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Puppies 7-9 Weeks
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Getting Started – Seven to Nine Weeks
There is probably no more exciting time in a dog owner’s life than preparing for the arrival of a new puppy. After careful consideration of what breed, what sex, which breeder, which veterinarian, what kind of food, whether to use a crate or not, you finally come to one of the most important decisions of all -- How are you going to train him?

Perhaps a bit of common sense will help you with some of these decisions. Begin by imagining how you want your adult dog to behave. The most enjoyable dog to own:
  1. Comes when he is called.
  2. Stays where he is put.
  3. Walks well on a leash.
  4. Only jumps up on people or furniture when invited.
  5. Plays with his toys, and leaves your stuff alone.
  6. Can be confined away from the family when necessary.
Think about it. If all the above statements described your dog, would you be happy? Start your training with these goals in mind as soon as you bring your puppy home.

Seven to Nine Weeks is an Infant

It is common to bring a puppy home between seven and nine weeks of age. This age is irresistible but you need to remember what an infant that little puppy is.

Feeding
There are so many dog foods; the choices are overwhelming. Ask your breeder what your puppy has been eating or discuss food types with your veterinarian. If that is not an option, buy a high quality dry food that is appropriate in its nutritional make-up and with a kibble size appropriate to the breed of your puppy. If you invest in a good quality food, it should not be necessary to give supplements to your puppy.

A seven to nine-week-old puppy will be happy to eat three times a day. It will be easier to housebreak him if he eats on a schedule, so offer him some food, and when he loses interest and wanders away, pick it up and save it for the next meal. You may want to feed him some of his meals in his crate (See Crate Training, p. 3).

It is important for you to learn what the correct weight is for your puppy. A puppy carries extra weight over his ribs, so if you cannot easily feel his ribs, your puppy is probably overweight. However, if you can see the outline of his ribs, and especially his hipbones, he is underweight. Keep in mind that as he grows, the amount of food you feed him will be changing every few weeks, so measure your food, and make it a habit to look at him and feel his ribs regularly so that you are ready to make changes as he grows.

Housebreaking

It is important for your puppy to explore his new surroundings and it is fun to watch him do so. Let him look around, but remember, he will have to go outside frequently so you must keep an eye on him.

A dog is a den animal, and instinctively want to avoid soiling where they live. Unfortunately, most of us live in homes that are so big that the dog does not equate our entire house with his den. Therefore, it is important to keep any dog, and especially a puppy that is not housebroken, in the same room with you. If you let him leave the room, he will equate this with leaving the den, and think it is acceptable to soil there. So, as you let him explore, keep him in the room you are in. If you are in the bedroom, shut the bedroom door. If you go to the kitchen, take him with you. If it is not possible to shut a door, put up a gate, or use a 10-15-foot-long line to constrain him in the room with you.

Puppy Training at 7 9 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 1: Puppies like to explore and require constant supervision. Let your new puppy look around when you first bring him home, but remember he will need to go outside frequently.
Your puppy is too young to let you know when he needs to go outside. Watch for any signal that he needs to go outside. The signals may be subtle like wandering a few feet from where he was playing, sniffing, and walking in circles. Don’t make the mistake of watching the clock to determine when your puppy needs to go outside. Activity causes him to need to go outside, not the time that has elapsed. Take your puppy outside every time he changes activities. If he wakes up, take him out; stops playing, out he goes; finishes a meal, out again. Take him out before the accident occurs.

If you have a place in the yard that you would like your puppy to go use, begin by carrying him to that location and setting him down. Don’t try to walk him there. At this age, there’s a good chance it’s too far for him to travel before he stops to relieve himself. He’ll be able to make the trip himself as he gets older.

If your puppy does have a housebreaking accident right in front of you, make an exclamation of disgust and take him outside (“No” or “Bad Dog” is sufficient). It is not necessary to drag him to the mess or to rub his nose in it.

There is absolutely nothing that you can do to correct your puppy when he soils in the house while you are not watching Why? Dogs do not remember nor feel responsible for actions that occur in the past. If you drag a dog to an old mess and make a fuss, he does not say to himself, “I soiled there 20 minutes ago, and that is why my owner is upset.” Instead, he records the situation in his mind, and makes sure the situation does not occur again. In this case, the dog records, “If my owner is present, and I am present, and a mess is present, I will get scolded.” The next time he will run when there is a mess on the floor and he hears you coming.

