Starting Off on the Right Paw: The First Few Days

Love Dog

In This Chapter

  • Making the rounds with family, friends, and other animals
  • Just say “Ahhhh”: First visit to the vet
  • Fitting in: Crates, cars, and schedules
  • Training through play
  • Curbing bad habits early
You never get a second chance to make a first impression! And this is your big chance to make a good impression on both a future best friend and a beloved family member. Gulp!
Now that I’ve put the pressure on you, you can calm down. In fact, that’s my number-one piece of advice for these first days: Keep it calm — your new Pom has enough excitement just meeting you and your family. But beyond that, I have a few tips that may come in handy when it’s time for your pup to meet new people, go new places, and become a proper member of your family.

Getting to Know Your Pom

A Pomeranian puppy makes new attachments quickly, and even adult Poms begin to think of their new owners as family within a couple of days. For your new dog’s sake, keep visitors to a minimum for the first day. After all, if a parade of people pop in, how can he figure out which ones really matter?

Keeping the newness of it all in mind

During these first days you’ll help your new dog form friendships with other family members and get used to her new surroundings.

Research shows that these tasks are significant because at about 12 weeks of age, she naturally becomes more hesitant about novel situations and strangers. The more situations she’s exposed to before then, the fewer challenges remain that can wig her out.

Remember

With socialization, it’s the quality — not the quantity — that counts. As with all things puppy, you need to introduce new experiences gradually, never pushing your pup past the point that she’s scared. Keep these points in mind:

– Your children are no doubt anxious to play with the new dog, so make sure they don’t get too rambunctious and that the puppy has time to herself. Too much harassment and she may start hiding whenever they show up.

– The same is true for her new canine and feline family. Have all pets play inside at first or in a confined area outside so they can’t run out of control and out of your reach.

Bonding with humans big and small

Before you start introducing your Pom to other people, at home or away, keep in mind and share these strategies, which can make introductions go much more smoothly:

Hold your dog in your arms. This way new faces don’t tower over your Pom as people greet him, and you don’t have to ask them to sit on the ground!

Keep people from rushing up or creeping slowly up to him. Rushing is startling and creeping is, well, creepy. Creeping is actually too much like stalking and can unnerve some dogs.

Remind strangers not to look the dog in the eye when they say hello. To a dog, that direct stare is threatening. A perfect way to scare the bejeebers out of your Pom is to have somebody creep up to him, bend over, stare him in the eye, and then reach out to pet his head. Be prepared to clean the pee off the floor.

If the dog’s uneasy, the person can face sideways, which is less threatening, or sit on the floor and wait for the dog to approach. When your dog’s at ease, the person can gently rub the pup’s chest or neck.

Encourage people to rub your dog under the chin or on the chest instead of petting him on the head. Like humans, dogs don’t like being pounded on the head.

At home

Help your pup with these gradual steps in socialization:

Tip

Plan for your puppy to meet only one or two people at a time. These people must be gentle and nonthreatening. You can have them offer him a treat to cement the friendship — sort of the opposite of what people tell their children (“Hey, little dog, want a piece of candy?”).

Stage a puppy party for people and your dog. Invite people to your house and, one at a time, have them greet your puppy. They should walk up to you and your dog casually and then nonchalantly put out a hand for your dog to sniff.

Near home and beyond

For now, avoid places where other dogs congregate. But after your veterinarian assures you that your puppy’s vaccinations are sufficient, try to take your pup to as many places as possible.
Make each exposure a good experience by doing the following:

Go for a walk around the block and see who you bump into. You can try to direct a meeting by picking up your dog and perhaps handing the stranger a treat to give to your pup.

Introduce your Pom to children, especially if you have no children at home. The best plan is to avoid random children; instead, invite only children that are calm and obedient to visit your home and meet the puppy.

Warning!

Avoid the all-dogs-like-me person. If you meet this person, tell him your appendix just burst and then scurry away.

Explore public places (like sidewalks, parks, and some outdoor cafes) that welcome dogs. Avoid taking your puppy to a crowd with the idea of her meeting lots of people at once. She can be stepped on, and people can terrify her if they all try to reach and pet her.

