Monday, 25 October 2021
728 x 90

‘Pawternity’ leave: How to make the most of the first week with your new puppy

Get the Better newsletter.

So you’re bringing home a bundle of joy — a four legged, barking, furry bundle that is — and your employer offers the fabulous perk of “pawternity leave” — wait, what? Yes, a few pet-friendly companies looking to take it to the next level are going beyond “bring your dog to work day.”

On a mission to to stand out in a competitive marketplace as they recruit top employees, companies like New York City-based mParticle are offering paid leave for employees bringing home a new pet. Yes, there’s still an awful lot of room for improvement in paid parental leave for actual children in this country — but before you discount this notion, consider that the most common reason people relinquish their dogs to shelters is for “pet problems,” including problematic behaviors. How many of these could stay with their new families if they got off on the right foot, err, paw?

That first week with a new dog is so important, in fact, that Louisville, Kentucky, based dog trainer Tyler Ohlmann of Rosie Dane Dog Training recommends that his clients take the week off to focus on training it. Ohlmann has trained some 2,000 dogs, including my own Cassius Thunderpaws — and we started the day after Cash came home.


While the first week at home is a great time to bond with your pet, there’s no more more critical time to set the groundwork for a companionship that will make you both happy for years to come. And that starts with helping the new pup learn good behavior. We had the good fortune to use his advice when Cash was just eight weeks old and nine pounds … and you can believe we appreciate his wisdom now that Cash is 90 pounds.

Whether you’re the lucky dog who gets pawternity leave, are working from home or taking a vacation, Ohlmann has tips for how to spend that first week at home with your new pup. And there’s a tie for the top two; the most important thing in those first couple weeks is house training and crate training and “neither go easily if you just throw the dog in the crate and leave for work for eight hours,” he said.

Start with house training

When dogs have housetraining issues, most likely “that’s the situation they found themselves in,” he said. The owner brings home this dog, then they “close the door and ‘bye!’ and they come home and there are accidents and it spirals out of control quickly.”

“A puppy can only hold their bladder for their age in months plus one in hours,” he explained. So for an eight week old puppy, “they’re going to have to go to bathroom every three hours and that doesn’t include after they eat, drink, play and wake up,” he said. “If you’re gone to work you’re missing all these opportunities to show them where to go to bathroom. … [but] if you do it right you can have the dog house trained in a week.”

How’s that? Take the dog out on a leash using the same door each time to the designated spot; don’t let them frolic or play; use your word, like ‘hurry up,’ or ‘do your business’ while they’re going; and tell them how great they are, he explained. If they don’t go within a couple minutes, bring them back in, put them in the crate where they won’t want to soil, and try again in 15 minutes.

Get a crate (even if you don’t want to)

Not everybody wants to use a crate, Ohlmann said. “People often to their detriment take the approach they want the dog to live a life of a freedom and that is a terrible idea, just as terrible as letting your baby crawl around the back yard.”

Here’s the thing. “The crate is their room. It serves as a babysitter,” he said. “You let a puppy run around willy-nilly and bad behaviors become bad habits,” he said.

We’ve all seen the social media posts of friends with new puppies (or grown dogs, for that matter) that eat slippers (or furniture!), turn mail into confetti and generally wreak havoc. “The puppy is destined to go chew on something,” Ohlmann said. If they’re in their crate (with an approved toy) that something won’t be your shoe.

Pawternity leave comes in handy here because introducing them to a crate is “always better as a gradual process,” he said. His recommendation? Start with 30 seconds in the crate, going back a little later for five minutes, then 15 and 30 “so it’s not baptism by fire.”

As we know from all those pictures of shoes-turned-chew-toys, an unsupervised dog is going to practice bad habits, Ohlmann said. Unfortunately it’s not always just funny Facebook photos. Nine times out of 10, he said, those bad behaviors are “why a dog ends up at a shelter.”

Let sleeping dogs lie? Nope.

That first week is prime time to help the dog learn what works to get your attention. Is it going to be barking and acting out, or is it going to be calm, chill behavior? Every time our big boy sits or lies down — as opposed to jumping and barking — when he wants something I mentally thank his trainer for teaching us this concept.

What we need to understand about animal behavior, Ohlmann said, is “dogs do what works. They only do something if it gets them what they want. Action leads to memory leads to the desire to either repeat the original action or refrain from it. That model plays out with puppies every waking moment. They look at something and think, ‘what happens if I bark, what happens if I paw, what happens if I jump, what happens if I wag, what happens if I stare at this thing?’”

If they get what they want, he said, “they’re going to repeat that in the future. Most bossy behavior is learned when puppies bark and people turn to say ‘what do you want?’ The puppy learns ‘if I want attention I bark,’ and you end up with annoying, obnoxious dogs.”

What’s more, when a dog is being quiet — and good — his people often tiptoe around so as to not disturb him, Ohlmann said. “What happens is you’re encouraging bad behavior and discouraging good because the dog wakes up and says, ‘that didn’t get me jack,’ so it starts barking and running around and getting underfoot.”

It boils down to this, he said. “You simply wait till the dog is displaying behavior you want then you give them what they want.” Lying down quietly? Pet and praise them. Barking annoyingly? (Unless it’s to go outside to do their business), ignore them, he said. “Wait them out. All dogs change strategies when the first one’s not working for them.” And remember. “Our attention is the number one resource for dogs. Most of us give it up way too freely.”

« »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Free Email Updates
Get the latest content first.
We respect your privacy.