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Last week we brought home an adorable 8-week-old puppy. It’s our first puppy since we lost our black Lab, Stetson a little over a year ago. This time we got a female Labrador puppy. Exciting times ahead! 🙂
This is not our first rodeo. In fact, we’ve raised dozens of puppies, mostly Labrador and Golden Retrievers.
However, this is the first time we’re going to write a detailed guide on what you should expect from an 8-week-old puppy.
QUICK RECOMMENDATION: Our absolute favorite puppy toy for new dog owners is the Calmeroos Puppy Toy with Heartbeat and Heat Packs. It acts like a puppy’s littermate and your pup will feel more comfortable in her new home.
What Should I Expect From My 8 Week Old Puppy?
It’s an exciting time! For many of you it’s your first week home with your new puppy. Most people will bring a puppy home at around 8 weeks old.
That is not always the case as unforeseen circumstances can happen, you may be rescuing a puppy, or a breeder may be sending your puppy home earlier or later than 8 weeks.
PRO TIP: I would encourage you to wait until your puppy is at least 8 weeks old if possible before bringing her home. This gives your puppy a chance to learn how to interact with other dogs by playing with her siblings. One very important point being bite inhibition or learning how to control the strength of her bite often called a “soft mouth”
I’m going to make an assumption that this is your first week home with your puppy. Here are a couple of posts you might find helpful if it’s your first week or you’re getting a puppy soon:
- New Puppy Checklist – our list of items we think are essential for new puppy owners.
- Puppy’s First Night Home – the story of our first night with guide dog puppy, Stetson. Hint it wasn’t easy.
Before Picking Up Your Puppy
I’m going to be somewhat brief in this section, but I wanted to give you a few quick pointers.
I know everyone’s experience is different depending on whether you’re getting your puppy from a breeder, rescue, shelter, or service dog organization, but here are some basics that apply to most situations.
- Puppy Proof Your Home – Get down on your hands and knees and take the vantage point of your puppy. Look around for everything that may be a hazard like loose wires, small objects your pup might swallow, medications, antifreeze, batteries, insect bait etc. Puppies get into everything it’s best to keep your area as clean and clear of hazards as possible.
- Bring A Friend or Family Member – it’s so much easier if you have someone to help you with the puppy on the car ride home. If you don’t have anyone to go with you make sure you bring a crate to confine your puppy during the car ride home. Remember, safety first!
- Bring A Camera And Use It! – Take lots of pictures and video! This is much easier with a friend or family member to help document your first moments with your new puppy.
- Bring A Plush Toy And Blanket – Rub the plush toy and blanket on the litter mates. This way your puppy will have a familiar scent when she gets to her new environment. For the past 5 years we’ve been using a Calmeroos Puppy Toy and put it in our pup’s crate during the first week home.
- Have All Your Puppy Supplies – Check out our New Puppy Checklist to see all the puppy supplies we think you need for your puppy.
Not to worry if you miss one or more of the above items. When I brought home Linus I didn’t get any pics of him or his siblings, I wasn’t able to get the scent of the littermates, and I didn’t have any supplies, but he still turned out to be a great dog.
When I brought home Stetson I was by myself. I only have two pictures of him the day I picked him up. Also, the drive home wasn’t too fun especially when he started howling, but I got through it and he was still a wonderful puppy.
Finally, my most recent puppy, Elsa, I had all the above items on my checklist and it still didn’t go smoothly because we are living in the world of COVID-19. I brought a camera, but we didn’t get any pics because the pick-up was short and sweet. Luckily we got a few pics when we visited the litter at 6 weeks old.
Not everything goes as planned. Enjoy the moment and try not to stress about every little detail.
Teaching Your Puppy To Ride In The Car
Since our days raising guide dog puppies, we’ve been teaching our puppies to ride on the passenger side floorboards.
When a guide dog rides in a car she normally rides between her handler’s legs on the passenger floorboards thus the reason why we train guides to ride in this position.
There are a couple of safety reasons for this as well:
- The floorboards are below the airbags so your puppy will be safe if the airbags are deployed. No matter where your puppy sits make sure to keep her away from the airbags. Just like a child airbags can be dangerous for dogs and puppies.
- When designing cars engineers try to protect the areas where passengers sit including the leg areas. Try to keep your puppy out of the back area of SUVs which are often crumple zones and not made to withstand a heavy impact.
Here’s how we train our puppies to ride in the car on the floorboards:
- Exercise your puppy and give her a chance to relieve before the car ride.
- Start with short car rides at first (unfortunately, the first ride home may be a long one)
- Place a towel or blanket on the floor and have a few chew toys handy. Some good ones we often use are Bully Sticks, Nylabones, and KONGs.