Going to the Vet for Your Pom’s First Checkup

Plan to take your new puppy for a health check within a couple of days of bringing her home. In fact, your contract with the breeder may specify a required time frame for this checkup to keep the health guarantee in place.

Checking out the doctor

Your Pom’s life may depend on your selection of a veterinarian, so — next to you — this person may be the most important one in your pup’s life. You can ask for recommendations from local breeders, kennel-club members, or trainers, but of course, you’ll ultimately want to see for yourself by making an appointment.
Take note of how well the veterinarian listens to your concerns:

– Does he communicate clearly?

– Does he treat your dog gently?

– Does he regularly treat Poms or toy dogs?

Ask how many of these patients he has and whether he feels comfortable doing surgery on them. Chances are he has quite a few such patients, but it never hurts to ask.

I like to schedule some routine appointments at first so I can check out the veterinarian. But you can simply ask to visit and tour the facilities. If you don’t like one clinic, try another.

Making the first appointment a success

This first visit has more importance than the basic checkup; it should be a time for your puppy to discover that going to the veterinary clinic is fun. To make the most of this visit for you, the pup, and your veterinarian, keep the following suggestions in mind:

Remember

– Bring any health records the breeder provided and a stool sample (from the Pom, of course!) so the doctor can check for intestinal parasites.

– Use a travel bag or small crate to take your dog to the clinic.

– Keep her close to you in the waiting room and keep her from barking at other animals. They may have serious illnesses, and their owners will appreciate the courtesy.

Bring favorite treats so the veterinarian and staff can give them to your dog. It’s always best if the first exam doesn’t include needles or cavity searches. If an injection is necessary, ask the doctor to replace the syringe (after drawing the vaccine) with a tiny-gauge needle before sticking the dog. This way the injection hardly hurts at all!
This first appointment allows the veterinarian to diagnose any common puppyhood problems (like worms) and discuss your Pom’s vaccination schedule and heartworm prevention regime.
The veterinarian also

– Listens to your pup’s heart to make sure she doesn’t have a potentially serious problem

– Weighs your puppy

– Checks your Pom’s teeth and gums

– Probably examines ears and eyelids

– Perhaps checks the knees for early signs of patellar luxation

– May give vaccinations

Remember

Vaccinations are a medical procedure. The veterinarian must determine the schedule of shots according to your Pom’s body and how it works even though it may not seem like the most convenient schedule to the owner.

Before leaving the clinic, be sure to ask about heartworm and flea prevention (if the doctor hasn’t mentioned it) and schedule an appointment at the appropriate time for your Pom’s next vaccinations.

Tip

Consider just visiting the clinic’s waiting room sometimes so the pup has experiences there where nothing bad happens. Sure, she has to get shots sometimes, but drop in another time just to say “Hi.” The staff will appreciate your efforts to make their patient comfortable, as this casual visit makes working with her easier on the staff in the long run.

If you’re acquiring an adult Pom, schedule a checkup for her within a few days of welcoming her home. At this initial check, the veterinarian performs all the checks that a puppy gets at its first visit plus probably a heartworm check.

Acclimating the Pup to His New Life

Although meeting people and other animals is one of the most important missions you have for your puppy these first weeks, it’s not the only one. This is also the best time to introduce your puppy to new experiences. Do you plan for him to ride in a car?
Stay in a crate? Go to the groomer or veterinarian? Learn some tricks? What else? Make a list and try to expose him to each situation now.

Making a crate feel like home sweet home

Your Pom may have already spent some time in a crate. With luck, he has had good experiences. But more often his experiences have been limited to the trip from the breeders and perhaps his first night away from home, both kind of scary.

Remember

Take time now to acclimate him to the crate. The following are a few good reasons:

– The crate provides a secure place where you don’t worry about your Pom.

– Crates provide a safe means of car travel and a safe haven when staying with friends or at hotels.

– A crate-trained dog fares better if he has to be crated at the veterinary hospital or needs bed rest at home while recuperating.

– Crates help in housetraining. (I knew you’d like that one!)

