Week 1 of getting a puppy: What to expect

Okay so you have spent a year stalking random dogs on Instagram and tagging your husband in them all saying ‘pleeeaseeee can we get one!?’, or is that just me? Just kidding, it was actually my husband that initially raised the idea of getting a pup! However, the process between liking dogs and actually committing to one is much more complex than seeing a picture, going out and bringing an adorable bundle of fluff home.

I won’t go too much into how Alex and I finally chose our puppy Baxter, I will write something separate on that. But here you can expect to find the reality of week one with an 8-week old puppy.

Alex and I had read many horror stories online, people telling us puppies cry all night and we won’t sleep through the night for the next 6 months. We read that our puppy would be distraught leaving his home and he was for sure going to throw up in the car. We assumed it would be a week (or a month!?) of wiping up wee and having our furniture ruined, but it wasn’t half as bad as the online dog authors would have us to believe.

When we picked Baxter up, he was more than happy to come with us. Our journey home was around an hour and he didn’t cry or whine once. He was a little wriggly, and thirsty, so we had a portable dog water bottle which was a Godsend. We got out our car (that was full of newspaper because we assumed he would be sick/pee himself, he didn’t) and took him into his new home. We took him straight out into the garden and put him on the grass where he did a wee, we gave him lots of praise, cuddles and of course a treat. We then took him inside and put him on the floor and let him explore for a while, we were relieved that he ignored our shoes.

We didn’t want to put too much pressure on Baxter so day 1 was all about letting him decide what he wanted to do and when. In the afternoon we showed him his crate (where we hoped he would sleep), enticing him in with treats, keeping both doors open so he knew he could get out. We also put a water bowl inside his crate and that seems to be his go to drink now which is great, he already was seeing the crate as a safe place.

For the rest of the afternoon, we zigzagged between playing in the house and taking him out into the garden to pee. I think we only had one or two accidents inside. We had bought a lot of toys for him (dogs get bored easily and like variety), but we only gave him a few so he wasn’t overwhelmed.

Day 1 was a success, we had a slight scare in the evening, however. We sat down to watch Eurovision and Baxter was tired from playing, his breathing rate went from very fast to VERY shallow. So shallow that we thought he had stopped breathing altogether. In a blind panic we tried to wake him, he was very floppy and unwilling to wake up, cue Alex and I bawling our eyes out thinking we had somehow killed our dog on day 1. However, after around a minute, Baxter decided to wake up and find out what all the fuss was about. This episode taught us two things, firstly that we needed to always be aware of who to call in an emergency and what to do, and secondly, a dog that is in a deep sleep doesn’t want to be woken up and it takes him/her a while to be fully alert. It is also completely normal for dogs to breathe slower when they are asleep, no need to panic!

Once Baxter was back to being his sleepy self, we picked him up (around 9:30pm) and put him in his crate, along with some of his cuddly toys, blanket and a blanket with his mum’s scent on too. We left his water bowl in the crate too, not everyone thinks this is the right thing to do but we found that after 3 days and it’s part of his routine to have his water in there now.

He was very good at going into his crate, we gave him a treat to occupy him whilst we shut the door and put the blankets over it. We cover almost all the crate with blankets so it feels like a den for him, but it’s important to make sure he can breathe in there, so there needs to be enough air circulating!

Baxter did cry a little when we first shut him in the crate, we felt so mean! When I had a dog growing up, we didn’t have a crate for him, so I really wasn’t used to putting a dog in what looked like a cage! But he stopped crying after around 5 minutes and this is when Alex and I decided to go to bed as we didn’t want to disturb him. After having our showers and getting ready for bed, we heard Baxter whimpering for around 5 minutes, then all went silent. We ended up going to sleep around 10pm (usually we would go to sleep at 11:30 or around then), we were expecting to be woken up regularly through the night.

