Safely Introducing a New Puppy

A puppy for Christmas? 

Here are our top hints and tips for introducing a new puppy this Christmas, written by our Behavioural Advisor, Kathy McMullan. 


Firstly, Consider The Puppy's Age 

The most important thing to consider is that puppies should be at least 8 weeks of age before they leave their mum. This is the ideal length of time needed for the puppy’s socialisation period with its Mum.   A puppy's experiences during this critical period of learning and development can influence and shape their behaviour well into adulthood. 

On the flip side, if the puppy stays with its Mum for longer than 8 weeks, it starts to build strong bonds with its Mum and that makes separation and rehoming difficult. 

Taking a puppy too early or too late for it’s Mummy can lead to behavioural issues down the line. 

So, first thing to do, is to come up with a reason to get the puppy at 8 weeks. Perhaps Santa must do an early fly over for extra good children?  Or Santa has chosen the perfect puppy (show the kids a cute photo), but the puppy is staying with their mummy until they’re ready for little human friends. 


Perfect Puppy Planning

Now you know the day of arrival, next is to plan your puppy’s first days and weeks to perfection.  Here’s our guide on things to consider:

  1. How will you avoid loud noises? That’s the crackers in the bin and stopping Aunty Ethel making her loud baying cackle when Dad tells his corny jokes.
  2. Your puppy/dog will need someone to take them out every 20 minutes so they get used to their new pee/poo place, otherwise that’s the carpet ruined!
  3. Where will they sleep or go to for security and comfort?  Are they crate trained?  Will you put their bed in another room and, if so, who will stay with them whilst you’re doing other things?
  4. What will you do with your puppy or dog when you are eating?  Last thing you want is the doggo to get hold of new food and get an upset tummy!  Vets are very expensive on Christmas day.
  5. Who’s on present watch?  Someone needs to put all new toys/sweets/books/tasty things to chew out of reach.  See above about vets on Christmas day!  (One of the dog’s I work with ate 7, yes SEVEN, socks last Christmas day.  The family only took their eyes off Freddie for a short time!)
  6. Who will look after them whilst you’re cooking, doing dishes, want to collapse after a tiring day?  The puppy will have spent a lot of the time napping so they’ll be ready for fun and games when you’re ready to sit down. 
  7. Who is going to be responsible for feeding them?  You need to ensure that they eat the same food as usual or they may get a sore or upset tummy.  And don’t be surprised if they don’t eat at all on the day.  When a dog is scared, they lose their ability to smell food so may not be interested in their food.
  8. Avoid pass the puppy game! The dog can become overwhelmed with too many people handling them and the only way a dog can tell you to go away is to either go into hiding or growl/show their teeth.  So pass the puppy must be avoided at all times.
  9. You absolutely cannot leave the puppy or dog at your home when you go out on the first day few days. So, you need to make sure you are staying at home for the first few days!  And if your puppy hasn’t yet had their vaccinations, don’t forget not to take them out to walk until they have.  You can carry the puppy and let them watch the world go around which is perfectly fine, but there is a chance they can pick up viruses if they walk about.

Please remember, a confused start to home life can leave your puppy or new dog prone to developing separation anxiety or aggression, so the more you can plan and be prepared for your puppy, the better it will be in the long term. 


What you need to be aware of when choosing a puppy

I know this advice is probably too late if you’ve already decided to get a dog, but to minimise the risk, this is the type of thing you need to be aware of:

  1. Select a good breeder.  Remember, puppy farms never answer their phone “ABC Puppy Farms”!  You need to be astute, ask lots of questions and if it doesn’t feel right, walk away!
  2. Choose an appropriate breed.  Some dogs look very cute but need a lot of exercise.  Some dogs are natural guarders, and they will bark – at every single thing.  Other dogs need to work – every minute of the day, do you have the patience and time for a working dog? 
  3. Always pick the most confident puppy in a litter.  The puppy that comes to you is a confident puppy and that confidence will help them in the long run.

Your perfect puppy

After settling your dog in to your home, your next job is training. Trust me, every dog needs training, because training builds bonds with your dog, is great fun (you’ll be amazed at what your dog can do) and you’ll have a well-behaved dog.

Firstly, consider the type of training you want to use, and research prospective trainers. I (and everyone at Wagateur) only recommend positive rewards training programmes. In our view, it’s more effective, more enjoyable, and has greater longevity. And it builds a stronger bond with your dog because it feels safe and has nothing to fear. You can check the IMDT website for a list of trainers near you. (IMDT are one of our Ambassador Partners)

Perhaps classes or training sessions aren’t for you?  In that case, I’d recommend Investing in a good book on online training classes that you can do in your own time.  


Have a very happy doggy Christmas!

Kathy McMullan

Smarty Paws Dog Training



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