Puppies 101: A Quick Guide to Training, Toys, and More

Adopting a puppy, for many of us, involves entering a whole new world. This is especially true if you’re a first-time dog owner. There are enough treats and toys and crates and bells to make your head spin! You may be looking at your new puppy thinking, “Uhh…now what?” We’re here to help! The Big Dog Boutique has compiled a list of the top questions we hear from puppy owners, along with our best tips and must-have puppy products.

Q. Is it okay to crate a puppy during the day?

Yes! It’s one of the best things you can do for your puppy. Be sure to fix up her crate with comfy blankets , a washable crate mat or a towel, and a few age-appropriate toys. The crate should feel like your puppy’s own personal space, and training her to enjoy her time there will instill a sense of independence. It will also make trips to the groomer and veterinarian much easier.  

The size of the crate matters, too. A full-sized dog needs room to stand up and turn around in her crate, but if a puppy has too much room, accidents are likely to happen. Different crate sizes are recommended for different breeds. (See this handy measuring guide.) You may want to invest in an adjustable crate that comes with a divider. You can move the divider as your puppy grows and eventually remove it altogether. We like this one.  (See our other helpful tips for crate training here.)

Q. Should my puppy sleep in a crate or in my bed?

Most puppies want to get out of bed and explore the house at night, so many experts recommend that puppies sleep in their crates, at least until they are old enough to control their bladders. Crating puppies keeps them from wandering around the house unsupervised and getting into things they shouldn’t or having accidents. Puppies also need to become comfortable in their crates and learn that it’s a place of security for them. If your puppy seems nervous at night, try moving his crate to your bedroom and keeping it near your bed. He’ll be able to smell you and know you are nearby.

Q. What should I feed my puppy?

The first thing you should do is find out what your puppy has been eating and continue feeding her that. Be sure to follow that particular brand’s feeding instructions for the weight of your puppy. If your puppy isn’t eating, consult with your vet to rule out any health problems and consider adding an appetite stimulator such as Bare Bits.  If you’d like to make a switch in her food, look for a high quality puppy formula and slowly incorporate the new food. We’re fans of Merrick, because it’s made in America with a great list of ingredients, all sourced in the USA.

Food containers matter, too. You’ll want to put your puppy’s water and food in stainless steel bowls. We love this Silicone Dog Bowl Set that comes with a mat to catch dribbles and spills.

Q. What kinds of toys or treats would my puppy enjoy?

Spoiling your new furry friend is one of the perks of being a dog owner. And, there are certain toys your puppy needs to help him teeth and nap. We recommend antlers for teething, some soft toys to cuddle with at bedtime, a ball, and a squeaky toy.

Our Top Five Puppy Training Tips

If you share a home with others, it’s important to have a discussion about your plan for puppy training. From crate sleeping to potty training to feeding times, you’ll need to think about what your puppy needs and what methods works best for your schedule. Every household is different, and it may take some experimenting to discover what works for yours. Whatever you decide, try to get everyone on the same page so that you can all be consistent in your puppy training. Here are our best tips for puppy training...

1. Establish your puppy’s routine early for the for best results. From eating times to potty breaks to bed time, putting your puppy on a schedule will help her establish a routine and know what to expect. Being consistent right from the start will help her learn these things faster and create fewer problems down the road for you. For suggestion on potty training puppies using bells, see our blog on this topic.

2. Provide plenty of appropriate playtime. If it’s not too cold or too hot outside, let your puppy run and play in a fenced area. He will love exploring all the sights and smells of his new home, and he’ll burn energy.

Puppies also need lots of playtime and snuggle time with their owners so that they form strong bonds. Playing tug-of-war with a chew toy or rope, tossing a ball for your puppy to chase, or practicing obedience commands like “stay” or “sit” are great ways to interact. If you practice obedience during playtime, be sure to keep treats handy to reward positive behavior. You’ll also want to closely supervise playtime with young children to avoid accidental injuries.

3. Help your puppy become accustomed to human touch at an early age. While she’s eating, gently touch your pup’s paws, ears, tummy, and tail. This will help her avoid developing food aggression in the future and will help her feel more relaxed when she’s being examined by a vet or groomer.

To avoid aggression associated with possessive behavior, practice taking toys and bones away while she is actively chewing or playing. This will get your puppy used to having something of value taken away and will be important when you need to remove something dangerous from her mouth.

She’ll also need to become accustomed to grooming. While sitting on the floor, use a toy to distract her while you gently brush her. You can use a verbal cue like “brush (puppy’s name)” or “Let’s brush!” to associate a positive experience with grooming. After a peaceful grooming session, be sure to give your puppy a treat.

4. Enroll in a certified puppy home manners class. If these classes are available near you, they’re a great investment. Your pooch will practice interacting with other pups in a social setting, and you’ll have a place to address any behavior problems you’ve noticed at home with the help of an expert.

5. And finally, our most important tip for puppy owners: be patient and give lots of love. Puppies are learning and growing every day, and it may take a little while for your puppy to learn all the new skills and routines you’re teaching her. Consistency and positive reinforcement will go a long way, and it’s possible to nurture and train your new pup to be a secure, happy companion for years to come.   

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