Toilet training your new puppy!

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Toilet training will be the first bit of ‘training’ you do with your new pup. If you have cats you’ll know how easy it is with kittens. In fact normally by the end of their first day home they know where their litter tray is and how to use it. Of course there are occasional accidents, but it’s pretty much a doddle.

Dogs are another kettle of fish! The only place puppies really know not to pee, is their bed or anywhere they sleep. Everywhere else is fair game. What’s more, they can’t hold their bladder and bowels for very long and will pretty much need to go the minute they have a drink or something to eat and every 20 minutes or so in between!

The key to toilet training is learning the signals that your puppy needs to go and putting them outside quickly. But also putting them outside every half an hour even if they don’t show you those signals, just in case! So you pretty much need eyes in the back of your head to make sure you are on it!

Sounds easy right? Nope. Your new puppy will have lots of accidents in those first few weeks. And it’s important to remember that word, ‘accident’, because you it’s the only way you will temper the frustration when you think you’ve nailed it and then step in a little gift left for you! Toilet training takes time and patience, and when these accidents occur it’s important not to reprimand your puppy – they didn’t do it on purpose.

The flip side is praise, and lots of it. Every poo and wee they do outside should be met with a fanfare of praise and even a treat! But one of the best pieces of advice I received was not just to praise after the event. While they are peeing or pooing, have a phrase you intend to use in future when you let them outside and want them to do their business. Ours is ‘Go potty!’ which we said repeatedly while she squatted to pee. She now knows when we open the door and say ‘Go potty!’ that it’s time to ‘go’! It can be any phrase, but whatever you choose, be consistent and repeat it until they have stopped peeing or pooing and then follow with praise.

“Go potty!”

So now let’s talk about puppy training pads. We started using these as we had been advised to by quite a few dog owners. The idea is that you put the pad on the floor and train your puppy to go on the pad to avoid the mess. But here’s the issue (which, once explained to me, made perfect sense): if you want your puppy to pee outside, why are you training it to pee inside on a mat? Good question, right? It’s only going to prolong what for some new owners is already a long process. So, my advice would be not to use puppy training pads.

Next up, night time toilet trips. As mentioned before, puppies cannot hold their bladders for very long, so you will need to get up in the night to begin with to let them out to pee. We found that Ivy could hold for much longer at night, so the 20 minute rule does not apply at night. Within a week Ivy was sleeping through, however this does not mean the frequency during the day got less. I am not sure why that is, although puppies do hate to make a mess in their bed more than anything. And we found that crate-training was what nailed the night time bladder control. If she had been able to wonder round, she would have had accidents. But because she was all cosy in her crate, she didn’t.

So the secret is consistency, patience and taking ownership of the process. Potty training is your job, not your puppy’s. You need to realise it will take time for this little bundle of fluff to understand that his or her human wants him to go to the bathroom outside rather than inside. And it will take you time to recognise the signals that tell you your puppy needs to go.

So, what are those signals? When Ivy needs to pee, she starts turning in circles and when she needs to poo, she sniffs the floor while walking around. If you see your pup doing either of these things, pick them up and take them outside. When you take your puppy outside, again, you need to be patient… and boring! Puppy will instantly forget it needed to pee when faced with all those fabulous smells and sounds and the expectation that you are going to play with them! So stand still, don’t speak and wait. When she starts to go, you start saying your chosen phrase, ‘Go potty! Go potty! Go potty’ (seriously, you don’t need to say that particular one, it just makes us laugh for some reason!) And then when she has gone, lots of praise.

You will hear tales of some puppies being trained by 9 weeks. Don’t listen. Yes, it can be done, but very few people manage it that quickly. Every puppy is different and some take longer than others. Ivy was getting the hang of it by 22 weeks, but unusual circumstances or forgetfulness on our part still results in the occasional accident.

One aspect of toilet training that isn’t often discussed is the ‘clean up’. It’s really important to clean up thoroughly when your puppy has an accident. Puppy wee doesn’t really smell strong to humans, but to your puppy, even the tiniest residue will mark a spot where they will look to wee again. So, make sure you find a good cleaning solution to get rid of the scent of wee or poo.

And on that sweet note… we would love to hear of any top tips you have learned through your experience with toilet training, so feel free to leave a comment below!

New puppy – will I ever sleep again?

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I stumbled across this article two months after I really needed it and I simply had to share it! I am sure many new puppy owners share the same experience of sleepless nights when they first bring their puppy home. And while this article may not necessarily make things easy from day one, simply knowing why your puppy is crying seems to me to be half the battle and makes the sleeplessness easier to handle. In fact, the same goes for pretty much any aspect your puppy’s behaviour. Knowing why puppy does what puppy does can make managing their behaviour and making them feel safe and loved so much easier.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Cockapoo Owners Club (UK)

Let sleeping dogs lie… but never let puppy dogs cry!

