Meet Tony "Teddy Bear" Montana. My new family member since October last year.
I wanted to have a dog for a while, but before COViD I was always on the go. Traveling outside of the city or outside of the country at least once a month. My lifestyle was not good for having a dog. Especially a puppy! However, when COViD hit I thought: now or never. My plan was simple: I’ll get a puppy during COViD, and before the pandemic is over he will be a well-trained dog.
As raising a puppy is not easy, I decided to journal my experience for the future me and friends. This is not a comprehensive guide as there is a bunch of stuff all over the internet, but I would share my gotchas and notes.
Before puppy arrival
I am all about learning from others and their mistakes. Thus, I read a few books before even getting a dog:
- Zak George's Dog Training Revolution - great intro about what having a dog is and how to select the perfect dog breed for you
- The Art of Raising a Puppy - good set of tips on how to train a puppy from the first days. It has some good ideas about creating a routine for your puppy, etc.
- The Power of Positive Dog Training - comprehensive guide on how to train a dog with step by step instructions for teaching particular commands. I strongly recommend this one, especially after you figure out the basics (potty training, etc.)
Another things to be aware BEFORE you get a puppy:
- first days/weeks will be rough - sleepless nights, waking up at 1am, 3am and 5am to take your puppy pee, and constant supervision will be needed
- the most important is consistency - this is hard, because we humans are not robots; to be most successful with a puppy you need to behave consistently in EVERY situation in order to not confuse him: even getting him food in specific way can be confusing
- The puppy needs to get used to YOUR schedule - he does not need to go to work, but you do; he does not need to go grocery shopping, but you do; he does not need to take you out, but you need to take him out...you have much more responsibilities than him, and you shouldn't feel guilty that you are leaving him alone while you are working or taking care of errands
First 2 weeks
It was a little bit more challenging than expected. I was fortunate that my now fiance helped me throughout this experience!
For the first few days you need to sleep next to your puppy's crate. Yes, you need a crate, otherwise he can do something you don’t want during the night. Like eating things that cannot be taken out without surgery!
It’s really helpful to have your significant other, or friend who would help you during this time. It was a game changer for us when one night, one person was sleeping (and waking up) by Tony’s crate, and another was in the bedroom (with earplugs) getting an actual night of sleep. We were alternating every day.
It's also recommended to give a limited space to your puppy, and gradually increase it. Giving him access to the entire house might be overwhelming.
Besides that you need to start potty training and basic commands (I recommend The Power of Positive Dog Training for that).
Quick guide to potty training
On the day of arrival, take your puppy out every hour. Ideally to the same spot and wait until he pees. Then increase it by 5 mins every other day or so. The rule of thumb is: puppy can hold pee for as many hours as many months old he is. E.g., 3 months old puppy should be able to hold it for 3 hours. However, always start with 1h. Even if the puppy is 3 months old. Then increase time between breaks gradually.
I recommend increasing the time between pee breaks on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This would add 15mins every week, and ~1h every month. It’s better to not do increases on the weekends as weekends are usually more random than working days.
Remember, accidents will happen. There is no way around it. They will eventually stop. Just be patient! When accidents happen: just say "no" and immediately take puppy out to usual pee spot.
I recommend getting a few sessions with a good dog trainer. You have no idea how the smallest things you do may confuse your dog and be a game changer. Every dog is different, and a few recommendations from an experienced trainer can be a game changer! E.g., our trainer told us: “you are so lucky, your puppy behavior is great for his age…just do not mess him up”.
People do not realize that THEY have to be trained to have a dog as well! If you need recommendations for a good dog trainer in the Seattle area let me know!
I also recommend a copy of The Power of Positive Dog Training.
Initially, I was skeptical with treat training as my friend told me that then the dog will never listen to me if I won’t give him treats. However, our trainer proved this to be not necessarily true. Bottom line is: treats are good for training as they cause your dog to associate good feelings with them. You say command, he does something, he gets a nice reward. Remember to have tasty treats! Later on, he will be on autopilot and treats won’t be needed.
We spent a good amount of time deciding which commands are most important. If I was doing it all over again I would teach in this order:
- his name (Tony!)
- off - in the first days he will be jumping at people all the time, sometimes with biting (in a playful way); you don't want him to have that behavior
- leave it - in first days your puppy will try to pick up pretty much EVERYTHING from the ground, faster he learns this command the better for his health
- wait/stay - we started with stay, but then learned that we need separate commands for: 'wait and do not move' and 'stay and do not follow me' (e.g., when leaving house); it's also helpful to show pointing finger as dogs react more to body language than words
After the first few days, when the puppy gets used to the new environment you can start moving your bed further and further away from the crate, or by moving the crate further away from your bed (~1ft/day). We actually skipped that step and just went to the bedroom after 2 weeks. For the first few days Tony was whining, but he eventually stopped.
When he was 3 or 4 months old we let him sleep outside of the crate...and it was just fine. Actually, one night when I was locking the crate I just locked one door (we have 2 doors crate), because I thought the other door was locked, but it wasn't! At the morning I was wondering why he is not barking (AKA asking to go pee), and found him sleeping by our bedroom door :) After that we knew it's probably gonna be fine to let him sleep outside of the crate :)
Remember to first vaccinate your puppy. Avoid dog parks, at least at the beginning. Make them meet the best behaved dogs you know. Tony learned a lot from Porter - my friend's dog who is the best trained dog I know. It was great when Porter stayed with us for a week. We could just tell him what to do, and Tony would simply follow him! Excellent way to teach with little effort.
Puppies should not run until the age of 6 months. We started with hiking (his first hike at the age of 6 months was 5 miles!), and then running (1 mile: 1min walk, 1 min run, 1.5 miles, 2 miles, 3 miles, etc.).
Swimming is more tricky, as it depends on the breed. Goldendoodles are natural swimmers. Tony’s first swim was when he was in a dog park with Porter (my friend’s dog), and Porter jumped into the water. Tony just followed :P After that we took him for 1h dog SPA where he was swimming in the pool with a trainer. We got him a swim vest and then took him for a 5 min swim (250 yards) at the lake. Then we did 1000 yards, and he was just fine. After that he still had energy to run :O
- get pet insurance for the first year – this is the period of time when it’s most likely that something will happen to your puppy. Once you get through the first year that likelihood goes down. Then, again when the dog gets older (10 years or so) it’s worth considering again.
- do not open crate when he is jumping at the door, wait until he sits and then open crate
- make him sit before giving food
- when puppy jumps at you: turn around
- when you want to avoid him jumping at people on the street separate him from others with your body facing him
- American Kennel Club - a bunch of resources about dogs, you can sign up for a weekly newsletter with tips on what to do at a particular age (8 weeks, 9 weeks, etc.)
- Puppy Primer - nice, quick read about basic aspects of raising a puppy (from potty training to basic behaviors human should do). You can find my notes from that book on GoodReads
- How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves - this is very comprehensive guide on how to train your dog. I recommend to pick it up later on, after you went through basic exercises and observed your dog behaviors already. This book will help you to understand why your dog does what he does, and how to adjust nitty gritty details of YOUR daily behaviors.
This is it for now. I will be updating this when I recall other things or learn some new things.