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  • Kristen VanNess

New Puppy Parents: 3 Tips For Success

Congratulations on bringing home your new puppy! Our first piece of advice is to take a lot of pictures. Puppies grow fast, and this is a very unique time in your puppy’s life.

Tip 1: Give your puppy many opportunities to play

When puppies are with their littermates, they spend a lot of time sleeping and a lot of time playing with each other. Often, this play involves a lot of biting. You can help to stop or decrease puppy biting by using more play. While you can provide your puppy with a lot of toys to play with on their own, puppies also need social play with others. Independent play is nice, but it doesn’t fill the need for interaction.

Your puppy might like to play tug, fetch games, or training games with you. Initially, this play can be entirely focused on the games and building interest. This might mean dragging a long toy and encouraging your puppy to chase or grab it. You might have multiple toys and throw them for your puppy to chase, even if he’s not picking them up yet. Another option is to grab some favorite treats and work on skills or trick training.

Many puppies need more play. Increasing the amount of play can build a bond, result in more focus, and increase your puppy’s desire to work with you as a team. Most puppies benefit from many short sessions throughout the day.

Tip 2 : Use meals for training or activities

Dogs need to eat every day, and there’s no rule saying that needs to be from a bowl. If you just set a bowl down for your puppy, you’re taking away an opportunity for much more enjoyment. This means your puppy will have more time to get into trouble!

If your puppy is eager about his food, you can use his meals for training activities. These might be activities you learned in your puppy class or from doing one-on-one personalized training. Using meals will reduce the need for extra treats, build motivation for dry food, and create a better experience than just eating out of the bowl.

When puppies need calm activities—like rest time while you work or transitioning into a crate—you can use licking/chewing toys. Fill the small end with a little peanut butter or a squishy treat. You can put dry food into a Kong and then add water or low sodium broth. Freeze the toy so that it will keep your puppy busy for longer. Make up 4+ kongs at once and you’ll be ready to go! Make sure to supervise your puppy while he plays with chew objects.

There are many great food puzzle toys for when you want your puppy to be more active. You can put dry food in these toys so that your puppy can hit or push the toy around to get the food to come out. A few of these are the Kong Wobbler, the Bob A Lot, or the Busy Buddy Magic Mushroom.

If your puppy is mastering these, you can add to the challenge by adding half a sheet of crumpled paper into the toy when you fill it - the food will have to work its way around the paper to get out.

If your puppy finds these toys too challenging, you might add something lickable, like a teaspoon of canned food or cream cheese to the outside. As your puppy licks it, food may come out. Using smaller food pieces to start will also make the toy easier. For some shy puppies, you can even start with treats or food under a tiny paper cup.

Tip 3: Puppies are always learning—You can always be training

Unfortunately, puppies are not just learning during training sessions. Your puppy is learning every moment he is awake. Keep some dog food or treats in one pocket and a toy in the other pocket. Look for opportunities to show your puppy about the world.

Do you want your puppy to be calm with guests? Then be ready when your guests come over to see your adorable new puppy. Instead of having a party at the doorway, have your guests ignore your puppy while you help your puppy get interested in a chew object. After your puppy has been calm for a while, encourage your puppy to interact with your guest for calm petting.

If you know your puppy will be tall enough to reach the counters, start training him to stay on a bed in the kitchen now, while he’s short and isn’t yet interested in the counters. You can do this at times when you aren’t preparing meals or have one family member work on training while another person is preparing dinner.

These are just a few tips to get you started with your puppy. Some days are easier than others, and consulting with a professional for training support can make the process easier. Personalized training can help adjust activities for your puppy, your lifestyle, and your goals.


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