If you've decided you want a dog, understand the commitment you are making and have chosen the type of breed you wish to get, your investment in time and money starts from the time you collect your puppy and bring it home. There is no such thing as a problem dog - only problem owners! If you treat your puppy right from the start you can end up with a well balanced dog with impeccable manners.

Once you have chosen your puppy from the litter the time will come to bring him or her home. This might be the same day that you first see the pups, or you may have made your choice a few weeks earlier. Whichever it is, you must have properly prepared your house for your new puppy in advance.

Preparing the House

Puppies need food, a place to sleep and toys to chew. To avoid stomach upsets you should check with the breeder on the type of food your puppy has been eating since it was weaned, and make sure that you purchase the same type. You can change this food for another brand if you prefer, but this should be done very slowly, by gradually adding a little of the new food in increasing proportions over a number of days. Otherwise you will end up with a sick puppy. All puppies should be fed a good quality puppy food to give them the best start in life.

Although it seems harsh, a crate is a great place for a puppy to sleep. Covered with a blanket it is like a den which helps her feel secure. It's also a safe place for her to be - puppies chew everything, and however much you make your house puppy safe they're likely to find the one thing that's unsafe for them to eat when not being supervised. A crate should be large enough for a bed and an area where you can have newspaper or puppy pads - 8 week old pups cannot hold their urine for more than 3 hours, so expect accidents during the night.

Puppies chew! And chew, and chew. Make sure you are fully stocked up with toys especially designed for teething pups. If you are going to be keeping your puppy in a kitchen or utility room unsupervised make sure any loose wires are taped up out of reach, and expect anything wooden to end up with teeth marks.

Bringing Puppy Home

So the house is prepared, and the day's finally arrived and you can bring her home. Remember, when you put your puppy in the car this will not only be her first time travelling, but also she'll have left everything she's ever known behind to be taken away by strangers. This combination may very well cause her to be sick on the journey, so be prepared. Have the seats (and any person's lap) covered with towels.

At the age of 8 weeks puppies are ready to leave their mothers and their siblings and start life on their own. It is just the right time when should be adventurous and ready to explore the world and to start gaining the experiences which will help them grow into well behaved companion dogs. The first few days and weeks in their new home will make all the difference to what kind of dog they will be in the future.

Starting Housetraining

After a long car journey your puppy will need to relieve itself. Take it straight out into the garden and hopefully it will perform for you. Start as you mean to go on by giving lots of praise. Although you've now started house training, remember to have puppy pads or newspaper down in the house at strategic locations (near the doors leading to the garden is best). If the puppy soils anywhere else do not scold it, but try to predict when your puppy needs to 'go' and take it to the paper or the garden before the accident can happen. Puppies need to relieve themselves immediately on wakening, after activity and about 20 minutes after eating. Usually if a mess is made in the house consider that it's because you weren't quick enough off the mark to prevent it - not the puppy being naughty.

Let your puppy explore the house. Give her cuddles and strokes, but don't restrict her. Let her be to get her bearings. Give her the new toys, and start to play with her.

Staring to interact with your Puppy

Puppies sleep - a lot. An eight week old puppy will sleep between 18 and 22 hours a day. If you have children in the house make sure they understand that they have to play to the puppy's routine, and not to theirs. Puppies have very sharp teeth and like to chew anything, and that includes fingers and toes.

If you want friends to come round and see the new puppy see how she settles in in the first few hours. If she is nervous it might be best to wait a day or so, but if she seems to be taking it all in her stride the sooner you start socialising her the better. You should find your puppy is forward and outgoing and will greet people as new playmates.

Try not to startle or make your puppy afraid - you are going to be her new family, and she needs to trust you. If she tries to chew anything she shouldn't a sharp 'no' should be enough to tell her she's doing wrong. If she continues grasp her gently by the scruff of her neck and hold her away whilst saying 'no' sharply. This is how a mother dog would behave. Puppies are very fragile and should not be smacked harshly.

The First Night

Unless you want to share your bed with a fully grown adult dog you will need to harden your heart for the first few nights. The puppy is likely to cry and whine once shut away in her crate or room, and the only way to cure it is to ignore it. If the noise gets very loud go and bang on the door, but DO NOT go in as this is just saying that you'll come when she cries. After a few nights she will understand that bed time is just that, and that you'll be there for her again in the morning. A hot water bottle and a ticking clock or radio on a talk station may help.

Vaccinations and Socialising

Your breeder might have already started her vaccination programme, or you may have to arrange the whole course. Make an appointment to see a vet after your puppy has been in its new home for about a week so that its hormones have settled down after the stress of moving. When you visit the vet you'll need to discuss a worming programme, fleas and when you can begin to take your puppy out with other dogs. Two vaccinations are normally given 2 weeks apart, and you can normally take your puppy out either one or two weeks after the second jab.

Although you won't be able to walk your puppy in areas where other dogs go, you should start socialising her as soon as possible. Up to the age of 16 weeks your puppy is most receptive to taking in new experiences than any other time in her life. So the more you expose her to at this age, the better balanced dog you'll have in future. Take her to visit friends, have young children to visit if you haven't any of your own, introduce her to other animals, car journeys, motorbikes and anything you might come across in your daily life with her.

Bringing home your puppy to a properly prepared house and giving her your time and attention during your first few weeks with her will set the scene for the type of companion animal you'll have living with you for possibly the next 15 years. So make sure you get it right from the start.