Getting her to like the crate

As with all new routines, getting your Pom to look at the crate as something other than a holding bin will take some time and deliberate moves. The following steps can help you achieve success:

1. Leave the door open and toss some treats just inside the door at first.

Gradually toss them farther and farther inside after she’s stepping in to get them.

2. Toss in a larger bone she may want to chew on. Tie the treat to the inside of the crate if she tries to take it outside.

Now she has to stay inside if she wants the goods! You also can use a toy filled with treats.

3. Untie the treat and close the door while she feasts, only for a few seconds at first. Open it as soon as she finishes.

4. Keep repeating this routine.

Within a day or so she should be running to the crate as soon as she sees you with treats. If you want, you can now introduce a cue like Bedtime! for her to go in the crate.

5. Gradually extend her time in the crate, always giving her chew toys or interactive toys to occupy her.

6. Try to let her out before she has a chance to get bored or vocal. If she begins to protest, wait until she’s momentarily quiet before letting her out.

7. Continue to extend the time she must be quiet before you release her.

How long will it take? For some dogs, about a day. For others, a millennium. Every dog is different, but the earlier you start, the better your chances of it going well.

Some words of caution

The crate is one of the safest spots your puppy can be, but you must do your part.

– Remove your Pom’s collar while he’s in his crate. Collars, especially choke collars or collars with tags, can get caught in crate wires and strangle the puppy.

– Discourage chewing on the wire by spraying it with anti-chew preparations and by making sure your pup has no issues with being crated (see the training steps in the previous section). If your puppy tends to chew on the wire, he can get his jaw or tooth caught.

Warning!

Overuse can create serious behavioral problems. Think of the crate as your child’s crib — a safe place to sleep but not a place for your pup to grow up or be punished.

Contrary to popular opinion, crates don’t seem to make young pups feel more secure. In fact, crated pups (especially those not already familiar with the crate) tend to cry even more than uncrated pups when separated. If he cries, try leaving your pup in an exercise pen or small, safe room when you first start teaching him to be home alone. You can leave a crate with an open door accessible to him. 

Encouraging independence and relieving anxiety

As important as socialization is for your Pom, her acceptance of being alone is equally vital for her well-being. Don’t put this step off just because it’s not as much fun as her other lessons.
When you understand your puppy’s anxiousness and your role in helping her feel secure, you’re more prepared for the job ahead of you. Like her other training, this process takes time, patience, and a plan.

It’s in the genes . . . and the screams

Dogs are very social animals. From an evolutionary viewpoint, a puppy alone is vulnerable, not likely to survive unless he does whatever he can do to get back to his family. A puppy that finds himself all alone gives out a distress vocalization (okay, a scream) which brings his mother running.
Without his mother (or his caregiver, now that he’s in your home), a puppy keeps crying until he’s too exhausted to continue. But exhaustion is not the same as being okay. He begins to associate being crated or left alone with being frightened, and this distress is likely to build on itself, creating a lifelong problem.
Your puppy is seeking security. Comfort him from the beginning to prevent him from becoming so stressed in the first place. Then, when you begin encouraging his independence, you need to know how long to leave him as well as how to leave him.

Leaving, but just for a while

Your pup needs to understand that when you leave her you always return. She builds this confidence by being left alone for very short times that gradually lengthen to longer times. Try these steps:

1. Start by occasionally leaving the room for just a minute before popping back in.

2. Move to a longer time period only when your pup seems content and calm at the current time period.

Remember

The object is to return before your pup gets restless or anxious.

3. Gradually build up to 10, 20, and 30 minutes away from your pup.

Warning!

The biggest barrier to success is leaving the pup alone too long. Nobody ever got over being scared of being deserted by being ignored. Be patient, and go slowly. You’ll make much more progress if you return while she’s still calm at 10 minutes than if you wait until she’s having a fit at 11 minutes.

How do I leave thee?

The fact that you leave and return isn’t a newsworthy event, so do it without ceremony — no long good-byes or joyous reunions!

Remember

Distressed puppies are too upset to eat or play. However, giving your pup something to occupy and comfort him while you’re gone is useful.

– Mirrors and soft cuddly toys seem most effective at calming separated puppies.

Try soft, warm, dog-shaped toys that even have a heartbeat, simulating the pup’s littermates.

