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I. Puppy Hell

So you have decided on a breed and you have picked out your puppy that your kids are holding in their lap on the ride home.  But did you prepare your home for this moment?  If not this is what needs to happen.  Stop by the pet store and buy a shiny new collar, that will be able to expand as your puppy grows.  Buy two leashes- a regular length leash and a long line leash.  You can get one of the wind up leashes instead of a regular leash but still get a long line.  Buy a name tag as well and have your phone number engraved into it.  If puppy gets out of the yard then the neighbor knows who to call.  Buy some good quality puppy food, and a water and food dish.  Another important thing to have on hand is a crate and a dog yard gate.  Crates are expensive so before getting your pup get that set up.  The enclosed airplane approved plastic style crates are easy to clean and give that enclosed feeling dogs like.  You will want to buy only one crate so get one that will fit the size that your dog will eventually be.  Make it artificially smaller to fit puppy by putting some boxes or something in the back.  Remember you don't want it to be so big that puppy will have his own separate bathroom in his bedroom.  I will discuss crate training later.

When you get home put the collar and leash on the puppy and take it to where you will want it to go potty regularly (remember though that he has never been on a leash so he might resist- be gentle or just carry him).  Starting now, every time you put the puppy there you say "go potty".  At first, of course, this means nothing to him but eventually, through habit, it will.  Now play with the puppy and let him know that you love him and will attend to him.  This is what is happening in the puppy brain- everything I have known until now is different.  My mother is not here, my siblings are not here and I do not like car rides and I don't know where I am.  Even a confident, outgoing pup may feel overwhelmed and shy.  It may play or it may just want to hunker down underneath something trying to feel safe.  Follow its lead.  He may not eat at first because of the transition but keep offering him food.  Puppy does not know to come when called, so make sure the area is secure.  He may run away from you the first moment you put him down and that would be a shame to lose him on the first day.


If you are bringing him inside he may piddle frequently out of nervousness so make sure you have him on a cleanable surface and don't let him crawl someplace where you can't reach him or where it is unsafe.  Remember he is only a baby with a baby's brain for understanding things- so don't overwhelm him.  But don't ignore or abandon him either.  I suggest you get a dog yard gate you can put up in your house.  This will be where puppy can hang out but still be around everyone.  Line it with newspaper or puppy mats.  Allow puppy out of it only when someone is directly interacting with him.  At one end is where you should put his crate.  Yes, crate.  A crate is a safe place for dogs.  They are naturally den animals and a crate is a dog's own space where he can turn off from family duties and know he will not be harassed.  Some puppies will go right into it, others will whine as they are used to curling up next to their siblings when they relax.  This is lesson number one for puppies- you are no longer part of a dog pack but a human family pack.  Humans will now provide your physical and emotional support.  As long as the pup is near you he should not complain.


Crate training-  Crate training is an important part of puppy learning.  As mentioned above a crate is a dog's own space, and answers the dog's instinct to live in a den.  It also greatly helps with potty training.  A dog is a naturally clean animal and will not soil his den.  Using that instinct we train puppies to stay in their den at night so they won't wake up, wander to some corner where they feel free to pee and poop.  What it does mean is you then must respond to puppy's need to leave the crate to defecate or he will override his natural instinct and start soiling his crate to his and your great dissatisfaction.  Many people have their dogs sleep in their crates for their entire lives as that is where the dog is happiest and most relaxed at night.  Others do it just for the first couple of years until the dog has matured and is more confident and reliable.  The other purpose for crate training is for the safety and security of the dog as well as your household.  How many times do you hear stories of the dog chewing up the couch or the new shoes, or even the wooden dining table.  Here is what is happening in your dog's brain when you leave the home.  The dog sees you as alpha leader.  The job of alpha leader is to keep the pack safe.  When you are not there he now feels he has the job of defending the home.  A big house can be a lot for a dog to feel responsible for- especially a young dog.  He will get anxious and go from room to room looking for safety.  He may become nervous and start chewing to relieve his anxiety.  However, if he is put into his crate, he will instinctively feel he is safe in his den and will "turn off", having no sense of time until you return.  That being said, a crate is NOT a suitable place for a dog to spend ALL day in.  Never crate your dog for more than 4 hours.  If you must spend time away from home for the whole day regularly then I recommend you build a suitable dog run with shade and rain cover as well as a small house (his den) inside it.  Also, keep in mind a dog's need for interaction.  Many people will buy two dogs if they work regularly outside the home and are gone for many hours of the day.  A dog is not meant to live a solitary life and another playmate can often help them burn off some energy that builds up during the day.


Hell night #1.  You are all sitting on the couch watching tv or reading or some other calm activity and puppy is passed out at your feet or in your lap.  You are thinking it is getting late and you might want to go to bed now.  So you put puppy into his crate, say goodnight and go to bed.  It is quiet for a bit until the most ungodly howling and crying emanates from the crate.  Nothing you do makes puppy happy and no one gets any sleep all night.  So let's back this up a few hours.  Everyone gathers together on the couch in the evening and puppy looks sleepy.  Take puppy outside and hopefully you will catch him going potty.  This might wake him up a bit and he might be playful for another few minutes but eventually he will be sleepy again.  Put puppy into his crate which is right by the couch.  He might scratch or complain, but just keep talking to him while you go about your quiet evening activity.  Soon he will settle down and fall asleep.  He will be confident because his new pack is still sitting close around him.  You can now go off to bed.  If you wish to have the dog crate in your bedroom you will need to set it right next to the bed and then read for a while or do something until puppy falls asleep.  In any case there is no hope of you falling asleep while he is still awake.  Also, puppies at this age are not capable of going through the night without needing to go the bathroom, so be mentally prepared to get up at least a couple of times in the night to take puppy outside.  If outside is difficult to get to then set up puppy mats in the bathroom and take him there, although associating outside with relieving himself is safer than letting him think there are good indoor places for him to pee.  If you are a married couple then take turns taking the pup out.  When you take him out (you should carry him as he may not make it without peeing otherwise) it is important that you do not interact, play, or even speak other than to say "go potty".  Business only.  Then put him right back in.  Wait a few minutes for him to settle down.  Then go back to bed.  The next wake up call comes soon enough.


Hell night #2-5:  Follow the previous routine exactly trying to keep to the same time schedule.  Sometimes puppies will sleep hard from 8-10pm and then be awake ready to play just as you want to go to bed.  So try to delay him from falling asleep in the early evening.  Gradually move puppy into your own schedule.  Each night try to stretch puppy's wake up potty calls further and further apart.  By night 5 you should be able to start going through the night with an early wake up.  Wait until puppy sounds frantic to go out, not just rustling out of wakeful boredom.  You will have to play around with this schedule but in general most dogs will follow your training lead.  All that being said, it is normal and typical for a puppy to whine, whimper, or even howl when out of sight of their pack.  It is their instinctual way of alerting the pack that he is lost and it is done in such a way that leaves no doubt of puppy's whereabouts.  This does not translate very well into a new human home where people really want to get some sleep.  But do not punish the puppy for this.  You will only make it worse.  Punishing such a young puppy will only make him more fearful of his people and lead to many other problems.  This stage will pass soon enough even though it may feel like hell.

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