He’s the sweetest, cuddliest, most frustrating creature alive. Since I adopted this fluffy baby, I’ve learned a few tips that I thought I would share with first time puppy owners. My intention is to help you understand what you’re getting into before you make the commitment.
1. Everything is a Chew Toy
Literally. Everything will be viewed as a chew toy when they’re teething. Kai is about 4 months old and his adult teeth are finally starting to come in. He’s getting better now that a few baby teeth have fallen out and the others have grown in.
Be sure to provide plenty of chew toys so they don’t view furniture as an object to chew. When they chew furniture, be authoritative and say, “No!” and quickly give them a toy of their own. Kai also knows that “Uh uh” means stop what you’re doing right now! When he hears that, he instantly stops and gives me puppy dog eyes. We bought him rubbery toys for teething as well as bones. He’s young enough to chew soft stuffed animals because his baby teeth can’t rip them up yet.
Don’t yell at them without replacing the object. If you don’t give them something they are supposed to chew on, they will never understand what you want from them. Don’t let them get used to chewing your blankets or objects they aren’t ruining yet, because when their adult teeth come in, the habits will stick and they’ll think it’s okay. Also be sure they know which toys are theirs. Don’t just buy them dozens of toys to try to get them to stop chewing household objects. That will only confuse them and get them thinking all toys are theirs. Keep just a few designated doggy toys just for them.
2. Potty Training is BRUTAL
I would take Kai outside for an hour and he wouldn’t go potty but the instant we got inside, he was already going on the carpet. It was so frustrating and I wanted to get mad! But the best thing to do is catch them in the act.
Pick them up as they’re going and run them outside. Tell them, “No!” if they’re going in the house and you catch them.
Take them outside often. You can usually tell when your puppy has to go potty because they start sniffing and walking around more. Run them outside every hour or so and if they go, give them a treat and praise them like crazy. If they’re not going potty when you take them outside, spend extra time playing until they go. Eventually they’ll have to go and when they do, make sure they get their treat.
If you have to leave for a few hours, put them in a laundry room or a room with hard floors. If they go, and they most likely will, it will be easy clean up. Another option is to put them in their kennel. Many puppies know that their kennel is where they sleep and they won’t want to make a mess. If they do, you know they really had to go.
If they just aren’t going potty outside, put them in their kennel or the laundry room for 30 minutes at a time. Take them out for 5 minutes, if they go, great! If not, another 30 minutes in the crate. Repeat until they go.
Don’t lose your temper on them or rub their face in it. They don’t understand why you’re yelling at them or throwing them outside after they’ve already gone. If you have to leave them and they go potty, getting mad will confuse them.
3. Be clear with your commands
One thing I notice with pet owners is that their pets don’t always understand the commands. Use easy, short, concise commands that they can clearly remember.
Use short words and phrases like, “Come, sit, stay, down, off, go potty, good boy.” If you use these shorter words, they will be more likely to understand. They will have a harder time if you use phrases like, “Sit down, come over here, etc.”
Dogs know your tone, speak in an authoritative yet calm tone. When you praise them, stay in control and show them you’re happy. When they disappoint you, it’s okay to show it with your body language. It helps them learn and realize they let you down. Many times they will try to make it up to you and show you they’re sorry. With Kai, I just have to put my hands on my hips and raise my eyebrows.
When your dog is jumping up, say, “Off!” Don’t say down because that will confuse him when you want him to lie down. Don’t repeat commands more than three times without showing them what you want. If you say sit, and they don’t sit, push their bum down until they do. Don’t just repeat the command as they will learn it’s okay to ignore you the first few times. Don’t overwork your dog when teaching them commands. It can get them frustrated and when they’re not happy, it’s not the best time for learning.
4. Commitment & Attention
When you decide to get a dog, don’t do it unless you have the time and attention to give them. They’re not just there for your convenience. They need emotional and physical care. It’s unfair to lock them up all day if you don’t have the time to give them.
Get a puppy if there’s someone home during the day to take them out to go potty. If you have a backyard or a fenced area, that’s great for a dog. If you have a small living space and nowhere for them to play or run around, consider getting another animal, like a cat. Give your dog attention and affection to strengthen the relationship between the two of you. If you can adopt from a rescue or animal shelter, do! It’s the best feeling in the world to know that you can give them a home they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
Don’t get a dog if you don’t have the time. Don’t get a puppy if you won’t give him the same attention and affection when he’s an adult. Don’t get a dog to lock him in a kennel all day or put him outside in the cold on his own. A dog is a companion and a commitment. Kai takes quite a bit of work, but he’s also my best friend.