The first few weeks with your puppy...
You have got your little bundle of fur, beautiful and playful, but remember, he is a baby who has been removed from his family and will be unsure and feel lonely, and it is up to you to be his mother, siblings, mentor and tutor!
Feeding your puppy. Puppies grow 20 times faster than adult dogs so a frequent feeds are very important for your growing dog. Any reputable breeder will instruct you on how to feed your puppy. They have very small stomachs so it is important that their meals are spread out throughout the day; up to four months, a puppy must have four meals a day, dropping to 3 meals a day until they are six months, when it can be dropped to two meals a day. Stability is important when feeding your puppy. Any changes to their food should take place over at least a week and the new diet should be maintained for at least ten days to see if it is appropriate. If your puppy has light or runny stools, check with your vet as they may have a digestion problem.
Clean and fresh water should always be available for any puppy or adult dog.
At 7-8 weeks, a puppy should have their initial vaccinations (jabs, shots, inoculation) and worming, both of which are vital to the health of puppies and adult dogs alike. Any good breeder will do this, but many do not, so check their history. If they have had their vaccinations, they should have a record for you to take with you to your own chosen veterinary surgeon for the initial check up that you should have to ensure the puppy is fit and healthy. If they have not had their vaccinations with the breeder, you should get them booked in at the vets immediately for their first in the series (A puppy should not be removed from it mother until it is a minimum of 8 weeks). You must not let your dog play with any other dogs, other than their mother, siblings and any fully vaccinated dogs in your household until the full set of vaccinations are competed. They should not be walked in any public areas where any other dogs may have previously been either. It is never too early to begin training. Train your puppy to go to the toilet as soon as they enter your family. Use their food as a reward for good behaviour. Put their lead on when you take them outside to go to the toilet and stand in the toilet area until they have relieved themselves. If they do not perform in five minutes, take them back in the house and try again in 30 minutes. If they do perform, reward them with food and play with them in the garden/safe outside area for five minutes so they begin to associate going to the toilet quickly outside with pleasurable consequences. Teach your puppy to sit whilst you cannot take them out. Keep training very quick and basic and do not try to train your puppy when they are tired or excited or busy doing something else. A very simple method of teaching “sit” is quietly stand in front of them with some food in your hand; make them aware of the food by holding it by their nose and slowly life the food up following the line of their head, they should look up and their hind should sit, as they sit, you say “sit” clearly and firmly and as their bottom touches the floor, immediately reward your puppy by giving him the food and a tickle in wherever they like best.
At 10 weeks your puppy should have the second dose of the initial vaccine, which takes 7 days to take effect, after which, you can begin the very important job of socialising your puppy. By now you should be sitting experts, so now try “down”. The same method as “sit”, get your puppy to sit and then hold the food in front of their nose, slowly move the food straight down to the ground and as their nose follows it, pull the food towards you. When you can see they are about to lay down, say “down” in a clear and firm voice and when they do, reward them with their food and a tickle. Do not run before you can walk, your puppy may have perfectly mastered their commands quickly, but do not get over excited and try to do too much as this can result in your puppy forgetting all it has learned. When you are sure your puppy has learned down, why not try “come”, a very useful command once you are out and about. When in your garden or house, make your puppy aware you have treats, if they follow you immediately, initially say come and give them a treat. Then walk away and in a very excited voice, call their name, they should look and you and if you hold your hand out and show the treat and call “come”. The puppy will come for the treat, but on repetition, the association will develop with the word “come”. Five minutes a session is all you should do as puppies have very short attention span, but try to do this three of four times a day.
At 12 weeks your puppy is now able to go out and explore the world with you. Remember that early socialisation and training is very important to having a happy relationship with your dog. Puppy classes help to teach your puppy to be a social and well behaved member of your household. Your toilet training routine should still be followed, take them out, if not relieved in five minutes, go back in and try later. If he performs, reward him with food and then declare “walkies” and set off on your pleasurable walk, which dogs and puppies alike will learn to love and see as the best possible reward for good behaviour. Whilst on your walk, have a bag full of food that you measured out earlier for the day and use it every single time a person, car, bike, dog or any other unusual thing passes so they associate all strange objects with a pleasurable outcome. Do not reward if they have a bad response, otherwise they will associate the reward with the response! Also reward your puppy for walking by your side. If they pull, stop and wait for them to come by your side and then set off again. They will realise that pulling gets them nowhere and walking politely by your side gets you moving. Whilst out, practice “come”, just as you did at home, but there are more distractions. Let your puppy have a long lead and call them, if they do not notice, give a gentle tug of the lead to get their attention so they can see the treat and call “come” when they move towards you. It is very important that this command is learned early on as it is very important that it is hardwired into their head so you can retrieve them in a potentially dangerous situation.