Bringing a puppy home for the first time is a wonderful experience: Wide eyes and a wagging tail bring happiness to any home. However, many prospective owners are so excited about having a puppy that they don’t anticipate the extreme work required at first.

This is where Lauren Langman and the training pros at Absolute Dogs step in. The leading training provider offers numerous programmes and resources for when puppy training gets tough.

Often, the challenges start right away, especially if a puppy is cautious after leaving siblings behind or coming from a stressful home. This is often the case when owners rehome a puppy into their first consistent, loving setting.

It’s normal for puppies to be unsure about you and their new environment at first. Because of this, the early days can be difficult. Fortunately, Absolute Dogs has six tips to make the first week with your puppy as easy and stress-free as possible.

Puppy Blues and Common Worries for New Puppy Owners

If you’ve wondered whether bringing a puppy into your life was a bad idea, you’re not alone. Countless puppy owners worry that they’ve made a mistake, that their puppy is going to cry every night and continuously wreak havoc with their family.

It’s not uncommon for owners to experience these puppy blues. Feelings of depression may not be what you were expecting, but bringing a new dog home is overwhelming for many.

After all, you might well be lacking sleep, constantly puppy-proofing items, and repairing chewed furniture. Your puppy might keep nipping you, whimpering throughout the night, or barking at every little thing.

The key here is to remember that this phase is temporary. With these tips from Absolute Dogs, you can make your puppyhood journey much easier.

Tip 1. Puppy-Proof Your Home

Puppies don’t know how to behave in a human world until you show them. So, before you welcome them into your life and begin training, take these steps to puppy-proof your home.

  • Create a safe space where your puppy can stay when you aren’t around to supervise. Baby gates and x-pens can be useful in creating this space.
  • Invest in storage that allows you to keep any valuables, special items, or damageable objects out of reach.
  • Lock away dangerous items like charger cords, medications, and chemicals or cleaning products.

With a well-protected home, you’ll be in a much better place to bring a puppy into your life.

Tip 2. Prepare for Night-Time Toileting

There is some advice out there to keep your puppy in a crate in a separate room from you overnight. Others advise bringing your puppy into bed with you. However, young puppies have small bladders and will likely need toilet breaks during the night-time hours.

Because of this, Absolute Dogs recommends setting up a crate in your bedroom for your puppy to sleep. This way, you’ll be there when they can’t settle because they need to toilet.

If your puppy needs to go, keep the lights low and make minimal noise as you take them outside so they don’t think it’s playtime. Using a small gated space is also a good way to stop them wandering off and playing.

Tip 3. Ditch the Bowl

Your new life begins the moment you get your new puppy. From this moment, your puppy will watch and learn from you. Because of this, it’s never too soon to start training. As soon as you bring your puppy home, celebrate positive behaviours and prevent them from rehearsing negative behaviours.

A great way to start is to adopt Absolute Dogs’ “Ditch the Bowl” strategy. Rather than feeding your puppy with a bowl, save their daily food rations to reward them for positive behaviour throughout the day.

For example, instead of putting 20 pieces of kibble in a bowl, these 20 pieces could each become a treat to reward your puppy when they make a great decision. When you reward your puppy for positive behaviour, they’ll be more likely to repeat this behaviour.

Great decisions could include laying on the bed, going into their crate, or staying calm when your cat walks by. Or what about standing still while you put a harness on or brush them? Being calm when you pick them up? Being quiet when the doorbell rings? Grabbing a toy instead of your hand? Responding to their name by looking at you? The list of potential great decisions for a puppy is endless.

Tip 4. Top Up Your Relationship Bank Account

Absolute Dogs encourages owners to imagine they have a relationship bank account for their puppy. You should make deposits that support your relationship with your puppy and avoid making withdrawals that could damage the relationship.

Some withdrawals, like bathing your puppy or trimming their nails, are necessary. As a result, frequent bank account top-ups are crucial for developing trust.

