New Puppy Owner’s Handbook
Things you’ll need for your new puppy-
A kennel/ crate. We recommend purchasing your crate at Tractor Supply stores instead of Petsmart or other specialty pet stores, as they are drastically more expensive. We like the Remington or retriever brand dog kennels and would recommend a medium.
I do recommend placing a towel in the kennel so that if your dog has an accident, he won’t have to sit in a puddle (but only for the first couple of nights, then the towels should be removed).
Chew toys- you should have an abundance of different kinds of toys for your puppy, rubber toys, rawhide bones (Granulated rawhide only) , even plush toys (but please do supervise your puppy with plush toys to ensure that they don’t choke on stuffing).
A collar and a leash.
Optional depending upon your homes space and floor plan: Baby gates (explained later).
Your puppy is Eating Nutrena Loyal brand puppy food, the chicken and rice formula.
House Training your puppy-
When your puppy first arrives home, you have to remember that at 7-8 weeks of age, he needs to go potty on average about every 20-30 minutes due to his small bladder size. So, in the very beginning the best thing that you can do to reinforce good potty training skills is to take him outside regularly.
Depending upon the size and layout of your house, you may want to baby gate your puppy into the common areas of your house. Keep bedroom doors closed, so that your puppy can’t sneak off and have an accident. If he goes potty in the house and no one corrects him, in his mind this is an acceptable behavior. So try to keep him where you can see him to correct his behaviors.
Dogs are textural in where they prefer to go potty, so if your dog becomes accustomed to going potty on hard floor like tile, he will always prefer this. Right now your puppy is accustomed to going in grass or wood shavings (similar in texture to grass). When you take your puppy outside to go potty, take him to a grassy area and slowly walk around. If your puppy sits down, call him and keep walking, keep your puppy moving, movement will help puppy to realize that he needs to potty. Once your puppy starts to go potty, stop walking, you should stay silent until he finishes and when he is done, you praise him, “good boy! That’s a good Potty, good potty!” Make sure to say potty, pee, whatever you want your potty command to be, repeatedly with the good boy/ good girls and pet your puppy. Over time your puppy will more immediately use the restroom upon going outside, and begin to understand to go to the restroom on command. You should continue to walk outside with your puppy and encourage him to use the restroom on a regular basis until you are observing your puppy no longer having accidents in the home.
Most dogs go #2 almost immediately after they eat, so after you feed your puppy his/ her dog food, immediately take them outside for a good 10-20 minute outside time. Again, when they finish, give them a lot of positive reinforcement for pottying outside.
If you catch your puppy having an accident in the house, tell the puppy, “No!” use your voice to make it very clear that this is an undesirable behavior. Take your puppy outside and walk around calmly in the yard to try and get your puppy to finish outside. When he does, tell him what a good boy he is just as normal.
Remember that in order to properly correct a dog you must provide your correction within 1.5 seconds of the behavior. Dogs and especially puppies do not comprehend that a correction greater than 1.5 seconds after the behavior- is for that behavior. So if you find a puddle, don’t stick your puppy’s nose in it, he doesn’t comprehend what he is getting in trouble for. Clean it up and hope that you catch him in the act the next time.
You should feed your puppy its last meal of the day around 6-7 pm, so that he has time to go to the bathroom before bed. I also suggest picking the water bowl up off the floor about 2 hours before you plan to go to bed. Take your puppy out to potty right before bed time and then put your puppy in his kennel.
For the first week or so, I recommend getting up every 3 hours or so (I set an alarm) and taking your puppy outside to potty.When you take your puppy out of his kennel, do not let him walk outside, you will often have accidents on the way to the door.Carry your puppy outside and don’t set him down until you get to the grass, this encourages good potty training skills- appropriate texture.
If you find that when you get up every 3 hours or so, that your puppy is consistently having accidents, then you should start taking your pup out every 3 hours.If you find that your puppy goes several days and is keeping his kennel very clean throughout the night, you may begin allowing your puppy to sleep through the night, eventually phasing out the need to get up.
By the time that your puppy is3-3.5 months old, he should be able to sleep through the night without needing potty breaks anymore.