- If you’re driving by yourself use a tie down to keep your puppy from jumping up on your lap. Tie the leash under the passenger seat or close a portion in the glove box.
- Make sure to control the temperature especially in the summer heat. I use the floor vents to get good airflow to my puppy.
Here are some other options you can try with your puppy:
- Have your puppy ride in the backseat with a dog harness and seatbelt – Adelle rode in the backseat with a dog harness attached to a seatbelt as required by the service dog school.
PRO TIP: Make sure you get a high end dog harness that has been crash tested. Most harnesses are not safe if you’re in an accident. The Center for Pet Safety tested several dog harnesses and crates to find which ones were safest in a car accident.
- Have your puppy ride in a crate – I would not put the crate in the back area of a car/SUV unless the crate is reinforced for a car crash. Why? Typically the back area of a car is a crumple zone and is not very protected for your puppy in case you are rear ended. Instead consider putting the crate on the backseat which is a more protected area of the car.
- Ride on the backseat floorboards – this is an option we only use when we have multiple dogs in our car.
DO NOT LET YOUR PUPPY:
- Run back and forth from window to window front to back of your car. We want you to be safe and this can be very distracting and impair your driving.
- Hang her head out the window – We want your puppy to be safe and unfortunately, we’ve heard all too often of a puppy losing an eye while hanging her head out the window.
A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t let your child do it then it’s probably not good for your puppy.
PRO TIP: When training our service dog puppies I teach all 4 methods for riding in the car. When our service dogs start working it’s possible they may have to ride using any one of these methods. It’s best to prepare our puppies for anything.
Our first car ride with Elsa was uneventful (trust me, that’s a good thing). I put her blanket on the passenger floorboards. I grabbed a small plush toy and a bully stick and placed Elsa on the floor. She gnawed on the bully stick for 10 minutes then fell asleep between my legs for our 2 hour car ride home. Easy Peasy!
Our first car ride home with Stetson was not great. Even though it’s been 13 years I still remember like it was yesterday. I was by myself and had to crate him for the car ride. He cried for the first 10 minutes until he eventually fell asleep. About 90 minutes into our 2-hour drive home he started to cry again. I was almost certain he had to pee but had nowhere to pull over. When we got home I did notice a little pee spot on his blanket in the crate. It was not a great start to his car rides and crate training.
Our first car ride home with Derby was not fun. This time I was in the passenger seat with Derby at my feet. Like Stetson, he cried for 10 minutes and settled, but not after he threw up on his blanket and my shoes. Luckily I was prepared and had a roll of paper towels to clean up.
One final note on car rides. If your puppy is really struggling to ride in your designated spot for her first car ride you can try giving her a more comfortable spot on your lap. However, after the first ride, I recommend working on training and getting your puppy to settle on the floorboards, crate, or with a dog harness attached to the seatbelt.
Puppy Collar, Tags, And Leash
Puppy collar, tags, and leash are essential for every puppy. It seems simple enough…purchase and put on your puppy. The problem is many puppies have never seen nor worn these items and hate “getting dressed”.
Here are a few tips to help you with your puppy collar, tags, and leash:
A few tips for getting started with your puppy collar:
- Leave the collar on your puppy so she can get used to it. Depending on where your puppy came from this may be the first time she’s wearing a collar. You may notice your puppy scratching the collar and trying to get it off. Please do not remove the collar, your puppy will get used to it over time.
- Always remove your puppy’s collar when putting her in the crate. The collar or tags can easily get caught in the crate and choke your puppy.
- Make sure you get the correct size collar. We were in a rush to get Linus his first collar and couldn’t measure him. So, we eyeballed it and we were way off! Ask your breeder to measure your puppy’s neck or if you have your puppy make sure to measure before buying.
- Don’t get anything too expensive. Your puppy will most likely outgrow her first collar very quickly. We’ve had Elsa for two weeks and she’s already outgrown her first collar.
WE LIKE: a flat nylon snap collar for your puppy’s first collar like the Blueberry Collar. They’re easy to take on and off and can be thrown in the wash if they get a bit smelly.
We have two tags on all of our puppies (our service dog puppies have a third tag that includes the school’s information and the puppy’s name and ID number).
One has their microchip information and the other has personal information in case our puppy gets lost. Here are a few tips on pet tags:
- I recommend getting a pet tag before you get your puppy. Attach the tag to your puppy’s collar and immediately put the collar on your puppy. Why? You never know when you might lose your puppy. This will help your puppy find her way home if she gets lost.
- We include our phone number and pup’s name on our tags. Service dog schools recommend the following information on pet tags:
- Pet’s Name
- Owner’s Name
- Owner’s Address
- Owner’s Phone Number
- Please, microchip your puppy. We’ll talk more about this in another section of this post.
