Easy transitions can be as simple as clear instructions, a familiar item, and recommending the right toys.
1. Clear Written Instructions. This is so easy, and something most breeders do anyway. By providing detailed dietary instructions, at least a week’s supply of the breeder’s diet, and instructions for well tolerated training bait and treats, the breeder can help ensure that the transition time isn’t complicated by unnecessary gastric upset.
Puppies experiencing GI upset may not be able to sleep through the night, may soil their crate, or themselves. This can quickly move them from normal transition stress to transition distress not to mention the distress a sick puppy can cause their new family.
Set your families up for sucess by guiding them on the importance of dietary consistency in both meals, enrichment, and training bait during transition. Provide a list of foods you know are well tolerated by your puppy.
2. Scented Items and Familiars.
Be sure to send a scented item home with each puppy; this can be a baby blanket, fleece toy, or even the puppy’s own crate. By sending scented items home with the puppy, you provide a source of familiarity and comfort during transition.
Conversely, one breeder I know asks for a t-shirt, slept in one night by each member of the family, be sent a week before the puppy goes home. This family scented item is placed in the puppy area, or crate, for that week. This t-shirt is then sent home along with the puppy. What a great breeder!
3. Teach your puppy, and it’s new family, all about pacifiers!
Pacifiers and other “brain games” for puppies provide long lasting activities, many of which will reduce stress, help puppies “reset” from stressful and exciting days, and learn to self calm and self soothe easily.
Your puppy’s new family will benefit greatly during transition by being able to provide the puppy with a variety of pacifiers.
Some of these pacifiers will be instinctively engaging to puppies. Natural chews such as hooves, bones, tracheas, and bully sticks require no “teaching” and puppies will enjoy these stress busting items right from the start.
Some pacifiers, such as Kibble Nibbles or Woblers, need practice and puppies need regular exposure to learn to enjoy them.
By starting around weaning age and offering different pacifiers throughout the weeks, the puppies have lots of opportunity to learn how to engage with these items and to enjoy them.
Here is a list of items we find work well. You can find a great thread of others in the Puppy Culture Discussion Group.
1. Lick mats (very calming!)
2. Snuffle mats
3. Kibble Nibble (we send one home with each puppy)
4. Kong Wobblers
5. IQ Ball
6. Stuffed Hooves, Kongs, Trachea
7. Slow Feed Bowls (great for raw or canned foods)
8. Scent Items and Familiars.
Give your new family a bully stick, and you amuse their puppy for an hour, teach them to stuff a Kong and they can amuse their dog forever.
Take a few moments to teach your clients the benefits of pacifiers, then teach them how to prepare them! Provide resources for Kongs, Squirrel Dudes and where to find recipes. Point them to the great Canine Enrichment Facebook group for more ideas.
These familiar activities provide a sense of continuity for your puppy, just as comfortaing as a scented blanket.
Good breeders are already doing all these things for their puppies. By thinking forward to our puppy’s transition to it’s new home, by communicating clearly to our clients, and by investing some time in teaching puppies to use pacifiers, we give our new families helpful tools to make the arrival of their new best friends as smooth and pleasant as possible.