If you begin to find that your puppy is having accidents in the house after having just been outside for an extended period of time, don’t worry, this is common. To fix this, observe your puppy’s habits while drinking water. When you see your puppy take a big drink of water, place him in his kennel for about an hour and a half with no distractions. Then, take him out and immediately outside and ask him to potty. You know that he will need to go based upon how much water he just drank, so you can ensure potty outside success. Reinforce this by getting very excited about his outside potty and using your potty word over and over when he does. Do this periodically for a week or so until your pup begins to consistently go outside again.
I like Victor brand food, I feel that’s it is a very high quality product for the price.I also appreciate the variety of recipes available.You can usually purchase Victor at your local feed store, or from Chuy.com.
I suggest feeding your puppy twice a day, in the morning and in the evening for the first 6 months of life. I also suggest standing over/ in the area of your puppy as it eats, this reinforces owner/ master/ alpha to the dog and helps to reinforce your position as pack leader.
When your puppy becomes older, around 4 months you will want to begin asking your puppy to sit for his food, place the bowl on the ground keeping your pup in a sit until you stand up, then release your puppy to eat with his name. This is helpful in several ways, first it teaches your pup that he must work- produce desired behavior in order to receive the reward of food, second, it reinforces retriever training concepts that we will enforce later on, the release from a sit on your puppies name.
If you would like to feed your puppy a grain free or more natural food, I have had very good luck with Victor grain free products.
An attached Purina Study found that a lifetime 25% diet restriction delayed the onset and reduced the severity of hip joint osteoarthritis. The above referenced study also found the average age of hip dysplasia onset at around age 6 for the control fed group, and age 12 for the restricted fed group.
For this reason my Veterinarian has suggested that we and all of our customers work hard to keep our puppies lean. He suggests that you be able to see your puppies last rib, from age 10 weeks to 6 months your goal should be to keep your puppy looking thin and lean.
Once your pup becomes 6 months of age, I suggest that you begin to feed once a day in the evening, when you are done working or exercising your dog for the day. Because dogs stomach’s are not made to hold food all day long, feeding once a day decreases your dogs risk of developing stomach cancer.
Large breed dogs are at a higher risk for developing bloat, bloat is caused by a twisting of the stomach after consuming too much food and then exercising, it kills dogs very quickly with little time to rush to the vet for treatment. The best thing we can do to prevent bloat is to feed dogs after they are done with their exercise routine for the day.
If you plan to exercise your dog heavily in the morning (like hunting) to ensure that all dog food is processed and the stomach is empty, the owner should feed the dogs food softened with water the night before. Softening with water increases the digestion time of dog food by approximately 4-6 hours.
Most dogs should switch to eating adult food between the ages of 6 months to a year depending upon their weight and general health. Dogs in training at Legend will continue to consume high protein/ puppy food in order to meet the caloric demands of the physical exertion of training.
4. Crate/ Kennel Training-
I like to keep my puppy crates in my master bedroom closet or a spare bedroom or closet- somewhere sight and sound separated from the living areas of the home.
If your puppy needs to go potty in the middle of the night and starts to bark or cry, you can hear it and take him out. Much easier than cleaning up a dirty crate and puppy in the morning!
The Master bedroom closet is usually in the back of the house, sight and sound separated from the rest of the house. This means that when you get home, you have the chance to walk in the door, set your things down and make your way to the area where your dog is crated causally. You open the door, turn the light on and he was asleep, he wakes up and you are opening the door to his crate before he can bark or whine, or cry- thus reinforcing that being calm in the crate gets him out of the crate.
I do not recommend kennels in laundry rooms, kitchens or living areas. As a puppy or as a dog, when you walk in the front door or garage door and arrive home, as you are putting your things away, your dog sees you and becomes excited, then begins to bark. You then let him out, he learns that barking gets him out of his kennel, the kennel doesn’t remain the calm sleeping place that it used to be, it becomes a place to bark and be excited.
You should put your puppy in his kennel, sight and sound separated from the rest of the house (door closed, you can play music to help drown out sound and help decrease barking) anytime you need to leave the house, or can’t directly supervise him.
Put your puppy in his kennel when you are done in the closet that he is sleeping in, you don’t want to open the door and turn lights on after you tuck your puppy in, this encourages barking or whining.
