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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ponthieux

So.... you're getting a puppy, now what?

Updated: May 7

Congratulations on your new puppy and I am so excited to help you on your journey. I would like to help you the best I can and give you and your puppy the best chance for a lifetime of success. Here is a simple outline to help you on your journey. Further details/ explanations can be found by reading this full document.

Before Your Puppy Comes Home

o Research training philosophies and methods, plan how to implement training.

o Find a veterinarian. Schedule to have a wellness exam done within 72 hours after puppy leaves my care.

o Find a groomer and consider scheduling your first visit now if they are busy.

o Buy TLC food to avoid GI upset (

o Buy supplies for your puppy (see my website under recommended products for links)

o Crate (an adjustable one or multiple sizes)

o Metal comb

o Slicker brush

o Edible chew toys (bully sticks, buffalo horn, antler, raw bones)

o Non-edible toys (balls, squeaky toys, chuck it balls)

o Food/ water bowl

o Pet bed

o Collar with tag (I recommend Leather)

o Leash

o NuVet Tabs

o Activate your Trupanion insurance within 24 hours, before/after puppy comes home and enjoy 30 days of coverage for free. No obligation to continue with coverage. Promo code will be emailed to you by me.

I recommend you research dog training philosophies so you can be prepared from the beginning. Baxter and Bella, an online puppy school can help. They have on demand information, videos, articles, recordings and podcasts. We have partnered with them to get you a discount if you are interested. Use the code GRD25 to get 25% off your lifetime membership. If this is not your cup of tea, YouTube of course has a lot of free information. Finding local and live dog training resources near you is a good idea also. Once vaccinated, puppy schools, or canine good citizen is a decent option. And of course, I am always a call or text away. It is important to talk with your family, especially children, about how training will look so everyone is on the same page.

Find a qualified veterinarian sooner than later. Many areas are experiencing a shortage of veterinarians and a high volume of clients. I require puppies to have a veterinary wellness exam within 72 hours of leaving my care, to establish the puppy is healthy and free of disease. If this is not done the health warranty is not valid. This protects you, me, and the puppy. One round of vaccinations will be done prior to the dog leaving my care but the Veterinarian will perform two or three more rounds before they should be allowed to walk in high traffic areas.

Next, you should get prepared. Buy the same food your puppy is being fed at the time they leave my care. Drastic changes to diet can cause GI upset. We will send information about the type of food we use so you can buy this ahead of time. We recommend TLC dog food for your puppy for at least three months unless there is a medical need to change the food. We also add toppers such as raw egg, salmon oil, green tripe, liver, bone broth, probiotics, keifer etc. I think everyone should be allowed to change their dog’s food as they see fit and to find food that works well for their dog. Not all foods are created equally, so researching quality foods is strongly recommended. Food is medicine and quality food can greatly improve the lifetime health of your dog. Feeding low quality food is a guarantee to health problems down the road. The food should include meat as the first ingredient and not have any corn, wheat, soy, or preservatives. Also, the dog food should be made in the United States from materials not sourced from China or India by a company with no history of product recalls. Veterinarians do not always have a thorough understanding of dog food nutrition and may not always make the best recommendations. There are also some great supplements such as NuVet tabs or powder. These add essential vitamins, minerals and growth support for your puppy. Joint supplements are recommended as your dog ages and NuVet also carries a joint support supplement.

Find a groomer sooner not later. Your puppy will need a groom every 6-8 weeks to maintain the coat (longer is possible if you’re willing to do some work). I recommend interviewing groomers ahead of time to find out if they are reputable. Check their facilities to see if they are clean, orderly, and quiet. I recommend finding a groomer that uses a blow dryer and not a heater to dry the dogs, as a heater can overheat a dog to the point they overheat and die. A good groomer will use a blow dryer to closely inspect your pet’s skin for fleas, ticks, suspicious lesions, cuts scraps etc. A groomer is often the first one to recognize health problems.

Supplies for a puppy are also a must. Get a leash (or several, with different lengths), a leather collar (leather causes less matting), ID tag, crate, puppy gates (to barrier off certain areas), metal comb, slicker brush, safe dog toys, dog bed, food, and water bowl. I prefer not to use harnesses as they encourage pulling. The only exception is if the dog is tied up and not being walked. I like martingale collars, prong collars and slip lead if used responsibly. They discourage pulling with gentle pressure rather than flat collars that apply all the pressure to the trachea.

The First Few Days

I suggest the following protocol when taking your puppy home to ensure a smooth transition. Stress, lack of sleep, new people etc. can compromise your pup’s immune system, and unfortunately, puppy parasites can flourish. While ALL puppies are treated on a deworming schedule, pups can leave me “clean” only to be home for a week or two and have a parasite.

