How can I help my pup to settle?
Ideally a pup should leave his mother at seven to ten weeks old, so he has had time to learn about other dogs but is still young enough for positive early experiences with humans to really count. The first few days are vital.
Remember your pup is likely to feel he has been snatched away from his home. Help make the transition easier for him by leaving an old T-shirt you have worn with the breeder on your last visit before collection. With this placed in the litter's bed it will make your scent familiar to him as well as absorbing the scent of his family. When you bring your pup home, collect the T-shirt and put it in his travel basket and then his den. It will comfort him as he adapts to his new environment.
Try to collect your pup early so he has the whole day to get used to his surroundings before settling for the night. Take time off work if necessary so your pup is not left alone for at least a few days. Control how and when any children play with him and give him time to explore alone but supervised.
As soon as you arrive home, take the puppy into the garden and reward him as soon as he's been to the toilet. This will set the tone of positive reinforcement and let your puppy see how they should behave.
Allow the puppy freedom to explore his new surroundings, but pay close attention to where he goes. It's a good idea to follow them with some treats to keep their attention focused when you need it to be.
Introductions to other pets need to be carefully managed to avoid unnecessary stress. Allow dogs to meet in the garden or in as neutral an area as possible and be aware that existing pets (and kids) may feel threatened by the presence of the new puppy.
Until your puppy has had its vaccinations, beware of allowing him to come into contact with unknown dogs or areas where other dogs are likely to have been.
Set up a playroom/den for the puppy to escape into. If they have a safe haven away from the bustle of the house it will help keep them calm and relaxed and provide a safe space where you can enclose him if necessary (eg a visitor with another dog/young child etc).
Name your puppy as soon as possible. Your puppy should begin to recognise their name after only a few weeks, especially if you are following a strong routine. Try to keep their name simple and avoid names that sound similar to negative commands.
- Start by taking him into the garden to the spot where you want him to toilet. Hopefully, he will oblige and be less inclined to mess in the house.
- When you go indoors try to keep things calm and warn any children they shouldn't expect to play with the puppy the moment he arrives.
- Introduce him to the room where he is to spend most of his time, and his bed, and spend some time quietly getting to know him.
- Then leave him alone for a nap.
Some puppies settle straight to sleep but many cry during their first night in a strange place, in which case it may be kinder to allow them to sleep near you to begin with. Try to make the process of teaching your puppy to sleep alone a gradual one.
- Let him sleep in a puppy crate near your bed; if he wakes, speak reassuringly but don't touch him.
- He should begin to sleep through when he realizes he won't be petted or played with.
- Gradually move the crate from your bed to the room you want him to sleep in. Do this in stages: say to the bedroom door, the landing, down the stairs and so on. The patterns set in the first few weeks of a new routine can set the tone for good, or at least become very hard to break.
The first week
- Give your puppy every chance to become a happy member of the household.
- Draw up a rota so every family member has time with the puppy and some responsibility for him. This can include things like feeding and grooming, as well as taking him out to toilet.
- Take your puppy to the vet for a check up and to discuss his vaccination and worming programme. Also ask whether the surgery runs puppy parties so he can begin socialization.
- Don't make any changes to his diet until he has settled in; then do so gradually.
- Encourage your puppy to chew the right things by providing him with his own toys. Don't let children leave their toys lying around as he may not be able to tell the difference at first.
- If you have excitable children in the house ask them to respect the puppy's needs by not waking him if he's sleeping and not pulling him around.
- Enrol in reward-based training classes. Ask your vet or other owners for recommendations.
Teach your pup to settle down anywhere
One of the best life skills to teach a dog of any age is how to settle in the house, or anywhere else you need him to, instead of always being on the go, pestering you every time you sit down.
Your dog needs to know that there are times when you need him to have an off switch and lie quietly — whether it is while you relax, or when you visit friends and want to take him with you.
This is a really easy exercise to teach but one that should be included in your training from the very start of your life together.
Start when your dog is already likely to be able to settle — after a walk or playtime is perfect. If you try to do this exercise when your dog is full of energy or is anticipating a walk, you are just setting him up to fail — and why should he settle down when you haven’t met his basic need for exercise?
One of the joys of teaching this exercise is that you can do it while you’re relaxing — while you’re watching TV is the perfect time. You can use a crate for this, and many people do — but you want to teach your dog to settle because he wants to, not just because he doesn’t have a choice. And it isn’t always going to be practical to take a crate everywhere with you.
- Make sure there is a comfortable spot next to you, either a bed or a fleecy cushion that your dog already likes, where he can lie.
- Attach a lightweight lead to your dog’s flat collar and then either put your foot on it, or attach it to the chair you’re sitting on. The lead shouldn’t be pulling him on to the floor or even pulling him to be next to you — just make sure it’s short enough so he can’t jump up on you or wander around and find more interesting things to do.
- Now sit down and relax. No matter what your dog does, ignore him. He might bark, or chew the lead or pull at it, but just carry on watching the TV until he gets bored and eventually settles. Some dogs do this quickly, while others take longer, but don’t be tempted to give him a cue to lie down. You want him to choose to settle down himself.
- As soon as he does (whether he is on the bed or not), give him a treat as a very clear signal of reward, and continue to reward him on occasion while he is settled. If he gets up, go back to ignoring him again until he settles, and reward him again.
- If you have a very food-orientated dog, you may prefer to reward him by stroking him or giving him a nice ear rub when he is settled, as he may not relax if he is always anticipating another treat. Or you could give him a stuffed Kong he can chew on while lying down quietly. Do what works best for your dog.
- Start slowly. Only expect your dog to stay settled for 30 seconds or so before unclipping the lead and finishing the exercise. You can then build up to longer periods. Always vary the length of time so your dog isn’t anticipating being released, and is more likely to just settle down and rest. Once they understand the settle, most dogs will take the opportunity to have a snooze.
- Once your pup has settled of his own accord practise it in lots of different places so you will have a dog who will settle anywhere.