I'm on the tail end of puppyhood for Annie (she is almost 9 months now) and I thought it might be helpful for new puppy owners (or future puppy owners) to see a list of my personal recommendations on my successes and challenges from puppyhood with Annie. Also it's Sunday and I have nothing else to do, LOL. I am no expert on puppies - and we missed a few marks on raising her that we are working through now. These are my opinions based on our raising of Annie, and my train of thought may be different than others, so take it with a grain of salt.
These are some suggestions that I have. Check out Puppy Madness group as well: http://www.doodlekisses.com/group/puppymadness
1. Begin training (trick or obedience) immediately: This is important not only for having a well behaved and obedient dog in adulthood, but it helps to build the relationship between your puppy and you (or your family). The pup begins to learn how to communicate with you, and learns that he/she can count on you to guide them on what to do and how to act. Dogs were bred over a few hundred years to interact with humans, but they were not born knowing what we want from them, so we have to teach them. It is truly remarkable that two completely different species can communicate in this way. Training is a great way to build a positive relationship with your pup. As a small puppy, I would recommend no more than 10 minutes at a time training, 3 times a day - Annie got bored during our longer sessions when she was small.
**In my opinion, "Drop it" and "Leave it" are two of the more important commands to teach. I can't tell you how many times Annie would have eaten something she shouldn't (like a stick, rock, clothespin, dead mouse, bra, sock or wild animal turd) if she didn't know what "Drop it" and "Leave it" meant.
2. Nip jumping up from day 1 at home: When we brought Annie home, she was 13 lbs, and a tiny bundle of joy. We let her jump all over us, it was the cutest thing ever. However, now at 66 lbs, her jumping becomes painful and is a very hard habit to break. If you are able to teach the puppy from a young age that jumping up is not acceptable, you will be in a better place than I am right now. :)
3. Biting is normal: Puppies nip and bite as play - this is how they played with their littermates, and it is how they will play with you. A puppy should not be removed from it's mother prior to 8 weeks of age, even if the breeder says it's OK. (Annie was almost 11 weeks old when we got her). Puppies learn a great deal of the bite inhibition they will take home with them - from their own mother and littermates in the first 8 weeks of age. A week might not sound like it will make a difference, but it is critical. If you bring a puppy home earlier than 8 weeks old, they are missing out on a critical training from their mother and littermates, that you will not be able to give to them. Puppies have little to explore their new world but their mouth and razor sharp teeth. At first, you will probably think that your puppy is going grow up to be a crazy attack dog that bites everyone it sees. Biting during play is actually pretty important, because this is where they learn to 'control' the force behind their bite. What we did with Annie when she bit us too hard was mimicked a puppy being bitten too hard "YIPE" and pull our hand away. We would not play with her for about 30 seconds after the nip. The bite will get softer over time, but be patient - it took us several weeks to help Annie with her bite inhibition...and puppy teeth are like razors, so we did have a few scratches, torn clothing, etc.
4.Always supervise: Think of a puppy like an ornery baby learning to crawl - they can get into trouble. An unsupervised puppy can quickly destroy everything you love in your home, and possibly cause you an emergency vet trip from eating something it wasn't supposed to. Some recommend tethering the puppy to your belt so it is required to go with you everywhere. I did not do this, but we always supervised (and still do) Annie (she's still technically a puppy - a HUGE puppy). If we were busy with other things or could not watch her every move - she was in her crate.
5. Puppies sleep a lot, and they get the hiccups a lot: During Annie's first few weeks home, I cannot tell you how many times I googled "how much do puppies sleep?" and "My puppy has the hiccups all the time". I found that these are normal for the most part, but I will caution on the sleeping part - as this can also be an indication that something is wrong. A puppy will nap for about 2 hours, and will probably play hard upon waking for about 30-45 minutes... then back to sleep. If your puppy is not interested in play, is not eating, or is lethargic - you might want to visit the vet.
6. Expect pee and poop in your house for at least a few weeks: Even when you are supervising your pup's every move - they are lightening fast with sqatting to pee on your rug. Annie used to be running around during play, and would stop on a dime to pee. If you are supervising (see #4), you can interrupt with a "HEY" and then pick up the pup to put them outside - don't forget to praise if they finish outside, even though you might be reeling from the thought of cleaning up when you get back inside. They have to be taught the rules on where to potty - they are not born knowing this. I also recommend cleaning up with no incident - don't push their face in it, I dont think they understand what that means. I would suggest not reprimanding them for it, or they may associate going potty in general with a bad reaction from you. We crate trained. I suggest taking pup out to potty: as soon as they wake up, after every meal, after every play session, after every training session, and before she goes to sleep. Annie was potty trained in 2-3 weeks for the most part - but she did have occasional accidents (our fault, not hers) for a few months afterward.
- I believe that crate training is the best way to help a puppy understand WHERE they should go to the restroom. Puppies understand that "where I sleep, I should not pee or poop if I can help it". Dogs understand what a 'den' is, and as long as you set realistic expectations, I believe this is the best way to go (don't leave them in there for 8 hours and expect a clean crate when you come back, especially if the puppy is young). The puppy should have enough room to stand up, turn around, and lay down. I recommend crating the puppy whenever you are unable to supervise. (while at work, at night when sleeping, if you are too busy to watch puppy). As soon as you open the crate door, you should go right outside – to potty.