Please know that nearly all dogs/ puppies have parasites. When you deworm or medicate it only kills the live/active parasites; however, parasites and protozoa have a plan for survival. They lay dormant eggs in the hosts tissues. These eggs are activated at times when the host’s immune system is compromised, like times of stress, pregnancy, sickness, and disease.

I recommend you keep the house calm and stress-free for three to seven days. This means no visitors, this way everyone can just get to know each other. Those cute fluffy faces are irresistible but think for a moment how the puppy is feeling. He or she has been separated from his or her mother and litter mates for the first time. Every sight, smell and sound will be new in this new environment.

It is good to sit on the ground and let your puppy come to you rather than you going to him. Feed kibble from hand to encourage bonding. High pitched baby talk can be too much for puppies. It is best to be calm and soothing in your speech and not to force affection on the puppy. Bonding takes some time and won’t happen for the puppy instantly like it can for us.

Let them explore the new surroundings on a leash. If they get startled or scared just stay calm and positive. Petting and nervous energy will make these emotions more intense. Encourage your pup to follow your lead to the scary thing or sound and let them smell it and praise the bravery when they go towards to object. Children can be scary for puppies and it’s important to create safety from young children and vice versa. Puppies have razor sharp teeth and play with their mouths and biting is to be expected. Never let your puppy play with your child unattended. When children are calm, they can pet and visit the puppy. If they are being crazy and loud the puppy should be able to find solitude and safety.

Play Time

A tired puppy is a good puppy. Take your puppy out for some play time. Balls, tug ropes, and squeaky toys are a great investment. I do not allow my dogs to have these toys unless we are playing, all toys have a risk of choking. Use this time to reinforce the “puppy, puppy, puppy” recall. A solid recall is very important not only for an obedient dog but also for the puppy’s safety. You can transition to their name as a recall with time. Don’t wait too long to practice recall. A puppy in some ways is very easy. They follow without much protest and do not wander too far. After a few weeks a dog will enter a “teen” phase. At this point their nose can take over and they are not as fixated on you. If you have started a solid recall this age will not be as bothersome.

Age-appropriate exercise is important. On an x-ray puppies’ bones appear to be floating and not connected, they are separated by cartilage as they have not fully calcified. I do not recommend letting your puppy jump or run at full speed till fully grown. Premature spay and neuter has been shown to increase the chances of long bone fracture. After a good play session or structured walk on a leash it’s time for a nap. Puppies need lots of sleep for health and growth. Allow them to sleep as needed and preferably in the crate.

All Puppies Chew

All puppies need to chew. It is important for muscle and jaw development. I recommend giving dogs a variety of textures and hardness’s. Great natural chews are bully sticks, raw marrow bones, buffalo horns, deer/elk antlers. Pet stores are full of all kinds of toys. I do not recommend raw hides, pig ears, sticks or nylabones as they are a choking hazard. All chews/toys need to be supervised. A dog should never be left unsupervised with any of these.

Training is Always Happening

Whether you realize it or not, you are always training your dog to know what is acceptable and not. I do everything I can to ensure you and you puppy have the best start by starting early training regiments, such as sight and sound exposure, early neurological stimulation, early scent introduction, touch desensitization, crate training and potty training. This is just the beginning of their training, and all the hard work we have strived for can be undone. Behavior problems are easier to avoid than to fix. Being prepared before the puppy goes home will drastically improve the outcome and diminish frustrations.

The Leash is Your Friend

Whatever a puppy is doing good or bad, ask yourself would I want a full-grown dog to be doing this. If your big dog won’t be allowed in your bed, never allow the puppy in your bed. Puppies in my home are given no freedom until they earn it. What this means is that I keep a constant eye on them and they are tethered to a leash or a long lead. Think of a puppy as a toddler. One breeder told me she uses the rolled-up newspaper trick. Anytime your puppy does something naughty when they are not being supervised take the rolled-up newspaper and smack yourself with it. Then say, “I am to blame for Fluffy’s bad behavior.” This is obviously a joke but if we realize the dog is not to blame, we are more likely to correct the problem.

Puppies need to be taught almost every facet of life and the rules. For me, a leash is my main teaching tool. A leash is a means of communication, not punishment. Dogs understand pressure and space. By pressure I mean spatial pressure, or pressure on a leash which is why the slip leads are so important. If a leash tightens the dog should respond to a cue and when the pressure releases they know they did good and this was the unspoken reward.