Providing feedback that shows your puppy they’ve done something positive is a great way to contribute to your bank account. This feedback, often in the form of a treat, shows your puppy that you are valuable and fun.

On the other hand, scolding a puppy when you’re frustrated with them is a withdrawal from the bank account. Getting angry with a puppy can damage the relationship, and it’s essential to avoid this.

If you’re feeling frustrated, focus on the fact that puppies don’t act out of spite or malice. Like any baby of any species, their actions reflect their needs. When they cry or bark, it’s to communicate a need rather than to demand your attention.

Tip 5. Set Expectations From the Beginning

Puppies are generally small, cute, and funny. As such, they often get away with behaviours that owners wouldn’t allow from an adult dog. The problem is, when you accept a puppy’s behaviour and allow them to rehearse this, it’s much harder to train them out of it later.

Because of this, it’s important to set expectations for your puppy from the beginning. For example, you might decide not to let them jump up at family members, play with other dogs, or sit on the sofa from the get-go.

You can also set up spaces to ensure your puppy can’t rehearse negative behaviours when you’re not supervising. For example, crates and x-pens are a great way to keep your puppy in one space and prevent them from jumping up at guests.

When you are supervising, games that encourage positive behaviours will help you set expectations. For example, games that teach puppies not to counter-surf may involve rewarding them when they keep all four legs on the floor or stay on a rug in the kitchen.

Tip 6. Practise Calmness

Puppies are often easily excitable, so practising calmness is an important part of training, especially as puppies need 17-20 hours of sleep each day. Absolute Dogs recommends a combination of passive calming activities, calmness protocol, and rest to help your puppy regulate their emotions.

When you show your puppy how to be calm, you can avoid a host of frustrating behaviours. A crate, pen, or dedicated room for sleeping can all become a space where you cultivate calmness for your puppy. As puppies sleep a lot, you may want to set up multiple calm spaces for them to rest.

Ensure your puppy’s rest spaces aren’t overstimulating by providing quiet entertainment, like stuffed food toys. These toys, like Kongs or Toppls, are ideal for promoting calmness and mental stimulation. They encourage natural calming behaviours like sniffing, chewing, licking, and (sometimes) shredding.

Absolute Dogs’ Advice to Avoid Over-Arousal

Look out for signs of over-arousal in your puppy so you can promote calmness when it shows up. Signs of over-arousal may include being busy, frantic, racing around, gnawing on inappropriate items, and being less purposeful in their actions. Your puppy may also growl, bark, and grab at you or other items.

This behaviour is particularly common in the evening. The scientific term for this period, when many puppies dispel surplus energy, is Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs). However, you may hear this phase colloquially referred to as “witching hour” or “zoomies.”

If your puppy exhibits this chaotic behaviour, don’t worry. You’re far from alone, and calmness training can help you overcome it. Notice the time of day your puppy usually becomes over-excited and play games that nurture calmness before this time comes around.

After a few games, put your puppy in a confined space like a crate where they can self-soothe. Give them a stuffed food toy, edible chew, or stuffed frozen dehydrated trachea.

When your puppy rehearses this calmness, it will become a natural part of their routine.

Adjusting Your Approach for Different Games

Absolute Dogs has created a multitude of games that make puppy training easier. The training pros encourage you to wear your “disco pants” when playing games that require excitement, like games designed to improve recall. But when you’re playing games that foster calmness, try slowing your body language and speech down.

About Absolute Dogs

The training experts at Absolute Dogs have created online courses for virtually every puppy training challenge. As such, dog owners worldwide can overcome stress and master their puppy training.

Each course teams helpful video guides with clear resources that tackle a specific training challenge. The courses focus on topics like confidence, engagement and disengagement, and obedience. There are also courses specifically for Ditch the Bowl (mentioned earlier) and training your puppy.

See all of Absolute Dogs’ online courses.