- Your first few days of crate training are going to test your patience. Especially at night. We tried crating Annie in the livingroom, right outside of our bedroom door, and she whined like nothing I've heard, it was heartbreaking. The crate came in our room, right next to the bed, and she was instantly less distraught. Puppies spend the first two months of their lives snuggled up in a pile with their mother and other puppies, so to be suddenly assigned to an empty crate all by themselves can be stressful on them (understandably). Dogs are pack animals, and they just want to be near us. In the night, if Annie woke up whining, I would roll over and stick a few fingers in the crate to tell her it was OK, and she would go right back to sleep. If you do not want the crate in your room, be prepared for whining for at least a week or two until the puppy gets used to his new digs. We don't mind the crate in our room, and when it's time for bed, Annie knows right where to go. She loves her crate now. I personally never used the crate for punishment or time out, because I wanted it to be a place that was always positive for her. I did not want any negative feelings about the crate, so for 'time outs' we would just put her in the corner, LOL.
7. Destructive behavior usually means boredom and pent up energy: If your puppy is tearing up the furniture, scratching the floor, or acting like a maniac - they are probably bored and in need of an outlet. If you do not give your puppy an outlet for energy and boredom, they will provide their own outlet, which is usually destroying something that you love. Play fetch. For very small puppies, they can play fetch for about 15 minutes before you should give them a break. Dont over work the puppy, but a tired puppy is a better behaved puppy.
8. Don't EXPECT a non-shedder in a doodle: There are many doodles that are truly non-shed, but there are just as many that shed like crazy. . I think the only way to really guarantee low to no shed is to purchase a multigenerational doodle, where they were bred over several generations for this purpose. Just because a puppy has poodle in its genes does not mean that it will not shed. For the puppies sake and your own, if you are getting a doodle, make sure that you are prepared for a shedding dog unless you opt for a multigen. It is a shame, but so many are given up because they do what 99% of dogs do - they shed. Annie sheds like crazy.
9. Socialize your puppy and get them used to car rides: We have another older dog, and we rarely took her for car rides - now she is a basket case in the car - will not sit down, and is a bundle of nerves. With Annie, we brought her with us in the car 3-4 times a week from day one: for quick runs to the convenience store, the coffee shop, etc. This is a must in my opinion. Annie now rides in the car like a champ - gets in, and lays down the entire ride. Socialization with new people is also important. We brought Annie with us once a week to the coffee shop (where she sat in our lap outside). We encouraged everyone that walked by us to say hello to her. Be careful with socialization, as you don't want to put puppies feet on the floor at any place that could get her sick. We took her to petsmart a few times but must have looked like crazy people because we rubbed hand sanitizer all over the cart, then covered it in a large blanket, and then put her inside the cart on top of the blanket. Socialization is important, but also important that they stay healthy - their immunity is still very fragile. Throw puppy parties where you invite lots of new people over that the puppy can meet while they're young.
10. Handle your puppys paws, ears and mouth often: About twice a week, we would do a 'handling' session where I held and rubbed Annies paws, spread the paw pads, and looked inside her ears and mouth. It's a good idea to get the puppy used to being handled, because the vet is going to do this, groomers are going to do this, and you may have to do it yourself.
11.Feed a high quality made-in-North America (USA or Canada) kibble, raw food or home cooked: Like people, I think that a puppy's diet is critical to good health. Check out the food group, http://www.doodlekisses.com/group/thefoodgroup, there are lots of discussions and opinions there on what you should feed your pup. We feed raw, but this is not for everyone. There are a lot of commercial quality foods that you can feed for a healthy pup.
12. Handle the puppy WHILE they are eating: While your puppy is young, I would recommend that you try to sit with the puppy during their meals. Pet them, take their food away, give it back to them, put your hand in the bowl. Let them learn that people do not want their food, and that people are not a threat to their food. I think puppies have to compete at times, with their littermates, and can become food aggressive from a young age. This is something we had to nip in the bud with Annie during her first few days home - she growled at me on her first day home while she was eating...I presume she had to fight for food among her littermates, so I had to break her of this. We had to hand feed her for about a month, and she is a perfect angel now as we still practice. If you hand feed the pup, you can teach the pup that people are OK to be near during feeding time.
13. Play time should be controlled by you: The behavior you encourage in your pup during play might make some areas of training harder, and it will be sending mixed messages to the pup on what is appropriate and what is not. If you do not want your pup biting, jumping and wrestling, I would suggest that play time is not centered around encouraging the puppy to jump up for toys, take toys from you, etc. Fetch is a great outlet and helps the dog to understand that you WILL play with them, but there are rules that must be followed. YOU throw the toy, the pup chases it and brings it back. Teach the pup to drop the toy by dangling a small treat and saying “drop it” – when the puppy drops the toy, he gets a treat and you get to throw the toy again. Playing in this manner helps to discourage the biting, as you are working through #3.
Thats all I can think of right now, but I would love for other fresh puppy moms and dads to add their experiences and tips here. I've seen lots of posts from new people asking for pointers. Again, these are my personal opinions - some may have different ideas, and I welcome your responses on what worked for you