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Taking care of your new puppy.


Preparing For Puppy

puppy proofing your home

Puppy-safe garden

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Finding a vet

The Rules

Choosing a name

Basic Training

crate training

house training


name recognition

The Big Day

The First Night



Preparing For Puppy

Puppy-proofing your home
Your home is full of dangers for an inquisitive puppy. Try padding through your house on your hands and knees to see the world from your pup's perspective. Before it arrives:

  • Remove all breakable ornaments that your pup might reach.
  • Place all houseplants out the way and remove any that are poisonous or may cause gastric upsets if chewed. If you’re not sure ask for advice in your garden centre.
  • Hide all trailing electrical cables behind furniture.
  • Check the lower sections of bookshelves, and replace any valuable books with telephone directories, or something you don’t mind being a bit chewed.
  • Place all shoes in cupboards.
  • Remove or shorten hanging tablecloths - puppies are expert at clearing a fully-laid table!
  • Fit child locks on floor level kitchen cupboards, especially if there are cleaning materials inside.

Once your puppy is booked you might want to ask the breeder if they could place a towel of yours in with the litter's bedding for a couple of days before collection. Then you can bring home the towel with the puppy. The familiar scent will act as a little comfort blanket in amongst all the new sights, smells and sounds of its new home.

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Puppy-safe your garden
Gardens may be the big attraction for new arrivals, but the great outdoors can be fraught with perils:

  • Your garden should be fully fenced, at the correct height for the breed you’re buying (most medium-sized breeds need a six-foot fence).
  • Check there are no gaps that your puppy can squeeze through or under, and make sure that the fence panels are sunk well into the ground or mesh the verge into the garden by three-four feet. Terriers in particular are big diggers.
  • Swimming pools and ponds should also be fenced off securely, or covered firmly when not in use.
  • If you are a keen gardener, then fence off your prize petunias! Consider building your puppy a sand or mud pit that it can dig in.

There are many plants, shrubs and trees that are poisonous to dogs. You should always discourage your puppy from chewing anything that it finds in the garden, and contact your vet if you are concerned. If you would prefer to play safe and remove all toxic plants, ask for advice in your garden centre.

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Shopping for your puppy
Now is the time to shop for all the important puppy accessories:

  • Crate or indoor kennel: A must-have for all puppy owners. Although some models look like an uninviting cage, lined with some comfortable bedding, an indoor kennel is easily transformed into a cosy doggie den. Make sure you buy a size that will accommodate your puppy when it is a fully grown adult – your dog must be able to stand up and turn around with ease.
  • Car safety: You may want a crate for the car too. Alternatively car safety harnesses are available that fit around the dog and attach to the seatbelt in the rear of your car. There are lots of other useful car accessories to consider, from travel blankets and non-spill bowls, to special air fresheners that act fast on essence of ‘wet dog’.
  • Clothing: Some breeds, particularly those with short-coats originally from hot climates, such as Greyhounds, prefer coats during cold weather. Ask your breeder if this is necessary for your chosen breed.
  • Toys: Buy good-quality toys that can withstand the attention of a puppy's sharp teeth. Some dogs, such as Terriers, love squeaky toys, but do check toys regularly for any sign of damage, as a puppy could remove and swallow the 'squeak', and choke. Other breeds, such as retrievers, enjoy carrying around soft toys, or, like Collies, prefer balls. Always make sure the toy is larger than the puppy's throat, and never allow unsupervised play with tennis balls, which can collapse while being chewed, and then expand inside the dog if swallowed. Interactive toys, filled with Bakers Complete or the occasional treat, that the dog has to roll to retrieve are excellent for stimulating young brains.
  • Bowls: Your puppy will need one bowl for water, and another for food. There are all sorts on the market, and each has strengths and weaknesses. Plastic bowls are cheap, but do scratch and get chewed so need replacing regularly. They can also harbour germs if damaged. Ceramic bowls are easily cleaned, and look great, but can easily break with an excitable pup in the house. Stainless steel bowls are durable and easily cleaned, but may need securing in a bowl stand. This is especially recommended for the large and giant breeds who otherwise have a long way up to swallow their dinner! It's also worthwhile to keep a bowl (and bottle of water) in the car, in case the trip takes longer than expected.
  • Food: You’ll need to stock up before your new puppy arrives, but it’s not worth buying too much in advance, particularly if you intend to try your puppy out on a variety of dog food brands before making your final choice. Ask your breeder, or the shelter what diet the puppy has been fed before it comes home. It’s important, in the first week or two not to change your puppy’s diet. Once your puppy has settled, you can gradually alter its diet to by introducing the new brand slowly over a 5-10 day period. For our free puppy feeding guide. Click here - puppy diet sheet guide(Pdf).
  • Collar and lead: Your puppy will need a soft collar and a light lead. It is not used to wearing anything around its neck and will likely object to anything bulky or heavy. Make sure you can fit two fingers underneath the collar once it’s fitted. Any less and it will be too tight; any more and your pup will be able to back out of it. A harness or head-collar may also be a wise investment, to help ensure that your puppy never learns to pull on the lead.
  • Bedding: Avoid whicker baskets for hygiene and chewing reasons, and see above for information on indoor kennels. Old washed blankets or towels make a cosy covering, or a single duvet folded into two. Fleecy veterinary-type bedding is warm, absorbs water, and is easily washable too. It can be expensive, but is durable and cost-effective in the long term. Clean bedding regularly and check for signs of damage, such as chewing.
  • Grooming equipment: This will depend on your puppy's coat type. All dogs will need nail clippers, a toothbrush and doggie toothpaste, plus a mild dog shampoo. As for brushes and combs, ask the advice of your breeder - a short-coated breed may just need a grooming mit or glove, but a longer-coated puppy needs its own mini beauty salon!
  • Stair-gate: These can be useful for barring your puppy's access upstairs, or between rooms.

