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Ultimate Guide for First-Time Puppy Parents: 10 Tips for Success | Pupford

February 21st, 2024

Filed under New Puppies, Tips, Pet Parenting

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Embarking on the journey of becoming a first-time pup parent is an exciting and rewarding experience. However, it also comes with a set of responsibilities and challenges.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into specific tips and recommendations from a professional dog trainer to help you navigate the responsibilities and joys of being a pup parent effectively. From training techniques to lifestyle adjustments, this guide will provide you with essential tips to ensure you start off on the right foot with your new pup.

Let's get started!

Table of Contents:

Tip #1: Find Community

Tip #2: Research and Select the Right Breed For You

Tip #3: Create Predictability

Tip #4: Socialization, Socialization, Socialization!

Tip #5: Use Positive Reinforcement Training Methods

Tip #6: Teach Them How To Relax

Tip #7: Provide Them With Mental Enrichment Everyday

Tip #8: Swap Out Their Toys

Tip #9: Teach Them Alone Time Skills

Tip #10: Monitor Your Dog's Health and Behavior

Tip #1: Find Community

I’m not going to lie, if you have never had a puppy before, it can feel overwhelming at times. Everyone talks about how cute and fun puppies are but what about the teething - It’s like having a piranha running around your house! The potty training? Not sleeping throughout the night? It is totally normal to get the puppy blues.

So set yourself up for success! Find some people you can call on for help. Ask your friends and family who are experienced pup parents for tips and advice, as well as recommendations on professional dog trainers, dog sitters, groomers, and veterinarians.

Lucky you! Pupford also has a Facebook community that connects like-minded pup parents - novice and experienced 😉 and gives you access to ask professional dog trainers anything you want. Join today! 

A photo of a brown puppy laying on the floor in front of two people sitting on a sofa

Tip #2: Research and Select the Right Breed For You

One common mistake I see brand-new puppy parents make is adopting a breed they know nothing about or does not fit their lifestyle. I mean, I know that Border Collie puppy is cute, but are you prepared for the mental enrichment and physical exercise requirements of a working breed dog?

Research various dog breeds thoroughly, considering factors such as energy level, temperament, grooming needs, and size. Look for breeds that match your lifestyle, activity level, and living situation. Meet with breeders, visit animal shelters and rescues, and talk to experienced pup parents to gather insights.

Did you know that a dog's genetics can play a role in behavior? Learn more about applied ethology!

Tip #3: Create Predictability

Puppies (and dogs of all ages!) thrive on predictability. Predictability reduces uncertainty, which reduces stress and anxiety, which leads to a happier, healthier, and more confident pup!

Create a routine for feeding, bathroom breaks, exercise, training, and bedtime. Stick to the schedule as much as possible, even on weekends, to maintain stability and facilitate training and behavior management.

a photo of a golden retriever puppy laying in a dog bed

Tip #4: Socialization, Socialization, Socialization!

As a professional dog trainer, I would argue that socialization for puppies is more important than teaching them cues like ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, and ‘Stay’, especially when they are 8-12 weeks old. They have their entire life to learn cues and tricks, but they only ever get one socialization window.

Did you know that socialization is more than just introducing your dog to people and other dogs? It is also noises, surfaces, textures, smells, environments, etc. It is anything and everything they will encounter throughout their lives.

When it comes to socialization, it is important to remember that quality is more important than quantity.

When introducing your puppy to something new for the first time, make it fun! Give them lots of treats and praise, but never force them. This is called flooding. If your puppy is too scared to greet that neighbor with a beard or wants some more space from the loud garbage truck, that’s okay! Socialization is about creating positive associations, not invoking fear.

If your puppy is not fully vaccinated, use caution when taking them to public spaces or greeting other dogs. If you are taking your puppy on an outing, use blankets and carts/strollers to avoid them walking in contaminated areas. Socialization is just as effective if your puppy is just observing what is going on around them.

Tip #5: Use Positive Reinforcement Training Methods

Use positive reinforcement training techniques which involves using treats, praise, and play to encourage desired behaviors. Avoid using aversive training methods that invoke fear and pain in your pup. This can jeopardize your relationship with your puppy.

Read a first-hand experience from someone who almost RUINED their relationship with their pup by not using positive reinforcement training methods.

Enroll in our free 30-Day Perfect Pup training program, this will provide you with everything you need to know to get started on your training journey!

A photo of a Doberman Pinscher looking up at a handler during the training session

Tip #6: Teach Them How To Relax

I know, this might be a weird one that not many people talk about, but hear me out. Knowing how to relax is not a natural skill for all dogs, especially working breeds or dogs who struggle with impulse control. If you want a dog who can just “hang out” when you have guests over, or sit quietly under a restaurant table on an outdoor patio, you have to teach them how to relax in busy environments - and that starts at home!

I recommended working on the Relaxation Protocol with all puppies. This will teach your dog relaxation techniques such as settling on a mat or bed on cue and uses positive reinforcement to reward calm behavior and encourage relaxation.

Tip #7: Provide Them With Mental Enrichment Everyday

Fun Fact: Mental exercise is more tiring than physical exercise.

Of course, physical exercise is important, but daily activities that provide an outlet for mental enrichment are more fulfilling for our dogs because it allows them to perform natural behaviors such as sniffing, shredding, chewing, digging, chasing, etc.

When working with private dog training clients who are struggling with a behavioral concern, the most common problem I see is that their dog is not getting any form of mental enrichment. This typically leads to unwanted behaviors such as destruction, excessive barking, or frustration.

Engage your dog's mind with interactive toys, puzzle feeders, lick mats, snuffle mats, and scent games to prevent boredom and encourage problem-solving skills.

a photo of a husky puppy playing with a toy

Tip #8: Swap Out Their Toys

Do you remember cleaning your room as a kid but getting super distracted by all the old toys you came across? Puppies are the same way! If they have access to the same toys all the time they can get bored.

To prevent this, swap out their toys every couple of weeks to keep them ‘new’ and exciting! This will save you money on buying so many toys at once, and ensure your pups get the most out of the toys they do have.

Tip #9: Teach Them Alone Time Skills

Start leaving your dog alone for short periods from an early age to prevent them from feeling distressed when left alone. It is very common for new puppy parents to only leave their puppies alone when they leave the house, this can lead to negative associations with being alone.

Instead, give them time in their crate or their plan pen alone in a separate room while you are home. Give them fun things to do like a long-lasting chew or an enrichment toy to make being alone fun and keep their mind preoccupied.

A photo of a cattle dog puppy in an outdoor play pen with a toy

Tip #10: Monitor Your Dog's Health and Behavior

It is important to stay vigilant on your dog’s normal day-to-day behavior. A change in behavior can sometimes be an indicator of an underlying health concern. Some examples include their bathroom habits, appetite, energy levels, attitude, etc. If you notice a change in behavior or your dog appears to be in pain, seek out veterinary care.

Guide for First-Time Pup Parent Recap

By following these essential tips, you'll be well-equipped to provide your canine companion with a loving, nurturing, and fulfilling life.

Remember to prioritize research, use positive reinforcement training, provide mental stimulation, maintain proper nutrition and health care, invest in quality products, and practice patience and understanding throughout your journey as a pup parent. With dedication and commitment, you and your furry friend will enjoy a lifetime of happiness and companionship together.

Looking to start training your new pup? Check out Pupford Academy + for everything you need to get started and work on more advanced skills as your puppy grows. 


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