WE LIKE: We usually purchase our tags from our local pet store. However, you can save a little bit of money by ordering GoTags. We actually purchase Stetson’s CGC tag online many moons ago.
Best Puppy Leash
When I first started raising guide dog puppies I never thought too much about dog leashes. I assumed the best leash for my dog would also be the best leash for my puppy. I was mistaken.
When training my dog I love a good leather multifunction service dog leash. The problem with the leash I use for my dog is it’s too heavy for my little puppy.
WE LIKE: a 4 foot long, ¾ wide, nylon leash with a snap bolt clip for your puppy like this PetSafe Nylon Leash.
Our Labs, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds outgrow this leash at around 4-5 months old. If you have a smaller dog this leash may be adequate for much longer.
Just like the collar, there’s a good chance this is the first time your puppy has worn a leash. It’s very unnatural for a puppy to wear a leash and she may buck, fight, yelp, kick and bite at the leash.
Some puppies will decide to not move at all with the leash on.
Here are a few tips for getting your puppy started with her leash:
- Start small. Make the training sessions short, not more than 5 minutes
- Get your puppy used to the leash with little walks around the house or your backyard
- We always relieve our puppies on leash.
- If you need to encourage your puppy to move forward you might try using a treat to lure her in the direction you’d like her to move.
- If your puppy bolts off in a direction you don’t want then stop moving, bend down, tap your leg, and call for her with a high pitched cheerful voice. Once you get your puppy back offer a treat and give lots of praise.
- If your puppy loses concentration then she is likely tired and you’ve gone a little too long in your training. Try ending your sessions a little earlier so you can finish on a high note.
Elsa and her collar, tags, and leash. We’re lucky and haven’t had any real issues with Elsa. She pulls on her leash like a normal puppy, doesn’t mind the collar, and from time to time will chew on her tags when she’s on tie-down. All totally normal stuff.
Then there was Derby, my second guide dog puppy. Back in the day, our guide dog school would not introduce puppies to collars, leashes, and tags until they went home with their puppy raisers. Derby’s biggest issue was he wanted to chew, chew, and chew his pet tags and leash. He kept at it so often that you could no longer read the engraving and actually gnawed through one of his nylon leashes.
PRO TIP #1: If your puppy chews on her pet tags then first make sure she has a properly fitting collar and second tape the tags to the collar. Without the dangling tags, she won’t be able to chew them anymore.
PRO TIP #2: If your puppy is chewing on her leash try spraying the leash with Bitter Training Spray. Some puppies hate the taste and will avoid chewing the leash after a few tastes.
For more information check out our step-by-step blog post on teaching your puppy loose leash walking (coming soon).
Puppy Potty Training Basics
This is more of a getting started guide to tell you how we potty train our puppies during the first week home.
Potty training your puppy is easy. All you have to do is follow one simple rule:
Never let your puppy relieve herself in the wrong place, and praise her when she goes potty in the correct place.
That’s it! Easy peasy! Right?
When Should You Take Your Puppy Out To Potty?
- First thing in the morning.
- After each meal.
- After a nap.
- Every 10-15 minutes during playtime (play makes pee).
- Right before bedtime.
Here are a few more quick tips to help you on your puppy potty training journey:
- Start potty training as soon as you bring your puppy home.
- Keep an eye on your puppy at all times and watch for indications that she may have to potty such as circling, sniffing, and squatting.
- A puppy is easily distracted so when you take her to her potty spot make sure she fully empties her bladder. Give her a solid 10 minutes outside to “get it all out”. She may potty more than once when you take her out.
- Designate an area in the backyard as the potty spot. Take your puppy out the same door to the same spot every time to pee/poop.
- Have your puppy on leash, place her on the ground, and walk her around the designated area and softly say “get busy” (or whatever words you want to use for your puppy). After your puppy goes potty, quietly praise her.
- If your puppy does have an accident in the house then make sure you thoroughly clean it up with an enzymatic cleaner like Rocco & Roxie.
Constant supervision is the best way to get your puppy potty trained fast. During the potty training phase, we keep our puppy tethered to us 100% of the time when indoors and if we can’t watch our puppy we use our crate.
We used constant supervision with Elsa during her first week home and she only had 2 accidents. Both accidents were my fault.
- She had been playing for 15 minutes and I thought to myself it’s probably a good time to take her out for a potty break. As I was thinking that she started to pee on the dog bed.
- I was sitting on the human potty when I saw her start to sniff and circle. If only I wasn’t in such a compromising position I could have gotten her outside. Unfortunately, about 10 seconds later she pee’d on the bathroom mat.
Besides those two mishaps, potty training with Elsa has gone great!
For more information check out our more extensive post on how to potty train a puppy.