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Finding a vet
Your relationship with your dog's vet is as important as your own with your doctor. You must trust them implicitly, and have complete faith in their diagnostic and surgical abilities. What to look out for:

  • Personal recommendations are a good starting place. What vet practices do dog-owning friends and neighbours use?
  • A specialist small-animal practice (rather than a mixed practice, that also deals with farm animals) may suit you better, as the vets are likely to be more experienced in dealing with dogs and maintain equipment and facilities specific for canine care and treatment.
  • Do the vets have any specialist qualifications (medicine, cardiology, oncology, dermatology) in small animals?
  • What are the opening times and do they fit in with your working hours, school runs, etc.?
  • What 24-hour emergency cover is offered? Is there a rota with other surgeries in the area? What’s the greatest distance you’d have to travel?
  • How well-equipped is the practice to deal with canine treatments? Ask for a tour.
  • Is the practice clean, and are the staff friendly?
  • Is the vet approachable? He or she must be able to explain things simply and clearly - communication skills are one of the most important parts of a vet's job.
  • Is there adequate parking? Or if you don't have your own transport, is the practice easy to get to by public transport?
  • Do the staff make home visits?
  • What 'extras' are on offer - grooming, weight-loss clinics, puppy parties, behaviour therapy, training, qualified nurse clinics, complementary medicine - either directly or on referral?
  • Is there a separate waiting area for cats and dogs to reduce excitement? If not, do they have species-specific appointment times?

To help you find your nearest practice, visit Find a Vet at

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Discussing house rules
Before you bring your puppy home, it’s important to agree some house rules with all family members, especially children. Do you want your puppy to get up on the sofa for a cuddle, or is this a big no-no. Every house is different and it's up to you all to sort out what is, and isn't, acceptable behaviour - and then be consistent when the puppy arrives. You’ll also want to develop your family's dog vocabulary; which words you will all use to mean what during training and in general family life together. Here are a few useful starters:

