Dogs Are Cute, Humans Are Not

The in’s and out’s of Taking Care of a New Puppy

Finn Marley Schellhammer 

Over the years, I have had my fair share of dogs but I have recently taken in a new member of my family, a baby West Highland Terrier. To say he is a handful is an understatement but I could not be happier. My mom and I have been wanting this dog for years and now that we finally have him I feel so... I don’t know how to explain it. 

Although this dog has made me feel amazing at times, there have also been occurrences where my little guy would unintentionally make me feel like a gigantic failure—which is completely normal. This feeling would usually occur to me when I fail to get him quite at night or if he has an accident in the house, mostly housebreaking is where I had the most trouble. And that’s why I’m writing this, because maybe, just maybe, it can help someone going through the same troubles I went through.

So, let’s start at the very beginning. 

On the way home from the breeders, the puppy peed in the car so we pulled over as fast as we could to try and clean up the mess. While we were pulled over in the small field we happened to end up in, the puppy thought it would be funny to poop and then walk all over it. So, let’s just say that the first few moments we had as a family were not ideal.

Finn on the way home

For the first night home there is a lot of misinformation out there. The internet says to keep the dog in their crate next to your bed and try to calm them down every time they wine or bark, while breeders tell you to keep him out of earshot and only pay him any attention every four hours where you take him outside to go to the bathroom. For our first night, we made the mistake of trying the internet's way, which quickly proved to just make everything harder on everyone. So, on the second night, we tried what the breeder told us to do along with other ways to try and get him to sleep. Now, what we have found that works best to get a puppy to sleep is the following—Put something that has your smell on it in the crate next to your dog (ex. T-shirt), put a blanket or towel over the crate to help him fall asleep faster, play the sound of a clock ticking(it reminds them of their mothers heartbeat), and make sure that you are talking to them while the sound is playing and the towel/blanket is over their crate. Another thing that you need to do is make sure the crate space for your dog is big enough so he can turn around and lay down (this is so they don’t establish a pee and poop corner).

When potty training a dog, repetition is key. This is so your new puppy can start to understand where he needs to go to the bathroom and when (maintaining a schedule another important aspect of potty training a new puppy). As the dog grows older, they will be able to hold their bladder longer than a new puppy would be able to so you will be able to start expanding the amount of time in between potty breaks. Using a pee pad may be the only solution to potty training a dog in certain situations but, if possible, take your dog outside or give them some sod to go to the bathroom on (the fact that the pee pad and off-limit-potty-places are in the same general area may confuse the puppy). Although all of these parts of potty training are important, by far the most valuable one is making sure that you reward your dog with a treat every time he goes in the desired area.

Having your dog go crazy barking is the most heartbreaking thing to hear. When getting a dog you imagine a well-behaved, smart little puppy, and to find out that what you had pictured wasn’t realistic is hard to process. If your new dog does seem to have a barking problem there are two main possible solutions. 1.) Your puppy might not be getting enough exercise which might lead them to barking all of their energy out. 2.) It might just be something they struggle with which can be fixed through a few different training methods. Those training methods are: just ignoring them until they are quiet and then rewording them, and if you are holding them, put them on the floor until they are quiet. Having your new dog bark is difficult but not impossible to change.

Biting is another common attribute that comes along with puppies due to teething. One way to train your dog to stop is to hold a treat in front of them. If they bite for it, hold onto it and don’t let them have it. Only give it to them when they start licking for the treat. This teaches the dog to lick instead of bite. Another not-so-nice way is to take your thumb and your pointer finger and put them on the side of the puppies checks and when they go to bite push their cheeks into their mouth so they bite themselves. It doesn’t hurt them that much and it trains them to stop.

Now, let me tell you right now, one of the most common mistakes that people make when training their dog is that they look for information to train puppies instead of looking for training techniques geared to a specific breed. So, instead of looking up “how to housebreak a new puppy,” look up things like “how to housebreak a West Highland Terrier puppy.” The reason for this is that every dog is different and the more you learn about how your dog's brain works, the easier it will be to train them.

Finn laying down on the porch.

For training your puppy trick-wise, I would highly recommend Welcome Home! by Paul Owens, the original dog whisperer, for all of your training needs. He has a great method that is easy on dogs of all ages, shapes, and sizes.

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