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Puppy love requires a few sleepless nights, but worth it

The Outdoors
Lead Summary
Scott Rall, outdoors columnist

I recently welcomed home my new puppy Ghost, a 7-week-old black Labrador puppy who is the son of my oldest dog, Tracer. Many people told me just how bad the first few weeks with a new puppy are. They are not totally off base. A new puppy that has spent the past seven weeks with his six other brothers and sisters now has to find out what being all alone is like.
The reason that most puppies are picked up at the age of seven weeks is this is the time where they start their bonding processes. You want the new puppy to bond to you. If they are left in a pack setting for longer periods of time, they might start to bond to each other and this makes bonding to you more difficult.
So, what can you do to get through those first few weeks? I have, over the past 25 years in the dog business and with nine new puppy opportunities, come up with a few pointers that can help you make these first few weeks just a little easier.
Puppies usually need a potty break a few times each night for about the first 10-14 days. I give the little ones all the water they want until about 7 p.m. After that I try to put the water dish up and out of reach. This allows them to process this liquid intake and expel most of it before bedtime.
I was up two times the first night. One was at 1:30 and the other time about 5 a.m. Ghost whined and barked like all puppies will do when they are put in a small puppy cage for their first night alone. I took a T-shirt from the laundry that I had worked in the day before and put that in the cage with him. He can smell my sweat on the shirt, and this lets the puppy know that I am close by.
I put the cage on the floor next to the bed. When he whined, I would put my fingers through the cage door so he could smell and lick them. These two tricks will help calm then down and help them go to sleep. I kept my slippers and a leash near the door so when I got up, I could easily take him outside without having to worry about stepping on something sharp or him running out of sight in the dark. He did his business both times in about 20 seconds and then all he wanted to do was play. He is cute and all, but the middle of the night is not the best playtime for Dad.
I made an investment years ago and purchased five separate puppy kennels. I keep one in my office, one in the bedroom, one in the living room and one in the truck. The last one I have at the little cabin at my wildlife property.
This allows me to take just the puppy without having to cart around a cage everywhere I go. He, like all puppies, will almost always be underfoot, and carrying the cage, holding the leash and my coffee cup or beer at the same time is an accident waiting to happen.  We had a client one time who accidently stepped on their puppy’s leg and broke it. Casting a 7-week-old Labrador puppy’s back leg is no fun at all.
As you already know, they chew on everything. If they are chewing on your expensive shoes or another inappropriate item, you need to be able to take that away, give the command “no” and then give them something that is acceptable to chew on. You don’t need a basket full of chew toys but having two to three items that are acceptable is very handy.
Don’t give a puppy a rawhide bone. For that matter don’t give any dog, puppy or adult a rawhide bone. Many are made in China and have been linked to dog poisonings. A Nyla bone or other synthetic substitute works the best and lasts the longest. They need to be big enough so the puppy cannot swallow any part of them.
Remember to soften their food, assuming you are using dry dog food before you feed it to them. I soak my puppy’s food in warm water for one hour before I feed him.
This assures you they won’t choke on it by eating it too fast. It has not happened to me but we had a puppy customer that did not heed this advice and his puppy choked to death on dry puppy food.
The first few weeks of night duty and house training do involve effort. Just remember that he/she will only be little, have great smelling puppy breath and look like bundles of soft cuddly happiness for a few months.
They will be a big dog for the next 10 years. Trace Atkins has a song, “You’re Going to Miss This.” It fits perfectly for these short two months. Ghost will be hunting before I know it, and then I will again miss that short but unforgettable first two months. Sleep tight.
Scott Rall, Worthington, is a habitat conservationist, avid hunting and fishing enthusiast and is president of Nobles County Pheasants Forever. He can be reached at or on Twitter @habitat champion.

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