  • Puppies need lots of sleep. When your puppy is in its crate, it shouldn’t be disturbed.
  • Teasing must be forbidden.
  • If your puppy bites, the victim should yelp loudly, and then ignore the puppy until it calms down.
  • Your puppy should never be given scraps from the table, this will encourage begging and may upset its digestion.
  • Decide where the puppy can and can’t go inside the house. Upstairs may be out of bounds (puppies shouldn't be allowed to climb stairs unsupervised), or the dining room, etc. Stair-gates can be used to restrict your puppy’s access.
  • Decide where the puppy will sleep - and stick to it. If you smuggle it into your bed because it cries, it will learn that screaming the house down at night brings a reward!
  • Young children shouldn’t pick up the puppy without supervision.
  • Your puppy shouldn’t be disturbed when eating. Get between a hungry puppy and its food and you might get a nip.
  • Draw up a rota of care. Who will feed and exercise the puppy and when? Training and grooming should be shared between all family members to build bonds.
  • Remember to keep doors and windows shut.
  • All family members should be warned that anything left on the floor is fair game for the puppy. Home-work, expensive trainers, handbags, laundry...everything should be out of reach!

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Choosing a name
Decide on a name before bringing the puppy home, and tell the breeder your choice.

  • Names are best short and easy to say. Long names are a bit of a mouthful for you, can be pronounced slightly differently, and are therefore more difficult for your puppy to learn and get used to.
  • Short names have the added advantage that they can't be shortened to a selection of nicknames that will confuse the puppy further.
  • Don't choose a joke name. It will probably wear thin after 14 years or so and everyone’s forgotten the joke.
  • Make sure you choose a name that you are happy to call in public.

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Basic Training
Training your puppy to grow into a well-behaved dog starts early. It’s important to stop your puppy picking up bad habits and wrong associations. Here we offer some advice for best behaviour.

Crate Training
They may look a bit like a puppy prison, but with a comfy blanket and some warm bedding, your puppy will come to love its own special space. Crates can be used indoors, or in the car, to give your puppy a sense of safety and comfort. A place to escape. Some puppies will, of course, be unsure at first, so:

  • Start by finding a quiet, warm, draught-free spot for your crate. A kitchen, or a cosy utility room are ideal; but not too close to a radiator.
  • Get your puppy used to wanting to enter by showing it its dinner or treats and placing them on the floor inside the crate. If your puppy won’t enter, close the door with your puppy on the outside. Leave it there for a few seconds wondering how to get at dinner, then open the door and see how quickly your puppy rushes in!
  • Put some comfortable bedding in the bottom of the crate, and drape a blanket over the top, covering three sides but leaving the front uncovered, to create a den. Add a safe chewy toy.
  • Place your puppy in its crate for short sessions throughout the day. At first leave the door open, it will be so cosy in there, it’ll probably choose to go in for a nap on its own.
  • Gradually get your puppy used to the door being closed, by putting it inside, closing the door, and then staying close by for a few minutes. Stay relaxed; if you’re stressed, think how nervous your puppy will become!
  • Slowly increase the length of time your puppy is in the crate with the door shut, so that it can be left for an hour while you go to the shops.
  • Allow free access when you are home, so your puppy can come and go as it pleases. Time away from people is important; it teaches independence.
  • Placing your puppy in its crate for the night means you know it will be safe, and will encourage it to be clean, as puppies hate to soil their sleeping area. For the same reason it’s important that you take your puppy out to relieve itself last thing at night, once or twice during the night, and first thing in the morning, to avoid accidents. It may need some extra attention during his first night at home.
  • Never use the crate as a sin bin. Your puppy must never be put in the crate for doing something wrong, and must never be left inside for long hours.

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House Training
It’s the bit of puppy training that every new owner dreads! But if you stick to the rules, it needn’t be nearly as frustrating as you expect. Use your puppy's crate so that he never relieves himself indoors and can be taken outside whenever he needs to go, especially during the first few weeks. A few helpful tips:

