So you’ve done your homework, researched breeds and breeders, visited a few (or more!) kennels and have chosen your new puppy. Your family is excited to finally bring this new little one home – but are you ready?? You wouldn’t bring a new baby home from the hospital without taking prenatal classes, setting up the nursery, installing the carseat, buying diapers and clothes and bottles and formula – would you? When I brought home my first puppy almost 18 years ago I pretty much did just that – I drove down to the breeder, brought her home and then just figured it out from there. My husband and I had relocated and I was at home for a few months with my new puppy before I went back to work. We made mistakes – lots of them, but as a young, newly married couple we just adapted. Things are a bit different this time around. I have a family, children, a job and schedule to consider – and so I need to plan and prepare just a little bit more before I bring our new baby dog home. Remember, a puppy is just that – a baby! They require time, attention and training. So let’s talk for a few minutes about what you need to do to prepare your house, and family for the new addition that you will soon bring home…
1) Puppy proof
Much like preparing your home for a small toddler, you will need to “puppy proof” areas in your home that your puppy will be allowed to roam in and remove anything that could be potentially harmful. Eliminate any house plants that could be toxic to your pet, secure loose electrical cords that might be tempting for those little teeth, and put away anything else that you don’t want to become a chew toy. Don’t forget to inspect your outdoor spaces as well – check your fence to make sure there aren’t any openings that a little dog could get through, and remove chemicals, pesticides and anything else that could be dangerous for your new little one to ingest.
See the following link for a detailed list of plants that are poisonous to pets:
2) Food & Supplies
Oh, the wonders of the modern pet store! From food and treats to leashes and crates, the array of products available for those (mostly) 4 legged family members can be overwhelming for the new pet owner. To help save you some time and maybe a few dollars, here are a few basics to start with …
Your breeder is the best resource to ask about what food and/or supplements would be best for your new puppy, and can make recommendations on switching to an adult food when the time is appropriate. If you choose to change foods after your puppy comes home, make sure that you have at least a week’s worth of the puppy’s current diet on hand and gradually change from one food to the other. Making a drastic change may upset your new puppy’s delicate tummy and cause some unpleasant messes for you to deal with! Puppies will probably be on a 3x daily feeding schedule, which can be changed over to 2x daily when they are a bit older. Again, your breeder can make recommendations here. Food should be made available to your puppy and removed after about 15 minutes if the bowl is not empty. Leaving food down all of the time encourages grazing and makes housebreaking much more difficult. If you feed on a schedule, potty breaks will be more predictable and training will be easier. Your breeder will make recommendations about how much your puppy should eat, and you should also monitor closely how many treats your new puppy is receiving (especially if you have kids) to maintain a healthy weight.
ii) Collars and leashes
There are a dizzying array of collars, halters and leashes available for purchase at your local pet store – which should you get? For now, a basic nylon collar with a buckle or plastic clasp will do. Make sure that when you fit the collar on the dog, it is loose enough that you can fit 2 fingers between the collar and dog’s neck but that the head cannot slip out of the collar. Puppies grow quickly so make sure you check the collar regularly and loosen it as your puppy grows. Never leave the collar on when the dog is in a crate to prevent it from becoming tangled or caught. Slip collars are specifically used for training purposes – when you sign up for puppy classes, your instructor may ask you to purchase one of those for training ONLY. In terms of leashes, a 6′ nylon leash will do for now, though many people also use a retractable leash for additional freedom once your puppy gets a bit older.
iii) Dog bowls
My personal preference for bowls is stainless steel because they are easy to clean and basically indestructible, but of course there are many options available. Ceramic bowls come in a variety of designs and colours, but consider that they are heavy and can chip or break if dropped (perhaps a consideration if children may be filling the bowls…) For water, having a bowl that won’t tip is handy. Consider an elevated dish for larger breeds.
iv) Grooming tools
Depending on which breed you have chosen, your new puppy may require more or less grooming and bathing. Specific tools that work well for the coat-type of your new dog can be recommended by your breeder. Make sure that you have the appropriate brush type at home when your new puppy comes home – no time like the present to get your new family member used to being brushed! Choose a time when the puppy is quiet and start slowly, at first just letting him/her get used to being handled. As he/she gets used to you and the brush, increase the time. While you are at it, handle the puppy’s feet, tummy, etc. so that he/she will be used to touching for vet visits, nail clipping, etc. If you plan to trim your dog’s nails at home, you will want to purchase a nail clipper as well. Your vet or groomer can also trim nails or give you a lesson if you are nervous or unsure of how to do it yourself.
