Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Before you get your puppy: 8 tips to make homecoming easier

Bringing a puppy into your home? Before you do, here's how to prepare.
  1. Wherever your puppy is coming from – breeder, rescue, foster family, a friend – ask what kind of food he’s eating and buy a supply of that.
  2. While you're at it, get an airtight container to keep your puppy's food in. Why? Because puppies have been known to find a bag of dog food, rip into it, and gorge themselves ... followed by a swollen abdomen and often a great deal of vomiting and pooping.
  3. Get food and water bowls and put them where you want your puppy to eat and drink, preferably on a tile floor that won’t be harmed by a sloppy puppy. Water bowls can be a great source of fun for puppies who like to splash in them. And some will drag a light-weight bowl all around the house. Start with a heavy stainless steel or ceramic bowl or a no-tip bowl like the one shown here.

    Still no guarantees there won’t be a mess but it will be a little less likely with the right bowls. Another issue is the puppy who snarfs his food so fast he nearly (or actually does) choke on it. This applies to almost all Labrador retrievers and lots of their relatives. There are entire lines of dog food bowls available to slow those snarfers down. Check out Kyjen slow feeders like the one in this video.
  4. Buy at least one Kong. Check out this blog post to learn more about using one as part of your puppy's training. Frozen Kongs will be your best friend while your puppy is teething.
  5. Get a crate. A crate isn't cruel nor is it a puppy prison. It's puppy's safe place.

    From a recent board and train at my house: "It took no time at all for Astro, the Aussie puppy, to connect his food, the Kong, and his crate. He was tethered to me in the house (learning house manners), which means we went together to the location of his Kong and his puppy food. While I loaded the Kong, he sat and watched. When I finished, I dropped his leash and he raced to his crate, getting there well before me. Waiting in happy anticipation and in full wag, he sat for me while I removed leash and collar and put his Kong in the crate. When I released him from his sit (I use the words “free dog” when I teach puppies to stay put until I tell them to do something else), in he went, settling in immediately with his Kong. I closed the crate door, latched it, and went about my business."

    Think about mornings with your puppy. If that part of your day is hectic – getting kids ready for school or yourself ready for work – crating your puppy with his breakfast served in a Kong could simplify things.

    What kind of crate? A wire crate sized to fit your dog as an adult. Get one with a movable divider that you can adjust as your puppy grows. My favorite has at least two doors – one in the front, one on the side. Two doors make it easy to get your puppy in and out of his crate, even when you put it into a space sideways (like in the back of an SUV).

    If you have a large home or one with multiple levels, consider getting two crates – one for your bedroom and one for your primary living area. Puppies sometimes settle quicker and easier if you’re in sight. Sometimes not. Think about when you’re working in the kitchen. Your puppy can be in a crate nearby, keeping an eye on you – but not underfoot. What about when the kids get home from school, there’s a lot going on in your main living area, and your puppy is cranky because he needs a nap? That’s when you put him in the crate in your bedroom, turn off the light, maybe turn on a radio, close the door, and let him take his nap in peace and quiet.
  6. Get your puppy an inexpensive leash and collar. Why not get the designer version right off the bat? Because your puppy will chew on (and likely through) at least one leash and you’ll have to replace it. And he’ll outgrow his new collar almost immediately and you’ll have to replace that. Go ahead and start a bin or cardboard box for discarded items that your puppy no longer needs. By the time he’s a year old, you will likely have a nice donation for your local rescue.
  7. A couple of toys like a tennis ball and a squeaky toy are perfect when you first bring your puppy home. Make sure someone is with him when he plays with anything that can be shredded or taken apart. Why? Because if your puppy swallows something he shouldn’t, it may or may not pass through him and come out the other end. Puppies get blockages all the time from ingesting stuff they shouldn’t. And you don’t want your puppy in surgery before he’s even potty trained.
  8. Make an appointment with your veterinarian for the first week your puppy is home. Your puppy might have intestinal parasites (very common) and if so, they need to be treated right away. You'll also get on a schedule for vaccinations and learn about flea, tick and heartworm preventative.
Anything else your puppy needs, you can get later. Learn how to potty train and crate train your puppy and much, much more in my book, Puppies chew shoes, don' they?, available on Amazon.

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