Place a towel or even a tee-shirt that you have worn and smells like you in the kennel for the first several nights to help your puppy adjust. Although, long term, it is best to keep your puppy’s crate free of blankets, as the texture of the crate floor helps to reinforce to the puppy to keep it clean.
If your puppy barks and whines, do not respond. Do not talk, do not yell, do not go in the room, do not turn on the light, leave your puppy alone and force them to self soothe. Only open the door and let the puppy out of his crate when he is quiet. If he becomes your silent alarm and barks or whines around time to get up in the morning, do not allow this. He doesn’t tell you when to get up, you tell him. If you have to get up and begin getting dressed before you let him out, then you have to, but wait him out, only letting him out of his crate when he quiets for a few moments, asking longer periods of quiet each day before releasing your pup.
If after several nights your puppy continues to bark or whine in his kennel, try placing a radio or white noise maker in yours/ the puppy room to help drown out sound- which can stimulate your puppy, causing barking. Classical music has shown to be very calming for dogs with separation anxiety.
When going to work or leaving the house-
Place your puppy in his crate with toys, a granulated rawhide, a plastic toy, whatever he likes, just be sure not to put anything in his kennel that he could chew up and choke on. Working mind toys are a great idea for folks who have to be away from home for extended periods of time, you can stuff treats, peanut butter and other items inside so that your puppy has to work to get the treats out. Try not to overload the treat dispensing toys with peanut butter or other food treats that could cause your dog to become overly thirsty as there should be no water available in the crate.
Working mind toys are available at pet stores:
Classical music is a great idea for families whose dogs have to be left in their kennels for 6-8 hours per day.
Ideally your new puppy wouldn’t be asked to spend more than 4 hours in his crate until he has been home for a week or so, although sometimes this is simply unavoidable. Be sure you are setting your puppy up for success by not allowing him to tank up or over drink on water, be sure that he has had adequate outside time in the morning to use the restroom, when you feed puppy first thing in the morning, give him at least 10-15 minutes outside afterwards for a #2. Be sure to carry him outside quickly and set him down directly in the grass upon reaching it.
Taking your puppy out and about-
You should talk to your vet about what age he/ she thinks it’s okay to begin taking your puppy out and about.Remember that Parvo Virus is deadly to young pups, infected dogs shed the virus everywhere they touch before they display signs or symptoms of the virus and the area that the virus was shed.. stays active for 12 months after the dog was there.
Make sure that your puppy is getting the full protection of those vaccines before you take him out and about with you.
Even as adults, we NEVER take our dogs to Petsmart.Because there is a vet clinic inside, sick dogs walk in and out all day long; Petsmart doesn’t require any dogs to be current on vaccinations before they walk into the store, so you never know what you are exposing your dog/ pup to inside.For this reason, I encourage you to leave your pups at home when it’s time to shop at the specialty pet stores.
Manners Training in the House-
One of the biggest issues you will face with a Lab puppy is chewing. In the beginning I recommend that you use baby gates, close bedroom doors, keep your puppy where the family spends time so that you can keep an eye on your puppy. If he/she chews or gets into trouble when you can’t see and you don’t provide a correction, in his/her mind, it’s an acceptable behavior.
I recommend keeping a dog bed with several dog toys on the floor in a common area of your home. When you catch your puppy chewing on something that he is not supposed to be chewing on, use a stern voice to say, “No!” take the item away from your puppy, then immediately provide a replacement in the form of one of puppy’s toys. You will have to be consistent; often it will take several times of being told before puppy gives up and begins to chew on his own toy. If verbal correction doesn’t seem to be enough, you can lightly pop your puppy on the nose paired with a stern no. The important thing is that your puppy understands clearly that this is an undesirable behavior.
Many puppies will want to chew and bite on you as they begin to teeth. This is normal, although not very comfortable. When your puppy starts to chew on you, press his lips to his own teeth so that he feels uncomfortable, as if he is biting himself. When you do this consistently puppy learns that chewing on people isn’t comfortable and should stop doing it.
