They say that happiness is a new puppy! It can certainly be a joyful occasion when it’s done with careful attention to detail.
Let’s start with the assumption that all family members are in agreement and other pets are temperamentally and physically sound enough to handle a bit of chaos in their life.
Have an area already established for the new pup, with a crate or pen set up with toys and a bed. Don’t spend too much on a fancy dog bed at this stage — chances are first one is going to be destroyed anyway. An old clean towel or blanket will work just fine. This should be in a relatively quiet area, away from the main traffic in the house, but not totally isolated.
Stock up on essentials. You’ll need tons of paper towels, spray cleaners, carpet cleaners labeled as removing pet stains and odors, an enzyme-type cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle, and newspapers or “weewee pads” if you are training the pup to potty indoors. You’ll need chew toys — especially while the puppy is in that lovely “piranha chewing on everything and everybody” stage. Your pup will appreciate some soft toys to cuddle up with as well.
Ask the breeder what the puppy was being fed and have at least a week’s supply at home. You can change the diet if you wish but you’ll have to do it gradually over a week or so to avoid gastrointestinal upsets. Know ahead how you are going to handle housetraining. Establish a schedule for trips outdoors, and make sure they’re supervised to assure that the job gets done. Puppies have to “go” a lot!
Make an appointment with your veterinarian within a few days of arrival to make sure that Junior is in good health, free from parasites, and is scheduled for all the necessary vaccinations. The veterinarian is also a great source of information on nutrition, growth stages, teething, spaying or neutering, and general care. Your vet will also let you know when it is safe to take your puppy to a puppy kindergarten class. These provide the essential socialization and early training a puppy needs to become a great pet. They also provide help with housetraining, chewing, jumping and other issues.
If you already have dogs at home, you’ll have to manage the initial introduction. If you have multiple dogs, introduce them one by one, starting with the dog most likely to enjoy the new kid. Have someone hold the pup and let older dog investigate. The puppy can also be in a crate or cage for the introduction. If all seems well, put the pup down or let him out of the crate for the next step. If the older dog acts in an overly pushy manner, try to control it without getting too dramatic. Expect that the older dog may discipline the puppy if it gets too bold. Protect the puppy if necessary, but don’t overreact. The puppy will eventually learn that it can only go so far in its play. After introductions and time for puppy potty duties, put the pup in his area and then go lavish some extra love and attention on the older dogs. Let them know that their world hasn’t just come to an end.
You may encounter a few behavior glitches with your other dogs during the first weeks. Pushing and shoving for treats or food may increase. Dogs that have become more sedate with age may join in those crazy “Bozo runs” that puppies like so much. (In my house this means area rugs flying across the floor, lots of skidding, and the occasional collision with a wall, accompanied by lots of noise.) Some may get a bit more protective about their toys or beds. Some may act more needy than usual. When the puppy is pestering your other dogs too much, do them a favor and give the little guy a time-out in his crate.
I recently experienced the fun of adding a new member to my pack when I brought an Airedale puppy home from California. I knew my Lab mix, Kiri, would love Fergus as a playmate and I wasn’t worried about the Shih Tzu boys because they are tougher than they look. The dog I was worried about was tiny Lindsey, the 5-pound Chihuahua. I needn’t have worried. She and Fergus are best buddies. I often find them cuddled up together on the dog blanket near my woodstove. Everything worked out just fine, as I knew it would.
Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor and judge of canine events. She is a published author and contributes regular columns to several dog publications. She is currently a trainer at That Place for Pets.