A guide to surviving puppyhood

A guide to surviving puppyhood

Master the trickier parts of puppyhood with this must-have advice!

Welcoming an adorable and cuddly new puppy into your home is a special event! There’s also much to be done, from housetraining to puppy-proofing his environment. Here’s a guide to help you and your new best friend survive the trickier parts of puppyhood.

Sleeping schedule

A new puppy’s first week is a huge adjustment for both of you. While the daytime hours pass with cuddles and play, sleeping alone at night is a new experience for your pup, and he will undoubtedly cry, piteously and loudly. He will be quieter in a crate by your bed, comforted by your close presence, but you will need to get up and take him outside to relieve himself once or twice in the night as he cannot hold it for too many hours. If you don’t want him in your bedroom, confine him in a pen or small room with newspapers or puppy pads on the floor. A crate is not suitable in this case; he will be reluctant to soil his bed unless forced to, then will have to sit or lie in it until morning.

Nighttime potty

If he sleeps by your bed, don’t make a fuss when taking him out to toilet in the night. Don’t talk much to him, don’t pet him, and don’t feed him treats. Quietly put him back when done. If he still persists in crying, ignore him or invest in ear plugs! You know he doesn’t need to relieve himself, and he must learn that this is sleep time, not playtime. Don’t listen to him getting louder and louder until you can’t stand it anymore and then go to him — you’ve now taught him that persistence works! Thankfully, he should learn in a few days that nighttime is sleep time and will settle down quietly.

Safety first

Check your home thoroughly so it’s as safe as possible for him. Puppies are even more inquisitive than small children and will get themselves into trouble twice as easily. Anything lying around is fair game, so clean up your clutter. Books, toys, shoes, clothes (especially socks and underwear), DVDs, CDs, and anything else made of plastic should be kept out of reach. Tell your children to clean up their rooms, or keep their doors shut!

Ensure all remotes and toys with batteries are well out of reach — batteries are extremely dangerous. Fluid from a chewed battery can burn the soft tissue inside the puppy’s mouth and esophagus, and a small button or disc battery swallowed whole can causes intestinal blockages.

Run electrical cords under carpets and furniture, or get them off the floor. Puppies love to chew, and gnawing on on electrical cords can result in severe burns or electrocution, or cause lamps or appliances to fall. Don’t forget cords on chargers and power cables – cover or hide them.  Window and blind cords can be hazardous if a puppy gets his head caught; loop them up out of his way.

Ensure your puppy has lots of safe toys around; when you catch him chewing a forbidden item, substitute it for a toy of his own. If you can’t supervise him, confine him to his crate with some toys, or to a pen or puppy-proofed room that you can easily clean up.

Toxic substances

Many houseplants are poisonous, causing mild irritation or digestive upsets, or even death, so put them out of reach. Many common garden plants are also toxic. Ask your vet or search online for a list of poisonous indoor and outdoor plants. Fence off flowerbeds that you don’t want dug up, and ensure perimeter fences are secure and gates kept closed. Train your family to always shut gates — better yet, install self-closing hinges on them.

Store household chemicals well out of a puppy’s reach. Pesticides, insecticides, bleach, detergent, cleaning fluids, even toothpaste can make a dog very sick. Sharp puppy teeth can defeat childproof or safety caps on bottles. If you store chemicals in a bottom cupboard, ensure that your pup can’t get in — many dogs quickly learn to pry open a cupboard door! There are toxic chemicals in your garage too, including antifreeze, which dogs love because of its sweet taste. Clean up any spills thoroughly.

Secure all drugs, medicinal and recreational, out of reach. Human medications are a very common source of poisoning, and pet medications can prove toxic if ingested in doses higher than prescribed.

Garbage hounds

Garbage is irresistible and a curious puppy can swallow items such as tissues, or a bone that can cause intestinal blockage. Even discarded dental floss can do serious internal damage. An empty chip bag can cause a puppy to suffocate if he gets his head caught. And many food items contain the sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Use closed garbage containers with well-fitting lids, and keep waste baskets out of reach.

Your purse, handbag, and gym bag contain all kinds of items that a puppy will find fascinating and that are definitely not good for him; don’t leave them on the floor or on a chair or low table.  If a purse or bag is within reach he will have his head in it in a flash.

Puppy teething

Puppies lose their baby teeth between three and six months, and grow their adult set. This can be a trying time for him — his mouth will be sore, and he will have an irresistible urge to chew and gnaw. Since he’ll want to chew on anything handy, take the opportunity now to teach him what is acceptable and what is not.

Offer a variety of toys – soft and hard, smooth and rough-textured, and of different shapes. When you catch him chewing on something forbidden, remove it and offer him one of his toys instead. He’s attracted to anything that smells of you, such as shoes, underwear, socks – even plastic items such as cell phones.

To relieve his gum soreness, offer him frozen pieces of carrot, banana, or strawberries. A rag or small towel tied in a knot and frozen can also help his discomfort. Be careful with ice cubes, since biting down on them can cause a pup’s fragile teeth to break.

When a puppy loses a tooth, you might find it lying around the house, but he’ll probably swallow most of them.

Teething puppies like to chew on and nip at people too, and this is a habit you’ll want to curb early. It is never okay for a puppy to bite and nip at people’s clothes or hands. If a puppy nips at your hand while you are playing with him, shout “Ouch!” and ignore him — no more playtime until he calms down. If the puppy persists in trying to bite and nip, walk away. If he continues this behaviour, put him in his crate with a toy. He must learn that biting and nipping at people will bring a swift end to his fun. Allowing it might cause it to escalate to the point where the puppy causes bruising or draws blood.


Stephanie Horan and her husband Terry got their first Puli in 1969 when they lived in England. They immigrated to Canada in 1974, bringing several Pulis with them. They have been breeding and showing ever since, competing in conformation in Canada and the US. Stephanie is an award-winning writer and lives in Nova Scotia.