In the wild, a puppy would stay with their mum for about 9 months. So when we take them home at 8 or 9 weeks, they really are still infants in need of a mother. Our job is to become that mother- to care for them emotionally and physically and to create an environment that allows them to grow and flourish, and most importantly, to feel safe.

This is a big commitment, requires compromise and sacrifices, and there are going to be times when it is difficult. But the benefits you will reap from making sure your puppy’s needs are met and that they grow up feeling happy and safe make it so worthwhile.

Don’t let them cry it out

For many years, the advice doled out to new puppy parents was to bring their puppy home, put them to bed that night (often in a cage in another part of the house), and then to ignore their cries. This, we were told, would avoid ‘rewarding’ their ‘attention seeking’ behaviour and lead to a puppy who could cope with being left alone. The same advice was given to parents of human children for many years, and today many people still adhere to it, for both canine and human babies.

But guess what?

It has been shown that the effects of not responding to infants (human or canine) does the reverse of teaching independence- allowing a baby to repeatedly become distressed in this way is damaging to their ability to establish secure attachments in the long term, and is more likely to lead to clingy, demanding children, with a deep sense of insecurity which can stay with them for the rest of their lives.

In my capacity as a dog trainer, babies are of limited interest to me! But science has taught us that mammalian brains all work pretty similarly. A lot of research done on mammalian brains has been done on rats (sorry rats!), and we know from this research that there is a period in the ‘infant’ stage of life where the caregiving that an animal receives has a life-long impact on how prone they are to being anxious. Rats whose mothers were nurturing and caring in their early days (which translates to longer periods in larger mammals who develop more slowly) had the genes for controlling anxiety turned on, whereas those who had ‘low-nurturing’ mothers never had these genes turned on, and suffered from anxiety for the rest of their lives. This is something which seems to be true across the board.

We also know that when an animal becomes excessively stressed, the body’s response becomes destructive, negatively impacting the brain, emotions, the digestive system, the immune system. Excessive stress is simply not good for us.

And, we know that when a puppy cries, their mum always responds. This all makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective. Crying young alert predators to the presence of vulnerable, tasty youngsters! Dogs always do a very good job of rearing puppies, so we could do a lot worse than following their example.

So what should we do?

Dogs are social sleepers – they find safety in company, and without it, struggle to get the deep sleep they need. The ideal situation is to have your puppy sleep with a member of the family. Most puppies sleep longer and sounder when they are with you, so you might find the night is not as broken as you’d expect.

If you have a carpeted room and are worried about your puppy sneaking off to the corner for a wee (or worse!) during the night, a simple solution is to block off the parts of your room that you can, and cover the rest with a waterproof bedsheet- these usually have non-slippery cotton on top and a waterproof backing.

If you don’t want your dog in your room forever, as the puppy gets older you can gradually move their bed further and further from yours. Having their bed just outside your door with a dog gate rather than a shut door can be a good interim arrangement.

If they can’t be in the bedroom, camping downstairs with them for the first while can be helpful. You can then work on gradually increasing the time they are left downstairs.

Know when they’re tired

Puppies need a lot of sleep- upwards on 20 hours a day! But dogs are polyphasic sleepers- they sleep in multiple blocks throughout the day and night.

People often worry about their puppies sleeping too much during the day, and wonder how this will affect their sleep at night. But they need so much sleep that this is highly unlikely to be the case. In fact, depriving your puppy of sleep can have the reverse effect! Puppies who are over-tired can become hyperactive and restless and find it difficult to go to sleep at night. So if they’re resting during the day, don’t worry- it might help you get a better night’s sleep.

Here are some signs that your puppy may be tired or over-tired:

• Yawning;
• Eyes closing whilst sitting up;
• Red eyes (I once had a pom-chi in puppy class whose eyes used to actually get puffy when he was tired);
• Hyper-activity;
• Excessive nipping;
• Restlessness or not knowing what to do with themselves;
• Vocalisations (barking, whining)
• Grumpiness (snappiness).

If it’s too early for you to go to bed, if everyone just sits down calmly and leaves the puppy be, they will probably lie down and go to sleep. Offering them a food-based chew can help relax them.

Early starts

Dogs are naturally crepuscular, which means their most active times of the day can be dawn or dusk (many people report their puppies having a mad half hour morning and evening, and this is the reason). Over time, they adjust to our rhythm of life, but this is something they learn over time, not immediately. Be patient if your puppy is rising at 5.30 and ready to face the day!

Letting them out for a wee, and then encouraging them back to bed with a food-based chew can gain you an extra half hour of sleep!

Alternatively, scattering some of their breakfast in the garden can serve the dual purpose of tiring them out in a calm way by engaging their brains as they sniff around for the treats, and filling their tummies! Sniffing also lowers the pulse-rate and as such is a calming activity. You might well find they’re ready for another nap after the exertion. This is also a good exercise to do in the evening before bed.