  • Before your bring your new puppy home, choose a toilet spot in your garden. A paved area is a good idea, as it is easy to clean. Grass will inevitably turn yellow and die, but bitches often prefer soft textures like sand or soil. Wording?
  • Take your puppy to this spot at the following times:
    • First thing in the morning.
    • Last thing at night.
    • After exercise.
    • After excitement (such as meeting someone new, or returning home).
    • After eating and drinking.
    • Before a nap.
    • If you see them circling and sniffing the ground.
    • Otherwise, every two to three hours during the day.
  • Always accompany the pup outside. If you just open the door and let it get on with it, it’ll probably play, but may not relieve itself. Then, when it returns indoors, it may have an accident. If your puppy does relieve itself outside, you must be there to reinforce the command, and to praise and reward it. In cold, wet weather, or at night, wrap up warm, and take an umbrella and a torch out with you!
  • When you take your puppy to its toilet spot, encourage it to stay there, rather than allowing it to run off. Use a lead if necessary.
  • When your puppy relieves itself, immediately say the ‘magic words’ that you want to use in future as a request for it to go. Give your puppy lots of praise, so it knows it has done well, remove the lead if you have had to use it, and enjoy a game together in the garden. Treats come in useful on the first few trips.
  • Never return straight indoors afterwards. Your puppy will work out that the fun of being outdoors comes to an end if it 'goes', and so will hold on in order to stay out.
  • Once your puppy understands the command, practice with the routine on different surfaces in your garden and later away from home. Train your puppy on tarmac, concrete, grass, gravel, etc.
  • Most importantly, NEVER PUNISH YOUR PUPPY FOR ACCIDENTS. They do happen.
  • Rubbing a pup's nose in mess is cruel and teaches it nothing except to fear you.
  • If you shout at your puppy when your find a puddle, it won’t know why you are angry. Shouting at, or worse, smacking, will just make your puppy wary of you, and break down the bonds between you.
  • If you find an accident, simply clean it up, using a non-ammonia based cleaner. Your vet or pet shop will be able to supply you with a suitable cleaner. You should try and eliminate any odour, as any odour left may encourage the pup to re-mark. Biological washing powder solution works well as it “breaks down” the smell.
  • If you catch your puppy mid-flow, make a noise to catch its attention, stop it in its tracks, and then encourage your puppy to follow you outside, using a fun, excited tone of voice. If it finishes outside, give it lots of praise, play a while and then bring it back indoors.

If you stick to a strict routine, your puppy will very quickly learn to be clean in the house. But don’t get complacent or your puppy’s house training can lapse. Continue with the routine until your are sure that it knows never to soil indoors and can hold itself. Only gradually phase out numerous outdoor trips. If it has any accidents, increase the number of toilet visits once more.
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Your puppy must learn early that it cannot bite people. All puppies mouth, especially during teething, but this shouldn’t be tolerated. Sharp puppy teeth are bad enough, but if it continues to mouth into adulthood, it can become dangerous.

  • Tell all friends and family that if your puppy bites or mouths, they must make a loud, high-pitched yelping noise, and then turn away from the puppy and ignore it. No reprimands, and no rough games. Both of these are likely to make things worse.
  • You must be consistent, even if the puppy doesn’t hurt you.
  • Your puppy must be ignored, so it knows that the game stops if it oversteps the mark.
  • Your response will be similar to how your puppy’s littermates would react if it hurt them, so your puppy will understand what it has done wrong.

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Name Familiarity
To help your puppy learn its name:

  • Make sure you choose a name that is short, and easy for it to get used to.
  • When your puppy is having fun, playing, petting or eating, say its name over and over. So your puppy associates it with good things, and learns to come when it hears it.
  • Never shout your puppy’s name if you are angry with it.
  • Be consistent. Make sure all family members call the puppy the same thing, pronounced the same way. No nicknames.
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The Big Day

All the planning and preparation is over. It’s time to collect your puppy and welcome him or her into your home. Here are a few tips to make sure the big day goes smoothly.

Before you leave

  • Arrange to collect your puppy during the morning. That way you’ll have plenty of time to get it settled in before night-time.
  • Don’t go alone. If necessary ask a friend or family member to drive you to the breeder so you can concentrate on your new addition all the way home.
  • Make sure the puppy’s crate is in position and ready for when you get back, with some snuggly bedding in position, in the place where it will always be. Ideally choose a quiet corner where it won't be disturbed and can retreat to easily when it fancies a nap.

What to take

  • Kitchen paper, carrier bags or a couple of old towels in case of accidents en route.
  • A travel crate and bedding. Don’t hold your puppy on your lap. This is dangerous in the event of an accident and sets an unhealthy precedent.
  • A bowl, a bottle of water, and several empty bottles.
  • Your chequebook!