My Puppy Won’t Pee On Dirt
Service dog handlers need their dogs to potty on all different surfaces. In fact, it’s a good idea to teach your puppy (even if she’s not a service dog in training) to pee and poop on the grass, dirt, gravel, concrete, etc. Why?
Let me tell you a quick story about Linus. Linus grew up only going potty on the grass. We didn’t think anything of it until we went camping in the Sequoias. Our campsite had zero grass, only dirt. Twenty-four hours passed and Linus hadn’t pee’d or pooped.
He thought he was only allowed to potty on the grass. Needless to say, we were very worried about Linus’s bladder and thought about driving down the mountain to where we last remembered seeing grass (about an hour drive).
Lucky for us about 30 hours into our trip he finally took the longest pee I’d ever seen. Think Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own.
Since then we’ve always worked to have our puppies pee on all surfaces. So, how do we do this?
- I choose a time when I know my puppy has to pee, like immediately after waking up in the morning.
- Then take her, on leash to a new surface like gravel instead of grass.
- Then I wait at that spot until she pees.
This works well for a young puppy. Basically, at an early age when a puppy has to go she will generally just go anywhere.
However, if you wait a little longer when your dog can hold her bladder real well you may end up in a situation as I did with Linus.
So, how’s Elsa doing with her multi-surface potty training? We mainly have her go potty at her regular potty spot which is gravel (as I mentioned earlier when potty training it’s important to go to the same spot as much as possible), but we’ve also started practicing on grass, dirt, and concrete.
Puppy Crate Training Basics
Like our Potty Training Basics section, this section is a how-to get started guide for crate training.
Remember every puppy is different. Some puppies require a slow introduction to the crate while other puppies see the crate and its love at first sight.
I recommend you start slow and see how it goes.
Here are a few quick tips I’d recommend when crate training:
- If you meet your puppy’s litter or mama then grab a plush dog toy like the Calmeroos Puppy Toy and rub it all over to get the scent of litter mates and mama. Then put the Calmeroos Puppy in the crate with your puppy. This will help her better adust to her new environment.
- Don’t ever take your puppy out of the crate when she is crying.
- Make sure you get the proper size dog crate otherwise your puppy may pee on one side and sleep on the other.
- Relieve your puppy before crating your puppy.
- Plan meal times so your puppy isn’t put in her crate right after a meal.
LESSON LEARNED: I’ve been raising puppies for a long time and I made this mistake. Elsa went in the crate right after a meal because we had to go out for an hour. We made sure and relieved Elsa before we left. Unfortunately, she still had a poop blow out in the crate. 🙁
- Keep your puppy up and active right before going into her crate.
- Don’t crate your 8 week old puppy for more than 2 hours during the day. As she gets older you can increase the amount of time she spends in the crate.
- Associate as many positive experiences with your puppy and the crate as possible.
- Feed your puppy her meals in the crate.
- Give your puppy a stuffed KONG when in the crate.
- Give your puppy treats when in the crate
- Never use the crate as punishment.
Those are some tips off the top of my head.
How did Elsa do in the crate?
Finding a good breeder is very important not just to find a healthy puppy with a good temperament, but your breeder also spends the first 8 weeks with your puppy. Our breeder is also a certified trainer and she starts crate training her litters at 5-6 weeks old.
By the time we got Elsa, she was doing very well in her crate. We worked on positive interactions with Elsa and the crate as much as possible the day we brought her home.
At night we crated her around 9 pm and she woke up 5 times throughout the night for potty breaks. More than average, but she didn’t fuss when we put her back in the crate after going potty.
By her fourth night she slept 8+ hours without interruption and has been sleeping through the night ever since.
For more information check out our step-by-step guide on how to crate train your puppy (coming soon).
Feeding Your Puppy
Depending on where your puppy comes from I highly recommend you feed your puppy the same food she is currently eating for at least 2 weeks. After that, you can slowly transition your puppy to another food of your choice.
Why feed your puppy the same food for 2 weeks?
I like to at least rule out changing foods as the cause of a puppy’s upset stomach during her first weeks home. All of these points and more can cause an upset stomach:
- Your puppy’s first weeks home are very stressful and can cause an upset stomach.
- Puppies can be like litter vacuum cleaners and eat toys, rocks, leaves, grass, etc. which can cause an upset stomach.
- Your puppy can get sick with a stomach virus which, you guessed it, can cause an upset stomach.
- Changing foods can cause an upset stomach.
What I’m really talking about here is diarrhea which is no fun especially when you’re trying to potty train your puppy.
PRO TIP: Something you should add to your essential puppy supplies list: Pumpkin Supplement. Diarrhea is the worst! We use pumpkin supplement to help when our puppies have an upset belly.
How much should I feed my 8 week old Labrador Retriever puppy?
