Bringing home a new puppy is incredibly exciting. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are looking to add a dog to their lives as they self isolate. Many puppy seekers wonder: is now the right time to get a puppy? The answer to that question differs from person to person. Were you prepared to get a puppy before COVID-19? Do you have the financial stability and resources to supply your puppy with quality of life and regular vet appointments? After you return to your normal schedule, are you prepared to continue caring for your dog?
If you are fully prepared for the responsibility puppyhood brings, there is no reason not to get a puppy now. In fact, it’s a perfect time to help your new pet adjust to their home and work on essential training skills. Responsible breeders have been practicing safety and cleanliness far before COVID-19 and many are willing to meet potential buyers via online video chats or phone calls, then transfer the puppy while maintaining social distancing.
Training a puppy while being isolated presents unique challenges. You must find creative ways to both socialize your new puppy and teach your puppy how to be alone, even if it’s just for a little bit each day.
After finding your breeder, there’s so much to do to make your puppy’s transition a success. From puppy-proofing your house to purchasing chew toys, to starting potty training on the right foot, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. To put you on track and ensure a happy dog for years to come, follow this new puppy checklist:
Puppies are unbelievably curious, but just like toddlers, they don’t understand what is safe and what is off limits. Remember, if a puppy can get something in his mouth, he’ll eat it or chew it! That’s why it’s essential to puppy proof your home. You’ll protect your house, prevent bad habits, and most importantly, keep your puppy safe. Here are some tips for proper puppy proofing:
- Look at your house from your new puppy’s point of view. Get on your hands and knees so you don’t miss anything at ground level.
- Keep anything dangerous, like cleaning supplies, behind locked cupboard doors or stored up high.
- Tie all electrical cords out of your puppy’s reach.
- Put everything valuable away. Knickknacks and cell phones can’t be destroyed if they’re kept in drawers or on a high shelf.
- Keep shoes in a closed closet. If you don’t want something to become a chew toy, prevent your puppy from getting it in the first place.
- Switch to garbage cans with lids. Food smells will attract your puppy, so be sure he can’t get in your trash.
- Use barricades like baby gates or exercise pens to keep your puppy confined to safe areas or out of unsafe ones. You don’t have to puppy proof the whole house until your dog is ready for that kind of freedom.
- Examine your backyard for hazards. For example, look for holes in the fence or toxic plants.
Go Online Shopping
It’s important to have all the necessities like a crate and chew toys before you bring your puppy home. The following things can start your shopping list:
- Crate. This is an invaluable tool for keeping your puppy safe when you can’t supervise him and for simplifying your housetraining routine. Be sure to pick the correct size. If the crate is too large, your puppy can use one end as a toilet which will set your potty training back.
- Collar and leash. Depending on your dog’s breed, you might want a harness as well. Don’t forget to put an ID tag on your puppy’s collar.
- Puppy food and bowls.
- Exercise pen or baby gates.
- Chew toys. All dogs love to chew. Teething puppies most of all. Pick chew toys that aren’t too small for your puppy to prevent a choking hazard.
- Grooming tools. It’s never too early to start getting your puppy used to nail trims and brushing.
- Treats. Simple training can start from your puppy’s first day at home, so be ready with plenty of tasty rewards.
As fun as it is to play with your new puppy, there are still some administrative tasks to take care of. Keep this paperwork in mind:
- Name your puppy. Although your breeder might have put conditions on your puppy’s AKC-registered name, his call name, the informal name you use every day, is completely up to you. To help you match your puppy’s name to his personality, check out our Dog Name Finder.
- Register your purebred puppy with the American Kennel Club. Your breeder may have taken care of this, but if not, you can register your puppy yourself. Registration is for life and includes access to AKC’s Canine Care packages.
- Register your mixed breed with the AKC Canine Partners program. This will allow your dog to participate in some of the most popular AKC dog sports like agility or rally and earn certain titles for his achievements.
- Find a veterinarian and other pet professionals like a groomer or pet sitter. Don’t be afraid to visit them first and ask for references. Also, learn the location of your nearest emergency veterinary clinic.
Your puppy will need time to adjust to his new environment. Plus, it’s likely he’ll miss his doggy family until he gets used to his human one. Be patient and be careful not to overwhelm him. Consider the following:
- Show your puppy around. Let him know where to find his crate, food, and water bowl, and where he should be going to the bathroom. Let him explore with supervision, but don’t give him the run of the house on day one. He can earn freedom as he learns the rules.
- Supervise introductions to other pets. Don’t let your puppy annoy your older dog and be sure cats have an escape route. In the beginning, keep interactions short and sweet.
- Introduce your puppy to new people with care. Too many cuddles all at once can be stressful. Everybody will want to meet your puppy, and it’s important for him to meet as many new people as possible. But make sure each experience is pleasant and rewarding.
- Socialize your puppy. Socializing means introducing your puppy to as many new people, dogs, places, situations and so on as possible. While in isolation, get creative. Introduce your puppy to new sounds, surfaces, and toys. Be sure to do this at your puppy’s pace. Don’t force him. Encourage him and stay positive.
Teaching and Training
Every interaction between you and your puppy has the potential to build your bond and teach something new, and there’s no reason you can’t get started right away. Here are some training considerations to keep in mind:
- Potty train from day one. Your dog needs to know exactly where you expect him to do his business. Prevent accidents so he also learns where not to go. If a mistake happens, clean it up with an enzymatic urine cleaner.
- Set the house rules. For example, decide if your puppy can go on the furniture and who is in charge of mealtimes and walks. To prevent confusing your puppy, make sure your entire family is on board and consistent.
- Teach your new puppy basic behaviors like watch me, sit, or down. With positive reinforcement-based training, you can encourage good manners in even very young puppies. If you’re struggling with your new puppy, consider getting help from the Good Dog Helpline.
- Look for a puppy class — some are now being offered virtually. Puppy kindergarten helps with both socialization and training. Search for a training club in your area.
- Enroll in the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program. Your puppy is eligible for the S.T.A.R. Puppy test after completing a basic training class with an AKC Approved CGC Evaluator. The program is designed to get dog owners and their puppies off to a good start and enrollment includes benefits like the AKC Puppy Handbook and a monthly email newsletter full of training tips.
- Set goals for down the road. Training basic manners can lead to all kinds of fun dog activities. An important goal for every dog is the AKC Canine Good Citizen program. It’s a great foundation for dog sports and the gold standard of behavior for dogs in our society.
Stuck at home with a new puppy? Training your dog during COVID-19 can be difficult without access to normal training classes. That’s why we’re here to help you virtually, through AKC GoodDog! Helpline. This live telephone service connects you with a professional trainer who will offer unlimited, individualized advice on everything from house-training to behavioral issues.