– Interactive toys that challenge your puppy to dislodge sticky food treats are good distractions for bored, but not distressed, puppies.

– The buddy system (that is, having another dog or cat around) may help your Pom, but don’t rely on it. Your other pet may not always be there to babysit.

Getting used to riding in the car

Your puppy may have had a couple of car-riding experiences so far — to the veterinarian for shots (oh great!) and to her new home with you (oh no!). Chances are, neither ride was much fun. Combine those thrills with the fact that lots of puppies get carsick, and your Pom may think the car is one awful contraption.

Tip

Your job is to make your pup associate the car with good times. Try these suggestions:

Go for very short rides to fun places before nausea and diarrhea can even begin to churn. For some dogs this means opening the car door, setting the puppy inside, driving 20 feet, and getting out to play — or to let him puke. (Hint: If he pukes, you’ve gone too far.)

Check your driving habits. The more often the speed changes, the more nauseous your puppy gets. If you live in hilly country, try to maintain a constant speed up and down hills.

Bring the puppy to the front of the vehicle. Although a crate is usually safest, riding in a crate can increase motion sickness in some dogs. Looking out of a window can help alleviate some cases of motion sickness. Experiment with somebody holding your pup — and a lot of towels and plastic sheeting. (Sounds like a bad joke, doesn’t it!)

Give your Pom gingersnap cookies; they may help alleviate carsickness.

Ask your veterinarian about motion sickness pills for your dog as a last resort.

Enjoying Playtime

Play is one of the reasons we have dogs. Sure, it cements the humancanine bond and all that stuff. But the real reason is that it gives us an excuse to act like idiots. You don’t want to pass up that chance.
Play also provides a safe arena in which puppies can pick up new behaviors and develop self control.

Engaging the hesitant Pom

If your puppy’s hesitant about playing, start with cooperative instead of competitive games. Such games include

– Learning fun tricks

– Playing fetch

– Searching for hidden treats

– Playing alongside you with toys that squeak or are easy to manipulate

These games can gradually build to more competitive games; for example, cat toys dangled on a string may become a low-key tug game.

Outsmarting the push-and-shove Pom

Some Poms are pushy when they play. They not only prefer more competitive games but also try to control them! Conventional wisdom says that such games give your dog too much control, but you can play them and still call the shots.

For example, if a game of fetch ends up a game of keep-away or tug of war, use it to encourage cooperation. Take these simple steps:

1. Come up with a game-over word, like Give.

2. Teach your Pom (in an enclosed area) that Give! Means Trade! because you trade him a treat for whatever he has.

3. Walk away and ignore him if he refuses to give up the prize.

This game becomes a handy command for around the house — for those times he’s playing keep-away with your $20 bill or new package of razor blades.

Drawing the line with your nipping Pom

Although many new dog owners worry that their little puppy is a budding Cujo, most puppies grow out of nipping on their own. You want to make sure, though, that play stays fun and that she stops nipping when you request. Those barracuda teeth can hurt!

Play it cool

Puppies react roughly with one another, escalating their fighting until the going gets so rough that one of them cries “Uncle!” and leaves. Most pups quickly figure out that if they bite another dog too hard, it’s game-over.
You can reinforce clean fun with your pup with the same tactics.

1. When your pup chomps down on you, yelp sharply and withdraw from him, standing still and ignoring him for 20 seconds or so.

2. If he stops nipping and instead behaves, quit your statue act and give him a treat.

Because your yelp may encourage him to play even harder, you may have to experiment with several versions before your dog realizes you’re serious. (The neighbors are going to love this!)

Focus on the positive

Nipping is fun! So give her something to do that’s equally fun. Reward her for not nipping by giving her a toy to carry, a ball to chase, a chewie to chew, or a tuggy to tug. If she knows a trick, reward her for doing it.

You also have to do your part to minimize the nipping in the first place:

– Avoid wriggling your fingers in front of the puppy’s face and then yanking them out of reach as she lunges for them.

– Keep from shuffling your slippered feet around on the rug while your puppy pounces on them. Well, okay, that is kind of fun, but it can lead to her biting your ankles.

