|Preparing for Your Puppy|
Preparing your household for the puppy’s arrival will ease the adjustment.
The new puppy arrives next week and it’s time to get ready. What should be done first? Put the priceless antique sideboard into storage and cover the rest of the furniture with heavy-plastic? Give all the plants away to good homes? Dream of a future beyond house-training while looking at new carpet samples? Installing that expensive broadloom last year probably wasn’t wise, come to think of it. Relax. It’s not going to be that bad, as long as you’ve given the matter some thought, and you’ve been listening to the good advice your puppy’s breeder has probably already been offering. She’s been through it many times before, and knows the tricks of the trade. Pay attention. If she hasn’t already made any suggestions, don’t be afraid to ask for some.
Puppy-Proofing Your House
First, take a look at your house layout. What rooms should be off-limits to the puppy, at least for now? Can restricted access be achieved simply by shutting a few doors, or will barricades be required? A couple of strategically-placed baby gates usually make effective puppy control rather simple. Even if you’re not too concerned about the odd puddle on the carpet, house-training will be a quicker and easier process if you keep the puppy under observation as much as possible. That usually means having him with you in the kitchen or family room, with openings to halls or stairways cordoned off. Give him an escape hatch and he’ll be away exploring—the first clue he’s gone will be an ominous crash from the master bedroom.
Check your house and garage for poisonous substances and make sure they’re all well out of reach or behind locked doors. Puppies, like human babies, are notorious for investigating things and then putting them in their mouths. Antifreeze, with its sweet taste, is particularly attractive to dogs, so if your car’s water pump has sprung a leak, get it fixed and clean the garage floor thoroughly. Puppy teeth can make short work of ‘child-proof’ pill containers. Many plants are poisonous, and it might be a good idea to put even your safe ones out of reach, at least temporarily. Pruning—not to specifications—and un-potting are favorite puppy activities.
Take a look in the yard while you’re at it. Do you have poisonous plants out there? Is your fence adequate, and in good repair? Do you want your dog to have the run of the yard, or would you prefer he had a secure space of his own? If you’re worried about damage to your lawn or garden, you can train your dog to use a specific area of the yard to relieve himself.
Once you have identified and removed the obvious safety hazards, you can go over the house with an eye to damage prevention. Usually this results in some simplification of décor—in other words, put breakable or irreplaceable (or both) in a safe place. That crystal bowl filled with chocolate bonbons presently gracing your coffee table is an accident—no, several accidents waiting to happen. Once your puppy is home, he’ll probably make a bee-line for whatever you’ve missed, but at least you won’t be caught playing a desperate dame of catch –up as the knickknacks go flying. One of the side benefits of raising a puppy is that it forces you to brush up on your housekeeping skill. Soon you’ll automatically be putting boots and shoes away in the closet the instant they’re off people’s feet. Pushing dining room and kitchen chair under the table immediately after use (for athletic puppies, chairs make ideal stepping stones to the table-top). Picking up books, magazines, the kids’ toys and yesterday’s newspaper—the kinds of things you might ordinarily leave strewn around until you have to tidy up for company. If you decided on safe places to keep your TV remote and cordless phone at least you will always know where to find them. Another helpful hint: puppies are drawn like magnets to both eyeglasses and false teeth, so keep them out of reach too.
Preparing for Your Puppy’ Needs
Now that you have battened down the hatches and removed all the obvious sources of catastrophe, it’s time to bring in a few supplies. The puppy’s breeder will tell you what food he has been eating, but if that brand isn’t available where you live, you may have to switch to something else. If you do have to make a change, when you pick up your puppy ask for a small supply of his regular food so you can make the transition gradually.
He’ll need an appropriate-sized food dish and a water bowl. His food dish will be taken up as soon as he’s finished eating, but if you make water available to him through the day, ensure the bowl is un-tippable and big enough that you won’t have to be filling it up all the time. Find a corner where you won’t trip over it, or be trampling through water spills in your stocking feet. Decide on a secure place to store his food, too: if you leave it where he can get into it, you can rest assured he will, and he hasn’t read the book on the dire consequences of overeating.
Where is he going to sleep? His breeder has probably pointed out the many advantages of buying a crate for him. Listen to her. A crate has a multitude of uses, and you will discover that it’s worth its weight in gold. It will be an indispensable aid in house-training. It will keep him safe (and your house safe) when you have to leave him alone. Properly used, a crate becomes a comfortable and welcome den for a dog, a place where he can curl up, sleep and feel secure. Moreover, it’s portable, so it can be his home away from home if you travel with him. In addition, a crate is the safest place for a dog to be when he’s in the car. However, as wonderful as crates are, guard against any temptation to overuse or misuse them. A crate is not a surrogate babysitter, a place to keep the puppy conveniently out of sight, out of mind. A dog shouldn’t be expected to spend endless hours of everyday and night in a crate; it’s no life for him, and it surely defeats the purpose you had in getting a dog in the first place. If you’re using a crate to help with house-training, remember that a puppy has limited bladder capacity, and it is unfair to keep him confined for three of four hours when he’s physically able to ‘hold it’ only for two.
A good way to introduce a puppy to a crate is to put him in it, with a treat or a toy (or both), at a time when you know he is ready for a nap. Leave the door open the first time or two. As he comes to think of the crate as his own, he’ll be content to say there for longer periods.
Puppies need toys. They need things to chew and games to play. They need exercise. You’ve gathered up all the tempting household items, so now it’s time to invest in a few legal play things. Before you go overboard at the pet store (some of the most appealing and expensive items were apparently designed with owners rather than dogs in mind), consult your pup’s breeder about which toys he’ll be likely to enjoy, and which will stand up to the abuse they’re certain to receive. Get one or two toys you’re pretty sure he’ll take to, and then after he’s home and you’ve had a chance to observe him for a time, you’ll be able to add judiciously to the collection. Some puppies love soft squishy toys with squeakers inside them; others have those dismembered (and the squeakers swallowed) within minutes, but will amuse themselves for hours with a sturdy Kong. If, despite your best efforts, he manages to get hold of one of your best shoes and chews off the heel, do not allow him to keep the ruined footwear in his toy portfolio. He has no way of knowing that this shoe is now okay to chew but its pricey replacement is off-limits.
Your puppy may come equipped with a collar supplied by his breeder, but he’s quickly going to outgrow it. He’ll need a properly fitting leather or nylon buckle and a leash of leather, web, or nylon. An ID tag for the collar, with his name and your phone number, is a good idea, and it goes without saying that you never leave the leash lying around where it can be chewed.
It’s handy to have a dog bed (or just a mat) where you can start training your puppy to go and lie down on command. That way he can comfortably be with you, and feel a part of the action, without being underfoot, even when company comes.
Puppyhood should be a joyous time for both the puppy and his human family. It won’t be if you and he are constantly at odds over house-training mishaps or damage to the furniture. Removing temptations and spending time with your puppy, teaching him the right way to behave from day one, are the best ways to ensure that you both survive with psyches and good humour intact.