Andrew and I both had dogs growing up however both our families viewed them as ‘dogs,’ animals that stayed outside in the backyard and didn’t interact with the family. As a result we weren’t connected to them, they weren’t trained and they didn’t really feel like part of the family.
Last year when Andrew and I decided to get a dog we made a promise that we would train it properly, it would learn to be part of our family and it would be a good member of the family, one that we wanted to be around all the time.
Toby isn’t perfect, but he is pretty damn close and we can only put this down to the constant and thorough research and training we did with him when he was a puppy and still do with him.
Here are a few things we did in the weeks leading up to Toby coming home and the first few weeks after, that Andrew and I believe helped us start off on the right foot.
What We did Before Toby Came Home
Before Toby came home, as I mentioned here, we did a lot of research on how to raise a good dog. When you think about it, your dog is going to be apart of your family for the next 15 years, you want that family member to be well behaved and be a joy to be around and not a burden. So, it makes sense to invest some proper time to research to understand how a dog thinks, how it behaves, why it acts in certain ways and how to train them. I can’t recommend Ceaser’s Milarns, How To Raise The Perfect Puppy enough. If you only have time to read one thing, let it be this book.
Puppy Proofed Our Home
Your house needs to be puppy proof the second they walk through the front door. Puppies are so curious, they will check out everything in their new environment. Therefore, you need to make sure you have done the following to avoid bad habits from forming and any disasters:
-cables and wires are hidden so puppy can’t chew them and get electrocuted
-store all poisonous items out of reach including bleach, detergent, laundry powder, rat posion, fertilizer etc
-indoor plants are removed as some plants and seeds can be harmful if consumed
-move your shoes to an area puppy can’t reach them
-keep the toilet seat down
-buy baby gates to block off areas that you don’t want your puppy entering
-remove all rugs because your puppy is going to have many accidents around the house (our rug was rolled away and stored in storage for 6 months)
-make sure you give your floors a good vacuum before you go collect your puppy to avoid them swallowing items such as buttons, string, paper etc
-once you think you have completely puppy proofed your house, lie down on the floor and look around once more to get a puppy’s eye view
When we were at puppy school our vet said, if you come home and your puppy has destroyed something, you should get a newspaper, roll it up and hit yourself on the head for not making sure there was nothing left around the home that your puppy could destroy or chew.
We Bought All of Toby’s Needs
We made sure we had Toby’s new home ready for him before we picked him up. It is important that your home has all of your puppies needs. Just as if you were preparing for the arrival of your baby, you need the nursery ready, nappies, clothes, crib etc. it’s the same deal with a puppy, make sure everything is ready and you have everything your puppy needs. You will need to have:
– their bed in the place you want them to sleep
– chewable toys
– water and food bowels
– shampoo and hair brush
– crate if you are going to crate train them, you can read how we create trained Toby, here
– collar, lead and identification tag
– odor neutralizer
– puppy pads
We Bought High Quality Food
Allowing your puppy/dog to have a high quality diet is so important. If you can, avoid buying pet food from the supermarket because they are full of fillers. Fillers are ingredients that help hold dry pet food together. They also help manufacturers keep the cost down by taking up weight in the food. Unfortunately, they often do so to the detriment of our dogs. From the very beginning we have fed Toby Holistic Select kibble and mix it with 1 large teaspoon of mince, he still eats this same meal once a day.
For the first two weeks Toby was with us, we fed him the same food that the breeder had Toby on and some milk and then we slowly switched over to Holistic. Ask your breeder to explain to you how they have been feeding your puppy and when you should introduce a new diet into your puppies life. This article from the RSPCA gives you a great indication of what you should/can feed your puppy.
We Decided on a Area For Toby To Relieve Himself
As we live in an apartment, we made a decision to train Toby to only use a small area of our balcony to relieve himself. We didn’t want him to learn he can go wherever he wanted. We set up Toby’s puppy pads in a corner of the balcony and trained him to only go on there. Knowing where you want your puppy to go to the toilet will help you and the puppy in the toilet training stages. Again, if you want to read on toilet training further you can see how we toilet trained Toby, here.
What we Did in the First 3 Weeks of Toby Coming Home
Now this may seem excessive but Andrew took 3 weeks off work to look after Toby and help him understand his new environment and how he should behave in it. We thought, how could we bring Toby home on a Sunday and then both of us go to work on Monday and not be there week in, week out helping him learn how to behave at home. There is no doubt in our minds that Andrew being at home with Toby in those weeks, helped shape Toby into the awesome dog he is today. If you are lucky enough to be in a position to take this time off, do it! Just think of it as a holiday.
The Car Ride Home
As the transition from mother to you can be traumatic for the puppy it is important that the car ride is as relaxed and calm as possible. This is the first time you will be together as a family and you want it to be a positive experience for your puppy. We picked Toby up from Shepperton which is 2 hours out of Melbourne, I had asked the breeder if she could give me something with Toby’s mother’s scent on it for the car trip home so he wouldn’t be too anxious, and this worked so well. She gave us a soft toy that his mother had been around and Toby stuck to it for the first few days at home. We made sure the car ride home was silent, no music and Andrew and I didn’t talk loudly. I lay Toby on my lap and gave him his mum’s toy and he fell asleep the whole way home.
As soon as we arrived home the first thing we did was take Toby to the toilet area we had set up and we stayed with him until he went. Once he did, we praised him like he had just won a nobel prize. Because puppies have such small bladders, they will need to go to the toilet after every time they play, eat and wake up. However, they do not know this and will just wee anywhere and this is why Andrew decided to take the time off work, to help Toby learn to go outside after playing, eating and sleeping.
The photo above was taken in the first half hour of Toby arriving home, he was so scared to walk down the hallway by himself, Andrew had to lead the way. He was frightened of that hallway for a good few months before he got the confidence to go down there on his own.
During the 3 weeks Andrew was with Toby, he spent about two hours a day teaching him commands, how to sit, wait, stay, come and empty the dog. Sit, wait and come are the most important commands because you will use these when you are in public areas and for safety reasons it is vital your dog understands what you mean with each command. Shake hands, roll over, play dead and all those other party tricks can be learnt once the foundation has been set. Teaching commands requires a lot of patience on your behalf, it needs to be repeated over and over again and you need a truck load of treats. Without treats it is near impossible to train your dog to do anything. This is a good quick snap shot of how to teach basic commands. Remember to always treat your dog when they do a command.
And there you have it, a quick insight into what we did in the weeks before Toby arriving home and in the first 3 weeks after. How did you prepare yourself for the arrival of your pooch? What did you do in the first few weeks?