Our tendency is to give the dog human reasoning and emotions. Owners are often heard saying, “But I know my dog knew he was bad, he ran from me, and he looked guilty.” He is not running from you because he understands that he is responsible for the mess. He runs from you because he realizes that he will be scolded if he stays in the situation that includes him, you, and the mess!

Crate Training
Puppy Training at 7 9 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 2: Keep the crate door open for the first few meals and let him wander in and out.
Crates are the cribs and playpens of dog training. A crate helps to prevent your dog from chewing and soiling the house. Crates protect dogs from consuming things in the house that could be harmful to them. A crate also calms anxious dogs and teaches hyperactive dogs to sleep when left alone. In addition, the crate becomes a home away from home whenever you are traveling with your dog.

Crates are not meant to be used to confine a dog for his entire lifetime any more than a playpen is used for the life of a child. They are simply a safe place for your puppy or adolescent dog to stay until he is housebroken and old enough to trust when loose in your house or yard.

When used correctly, your dog will regard his crate as a “room of his own.” A crate is a clean, comfortable, safe place to leave your dog when he cannot be supervised. Most dogs will try not to soil in their crate, which is why they are invaluable for housebreaking.

There are many types of crates, some made of plastic, some of metal, as well as varied opinions about how to introduce your dog to his crate, where to put it, whether you should have bedding, food, or toys in it, etc. The question is, what makes you comfortable?

A small puppy does not need a large crate. Just as most of us loathe laying a new infant down and listening to it scream you probably won’t want to listen to your new puppy howl in his crate. There are few noises more pitiful than a moaning puppy that has been shut in his crate before he was ready for a nap.

Introduce your dog to the crate by placing the crate in a “people” area such as the kitchen or family room. What looks comfortable to you? If your puppy seems hot natured, and the metal crate pan is cool, you may not want to put anything in the crate. If you think an old towel or blanket makes it look more appealing, then put one in there for bedding. Put your puppy’s toys and a few treats in the open crate and allow him to come and go as he wishes. At mealtimes, feed your puppy in the crate. Young puppies are sometimes slow to eat, so the first few meals you may keep the crate door open and let him wander in and out (Photo 2). When your puppy’s appetite improves, feed him with the door closed, and let him out when he’s finished. (Clean up any spills promptly—it’s very important for the crate to stay clean!) Your puppy doesn’t need to stay in his crate long, but he will become comfortable eating his meal there.

The real trick is to put your puppy in his crate when he is tired and ready for a nap. The first few nights always produce a bit of anxiety. Prepare him for bed by taking your puppy out, and playing with him until he seems ready for bed, slip him in his crate, and turn out the lights. If you had planned to put the crate in a room other than your bedroom, he may cry, and you’ll have to decide if you can stand it. However, there is nothing wrong with putting his crate next to your bed, turning out the light, and dangling your fingers through the side or door of the crate to comfort him as the two of you drift off to sleep.

If your puppy wakes you up at any time in the night, you must get up and take him out. It’s important that he learns that you will help him keep his crate clean. There is no need to play with him or feed him, simply let him soil outside, and then return him to his crate.

When you put him back in the crate, he may fuss, and you are faced with a decision. If you take him to bed with you, he will quickly learn that waking you up gets him a reward, namely the rest of the night in your bed. You should probably try to ignore him, but again, if you are soft hearted and can’t stand the whining, having the crate next to your bed where you can comfort him may be the best decision for you.

I raised a Doberman puppy who was horrible about crying and whining in her crate. I slept with the crate near my bed, and she would whine continually. I tried the crate in another room, no luck. It didn’t seem to matter how tired she was when I put her in the crate, the whining began as soon as the door was shut. Finally, in desperation, I put the crate in the car in the garage and went to bed. I’m not sure how long she whined the first night, fortunately, I could not hear her, nor could the neighbors. By the third night, she had given up her tantrums and I could bring the crate back in the house. She was finally convinced that sometimes she would have to sleep quietly when confined.

Can you ever sleep with your puppy, or allow him to nap with you? Sure. However, balance that with having him sleep in his crate. Remember your overall goal is to teach him to be confined when necessary. As he gets older, you may not use the crate to confine him. You may just want to shut him in a bedroom or out in the yard while you entertain. This is the age to begin teaching him to be confined without complaining about it.

