Puppy environment
Puppy environment © Alison Spiers
 

Puppies need a safe and secure environment to live in

Until puppies know how to behave, are reliably toilet trained and have gone through the 'exploring by using their teeth' stage (at about six months old) it is better to keep them closely supervised or contained in a 'dog proof' environment. This means no access to:

  • carpets
  • chemicals
  • exposed electrical wiring
  • expensive furniture

You must ensure, however, that wherever you locate your puppy in these first weeks he/she has easy access to the garden. For most people, this will be their kitchen or utility room, or the puppy could be contained within a room by a child-gate, or in a puppy pen or large mesh crate, and taken out frequently under supervision. Make sure your garden is escape proof, if it is not, only take your puppy there on its lead.

Routines

During the first few months, puppies really benefit from a good routine, so get into the habit of feeding your puppy at regular intervals. Take it outside as soon as it wakes up, following its mealtimes, and every hour or two. Make sure that you schedule in 'play times', and 'quiet times' when you are present, but not interacting with it. Your puppy needs to learn to settle quietly as well as how to occupy itself with a chew or its toys, otherwise it will become demanding and expect you to interact with it all the time.

Gardens

Young puppies should not be put out or left out on their own in a garden for any length of time. They quickly get bored and frustrated, and become destructive, noisy and potentially territorial. Unsupervised puppies could:

  • dig up lawns and flower beds
  • chew on plants (some of which can be dangerous to dogs)
  • bury their toys
  • destroy things
  • bark at every little noise (possibly aggravating the neighbours)
  • learn to chase cats, squirrels and birds (which can develop into chasing joggers and cyclists in the park)
  • may eat bees and wasps (which can be very dangerous)
  • dive bomb visitors entering 'their' garden
  • could even drown in the garden pond or pool

It is much better to go into the garden with your puppy at regular intervals, so that it is clear that it is being taken there for toileting purposes. Avoid leaving the back door open because if your puppy can go in and out as it pleases, this can adversely affect its toilet training, as well as its recall response.

'Home alone' training

Your growing puppy will sleep a great deal, and this is the ideal time to get it used to being separated from you (and other pets) for short periods every day, so that it does not become over dependent on having constant company. If you do not get your puppy used to being left alone while you are in your home, it may suffer from 'over-attachment' and 'separation anxiety' when you go out. This can become a very serious problem, so put your puppy back in its sleeping quarters when it is tired, resting or sleeping.

Try not to return to your puppy when it is whining, crying, barking or misbehaving in any way, as you will be unwittingly rewarding the undesirable behaviour, which might make things worse in the long run. Either wait until the behaviour has stopped, or create a noise diversion to distract the puppy and THEN enter the room. Do not greet the puppy straight away - do something else first (put the kettle on for example) - and then say hello (calmly and quietly) to the puppy. This prevents problems later on with attention seeking behaviour and overexcited greetings.

Once your puppy is older, toilet trained and happy to be left on its own, you can leave it for gradually longer periods. When it is an adult you can leave it for up to four hours at a time (maximum).

Puppy sitter/minder

If you occasionally have to leave your puppy alone for longer than a few hours, you should expect a few toilet training accidents which may set back your progress slightly. However, if you have to do this on a regular basis you may well fail completely in the toilet training stakes, and furthermore your puppy is also much more likely to get bored and develop destructive or noisy habits.

To prevent this, you should consider asking someone to come in to let your puppy out and to break up its day. Alternatively, take your puppy to someone who can look after it when you are gone for long periods.

Make sure you find someone suitable as it may not be fair to leave an energetic puppy with a relative, friend or neighbour who is elderly or infirm, or who may have young and excitable children!

Professional dog sitter/minder/walker/dog creches

Only use people who have been highly recommended (by several people) and always check out their references and that they carry appropriate insurance.

Some options may not be suitable for young puppies; as they could result in them bonding more strongly with other dogs than with human company, which could make them excessively distracted by other dogs when out being walked.

If you would like your puppy to stay with a dog sitter or minder, check (go and see for yourself - do not take their word for it) how many dogs they keep at one time and the conditions they are kept under.

You have to be sure that your puppy is getting along well with its companions and is not being taught bad habits, being bullied (which could make it timid or aggressive) or learning how to become a bully! Have a contingency plan in place in case your puppy does not get on with any of the other dogs. Always take your puppy to the sitter's home. Do not let them collect and deliver the puppy back to you, as you have no way of checking that they have not farmed the puppy out to be looked after by someone else!

You may be better off finding someone who can give your puppy individual attention, rather than placing it within a pack of dogs, where it could be overwhelmed and make it timid or defensive.

Boarding Kennels

If you have to board your puppy out when you go away on holiday you may be better off using a recommended kennel, in which case you may wish to try boarding it overnight in advance of your holiday so it is not alien to your puppy when it is left for longer.  This way you can go on holiday comfortably in the knowledge that it is staying somewhere familiar to it. An initial short stay will give your puppy confidence you will be back to collect it.

Before boarding, you must ensure that all your dog's vaccinations are up to date as the kennel may ask for the vaccination certificates to be presented when your dog arrives.

Boarding Kennel Tips:

  • The staff should be helpful and attentive - particularly if it is your dog's first visit
  • Check whether they are adequately insured
  • They may provide a grooming service prior to collection - ask if this is available
  • Do not be afraid to ask to have a look round. The kennels should appear clean and tidy and should be heated if your dog is boarding in the winter months
  • The other boarders should appear contented and well looked after
  • Check what food they have available, as you may need to provide this if they do not provide your dog's brand of food

'Out of bounds' areas

It is strongly recommended that you keep your puppy away from the stairs and steep drops, as running up and down stairs can damage a puppy's delicate growth plates, causing long term damage. Even jumping off chairs, sofas and beds can cause unnecessary damage, and puppies are best kept off these. A suitable gate at the bottom of the staircase should prevent this. You should also lift them in and out of cars, and be careful not to play fetch games on slippery floors, or encourage them to jump about or twist themselves, for the same reason.

It is also wise to keep puppies out of bedrooms, as the temptation to urinate on carpets or beds and steal items is often irresistible. If you do choose to have your puppy sleep in your bedroom then have it sleep in a crate to avoid problems.

Irritating behaviour

You should prevent adults and children becoming over enthusiastic with your puppy. Do not allow them to disturb its sleep patterns, over-tire it, or to play rough or over-exciting games, which will encourage (undesirable) play-biting or grumpy behaviour. Do not let anyone pick it up, mollycoddle it or smother it, as it is not uncommon for puppies to be picked up and carried awkwardly, causing pain and discomfort, and teaching pupies to be nervous and hand-shy. What is more, a puppy that is constantly picked up and carried can become overly clingy and demanding, so it is better to squat down to the puppy's level.

Related Topics

Boarding KennelsDog TrainingPuppy Environment

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