However, Alex and I slept and slept and did not get woken up, then we woke around 4:30am, because Alex had a sore throat. We looked at the time and started to worry that we hadn’t heard a peep from Baxter. We originally planned to get up during the night and take him out to the toilet, we thought he would cry if this was needed. We both started panicking, thinking our beloved pooch must be dead! Alex went downstairs to check on him, he didn’t want to put me through the trauma of finding a dead puppy! When he lifted the blanket up and peered inside, Baxter was sat up looking at him! Hurrah! He was alive! To celebrate, Alex took him out to the toilet then popped him back in his crate and came to bed.

Silence fell on the house again, but Alex couldn’t sleep due to his throat, so he ended up going downstairs and sleeping with Baxter on the sofa (or trying too…).

On day 2 we gave him his breakfast around 7am, then played with him for around an hour and let him sleep. We then played with him some more, wanting to tire him out as we were taking him to Alex’s mum’s house. Alex’s mum Jo is our main doggy sitter for when Alex and I can’t be at home, so we wanted him to get used to her and her house as soon as possible.

Transporting Baxter 10 minutes down the road to his ‘grandma’s’ house was also easier than we thought. We bought him a medium-sized, soft car carrier with a built-in fluffy floor that feels like a blanket (yes, we spoil our dog). We gave him a treat for going into the carrier so well, and strapped him into the car, he whimpered at first but was then good as gold again. He enjoyed exploring grandma’s house and loved her big garden. He spent the afternoon playing with a big football, learning how to kick it around.

The one mishap we had was when Baxter fell into the fishpond… Alex and his lightning reactions fished him out within seconds but he was one soggy doggy for the rest of the afternoon and he was in shock. It’s important when/if this happens that you try and get your puppy dry as soon as possible, spaniel’s are very prone to ear infections so this was our main concern.

Night 2 was another success, I heard him whimpering for around 30 seconds at 4am but then he went straight back to sleep!

Sleep

Sleep was the thing I was most concerned about, I had read SO many conflicting things. Some people saying he will wake me every two hours, some saying he shouldn’t have water in his crate, some people even insist on having dogs in the bed (no happening in my house!) and some say you should get up in the night and take them for a toilet break.

Baxter’s bed time routine goes a little something like this:

  • Dinner at 6pm
  • Toilet break
  • Playtime for an hour
  • Toilet break
  • Nap & sofa snuggles from 7pm-9pm
  • Toilet break
  • 15 minutes play
  • Last toilet break
  • Into his crate

So far this has not failed us (touch wood) and he manages to sleep through the night without having an accident. We do not restrict water before bed as we believe if he wants water, he is thirsty and needs it. The last 15 minutes of play is gentle playing, we don’t want to get him hyper but we want him to be tired enough to sleep. The sofa snuggles at night are our favourite, he is extremely calm and a lot more sleepy than in any point during the day. He becomes very tired from 8pm onwards and just wants a cuddle. We do not recommend poking and stroking them when they are asleep, just let them be, as tempting as it is to fawn over them.

Biting

Biting, after sleeping, was another of my concerns. Our downstairs is open plan and we have a glossy kitchen. We were really worried he would bite the heck out of the furniture. However, he so far has not attempted to bite the furniture at all, he licked the breakfast bar and decided he didn’t like it.

When he is excited, especially in the mornings and especially when Alex gets home from work, he can get scratchy and bitey. This is him playing, this is how he played with his siblings and is totally normal for dogs. This is what winds me up the most, but it’s important to stay calm and not shout at your dog, you don’t want him to be scared of you or his new home!

When Baxter starts nipping us, we say ‘ouch’ very loudly, and look away from him and ignore him completely until he has calmed down. It’s only week one so we can’t expect miracles from our puppies. In week 1, do NOT wear expensive or new clothes! He put holes in two of my dresses and then I decided from now on, I will wear scruffy clothes until he has learnt not to bite. He especially loves dangly things and floaty sleeves! Oh, and frills…

Toilet Training

Luckily for us, we have laminate flooring across the whole of the downstairs (except the study). This means any accidents can be cleaned up quickly and no fuss is made. If your puppy has an accident inside, there is no need to tell him off, just don’t give him any praise.