v) Puppy chew toys
Puppies love to chew! One necessity is an array of acceptable chew toys to provide your puppy with – particularly during the teething stage – to keep them away from your shoes, furniture and fingers. Choose toys that are indestructible – one of my favourites is the Kong – that your puppy will not be able to tear pieces off of or stuffing out of. Kongs are great because you can fill them with treats or even peanut butter to keep your puppy occupied for periods of time. If you want to allow your puppy to have stuffed toys or those with squeakers, make sure that they play with them under supervision and inspect the seams regularly for damage. There are many other toys out there on the market, and you can also ask at your local pet store for puppy-proof recommendations!
3) Crate training
To crate or not to crate, that is the question… Personally, I think that crate training your puppy is an absolute must! I can see no down-side to working with your dog’s natural instinct to sleep and rest in a den, with the positive side-effect that a dog instinctively does not want to soil his/her sleeping area – which can help with housebreaking! A win-win situation all around. In order for this to work, the crate must be large enough for your dog to lay down in – and not large enough for them to have a sleeping area and potty area! If you purchase a crate large enough for your dog when he/she will be full grown, you must block off part of the crate (using a box or something like that) while they are smaller. You can put a blanket down for your puppy to sleep on, but if he/she chews on it or pees on it, the blanket should be removed until the puppy is housebroken. Remember, use the crate only for the length of time appropriate for the age of your puppy. Never use the crate as punishment if you want your dog to love their crate. And do not allow your children to go in the crate – it is your puppy’s “safe haven” from the world, and you must teach your kids to respect that space.
5) Finding a vet
You will potentially have a relationship with your new puppy’s vet for 10 or more years, so it is important to find a vet clinic that you are comfortable with. Chat with people in your neighbourhood that have pets and get recommendations. If at any time you feel that the care you are receiving is not what you need, try to communicate that with the clinic staff and move on if you need to. You should make your first appointment for your new puppy within the first few days of bringing him/her home, to make sure that there are no health issues to start with. Chat with your vet at this time about immunization schedules, when to spay/neuter your puppy, flea and worm control, pet health insurance, and any other questions or concerns that you might have. If your new puppy does not have a microchip implanted already, you might want to consider having this done as well – great insurance should your dog ever go missing without a collar and/or identification tags on. The microchip is injected under the skin and into connective tissue in the dog, and can be scanned by any vet office or humane society to identify the number of the chip. The chip information can then be entered into the registry database to identify the pet’s owners. Also, don’t forget to check with local licensing requirements in your area and get a pet license and tag for your dog. Microchipping is not an alternative to having a collar tag to identify your pet!
6) Training your family
Anyone that has children knows how important consistency is when raising your kids to be polite and considerate members of society – and the same thing applies to raising a new puppy! Before you bring your new family member home and everyone is excited and distracted, sit down together and discuss what the rules will be for the new puppy, and for you and your kids too. Will the puppy be allowed on the furniture? Are there areas of the house that will be off-limits for your 4 legged family member? Where will the new puppy sleep? Who will be responsible for feeding, grooming, walking the new dog? Keep in mind that there will be real enthusiasm at this point for helping out, but this may wane as the day-to-day routines of caring for the puppy set in. Be realistic about what your kids can do to help, and don’t forget to keep it fun!
7) Training your puppy
Setting the tone for training your new family member will begin from the time you set foot in the door, so try to have an idea of how you plan to proceed right from the start. Choose a “potty-area” outside, and take your puppy to it as soon as you step out of the car. Decide what behaviors will be acceptable for your new addition, and be consistent – keeping in mind that what is cute in a puppy may not be so cute in an adult dog! For example, if your 10 lb puppy jumps up on your legs in excitement you probably won’t mind so much – but imagine your full grown 100 lb dog doing it. Watching your 12 week-old puppy chewing on an old shoe might be cute, but you may not think it’s so cute when the object of his chewing is your Louboutin stilettos. Don’t feed your puppy from the table unless you want them to beg every time you sit down to have a meal….you get the idea. Once your puppy has his/her 16 week vaccinations, look into puppy training classes (ask for recommendations for trainers from your vet or friends with dogs) and take the whole family along if you can. It will be much less confusing for your new dog if there is consistency in commands and expectations and it will help your kids feel involved and invested in the process.
Adding a new puppy to your household can be frustrating, tiring, fun and rewarding all at the same time, but puppyhood is a short period in your dog’s life so take the time to relax and enjoy it!