Here’s what and how much we are feeding our 8 week old Lab puppy, Elsa:
- Name: Elsa
- Sex: Female
- Breed: Labrador Retriever
- Weight: 8 lbs 9 oz
- Age: 8 weeks old
- Dog Food: FROMM Heartland Gold Puppy
- Amount: ¾ Cup, 3 times a day
Every puppy is different and the amount and type of food you feed is up to you and what you think is best for your puppy.
As your puppy grows you’ll want to increase the amount of food you feed. Take a look at this post for more information: Feeding Your Labrador Puppy.
Teach Your Puppy To Sit For Food
We teach our puppies to sit and wait for their food until we give the release word “Ok”. Here are our step-by-step instructions:
- Find a quiet place without any distractions to work on meal time.
- During meal time add a few pieces of kibble to the bowl, and wait for your puppy to sit. If your puppy already knows “sit” then ask her to “sit”.
- Hold your bowl around waist height then slowly start to lower the bowl to the floor.
- If your puppy comes out of her sit position then immediately bring the bowl back up to your waist. I say “ep, ep” then when I bring the bowl back up.
- Do not use the word “stay” if she doesn’t know the word.
- Begin the process again. If your puppy continues to sit, praise calmly by saying,“Good puppy.”
- Continue to raise the bowl back to your waist if your pup’s bottom comes off the floor.
- When you almost have the bowl to the ground, and your puppy is sitting, quickly say “OK!” and place the bowl on the floor, and allow her to eat the kibble.
- Use small portions so you can practice this several times when feeding your puppy. Your puppy will learn very quickly she needs to sit and wait before getting her food.
- As your puppy gets better at sitting and waiting for her food, you can start working on duration (wait a little bit longer), distance (move the bowl further away), and distraction (in our house we have noisy kids).
Elsa picked up on sitting and waiting for her food very quickly following the steps listed above. As far as 8-week old puppies go she’s been fairly calm.
I’ve had some more excitable puppies over the years that love food and I’ve from time to time had difficulty getting them to sit still during this exercise. It takes patience, persistence, and consistency.
As my daughter quotes Daniel Tiger: “Keep trying, you’ll get better!”
PRO TIP: Stand on the leash (or use a tie-down). One thing that has worked for me is to shorten up the leash and stand on it. When your puppy finally stops bouncing around you can start lowering the bowl to the floor. Wait for a moment of calm from your puppy before releasing her with an “ok”. Believe me, even the uber hyper puppies learn this exercise fairly quickly.
DO NOT RESTRICT YOUR PUPPY’S WATER: It was once thought that restricting water could aid in potty training. However, restricting water can lead to your puppy over drinking. This can lead to constant urination and dribbling. If puppies have access to water all the time then this habit does not usually develop.
How To Cradle Your Puppy
We start teaching our puppies to be cradled on day 1. This is something we learned to do raising guide dog puppies.
What do we mean by cradling? This is when we put our puppy between our legs on her back and gently massage her.
- Start by sitting on the floor with your legs flat and in front of you.
- Have your puppy lie flat on his stomach first between your legs then gently roll her onto her back.
Some puppies enjoy cradling right away others do not. If your puppy is struggling you can try first getting her to relax between your legs on her stomach. When she is comfortable in that position try rolling her onto her back.
Once you have your puppy calm and in the cradle position, examine her ears, mouth, teeth, nose, eyes, stomach, paws, and tail. Look for lumps, bumps, or any health concerns.
This is a great time to get your puppy used to being touched and handled and helps for when your puppy has a vet check on her wellness visits.
One other benefit we’ve loved about cradling your puppy. Once your puppy gets used to this position and can easily relax we like to cradle our puppy to calm her down.
If you’ve had your puppy any amount of time then you know about the zoomies or basically crazy, insane puppy behavior. Zoomies often happens when our puppies are tired.
We cradle our pups for a couple of minutes, it relaxes them and they will often take a nap on their own after we’re done cradling.
We started cradling Elsa from day 1. As far as puppies go she’s been a little more squirmy than others. The good news, was by the end of the week she was pretty good about settling down during our cradle time.
Basic Obedience For 8 Week Old Puppies
There’s so much to teach our puppies during the first week that we don’t worry too much about basic obedience.
We do try to get them started with a couple of simple skills including “Sit” and Name.
Teaching Your Puppy To Sit
This is one of the most basic skills most people teach their puppies. You can start this when you first get home.
Here are some tips on how to teach your puppy to sit with a lure:
- Grab a treat and put it up to your puppy’s nose.
- Slowly start moving the treat slowly back towards your puppy’s tail, but don’t pull your hand upward. This will make your puppy want to jump rather than sit.
- As you move the treat back your puppy’s head moves up and his butt will eventually hit the floor.