Jumping- It’s hard to truly and effectively fix jumping before basic obedience begins, when we teach your dog that he should ask for pets/ greet people by sitting calmly in front of them. One thing that you can do to ease this process in training is to make it clear to your puppy that jumping is an undesirable behavior. When your puppy jumps on you I like to use my knee in the dog’s chest, you can pop the dog on the nose, pair this with a firm “No!” Do whatever comes natural to you, but make sure that whatever you do- its uncomfortable for the dog. The pup should take away from the experience that they may not want to do “that” again. Try not to push on the dog- many people want to place their hands on the dog’s chest and push it away, push it down, or force the dog to sit. Remember that when you place your hands on your dog like this, even though its pushing the dog away, your still touching the dog, so in his mind he is receiving positive physical contact from you for jumping- therefore reinforcing jumping. Be sure to make it very clear that jumping is an undesirable behavior.
When your pup gets to about 4-5 months and has a solid understanding of sit, begin to make your dog wait for you at the door. When you are ready to go inside or outside, front door or back door, door or gate, make your dog sit and wait to be invited through the doorway. Do this by placing your dog in a sit in front of the door with plenty of room to open the door. Place your back to the door and face your dog, as you slowly open the door, continue telling your puppy to sit. Once the door is opened, slowly walk backwards through the door asking your puppy to sit, you can use your foot to keep your puppy from rushing through the door if he breaks his sit. Once you are through the door release your puppy with his name to walk through. At first, you may release your pup as you walk through the door, but as you work on it you will be able to release your pup later and later. This exercise reinforces your position as the pack alpha, the master, the leader. It also reinforces retriever concepts that we will teach later- the release of your dog on his name.
Shots and Veterinary Care-
Your puppy received his first round of shots as well as a kennel cough/ Bordetella vaccine at 6 weeks of age.
Many vets primarily see pet/ companion dogs, therefore they will make health recommendations based upon their primary clientele. If you can, you should attempt to find a vet who has experience treating working dogs, sport dogs, competitive dogs. Vets with experience in this area will be more knowledgeable about common sport dog injuries; common veterinary practices like delaying spay and neuter surgery for full sexual maturity to encourage positive behavior and retriever drive. If you feel as though your vet is encouraging you to do something with your dog that might be counterproductive or your instincts tell you maybe this isn’t right, trust your gut and seek a second opinion, always do your research.
In our industry we see sport dog injuries and other complications requiring advanced veterinary care more commonly than the regular pet owner. For this reason, we have a very close professional and personal relationship with our Vet, Dr. Allman DACVS. Dr. Allman is a residency trained Veterinary Surgeon who is on the cutting edge of Veterinary research and care. If you ever require more advanced veterinary care, please contact me.
Spay and Neuter Surgery-
Many veterinarians will encourage you to spay/ neuter your dog before 1 year of age. I strongly disagree with this practice and urge you to hold off on spay/neuter surgery.
Most vets will suggest spay and neuter surgery for health reasons, the primary reason being that lack of reproductive organs eliminates risk of cancers associated with those organs. It has also been shown to decrease “aggression” in dogs, although the definition of aggression varies for Veterinarian to Veterinarian and Behavior Specialist to Behavior Specialist.
Some of the Risks of early Spay/ Neuter-
When a pup/ dog is neutered before full sexual maturity the lack of those vital hormones effectively keeps your dog trapped as an adolescent, all of the behaviors you see in an adolescent dog such as excessive energy, chewing, lack of focus- will maintain for the remainder of the dog’s life as he/she is unable to mentally and emotionally mature further.
Early Spay/ Neuter causes the growth plates to slow in closing, causing potential joint issues, increased risk of fracture and will generally cause your dog to grow larger than he would have intact, which could cause potential future joint health issues.
Spayed females have a 20% greater risk of experiencing urinary incontinence throughout their lifetime.
In a study of over 700,000 dogs found that neutering appeared to increase the risk of cardiac tumors.
In addition to the growth-plate issue, there is growing concern that the lack of sex hormones in a sterilized dog can foster the rise of bone cancer.
