So You Got a Puppy! - 8 to 12 weeks

So, You Got a Puppy! | 8-12 weeks


This is one in a series of blogs about what to expect with your new puppy. I hope this makes transition to life with your new four-legged family member a little easier.


·         Sleep peacefully through the night (see our crating blog for this topic)

·         Potty outside

·         Learn to love people

·         Safety and enjoyment with my pack, human and animal

·         Keep my teeth to myself


We have a blog, “Before Puppy Comes Home” that will be published soon. It will go over the details of preparing yourself, your family, and your home for that wonderful day when your puppy arrives. I suspect, if you’re reading this blog that your puppy has already arrived. So let’s go from there!


We have a blog dedicated to this very important issue in which we talk about crating in detail. Check it out here..


Timing and awareness are the two keys with housetraining. If your puppy never has an “accident” in the house (wouldn’t that be amazing??), then she’s learning the correct behavior from day one.  Here’s how to set her up for success:

  • Choose the potty location – for most people that’s going to be outside. If you’ll want your puppy to use the great outdoors, don’t start with newspapers or puppy pads in the house. It’s much harder to transition to pottying outside later on than to use the outdoors from day one.

  • Choose the surface - If you’ll want your puppy to be willing to potty on various surfaces, don’t forget to make that part of the process from the start. Every few days or so, switch it up – grass, gravel, mulch, dirt, pine straw, etc. If you have a specific potty location, use it from the start and voila, she’ll want to go there regularly for the rest of time. (That’s a double-edged sword. Believe me, I know, as I inadvertently trained one of my dogs to urinate on the front steps. In my defense, she came to us in February and right by the front steps was a convenient place to take her at 4 am in my PJs. Lesson learned!)

  • Create the set up – Curtail your puppy’s ability to explore when she’s supposed to be focused on pottying. You can put her on a leash if you like. You could also consider setting up an exercise pen (or ex-pen) outside (especially if your puppy isn’t yet comfortable on a leash). Make the ex-pen big enough for your puppy to move around – ~4 ft square for little breeds, ~5 ft for medium, and maybe a little bigger for large breeds.

Seeker Sniff on Leash SMALL.jpg
  • Timing – puppies need to urinate and/or defecate most commonly after waking up, after eating, and after playing. Start with those as set times to take her outside. In addition, you’ll want to take her out every hour or so (when she’s awake) initially. After the first week or two, it can be every 2-3 hours or so.

  • Awareness – in addition to the timing outlined above, watch for the key signs your puppy needs to go out. Most puppies will stop what they’re doing and start sniffing the ground – that instant is when you need to get her outside. When she’s little (<10-12 weeks), just gently pick her up and carry her to the potty area. When she’s a little older, call her in a “happy” voice, pat your leg and head for the door.


Puppies from 7-12 weeks of age are in the key window for socialization. Done properly, socialization can prevent a host of problems that often result in relinquishment of teenaged dogs to shelters. So let’s get this one going early!

 Socialization is all about positive reinforcement associated with seeing and experiencing things in the world. Interestingly, many of those things don’t have to touch or interact with the puppy. For example, sitting in your lap eating something delicious while watching a woman walk by who is wearing a big floppy hat gives the puppy a positive association about women with big floppy hats. Neither the woman nor the hat has to touch the puppy! I find one of the best places to take my puppy for socialization is outside the grocery store on a Sunday morning. Everyone is heading there and has a purpose. While some folks might stop to say hi, most won’t, and that’s absolutely fine!  

Péle at Whole Foods.jpg

What about other dogs? Well, you don’t want your puppy to be afraid of other dogs, but many dogs won’t spend their lives needing to interact with lots of dogs they don’t live with. So the same rules apply – seeing from a distance (and eating delicious treats) gives you a huge benefit. The Holy Grail for most folks will be that your dog can share the street with other dogs and not come unglued barking and pulling to go say “Hi”. If that’s your focus, work on seeing from a distance and getting cookies. Slowly build up too moving with you while other dogs are around and your puppy maintaining focus on you. That’s really all you need. The key is to always keep far enough away that your puppy can eat treats and focus on you. Decrease the distance over the course of weeks to months.

 Playing with other puppies is something I would aim for in the safety of a puppy class. Be very cautious about letting your puppy play with adult dogs you don’t know. Many people assume that since their adult dog is good with other dogs, he’ll be good with puppies. That isn’t always the case. Make sure both the adult dog and your puppy are on leash and be very vigilant. Accidents happen so quickly.