- As soon as your puppy’s butt hits the floor say “Yes!” and reward him with the treat.
- After you’ve done several repetitions introduce the word “Sit” just before you start luring your puppy.
- Your puppy has a short attention span. Keep the training sessions short. 10 repetitions is usually plenty for an 8 week old puppy.
That’s how we taught all of our guide dog puppies to sit. More recently we’ve been working on capturing rather than luring this behavior which is an entirely different process.
We’ll put together another blog post that covers the process of teaching your puppy luring, capturing, and shaping (coming soon).
Teaching Your Puppy Her Name
The first thing you need to do when teaching your puppy her name is choose a name for your puppy.
We blew it! In my best Adam Sandler voice. We didn’t have a name chosen on the first day home. Yes, yes, I need to be more decisive, but now that we’re a family of 5, naming a puppy is done by committee. Long gone are the days of me casting the one and only vote when naming my puppies.
By the way, we have a 3-year-old daughter and 1 ½-year-old twin girls thus the name Elsa or more formally Queen Elsa of Arrendelle.
Back to our task at hand. How do you teach your puppy her name?
Here’s what we do to get started with teaching puppy, name:
When we say our puppy’s name we want her to look at us.
- Wait until your puppy looks away then say your puppy’s name in a high pitched voice: “Elsa!”
- As soon as she makes eye contact we say “Yes” and reward our puppy with a treat.
- Puppy’s have a short attention span. Keep the training sessions short to 10 repetitions.
Here are a few extra tips to help you out:
- Always use a bright, cheery voice when saying your puppy’s name: “Elsa, Here!”
- Don’t ever use a negative tone or when you’re upset with her.
- When you feed your puppy, call her name to her feeding place. If you have a Lab like we do then it’ll be easy to get your puppy to come when called during feeding time.
- When you praise your puppy say “Good Girl, Elsa!”
- Don’t repeat your puppy’s name when calling her. Try saying her name then waiting 10 seconds before saying it again. Otherwise your puppy might think “ElsaElsaElsaElsa!” is her name not just plain “Elsa”
DO: use your puppy’s name with positive experiences.
DO NOT: use her name in a negative tone or during a negative experience.
A great way to teach your puppy her name is to play the Name Game. For more information check out our post on teaching your puppy her name with the name game.
Where Can I Take My Puppy At 8 Weeks Old?
The first week home is a great time to let your puppy get adjusted to her new environment.
You have to remember your puppy has only been on this earth for 8 weeks and is now suddenly shifting from having all of her siblings and mother around every day to being in a new home without any of her familiar family members.
However, I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t do anything with your puppy. Here are some of the things you can do at home that are totally new to your puppy:
- Meet new people: You can invite people over to meet your new puppy after all who doesn’t want to cuddle a fluffy puppy.
- Introduce your puppy to your entire house: there are a lot of different places in your house: bathrooms, kitchen, bedrooms, garage, backyard, family room, living room, dining room. Get your puppy used to all these places.
- Surfaces: Let your puppy walk on different surfaces. Sand, dirt, grass, carpet, concrete, gravel, wood chips, etc. We learned the importance of this with Dublin. When he was about 1 year old he stepped on sand for the first time and started bouncing around like a kangaroo. While funny, it’s not great if you need your puppy to be well behaved like a guide dog.
It’s important to understand that your puppy is susceptible to catching different diseases and illnesses at this age because she is not yet fully vaccinated.
However, it’s equally as important to understand that your puppy requires socialization or she may become fearful as she gets older. It’s a balancing act for sure.
We follow the recommendations from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) when it comes to socializing our puppies.
From the AVSAB website:
The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli, and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over- stimulation manifested as excessive fear, with-drawal or avoidance behavior. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.AVSAB Puppy Socialization Position Statement
What does this mean for our puppies? Most vets say your puppy is safe to go out after their rabies vaccination at around 16-20 weeks old. However, this is after the primary socialization period for puppies.
We, therefore, choose safe outings for our puppies to try and minimize the risk of illness while also getting them exposure to new experiences.
What are some things you might do to socialize your 8-week old puppy away from your home?
- Car rides – it’s a good time to work on car rides.
- Friends and Family – it’s great for your puppy to meet all different kinds of people: children, adults young and old, different ethnicities, etc.
- Friends and Family with Pets – it’s important for your puppy to learn to interact with other dogs, cats, and other pets.
- Vet visit – it’s a good idea to get a wellness checkup and better if you take your puppy in when she doesn’t need shots so she’ll have a positive experience. You want to keep your puppy off the floor and on your lap at the vet’s office.
- Puppy Kindergarten – make sure the program you enroll in requires all puppies to be vaccinated and has a clean, disinfected facility.
All of the above is more than enough activities to help socialize your 8-week old puppy.