Getting ready for bed

Keep everything calm and quiet before bedtime so your puppy is getting into the right frame of mind to sleep. Remember that adrenaline can stay in the system for 6 hours, so keeping them calm as much of the time as possible is actually a good idea!
Let them out for a toilet trip before bed.

Don’t withhold water- puppies can become easily dehydrated and need access to water at all times. If you are concerned about toilet training, offering them a wet food can mean that they get most of their required fluids with their meals and are less likely to graze on water throughout the day and night, making it easier to predict when they need to go.
If your puppy is struggling to settle, a calm nose game in the evening can help them get into a calmer frame of mind.

Get the night time routine right, and you can rest assured that you’re increasing your odds of raising a happy, stress-free puppy with a secure attachment, and hopefully getting a better night’s sleep yourself in the process!

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How to prepare for a new puppy!

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So your new arrival is imminent. Exciting times! But before you go and pick up your precious bundle of joy, you need to make sure you are prepared.

Preparing will involve a shopping list, but how much you spend is entirely up to you. Pretty much anything you need to buy for your new puppy falls into camps – basic or high end. And for many of the things you need, basic will do just fine.

Food and water bowls. Go for heavy bowls or stainless steel with non-slip bottoms. Anything lighter or plastic will get chewed or even carried around, so best to avoid those.

A bed. Your puppy is going to want somewhere warm and cosy to curl up, especially given that they will spend up to 18 hours asleep to begin with.Image result for dog in dog bed

Familiar smells. Before you bring puppy home, check with the breeder that they will supply you with something that smells of puppy’s mum. This is really important for those first few days when your puppy is acclimatising to their new family. The familiar smell of their mother will give them comfort and make them feel safe.

ID tag. It is the law that all dogs wear an ID tag on their collar detailing their owner’s surname and contact phone number. Don’t be tempted to put their name on the tag, as this makes them easier to steal.

Microchipping. Microchipping is also well worth the investment. It is a simple procedure whereby your vet will insert a small chip into your dog. The chip will hold all details about your dog including your name, address and telephone number. This means that if your dog were to go missing and was handed in, its chip can be scanned and you are far more likely to be reunited with your pet.

Toys. For puppies, mental stimulation is as important as physical activity (in fact, perhaps more so). While young puppies sleep for most of the day, when they are awake they will want to play – both with you and with toys. There is an endless supply of toys on the market designed with your puppy’s enjoyment and safety in mind. Which leads me onto my next item..

Chew toys. Puppies love to chew. It’s a basic instinct and also very soothing for them when they are teething. What’s more, they will chew pretty much anything, which can prove to be destructive on your furniture, carpets and other belongings. Make sure you have a supply of chewy toys that it is ok for them to gnaw at – you will be glad you did.Image result for dog chewing toy

Grooming. You might want to take your puppy to a trained professional for their first groom. Clipping a wriggling puppy’s claws can be quite daunting, so we would recommend having it done by a groomer until your puppy is used to it. However you might want to equip yourself with a brush and some dog-friendly shampoo for when your puppy comes in mucky from a walk.

A crate. Many dog owners swear by crates and we think they are pretty good too. A crate can be used for transporting and for sleeping. Dogs will gradually associate their crate with being a safe place to snuggle and get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. What’s more, in the early days they can be used to begin the process of toilet-training as dogs prefer not to poo or wee in their own bed.

Puppy food. When you first bring your puppy home, you will want to continue feeding them whatever they have been fed by their breeder. Everything will be new for them, so they will find some familiarity a comfort. After that, it’s up to you to do your research and decide what food is best for your dog. Opinions vary widely over different diets, so it really is your choice, but do make sure you are feeding them good quality food that has clearly labelled contents so you know what they are eating.

Image result for puppy eatingLead and collar. You won’t be taking your puppy out for walks for a few weeks until they have been fully immunised. However, you can get them used to wearing a collar and being on a lead almost as soon as they come home. There are hundreds of collars and leads on the market – the choice is yours – but do bear their comfort and safety in mind when making your choice, not just how stylish it is!

Poo bags. You’d be surprised at how many ‘preparing for a puppy’ checklists forget to add poo bags! These are an essential you are going to need from day one and throughout your dog’s life, so make sure you have a good stock of these. There are many different kinds on the market, but we would recommend going for strong and environmentally friendly bags.

Choosing a vet. While your puppy may not need to visit the vet until they are ready for their first immunisations, you will still want to choose a vet before you bring your puppy home. Ask friends and neighbours for recommendations and perhaps even visit a couple before making your final choice.

Pet insurance. Once you have chosen your vet, you can ask them for their advice on pet insurance. They will almost certainly have an insurer they recommend, but they should also offer you advice on shopping around and the kind of insurance you should be looking for.

So, it looks like you’re all set to bring your fur baby home!

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