“One of the reasons why people are shying away from early neutering of females for behavioral reasons is this condition known as androgenized or masculinized females,” she says. This describes a female pup, born into a predominantly male litter, whose body is awash in testosterone. “So you can actually have a female pup that’s more male than female. If they go through a heat or two, you get that softening effect of the female hormones. Whereas if you neuter them, they’re kind of in a no-man’s land,” explains Dr. Myrna Milani, DVM, the author of seven books on canine and feline health and behavior.
As professional retriever trainers, I have seen a dramatic decrease in retriever desire, trainability, ability to comprehend advanced concepts as well as ability to turn excitement on and off in early neutered dogs.
If you plan to spay/ neuter your dog I suggest that females experience at least one heat cycle before spay surgery. If you plan to neuter your dog, we suggest waiting until after completion of retriever training and discussion with your trainer. If you do not intend to breed your dog but desire to keep your dog intact for behavior reasons, we suggest that male dogs be neutered around the age of 7- just before they become at increased risk of developing cancer associated with their reproductive organs.
Responsible ownership is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
When all of the responsible pet owners spay/ neuter their dogs.. Who’s left breeding?The irresponsible ones!
The first 6 months of your puppy’s life are critical, you are molding your puppy into the dog you want him/ her to be and the things that you do and the concepts that you reinforce dramatically affect your dog’s temperament.
DO: Build your puppy’s confidence- do this by providing attention and affection unsolicited. Allow your puppy to get in your lap, sleep in your lap, cuddle with you on the couch. Even if puppy is not going to be allowed on furniture, teach your dog that if invited it’s okay to be on your lap on the couch, but that he doesn’t just jump up there whenever he wants. Give your puppy plenty of attention and affection, you want to reinforce that you love your puppy no matter what; this confidence boost helps him to feel more successful in training and grasp concepts more effectively.
DO: Play with your puppy. Get down on the floor with your puppy at least once a day and toss his toys around, play a little tug of war, get him riled up and teach him that working with you is like playing with you, it’s a fun thing that you do together, this increases his desire to work and learn in training.
DO: Allow them to be puppies. Many people attempt to apply rules to their puppies like teaching them to walk at heel or attempting to steady them as puppies (holding them back on the retrieve.) When you place too many rules on your puppy, he doesn’t grasp the concept of work being fun. He does things because he is told, not because he enjoys working for you. Allow your puppy to fully develop his self-esteem and personality by generally only addressing the behavior and training concepts listed in this handbook with the exception being unsafe behaviors. If you see a behavior you think needs to be addressed that is not listed in this handbook, feel free to contact me for tips, pointers, advice. We are here for you!
Do Not: allow your puppy to pout. When your puppy gets in trouble for something, some puppies will then follow you around with those big sad puppy eyes asking for forgiveness. It’s our instinct to reinforce to our pup that we still love them by providing attention and affection. This is counterproductive to training and confidence building. A dog who has been conditioned to pout for attention and affection struggles to overcome corrections during training, we often find that when they get a correction for undesirable behavior they attempt to pout for affection instead of thinking their way through the training and trying to produce the desired behavior. They become hard wired to think that the desired behavior is pouting. When your puppy gets in trouble, if you see pouting, ignore the behavior. Continue on about your business and pay no attention whatsoever to pouting/ attention seeking behavior.
Do Not: Try to comfort your dog when he/she feels fear or anxiety. As humans, our instincts when we see our dog huddled in fear id to get down on his level, talk sweetly to him and encourage him. This makes sense to a human, but to a dog it is counterproductive. When a dog is fearful and the alpha pack member squats down over him in a submissive position, then talks in a soft voice, the dog believes that the alpha is also fearful, reinforcing his fear/ anxiety. If your dog becomes fearful the best thing you can do is 1. Ignore the behavior- if your dog is showing minimal signs of fear, just ignore his behavior and make sure that your behavior exhibits that you are confident, be sure to stand tall, talk in a happy/ normal voice, be sure that your energy reflects positive. 2. If your dog is showing high levels of fear, push him through the event. Keep him moving, don’t allow him to freeze and cower, call him to follow you in a happy, excited voice. Be sure that your energy again exudes calm confidence and maybe even excitement depending upon the situation. 3. If you are around gunshots/ fireworks or other loud noises, be sure that your dog’s first few introductions to loud noises are at a distance. If your pup shows no signs of fear, you can move closer to the sound. If your dog demonstrates fear, you can attempt to counteract this anxiety by getting excited, play with and distract your puppy, make whatever you are doing fun. If this doesn’t work to quickly alleviate your pup’s stress, then remove him from the situation, take him to a quiet safe place, like his crate, sight and sound separated from the stimuli, or in your vehicle and contact your trainer. As a Trainer, I am regularly asked to fix “gunshy” dogs. Most of these dogs are not gunshy at all, they only require a proper introduction to the sound. This can be done most effectively by a trainer, who can read the dog/ puppy and provide the necessary stimuli with correct timing. If you plan to have your pup retriever trained, please do not introduce him to gunshots on your own. Allow your trainer to do this for you, as it can often be done more quickly and effectively when timed right.