If you plan on taking your puppy out then I’d recommend doing it in the second half of the week after your puppy has gotten used to her new home first.
It’s Elsa’s World! We gave Elsa a few days to get used to her new home. Elsa is a confident puppy although she can be a bit wiggly and energetic. We have a lot of different surfaces in the backyard including dirt, grass, gravel, wood chips, and concrete. Elsa has no problem with any of these surfaces. She met about a dozen people and even visited my parent’s and in-laws’ home.
Puppy Wellness Checkup – Vet Check
You should schedule a puppy wellness checkup ASAP to make sure your puppy is in good health whether she came from a breeder, shelter, or rescue. If there’s anything wrong with your puppy it’s best to find out sooner rather than later.
We rescued Linus from the shelter and right away we knew he was sick. He was lethargic and my girlfriend at the time though he was dead because he wasn’t moving during the car ride home. We got him on the weekend and I got him to the vet by Monday morning for a wellness checkup. He had a laundry list of issues including fleas, mites, worms, anemia, and a stomach virus. Our vet gave us some meds and within a week Linus was feeling much better.
PRO TIP: Schedule your puppy wellness checkup before you get your puppy if you can. Right now we’re in the middle of a pandemic and vet offices are jam-packed. We tried to schedule a wellness checkup for Elsa the day we brought her home, but we had to wait nearly 2 weeks for an opening with our veterinarian.
Puppy Vaccination Schedule
Talk to whoever you got your puppy from whether it be a breeder, service dog school, rescue, or shelter to find out what vaccines have already been given to your puppy.
Then talk to your veterinarian about a vaccination schedule for your puppy.
One thing to keep in mind is many veterinarians are still on an old annual vaccination schedule. Annual vaccinations are often not necessary and overkill for a puppy which can be a detriment to your pup’s health.
We follow the AAHA guidelines and only vaccinate when necessary. You can ask your vet for an annual titer to test your puppy to see if she needs to be vaccinated.
Here’s the vaccination schedule that we are following for Elsa:
|8 Weeks Old||Distemper, Adenovirus II, Parvo, Parainfluenza|
|12 Weeks Old||Distemper, Adenovirus II, Parvo, Parainfluenza|
|16 Weeks Old||Distemper, Adenovirus II, Parvo, Parainfluenza|
|20 Weeks Old||Rabies|
|1 Year||Rabies (required by law), Titer for Distemper & Parvo, boost if deficient, but spread out one month from Rabies shot.|
|Every 3 Years Thereafter||Rabies (required by law), Titer for Distemper & Parvo, boost if deficient, but spread out one month from Rabies shot.|
Heartworm Medication For Your Puppy
We’ve raised 4 puppies for Guide Dogs of America and they require heartworm medication.
Our vet highly recommends heartworm medication for puppies as well. However, the recommendation from our vet is to have Elsa tested for heartworms at 6 months and then start her on Heartguard Plus.
Heartworm is a nasty disease and can be very painful for your dog and can lead to death.
Heartworm is more or less prevalent depending on where you live. It’s a good idea to talk to your vet and ask if you should start your puppy on heartworm medication.
Flea Medication For Your Puppy
Flea medication for your puppy may be essential or not required depending on where you live. One of our friends lives in the high desert and she has zero fleas.
I’ve had very few problems with fleas and only give flea medication during the peak flea seasons if necessary.
When I first brought home Linus over 15 years ago, I lived near the beach. For whatever reason living near the beach meant fleas and Linus was on his flea meds 12 months a year.
Talk to your vet about the best flea treatments for your puppy. In the past, we’ve used topical flea product: Frontline Plus
Should You Microchip Your Puppy?
Yes! I highly recommend microchipping your puppy. We’ve been raising Golden Retriever litters for the past 3 years and every one of the puppies gets microchipped before going home with their new owners.
Why microchip your puppy?
If your puppy gets lost and doesn’t have or loses her collar then there’s no way to identify her unless she has a microchip (another alternative I’ve heard about but never done with my puppies is a tattoo).
The microchip can be scanned by a veterinarian or shelter which would identify you as the owner and reunite you with your puppy.
When we were raising puppies for Guide Dogs of America we were lucky enough to have our own personal guide dog puppy kindergarten for puppy raisers.
Whether you’re raising a guide dog or a pet you should enroll in a puppy kindergarten.
Why Puppy Kindergarten?
- You will have a professional dog trainer to answer any puppy questions.
- It gets you off on the right foot with basic obedience and socialization.
- You’ll get a better idea for what is “normal” puppy behavior after interacting with other puppy owners.
Where Can I Find A Puppy Kindergarten?
Ask friends and family where they’ve taken their puppies. Do a search on the internet. Talk to your veterinarian about it.
