March 3, 2020

The dog whisperer part four: A new puppy’s first night

Learn all about dog education and dog behaviour. Subject Matter Expert Brydie Charlesworth; Director DOG EDUCATION CENTRE

You’ve done it, taken the plunge and today you bring your new puppy home.  The feeling is intense, like a new baby, you think about all the joy this petite life is going to bring into your home. His little wet nose, soft fluffy puppy fur and the way he snuggles into you is a feeling of instant love.  It is one of those feelings that you experience so seldom, that immediate and unconditional sensation of devotion, can life be any better?

Night falls on the first day, your tuck your buddle of joy into his new bed, you’ve specially found after hours searching the internet and asking all manner of professional advice.  Hopping into your own you feel blissful, alive and content. Just as the sandman begins to do his work.  Oh, my goodness what is that? The blood curdling howl, the sharp piecing yelps the sounds of a little one crying. They all slice you open, prickle your skin and pull hard on your heart strings.

Surely this sweet innocent puppy can’t just transform into the spawn of Satan, like a Mogwai being feed after midnight a gremlin has awoken.

The first thing to understand is this behaviour is completely natural; and today we’re offering you some tips to help you and your puppy get through this challenging stage.

So, with that, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Firstly, a puppy should stay with its mum for at least the first 8 weeks of his life. Most likely your puppy has come from a home with a few litter mates, his mum and his human family. For his first 2 months of life he would have snuggled into his siblings feeling warm, comfortable and safe.  When a puppy moves to a new family, it is a HUGE adjustment for him, and you will need to exercise plenty of patience.

My first tip, is DON’T get up and put the puppy in bed with you on the first night; that is unless you plan on having him sleep with you forever.  Sounds great but the reality is very different.  By doing this the puppy will see that it was upset, it cried, barked, howled and you came and put him into a warm cosy place.  The next night, guess what? Your puppy will expect the same and when you try to be tougher and not succumb, your puppy will only repeat the behaviour from the previous night and on and on it will go. It will become a vicious cycle and you can’t blame the puppy this is on you.

Here are some basic steps you can use to help settle your puppy into his new home with minimal fuss.

  1. Ensure your puppy spends some daily time on his own, working for some high value food. You want to create a feeling of ease when his separated from you. Independence training cannot start early enough.
  2. Ensure you have a warm bed for your puppy free from any draughts.  It may sound simple and common-sense; however, it is a measure that many people forget or don’t think about.
  3. Crate train your puppy from the very first day. Crate training is a controversial topic, some believe it is cruel, whilst other behaviourist advocates the method.  We do believe it is a proven and successful system for both the human parent and the puppy.  Crate training provides a safe refuge for the puppy giving them a sense of security. Like any training method it can be abused however when used for an appropriate amount of time and with positive reinforcement the crate becomes a place where the puppy can settle and relax, independent down time. The crate should never be used as a form of punishment, you want the place to become a sanctuary for puppy or dog when tired or nervous. Over time the crate can be replaced with the dog’s own basket or daybed; it’s their spot, much like a child’s bedroom. Having a crate helps teach the puppy bladder control. Not to mess where he sleeps. Crate training also teaches puppies and excitable dogs to enjoy some down time and relaxed behaviour. Adding a toy to help with security or a yummy long last chew is another very helpful tool for crate training. Crate training is not the be all and end all. Don’t overuse the crate; it’s a place to sleep and a place to relax, otherwise the puppy should be with you and your family or playing independently in a safe place in the home or the backyard. Puppies as rule; under 6 months old should not be crated for more than 3-4 hours at a time.
  4. Ensure your puppy is tired before going to bed at night. This means exercise, training and habituation. A tired puppy will settle more easily.
  5. Noise. Sometimes a radio can help. Classical music has been shown to help settle dogs and there are plenty of dog calming playlists on Spotify to choose from.
  6. Adaptil spray. This is a synthetic pheromone that has calming effects. You can spray this on the bed for the  puppy 10mins before sleep time.
  7. Be consistent. Changing the rules creates a confused puppy.
  8. Puppies have tiny bladders; you will need to take your puppy to the toilet at least once per night for a while. Try not to get your puppy excited during this time, take them out, toilet them and put them straight back to bed.

Patience is the key.  When you’ve implemented all the tips above, the crying will stop.  The more you can ignore the behaviour knowing you’ve instilled these disciplines, the quicker the crying will disappear, and you and your puppy will sleep better and bond better.

It is such a special time and the perfect opportunity to set up a long lasting, healthy and loving relationship with your dog. Thank you for loving your dog as much as I do.

The dog whisperer part four: A new puppy's first night - Balanced Life