We originally took Baxter outside every hour for a wee, each time he would wee we would tell him well done! And give him a treat. We have had minimal accidents indoors with this approach. However, one thing I have noticed is sometimes we will take him out for a wee, he does one, then he comes inside and after 10 minutes pees on the floor. So now after each wee he does outside, we take him back out for another one 5-10 minutes later as sometimes they don’t let it all out!

If your pup does pee in the house, normal household cleaning products won’t fully break down the smell. So whilst we cannot smell it, your puppy can and may end up peeing in the same spot again. You can find special dog stain removers that break down the smell!

Food

Unlike adult dogs, puppies need food more regularly throughout the day. We felt it was important to get Baxter onto a routine as soon as possible so he has set meal times. He has a medium sized breakfast at 7am, a medium sized lunch at 12pm and he has a slightly larger dinner at 6pm. In between, he will have some treats which really helps with training. By keeping a routine with his food, it has really helped him cope with the household changes from moving from his original home and has offered him a great sense of comfort and security.

Socialisation

Whilst puppies are not allowed out (except for the garden) until they are fully vaccinated, it is really important you socialise them with all types of people, and if possible, other dogs.

The first day we had Baxter we kept him at home so he didn’t feel too much change. My mother and father in law came over to meet him in a very calm and more familiar environment. On day 2 we took him to my mother in law’s home, we wanted to get him used to her house as she will be the main carer when I have to go away for work.

He loved exploring her house, we made sure to stay by him so he felt safe, we walked him around her garden as well so he could familiarise himself. My mother in law gave him some of his own toys and had bought some the same as he has at our house, she has also bought him the same bed.

The next important bit of socialisation came when I invited my sister over with her two young children April (4) and Luna (19 months). Both kiddies are terrified of dogs, and Luna is terrified of all things fluffy. Dogs are able to sense situations well and Baxter was on his best behaviour immediately. We put his harness and lead on him so we had control over him at all times, we didn’t want him playing chase and scaring the girls. He mostly sat and watched the girls play, April plucked up the courage to stroke him and walk him on his lead. Both April and Baxter got a little overconfident and Baxter became more playful which ended up scaring April and causing some tears. This scared Baxter a little but it was important we got him used to all situations so we were happy with how things went.

Even though you can’t take your pup out until a week after he is fully vaccinated, you can still take him for walks. Alex and I took Baxter for a 20-minute walk around town. This gets him used to all the sights and sounds of the area, from sirens to lorries, to buses and aeroplanes! He definitely doesn’t like motorbikes…

Training

On day 1 we had Baxter sitting on command. Of course, we got a little ahead of ourselves thinking we had the world’s most intelligent, well-behaved dog in the land. We don’t, although he is pretty good!

How did we get him to sit? Treats.. lots of treats! Hold the treat in front of him and above him so he has to look up. Tell him to sit, he will instinctively sit as he looks up at the treat, we then give him lots of praise, and the treat, for sitting down. We have also managed to get him to ‘stay’. At first he would stay for about 1-2 seconds, now he will stay for a good 5+ seconds. Again, we used treats to do this, he learnt he would get a treat until he was invited to eat it.

The thing we struggled more with was ‘drop’. Dogs explore the world with their mouths so they want to put everything in it! In the first week we didn’t want to give too many commands so didn’t really work too much on drop. But him biting my clothes and refusing to let go did start to wind me up. Week 2 I started working on him to drop, 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening (not when he has just woken up or when Alex got home, puppies don’t take notice of commands when overexcited).

He has gotten a lot better, although he can often take some time to think about whether he actually wants to drop or not. I play a game of tug of war with him, I then tell him to sit, which he does, and I hold the toy still. I then bring out a treat, as I waft the treat under his nose I say ‘drop’, and he then makes a choice of treat or toy. Treat will win 9 times out of 10, so as he releases I tell him ‘good boy for dropping’ and feed him a treat. On day 2 he would drop before seeing the treat… result!

One of the most important parts of puppy training is positive reinforcement, praising the pups when they do something right! Then you will have a happy, well behaved furry friend.

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