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How to bond with your puppy

By Bill Bates and Bill Fantozzi
Trainers for California Karelians

You have just come home with your eight-week-old puppy. The first 24 to 48 hours is the most important period for you and your puppy. It sets the stage for your future relationship.

Here is a thought to keep in the back of your mind. You’re four years old, your parents take you to a strange place, where you are abruptly left with a stranger. Your parents leave without a word. How do you feel?

For the first couple of nights, and up to a week, keep the puppy in a whelping box similar to the one used by your breeder. It would be great if the breeder gave you some old towels from the original whelping box to reduce the puppy's trauma from being separated from the mother and littermates. The exact location is not critical, but it should be in the house close enough to you so that you can hear the puppy. (You can move it to another location in the house once the puppy starts sleeping through the night.) If your puppy wines and cries at night, don’t shout at it, spank it, or rattle a newspaper at it. Take the time to console it with some one-on-one time. Try placing an old article of your clothing in with the puppy. The ticking of an alarm clock or a radio playing softly may be soothing. Whatever it takes, be patient, and think about the story of the four year old.

The first week, just spend time playing with your puppy. Get it to chase you while you call him/her by name as you move away. Clap your hands lightly, and continually call your puppy. Praise him/her for coming. Do it with as much enthusiasm in your voice as you can muster, as if it is the greatest accomplishment in the world.

Keep your play periods short. Never play a game to the point that the puppy becomes overly tired and quits. Ten to fifteen minutes would be the maximum time; however, each puppy is different, and you will be able to tell when he/she starts to get tired.

After the first week, introduce your puppy to a solid crate to sleep in at night. I don’t like the wire versions, as I have seen puppies and older dogs tear their toe nails (or get their teeth caught on the wire) trying to get out. Start by introducing your puppy to the crate during the day, and make it a game; throw things in to see if he/she will follow into the crate. Let them come right out, and praise them. If you have to put them in the first couple of times, be gentle and provide lots of praise. Gradually leave the puppy in for longer and longer periods with the door closed. Always provide praise. This should just be another game to the puppy. You will soon learn that they will accept the crate as a haven and will start going in during the day to rest. This also sets the stage for safe transport of your dog.

We at California KareliansI don’t recommend starting any dog obedience training with the puppy for at least four weeks. This can vary slightly, depending on how the puppy has responded to you and how much trust he/she is showing with you. Above all, enjoy these wonderful first moments with your puppy!

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San Diego, California