Your own dogs are a different matter entirely. Let’s face it; many of us have more than one dog. We have 5! (Yeah, my husband is a saint.) So the puppy needs to be integrated with the pack. Adult dogs come in three broad categories – love puppies, indifferent to puppies, and “Puppies are the devil, don’t even let them near me.” We have some of each.

 Management is critical. When your puppy first arrives home, don’t let your adult pack overwhelm her. In fact, the safest approach is to keep the adults behind a baby gate and allow them to sniff noses through the gate with you supervising. Start with the puppy in your arms.

 We set up “mat time” with our adults twice a day – morning and evening. Before the puppy arrives home we remind everyone of the game. Each dog is on his or her own mat or cot or bed and gets paid lavishly for staying there. (We use some of their breakfast and dinner.) When the puppy comes home, teach the go to mat trick early. (We go over this trick in our blog on skills and tricks coming soon.) You can have the puppy join in with the pack from the first week by having her on a leash and on her own mat right beside you. This is a nice way to have controlled integration with the pack but the puppy can’t visit the adults and the adults should be trained to stay on their mats ahead of time. If you don’t have this set up, consider a small crate or ex pen for the puppy so she’s with the pack, beside you, but no unplanned interaction is possible.

 Here’s a video of our pack quite a few years ago now.

When you start to allow interactions, start on leash (both adult and puppy) and one adult dog at a time. As time goes on you can gradually start allowing more interactions but always monitored. Most of the time should be spent focused on you anyway – that’s where the training you want will happen.

 As for cats, chickens, rabbits, and the like, follow the same plan as with the dogs – control the puppy’s interaction so she doesn’t practice naughty behavior. Ever. The goal is no chasing, no “playing”, no nipping. The best way to achieve that is to set up baby gates (or leash her) when the other animals are around. Pay handsomely for your puppy focusing you and not the cat running through the living room on the way to his dinner.


Kids love puppies and puppies love kids. Just like with the animal pack mates in the household, supervision is critical for success. Have a family meeting before the puppy comes home so that everyone is clear about the rules. Especially if you have younger kids, ensure you’re holding the puppy during initial introductions. There should always be an older responsible and experienced kid or an adult present for puppy activities. Kids can be a great help training and playing with puppies, so let’s set everyone up for success. Find a puppy class where your puppy and her young human pack mate can attend. Our early puppy class at Southpoint Animal Hospital (taught by Lynn Rives) is a great start!


Puppies often treat little kids as littermates; consequently, nipping, chasing, and rambunctious play can be a real problem if you’re not planning ahead. Ensure you start puppy playtime with kids and adults sitting or standing still and the puppy on a leash. Have toys on hand to redirect the puppy to playing with those instead of nipping at quick moving hands and feet.

 The key to preventing these challenges is to work on appropriate play from the start. Watch a litter of puppies and you’ll quickly see that chasing is a favored pastime. Ensure your little kids are staying still when playing with the puppy and you’ll be off to a good start. In the section on tricks and skills we’ll go over some games you can play that are kid friendly.


Here are some books and websites I recommend for puppy raising, cooperative husbandry, and training.


·         The Puppy Primer by Pat McConnell

·         The Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Sophia Yin

·         Cooperative Care by Deb Jones

·         Beyond the Back Yard: Train Your Dog to Listen Anytime, Anywhere! By Denise Fenzi

·         Growing Up FDSA, Surviving Your Dog Sports Puppy by numerous authors (This ebook is available free at )

·         Susan Garrett’s Crate Games for Self Control and Motivation by Susan Garrett


Websites and Blogs

  • – all things dog training. This website focuses llargely on dogs competing in dog sports but there’s also a lot for those interested in addressing building toy play, cooperative care, fitness/conditioning and preventing reactivity/fear.

  • - Hannah Branigan is one of my absolute favorite trainers. She’s a self-proclaimed geek about the whole thing. She’s a serious dog sports competitor and has not just a blog but a podcast (all things dog training) and a book (competition obedience).

  • - This is Sarah Stremming’s blog about dog training, cooperative care, and positive approach to living with your dog.

  • - Deb Jones is another positive trainer with a fabulous blog. She’s one of the key people to follow for the ins and outs of cooperative care.