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Puppy tips - What I've learned in 10 days

As a trainer and behaviourist I have been giving puppy care advice for years now. I've read all of the books, I've studied the research, I've taught puppy classes many times. I've always told people that bringing a puppy home is incredibly challenging, but honestly the reality is harder than I imagined. So, for those currently trying to perfect the art of being a puppy parent, or for those expecting a new four-legged addition in future, these puppy tips are for you.

A bloodhound puppy sat on the sofa
Butter (or cheese) Wouldn't melt. Cheddar at 10 weeks.

Take that annual leave

I could not have worked my full time job alongside bringing my puppy home. I took one week (but then went back to working from home), my partner took 10 days and finished the week working from home. I'll be honest, I am dreading the first day my partner goes back to work and I am left to juggle my job and a 12 week old land shark whose favourite activity is to rip the headset off of my head.

Not only is working efficiently difficult whilst supervising a puppy, the lack of sleep is a killer for anyone like me who needs a solid 8 hours at the very least. Taking annual leave meant that my partner and I have been able to rotate lay-ins and take turns on the 4am toilet run which has truly saved my sanity.

Sleep when they sleep

Leading on from my last point, some of you may be happy with broken sleep, but for anyone who is like me you will find the regular breaks in the night quite difficult to manage.

People will give you different advice about how to manage bedtime with a puppy, but it was really important to us that Cheddar felt safe and secure from day one. The idea that one day he'd left his mother and siblings and would find himself alone in the dark totally broke my heart. So, we have him sleeping in his own cozy bed next to ours and this has been really effective. Eventually, when he's a bit older, we will try to move his bed into the spare bedroom so that we each have our own space, but for now the goal is just to get to 7am without a break. A consequence of having him upstairs with us is that he still needs regular toilet breaks and wakes us up to go (11pm, 1:30am and 4am to be precise, and his internal clock is almost always accurate). That means broken sleep through the night.

So, provided you've taken your annual leave as advised at the start, nap when he naps. Being over-tired is the first thing that makes me grumpy and irritable, and it's the first thing to make me lose my patience when my 11KG baby is trying to eat my ankles. If you can't sleep, rest and hydrate. And don't punish yourself if you need extra food or coffee to get through these first few weeks when you are depleted of energy.

Structure your days

This is a big one. The days when our routine has changed or we've kept him busy have been the worst days for Cheddar. Believe it or not, an over-tired puppy is an unsettled puppy and you will likely see things like:

  • Mouthing and biting (possibly harder than usual)

  • Destructive behaviour

  • Generally looking for trouble

  • Forgetting things they normally know (Cheddar forgot how to wee)

  • Hyperactivity

By structuring our day we have tried to schedule naps amongst very short bursts of activity. It can be so tricky to explain to people that your puppy can't manage any more visitors today, but it'll make a huge difference to your evening and the days following. This also applies to walks, grooming trips, car rides and anything else that requires a lot of brain work from your pup.

Work as a team

Fair play to anyone who has raised a puppy alone, because without my partner I'm not sure how I'd survive!

Not only is teamwork important in order to provide respite, it's very important to be consistent for your puppy. If members of the family offer different rules or communicate differently it can be very confusing and lead to frustration-related behaviours. Before bringing Cheddar home we discussed the house rules we wanted to implement to ensure that we were working from the same page from the very beginning.

Find a great vet

Nobody needs the added stress of health concerns or the inability to contact a veterinary professional with all of the other chaos a new puppy brings.

It was really important to me to select the right vet before Cheddar was home so that I could get his vaccinations booked in and know that somebody was there to support us if we needed them.

We chose our vet based on a few things:

  • Great reputation (I have worked with them first-hand as a behaviourist)

  • Easy communication

  • 24 Hour Emergency Vet on site

  • Access to a chat feature via the practice website

  • Within 15 minutes travel from our home

If you think you've finished spending money, think again

Despite spending hundreds on supplies before Cheddar coming home I seem to buy something new every day. And it's not junk, it's always something we genuinely need to prevent problems in the home or to make life easier. For example, we already had one puppy pen, but due to our open-plan living arrangement and a puppy desperate to get up on the kitchen counters I've had to order another one to restrict his access.

The fussy boy isn't hugely enamoured with the kibble we bought for him, so we've already spent more money on different foods to try and encourage him to finish his meals. And because I'm soft I treated him to an orthopaedic mattress because I was worried about his growing pains.

The moral of the story is, put money aside, and then put more money aside.

Over the coming weeks I will continue to share my experiences and advice. I want you to know that it's ok to feel overwhelmed, and to not have found your flow yet. As my puppy snores happily next to me I am reminded that it's all worth it.

Download my free Puppy Care 101 PDF below:

Puppy Care 101
Download PDF • 256KB

and feel free to email if you need some support.

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