Verbal Communication and House Training

Puppies need to be taught all verbal commands including “Yes” and “No”. I have started some early verbal training, but they will need lots of reinforcement. Dogs have a language, but it is not ours. If your puppy is not on a leash and you say “NO” and run towards them by the time you get to them they likely will have stopped the behavior, and you lost your golden moment of teaching. For example, if a puppy is chewing on the leg of a chair or table and they are not on a leash, a simple “NO” is likely not going to teach them anything. If you have a leash on the puppy you can make a correction with a simple tug of the leash as you say “NO” thereby teaching “NO” means something a dog will eventually understand. If I cannot supervise a puppy, they are in a safe place such as a kennel or indoor fenced area. As trust is gained and the rules of the house are learned they gradually get more freedom. If the puppy has slips and makes mistakes you thought you had taught, you are probably moving too fast and allowing too much freedom. Take a step back for a few days and try again later. Keeping puppies on a lead greatly shortened my potty-training time. Again, a tug and correction can be made when an accident happens. If you find a mess after the fact you have lost your window of opportunity to train. When dogs go potty outside in the correct location, as soon as they squat, I mark this behavior with a “Go Potty” and then “Yes”.

Crate Training

I STRONGLY recommend crate training. A crate should be large enough for a dog to stand and turn easily but not too large. A kennel that is too large can be set back for potty training. Crate training is such a huge advantage, and it would be a shame to miss out on all the benefits. It can prevent separation anxiety, damage to your home, and danger to your pet. I followed the rule that they do not have freedom in my house at night till they are one year old, and they are not allowed to have freedom in my house when I am gone till, they are two years old. Using this method, I have never had issues with anxiety or destructive behavior. If there are fireworks, the plumber is over, if they ever must stay overnight at the vet, or if there is any other need to get your dog confined, they won’t have any issues being in a kennel. I teach the command “kennel” and they walk in on their own. When you bring your pup home, I would recommend feeding them in the kennel and making it a positive place to be. Let them sleep in there when resting, start slowing and let them go in when you toss in a treat. Let them come immediately out without shutting the door. Repeat this a few times. Next, use treats and close the door for a few seconds and then let them out once they sit. Next shut them in and walk away but in sight, and then again out of sight. If they protest just ignore them the best you can, they are fine. Never let them out when they are whining, wait for them to settle and then let them out. If you let them out when they are protesting, they are rewarded for whining. If you’re off to a rough start, hang in there, it gets better. Once your pup is ready for unsupervised time in the kennel or crate make sure the collar is off as they could get hung up on something and strangle a dog.

Puppy Exposure/ Socialization

The first 16 weeks of a puppy’s life is called the critical exposure period. Research shows that a puppy’s personality traits are well established by 16 weeks. This means that we (breeders) are responsible for exposing puppies the first eight weeks and you are responsible for the second eight weeks. It has been proven that exposing dogs to a wide range and variety of POSITIVE circumstances, scenarios, dogs, animals is positively impactful on dogs. On the contrary negative experiences also shape who they become. If you take your dog to a dog park and they are attacked by a dog, or greeted incorrectly by a stranger, this could affect your dog’s future response to strangers and other dogs. I would concentrate on positive exposures vs socializations. Socialization implies meeting many people, places, and things, but exposing your dog to different circumstances is what is actually important. Since vaccinations won’t be completed till this window is nearly closed, finding safe exposures is important. Avoid allowing the puppy to walk in areas where other animals frequent, this includes the vet’s office. Don’t overthink this time though, just be intentional and include your pup in as much as you can.

When introducing your pet to a new person, please do not allow the person to incorrectly greet your dog. I recommend asking visitors to practice, no touch, no talk, no eye contact. This means when the person enters your space, they do not talk to the dog, they do not touch the dog and they do not look at the dog. Allow the dog to approach the person. Usually, if the person ignores the dog, the dog will then smell and check out the person. Once the dog loses interest the person can then get down on one knee but without looking or talking and if the dog comes back, they can then pet the dog. Look at your dog’s body language. If the tail is tucked and the dog is looking uneasy, stop petting until the dog is comfortable. If your dog has no issues with strangers and is just happy to see new people still ask them to again practice no touch, no talk, no eye contact until the pup is calm, and then they can give attention. If we pet an overly excited dog, we\are encouraging unwanted behaviors.

The following are some suggestions for safe exposure.

· Daily car rides

· Noise desensitization start smaller like bubble wrap and eventually go bigger like fire alarms.

· Basketballs bouncing, yoga balls rolling, etc

· Parking in an area with a lot of foot traffic. Roll down windows and watch people walk by

· Small animals

· Small children

· Handling exercises, touch dog’s ears, tail feet, daily.

· Brushing/ grooming (light intervals to start)

· Water

· Long leash walks

· Recall practice

· Meeting new people who agree to no touch, to talk, no eye contact.

· Meeting people of all different ethnicities, sizes, men, women and children.

This document is not comprehensive by any means. I am also not a professional trainer or pet nutrition expert. This is just my firsthand experience and advice . Thank you again for your trust, I hope I have met my goal of being the breeder I would want to work with. I would appreciate a positive review on Google, and possibly a testimony to share on my website. If there is any way you feel your experience with me could have been better, please let me know.

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