Puppies, Arriving Home: First Night is Filled with Terror, Tip 4

December 5, 2010

This is the fourth article in my four part series about bringing home puppies:

  1. Before you bring the puppy home
  2. Fear imprint stage
  3. New home: a scary place
  4. The first night

Puppies and getting a new pup: “What was I thinking”?   You have baggy red eyes, yup, you get up and go look in the mirror.  You look awful.   It’s time for you and the pup to be sleeping but instead it’s almost midnight and you haven’t had a wink.  This is your new puppy’s first night with you. The pup has moved from a low whine to yelping now. Has he lost his noodle; will he ever go to sleep?  This first night alone is a night of terror for the pup, where is his mommy?  It’s a night of terror for you too; it’s terrifying to think you might not ever get to sleep again, not ever. Should you be concerned?  Well, yes and no.  You’ll be tired tomorrow but things will improve.

Should you pick the little fur child up and comfort the poor little thing?  Egads, no, absolutely no way.  If you do make that mistake, you will have just taught the pup that whining is good.  The pup will think, “geez, this is good, every time I whine she picks me up so now I’ll whine even more and much louder…. yelp, howl, screech”.  Picking up the pup while he is whining is the first step in teaching the puppy to run the house for you and he’ll be more than happy to do it.  Dogs basically have the brain of a two year old.  Do you really want a two year old running your house?

This pup now is looking to you for leadership.  If you are calm, he will calm down.  If you get stressed, he will match you.  Even very young puppies are highly astute and can smell nervous energy on your breath.  As their leader, they will follow your energy.  Calm begets calm; nervous begets nervous. If your dog is nervous, take a check in your mirror.  Of course, some dogs are born with nervous energy or a propensity for a problem and you weren’t in charge of handing out the genes so there’s no blaming the owner for that one.

As for the whining, be patient, puppies generally whine the first night for anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours.  Don’t get upset. Don’t get angry.  In fact, don’t do anything.  Don’t pick him up, don’t try to comfort him, don’t do anything.   Just be there, that’s it.   You have put the new pup’s bed or crate beside your bed so he’s not alone and he knows you are there and that is the right thing to do.  Heavens forbid that you’d put the puppy on the bed with you or isolate him in another room that’s the wrong thing to do, read our other articles.

Finally it’s just after midnight, you are sleeping blissfully when suddenly your alarm clangs.  You look at the clock and it’s 2:00 a.m.  What?   Oh no.  Because you are an excellent pet owner, you set the alarm so you could get up cheerfully and happily to take the puppy out to go potty.  He’s a baby and he can’t hold that sort of thing very long.  Well, we never said getting a puppy was easy.  Certainly, the universe will not step in and take care of him. It’s your job.  But like we said, things will get better.

When your puppy is whining, do not get in the heat of the moment with over-protecting or overly comforting him with “Oh poor little doggie, it’ll be okay, it’s ok, it’s ok”.  If you think you are rescuing him by picking him up, what is really happening is that you aren’t allowing him the experience of leaning that nothing is really wrong.  You need to allow him to build his confidence level.   Does that sound cruel?  Well, let me tell you, this young puppy is learning at a rapid pace right now.  Like we said in several prior articles, at just eight weeks of age this puppy is learning at the equivalent rate of an adult.  So, think carefully about how you’re handling everything.  It can be the difference between having a dog with whining problems, separation anxiety, barking problems, great shyness or even biting as compared to a wonderfully, well-adjusted, social and happy companion that fits perfectly into your  lifestyle.

However, there are many things that should never be allowed to scare this young puppy. Remember from 8 to 10 weeks old, he may in the Fear Imprint Stage whereby everything that scares him now may stay with him for a lifetime.  So, it may be confusing.  When do you refuse to pick him up and protect him?   And when do you protect him and from what situations?

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