Puppy Training at 7 9 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 3: An inquisitive puppy gets into trouble when left alone!
Between seven and nine weeks, it is probably a good idea to let your puppy sleep in the crate all night, eat his meals in the crate, and stay in the crate whenever you must leave him. This may seem like a lot of “crate time,” but try to remember that this is only until your puppy gets a little older.

Furthermore, a puppy at this age takes a lot of naps, and that is what he will learn to do whenever he is in the crate. When your puppy is comfortable with his crate, how long can he stay in his crate before he will need to go outside? Ideally, when he wakes from his nap, and cries, you will be there to take him outside. However, the answer to this question may well be dictated by your lifestyle. No one wants to leave a puppy alone all day; however, you may not have an option if you are working full-time. If that is the case, you may do better to put your puppy in a large crate, with the front half holding bedding, and the back half covered in papers so that your puppy uses the back if he must relieve himself while you are gone. This is probably a safer option than leaving him loose in a small room in your house where he could chew a piece of furniture or electric cord.

Raising my first puppy after college, while working full time, proved quite stressful for me. Fortunately, it was fall and the weather was cool, so during the first few weeks, because I felt guilty about leaving her all day, I simply put her crate in my car, and used my morning and lunch break to go let her out in the parking lot and play with her for a few minutes. I felt better knowing that I could check on her a couple of times during the day.

Once a young puppy is sleeping through the night, he will likely stay clean during the same amount of time during the day. The self-control of puppies varies, but almost all puppies are sleeping through the night by the age of three months. The older puppy’s self-control is usually good enough that he can spend eight to nine hours in the crate. But keep in mind that long confinements are likely to present other mental and physical difficulties. Crate or no crate, any dog consistently denied the companionship he needs is going to be a lonely pet and may still find ways - destructive ways - to express anxiety, boredom, and stress.

Chewing

Puppy Training at 7 9 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 4: These two littermates are learning early how to play. They learn to chew on one another in play, without hurting one another.
A small puppy comes to your home having learned to play with his littermate by chewing on them (Photo 4). Your puppy is going to chew on you. It is inevitable and it does not mean that he is a bad or aggressive puppy. He is simply trying to play with you the same way he played with his littermates.

Unfortunately, his needle-sharp teeth hurt, so you will want to stop him from biting you as quickly as possible.

Puppy Training at 7 9 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 5: When your puppy bites you, make an exclamation of pain and give him a shake.
You are mimicking what his littermates did to him when he bit them too hard, you are biting him back, but you don’t need to use your mouth to do so. It doesn’t matter where you grab him. Young puppies have a lot of loose skin and you can grab him anywhere as you let him know that he hurt you. He should back away and look startled at your response. Your correction should be quick, and then it’s over and you can continue playing with him as you were before he bit you (Photo 5).

If you have a young child that you fear your puppy will hurt, encourage your child to play with the puppy with a toy so that the puppy has something to focus on besides the child’s clothes or hands.

It is also inevitable that your young puppy will want to chew on your shoes, table legs, and anything else that is at his eye level. When he does, simply remove the object, or move your puppy, and give him a toy of his own. You are wasting your time by scolding him at this age, he is simply too young to care or understand why you are displeased.

Introducing Your Puppy to Other Dogs

Puppy Training at 7 9 Weeks by Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Photo 6: Introduce the new puppy to your older dog by using a baby gate.
If you already have a dog, don’t be in a hurry to introduce your puppy to your older dog. This can happen gradually over the next few weeks or even months. A seven to nine-week-old puppy of any breed is so small that an older dog can hurt it, even in play.

Furthermore, if your older dog decides to discipline the puppy, there is a good chance the puppy can be seriously hurt. Let your older dog get to know the puppy by visiting with one another through a baby gate or crate. You have a whole lifetime to let them grow accustomed to one another. It doesn’t need to happen in the first few days (Photo 6).

Vaccinations and Vet Visits

Your puppy needs a series of “puppy shots” that start when he is six weeks old and end when he is four months old and able to have his first Rabies vaccine. Even if your puppy has already had his first vaccine, call your veterinarian as soon as you get him home and find out when he wants you to bring him in for his first visit. Then, be sure to follow his guidelines for his needed boosters.