– Convince the rest of your family and any visitors to discourage puppy nipping.

Warning!

Rarely, the biting is not in play, so it’s important for you, as the owner, to spot the signs of true, aggressive biting. Snarling, with ears back, is a sign of possible trouble — especially when combined with protecting food or assets, being picked up, or being told to move.

If you’re still concerned, see Chapter Dealing with Doggy Delinquents, where I discuss aggression.

Remember

Growling is a natural part of a pup’s playful nipping. Did you know that what seems like a growl may actually be a laugh? Dog laughter is a rough sound made only when exhaling, and it’s typical of dogs playing competitively such as in tugging games. Unfortunately many people misinterpret the sound as a growl and even punish their dogs — just for laughing.

Laying Down the House Rules

One of the best parts of adding a Pom to your family is spoiling him rotten. After all, you’re not going to undermine his chances at becoming a business tycoon or college graduate. And he’s hardly equipped physically to be a canine serial killer. Who cares whether he’s spoiled, right?
Not quite. You don’t want your friends to start avoiding you because of that obnoxious brat that’s always biting at their heels, and you don’t want your own life and household taken over by a furry Napoleon.

Explaining the laws of the loveseat

Most Pom owners welcome their pups on the furniture, but even little Poms have muddy paws, chew holes in the cushions, and leave fur on the furniture. If you don’t want her on the furniture, you can

– Get furniture that’s too high for her to jump up on.

– Teach her early on that her place is elsewhere.

Remember

You can always let her up when she’s older, but you can’t easily ban her after she’s enjoyed the lap of luxury.

Getting up on the furniture is no cause for getting down on your pup. Simply follow these guidelines:

Lift her down to a place of her own. (It has to be a really good place to compete with that sofa and its view, though.) A deluxe dog bed in an equally entertaining spot that has a good vantage point should get her attention.

Train her to go to that place on cue by rewarding her when she goes there on her own. As she starts to eagerly run to her bed, give her the cue Place! and reward her after she’s there.

Warning!

If your Pom sneaks onto forbidden furniture, it’s not the end of the world. In other words, forget the booby traps, shock pads, or rough handling.

A far less traumatic dissuader is newspaper, aluminum foil, or another uncomfortable surface on the furniture. Most dogs quickly decide their own bed is preferable! (Then again you can just give in — after all, a Pom was meant to share your sofa!)

Keeping his chompers on chewies, not chairs (or shoes!)

Like babies, puppies chew when they’re teething. But unlike babies, they keep it up when they’re well past teething. And just when you think you’re safe, they seem to go through a super chewing stage near the age of 1 year. They chew papers, cushions, chair legs, rugs, shoes — pretty much anything of value. What to do?

The best-laid plans . . .

You can meet with some success if you combine the following moves:

– Keep your important, valuable items out of sight as much as you can.

– Watch your pup as much as you can.

– Slather horrible-tasting products like cayenne pepper or commercially available bitter tastes on those tempting items that you can’t move out of his reach.

– Wrap aluminum foil around your chair legs. Your puppy won’t find it very enticing to bite . . . but your guests will ask who your decorator is.

– Try to guide him toward chewing more acceptable objects. (See the next section for ideas on this.)

Choose his chews carefully

The kinds of objects your puppy chews on at an early age tend to be his favorites the rest of his life. When you find your pup chewing on your belongings, simply take the object from him and replace it with a more acceptable object. Here are some suggestions:

– Make sure the new object doesn’t resemble items you don’t want him to chew — old shoes, socks, stuffed animals (if you have children who collect them), carpet remnants, and so on.

– Try rotating his toys so he only gets a few at a time. Every few days put one set away and replace them with some other toys. This way he has the excitement of new toys every few days.

– Engage him with interactive toys like the ones he has to work at to extract food. Fill these with bones, soft cheese, canned dog food, or peanut butter, and then freeze them to make them last even longer.

Warning!

Punishing him does little good, and you can make matters worse if you punish him right when he proudly brings you the trashed treasure. Congratulations! You’ve just trained him to take your treasures to a secret location so you never get them back!

by D.Caroline Coile,Ph.D.

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