What to ask
Make sure you know or ask for before you leave the breeder:

  • Details of what your puppy is currently being fed and when. Most breeders will provide you with some food to get you started.
  • Many breeders also provide information on grooming and general care.
  • Details of the puppy's worming schedule, vaccinations, certificates and any other health treatments it may have received.
  • If you are collecting a pedigree pup, its Kennel Club registration certificate and a copy of its pedigree.
  • Many breeders offer free insurance for the first few weeks - if so, ask for the paperwork.
  • A receipt for the money you pay.
  • If you’ve given a towel with your scent on it to the breeder in advance of collection, make sure you have it back for the journey home.
  • Ask to fill up a couple of empty bottles with the breeder's tap water as it is possible that a sudden change in water type, could cause stomach upset.

The journey home
If you have managed to find a driver, sit near your puppy in its crate or box so that you can comfort it, but only if it really panics. Otherwise pet and talk to your puppy only when it is calm, in a quiet, reassuring manner.

  • If your puppy is sick in the car, don’t panic. Many young dogs vomit in cars until they get used to the experience.
  • Make sure the car is well ventilated (but not draughty), and that the pup is in the shade. Stop and offer water if the journey is more than 15 minutes long, and then every 30 minutes or so. More frequently if it’s a warm day and you have no air-conditioning in the car.
  • If you make a stop, don’t let the puppy walk in public areas where other dogs are - or may have been. The puppy must be carried. Remember, your puppy will probably not be fully protected against canine diseases yet.

Arriving home

  • After the car journey, your puppy will want to stretch its legs, and perhaps relieve itself, so take your puppy straight into your garden or the place you have chosen as its toilet area and say your 'magic' word. Reward your puppy when it obliges (see Training Your Puppy). Let your puppy continue to run around afterwards for a few minutes before you take it indoors or it may learn that relieving itself is a signal to go back inside and delay the process next time so it can stay out longer! *If your puppy is not fully vaccinated take care if foxes and other unvaccinated dogs use the garden.
  • Then take your puppy into the kitchen, offer it water, and, if it is due a feed, give it a meal.
  • Let it have a sniff around the kitchen, take it outside for another toileting opportunity, and then settle it into its crate for a nap.
  • Once your puppy is rested, take it outside again. Then it's time to introduce the family.

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The First Night

An old school of thought was that a new puppy should be put to bed at night, the door should be closed, and it should be ignored until morning. Many puppies will happily accept the new regime of having their bed in their crate as a den in the kitchen from the first night onwards. But for others, this may be easier said than done! After all dogs are social animals, and your new puppy will be used to sleeping with his mother and littermates. To suddenly find itself in a strange house, all alone, may be upsetting for them.
If you think they may need a little help to settle:

  • Place your puppy’s crate just outside your bedroom door, and make it as comfy as possible with some warm bedding.
  • Place a hot-water bottle filled with warm (not hot) water in its bedding, and cover it well with a towel. This replaces Mum’s warm body. A ticking clock in the room may also soothe it, being similar to the sound of a heartbeat.
  • Take the puppy outside to relieve itself, and then settle it in its crate. To make it extra cosy, place a blanket over the top of the crate to cover three of the sides, leaving the front uncovered.
  • Close the door of the crate, and then settle into bed yourself.
  • The pup may whine, but it is likely to settle down if it knows you are close by.
  • Resist the temptation to go to the puppy, or take it out of the crate and tuck it into bed with you. Yes, it’ll sleep soundly, but it’ll also come to expect first-class treatment every night. When it's a fully-grown adult, will you still be so willing to have it in your bed?
  • If your puppy wakes during the night, it is likely to need to relieve itself. Puppies’ bladders are small and need emptying frequently. Take it outside, and do the same thing first thing in the morning. Helping your puppy to avoid accidents will aid its housetraining, and, as it grows, it will be able to hold on for longer - so night-time toilet visits will not last forever. With very young pups, it's a good idea to set your alarm and get up every 2-3 hours for the first few nights to take it out to its toilet area so that it never soils indoors, or worse, in its crate. If you make the effort to this, house-training will proceed much quicker and you can steadily reduce the number of night-time excursions.

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