Already Has Habits
The truth of the matter is that your puppy has been learning and picking up habits for weeks before they join you. Unfortunately, most of the lessons they learned and the experiences they had were likely quite different than what’s going to take place in your home. As a result, new parents aren’t starting with a clean slate. In reality, they often have to reteach habits.
Let’s consider a few examples of big changes puppies experience in their new home.
Pups are social sleepers
Sleeping with littermates provides the comfort and warmth vital for building confidence and a sense of security. Bringing a pup home and expecting them to sleep on their own right away is too much for most pups. Allowing them to sleep close to start, gradually shifting towards the long-term sleep plan will prevent anxiety and separation issues.
A sense of belonging
Most pups experience constant company with their littermates for the first couple of months of their life. This is their reality. Being separated or isolated in the new home can be hugely traumatizing. Great care must be taken in the first weeks as young pups easily feel abandoned.
Management and Routines
To keep pups safe, breeders have a specific area where the pups stay together. This area is where pretty much everything happens for the group. They play, eat and sleep there. Often they even go to the bathroom there. Once in their new homes, this open-concept living is neither practical nor advisable. Instead, a puppy-proof safe area is recommended in the family home to help develop appropriate habits and routines and teach new skills. Let’s face it. No matter how much you love your puppy, everyone needs a break from puppy play and biting. Non-stop active supervision isn’t practical. It’s also a lot harder to set up healthy routines and sleep schedules without a resting area.
What’s been happening with the breeder or rearer will influence every aspect of your life together. A few parents are very fortunate. Some breeders do a lot to prepare the pups for the experiences they will have with their families. Unfortunately, these breeders are not common. Most puppies do not go into homes ready to be in a car, in a crate away from siblings or even potty trained. Not only will parents have the task of teaching these skills from scratch, but they will have to help their pups get over weeks of the exact opposite being the norm. That’s a lot to ask when they also have to deal with losing everything familiar.
Kind, effective puppy training involves gentle lessons to help with confidence and skill-building. Being aware of all the changes a new puppy faces and being sensitive to introducing new expectations will help with their success during this challenging transition.
Want more info about helping your new puppy get started?