If you find that your dog is fearful of something and ignoring, positively reinforcing positive energy just isn’t working, you can also pair the stimuli that causes fear with something that your dog enjoys, like food.
5. If these solutions don’t help reduce your dog’s fear, contact me.Undue fear as a pup that is not appropriately addressed can cause training issues later on, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you can’t seem to get your pup over fear on your own.
Retriever Drive Building-
Retriever drive building is to making your dog a hunting retriever. I can teach most things, but I can’t make a dog retrieve that doesn’t naturally like to do it on their own.Even if you don’t intend to hunt with your puppy, retrieving is a safe, fun, effective way to exercise your dog and expend mental energy, I suggest you reinforce your dog’s natural desire to retrieve no matter what your training plans are for your pup.
At 8-10 weeks of age you should get down on the floor with your puppy with one of his toys and shake it in his face a little bit, get him excited about it, then without taking the toy out of his frame of vision, toss it a foot or so away. (Starting out in a hallway with closed doors really helps, if there’s nowhere for him to go he is more likely to bring the item back to you.) When he picks it up call his name to encourage him to come back to you and open your arms big and wide, you should be on the ground at his level. When he gets back to you, talk to him excitedly expressing what a good pup he is for bringing it, do not immediately take the item out of his mouth, as this can encourage tug of war or running away with the item. When you are ready to take the item from him, you can press his lips to his teeth and say “drop” until he releases the item to you. Show it to him again, tease him with it and again throw it short, within his field of vision.
It is KEY to put the retriever toy up- stop your session, when your puppy is at the PEAK OF EXCITEMENT.If your puppy lays down to chew on his toy on the last retrieve, then you have thrown for too long.You should put the item up when the puppy is still completing mechanically correct retrieves- go out there, get it, bring it back.
Whatever item that your puppy enjoys to retrieve, keep this particular ty put up, only bring this toy out during your drive building sessions.This also helps to create excitement in your puppy.
The goal with drive building is that over time you see your dog begin to maintain interest in the retriever for longer and longer periods of time before becoming tired or demonstrating boredom (losing mechanics of retrieve- ie not bringing it back, or refusing to pick it up)
At 12-15 weeks I suggest you move outside for your daily drive building drills. Remember that it is not about the length of the throw, but the mechanics. Four throws at only 10 yards completed successfully is a more valuable training session than 13 throws at 15-20 yards, but the dog got bored or tired and didn’t return the last 4 throws completely. Again, this is mechanics- GO OUT THERE, GET IT, BRING IT BACK.
Some toys I suggest for puppy retriever drive building are mini paint rollers, stuffed ducks; some pups like squeaky toys, balls are very exciting to pups because of the bounce. What you use isn’t as important as the retrieve itself- proper mechanics.
When a dog comes to me for training, I don’t care if it jumps, I don’t care if it can walk on a leash, I don’t care if it knows sit, we can teach all of that.. the most important thing is that the dog LOVES TO RETRIEVE!
I strongly recommend bringing your pup back around 15-16 weeks for a free puppy appointment. At this time I can gauge your pup’s established retriever desire, give pointers, tips, suggestions to help you modify your drill to achieve the best results, even troubleshoot training issues.
Last but not least, most importantly of all:
Enjoy this new member of your family!
And contact me if you have questions ,comments, concerns, need tips, suggestions or ideas.
Please text Allison at 512-786-5373 for puppy help and guidance!