Long before the Pet Adoption Website was created, we adopted our first puppy, Luna! Since then we've been fostering for around 7 years and have had a lot of puppies come through our doors. Here's what we'd do differently now.
1) Don’t use puppy pads In fairness to us we got Luna in November. So it was Baltic and miserable to go outside, and the puppy pads inside a warm house seemed to make more sense. She caught on quickly but the problem was that once we wanted her to toilet outside we were almost back to square one. Had we just trained her to go outside in the first place then it would have skipped an entire step. Even once she’d mastered going outside she still was partial to a wee pee on my lovely white bath mats! Now with any foster puppies we have, they learn immediately to go outside and it works better. Of course, having other dogs to teach them really helps too.
2) Use a crate This seemed really strange to us as novices, locking a dog in a cage seemed counter-intuitive to the warm home we wanted to make for our puppy. But we’ve since learned that dogs LOVE their crates, crates are their dens and their safe space. We embraced the crate a few weeks after getting Luna and she still loves it, 7 years later. Puppies don’t tend to soil where they sleep so it makes puppy training SO much easier as they’ll bark/squeak when they want out and you know to bring them immediately outside. It also saves your furniture and sanity if you ever have to take your eye off them. For more info see our blog all about Crate Training.
3) Don’t worry about training away things like biting We definitely lost sleep trying to train Luna on not jumping up, and not nibbling on people’s fingers/ noses (“tooth kisses”) but little did we know they just grow out of it. I mean, definitely train your dogs. Definitely say “NO” and pull away when they bite. But they are also only babies and they just grow up.
4) Use distraction techniques rather than those bitters While we’re talking about nibbling on furniture etc. We’d bought those bitter spray things to try and stop Luna nibbling. To be honest puppies shouldn’t really be given the freedom to be bored and destroy furniture anyway, so that smelly stuff really didn’t help us at all. Now we put them in the crate to sleep if we aren’t watching them, and otherwise we are there to direct their attention to a toy when they do anything unwanted.
5) Getting up at night Every blog/youtube video we’ve seen says you need to set your alarm every 3 hours to let the puppy out to pee. You really don’t. Those wee dotes need more sleep than you do. If they are in the crate put them in your room or somewhere you can hear them and they’ll squeak if they need up. If not, enjoy your sleep, you’ll need it for playing the next day.
6) Letting her off lead earlier It was a man that we met in Botanic Gardens who finally convinced us to let Luna off the lead. She was probably over a year old at this stage and we were petrified. We couldn’t believe it when she stuck by us, and now we can’t imagine having a dog that can’t run across beaches or forests. There’s a trust between both dog and owner that needs built and the sooner you do this the better. Obviously it goes without saying to start on recall in an enclosed space. It helped that Luna would do anything for a squeaky ball so it was always easy to get her back.
7) Training: Learn what works for them - treat or cuddles While we’re talking about recall. It’s worth noting that not all dogs are motivated by the same thing. Luna didn’t care that much about food as a pup so if we followed the typical training it wouldn’t have worked for us. For commands like “sit down” she was mostly motivated by praise and hugs. For recall squeaky balls were the trick. Find out what motivates your pupper and use that.
8) Don’t hold them all the time We did spoil Luna. She was our first baby. She didn’t sleep in a dog bed until she was about 2 years old and our first foster Izzy came on the scene. She still won’t actually lie on the ground because she’s convinced she’s a human. Now when foster puppies need to sleep we put them into the crate, rather than giving into the temptation of them sleeping on your chest. You can get more done this way too!
9) Get them used to brushing (coats and teeth) We were actually really good at getting Luna used to brushing her coat, but we forgot the teeth brushing. It’s such an important aspect of their health and now she HATES getting them brushed. It also makes their breath a lot fresher so helpful for everyone involved 😊
10) Be braver with other dogs We were good an introducing her to known dogs to socialise her. But we were a bit nervous if one of those dogs growled at her, particularly if they were big dogs. We now know that this is part of the learning process and an “adult” dog telling off a puppy is actually a really healthy thing. And if you trust the dog then don’t interfere!
11) They aren’t going to die if their teeth fall out We genuinely thought she was dying. Puppies lose their baby teeth same as kids do. It’s all good! Even if there’s blood.
12) Leave them alone more This one is hard, but you’ll be happier in the long run. It’s best to build it up gradually, so even if you aren’t leaving, leaving them alone in the room for a while will help. And then build it up to 20min, 40min etc. Obviously we won't want to leave them too long but life will mean you have to leave them for short periods.
13) Jumping and going up and down stairs We knew that puppies shouldn’t be exercised too much, 5 minutes for every month old they are, up to twice a day. But we probably let her run up and down the stairs too much, and jump up and down from our bed. She ended up needing an operation on her kneecap, which is quite common with her breed, but still, maybe we could've stopped it. We’re more careful with puppies now, they’ve no sense and will overexert themselves.
14) Don’t let them in your bed! (Unless that’s going to be the norm) Speaking of jumping up on beds. It’s really hard to get them out of your bed if you let them in. If you always want to sleep with your dog we’re here for that. But if it’s a “treat” then that won’t really work for your puppy. They don’t understand “just once” and won’t settle in the crate after. So be strong!
15) Smell their ears If they’ve smelly ears it’s probably an infection Again, something we learned the hard way. Puppies are notorious for ear infections which can be difficult to spot the signs of. But a smelly ear is the best one. So smell those pupper ears all the time and you’ll know they are healthy. It’s definitely more applicable if they have floppy ears rather than sticky up ones!