We’re lucky to have a great facility about 10 minutes away from us called Wags and Wiggles.
PRO TIP: I would not recommend PetSmart for puppy kindergarten or obedience classes. While I’m sure there are great trainers at PetSmart I haven’t encountered one yet.
When Should I Take My Pup To Puppy Kindergarten?
If I bring my puppy home at 8 weeks of age I start puppy kindergarten at around 9-10 weeks old. I usually wait until at least one week after my puppy’s first vaccination.
I also like to give my puppy a good solid week of getting used to her new home environment before starting Puppy K.
Many vets recommend waiting until your puppy is fully vaccinated before getting her out to meet the world. I follow AVSAB’s recommendation for socializing my puppy:
“Enrolling in puppy classes prior to three months of age can be an excellent means of improving training, strengthening the human-animal bond, and socializing puppies in an environment where risk of illness can be minimized.”
Of course, there is risk-taking your puppy to school before being fully vaccinated. However, the greater risk is the behavioral problems your puppy may develop without proper socialization.
Elsa went to her first puppy kindergarten when she was almost 10 weeks old. Stetson started guide dog puppy kindergarten when he was 8 weeks old.
What Should Your Puppy Know At 8 Weeks Old?
I don’t expect you to get everything done in one week. A lot of this is an overview to prepare you for the coming weeks.
I’ve raised dozens of puppies and I still wasn’t able to complete everything on my list. It’s okay. Raising a puppy is a marathon, not a sprint.
As far as what should your puppy know at 8 weeks old? Here’s what we were able to accomplish with Elsa during her first week at home:
What Our 8 Week Old Puppy Knows
- Puppy Skill– Everything we talked about in the paragraphs above.
- What We Accomplished – Everything we did with Elsa during week 8
- Rating – From 1 to 10 my rating for Elsa and I did with puppy skills during week one. 1 being lowest 10 being highest.
|Puppy Skill||What We Accomplished||Rating|
|Before Picking Up Your Puppy||Yes. We were well prepared for this puppy. I can’t give myself a 10 because it’s so difficult to have a perfect puppy-proof house with a 3-year-old and 1 ½-year-old twins running around.||9|
|Puppy Riding In The Car||Yes. We took Elsa on 4 car rides this week and she did great. We did not get a chance to let her ride alone on the passenger floorboards…yet. Coming soon!||9|
|Puppy Collar, Tags, And Leash||Yes & No. From day 1 Elsa wore her leash and collar with no issue. However, we didn’t have a name picked until the day after pick up so we were late on getting tags on her…bad puppy raiser, Colby!||4|
|Potty Training Basics||Yes. Elsa did great with her potty training this week. Two accidents and of course both were my fault.||8|
|Crate Training Basics||Yes. We’re taking the slow/fast approach to crate training with Elsa. We’ve been doing a combination of clicker training and adding a lot of positive reinforcement. So, far so good. She slept through the entire night (8+ hours) in the crate on day 4.||7|
|Feeding Your Puppy||Yes. From day 1 we’ve been feeding Elsa in her crate and having her wait for her food. She’s a quick learner and is pretty good about waiting for her food bowl.||10|
|Cradle Your Puppy||Yes. We started cradling Elsa on day 1. She was hit or miss the first week. Sometimes she squirmed other times she settled right in.||6|
|Basic Obedience||Yes. We started working on teaching Elsa her name, but we didn’t start teaching sit yet.||4|
|Puppy Socialization||Yes. It was a good week for Elsa. She walked across many different surfaces, met new people, new animals (dogs and cats), and even visited my parent’s and in-laws’ homes.||8|
|Puppy Wellness Checkup||No. The vet was booked and we couldn’t get her vet checkup during week 8.||1|
|Puppy Kindergarten||No. We wanted to give Elsa a chance to get used to her new home before we enrolled her in a puppy kindergarten.||1|
This is a very extensive list covering just about everything you should expect and do with your 8-week old puppy.
That being said, did I do everything on my list? Nope!
It’s your first week home with your puppy. It’s important to let her adjust to her new environment. On the same token, you want her to start good habits, not bad ones.
If there were two things I’d recommend you must do when your puppy is 8 weeks old:
- Don’t let her get away with bad behavior just because she’s a cute adorable puppy. You have to nip bad behavior in the bud or she will be a terror when she’s bigger, stronger, and more destructive.
- The window for early socialization is short. Start thinking about socializing your puppy. If your pup is ready, introduce her to some of the suggestions mentioned in the above section on puppy socialization.
All that being said, my final suggestion to you…have fun with your puppy! Take lots of pictures and videos. Before you know it she’ll be a full-grown dog!
Did I miss anything?
What did you do with your puppy when he/she was 8 weeks old?
What do you wish you knew about puppies before bringing one home?
Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below
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