Please prepare yourself, your children and your home for the arrival of your new puppy, well ahead of Adoption Day. There are a number of things that should be done or obtained so you are prepared from the moment you bring your puppy home.
I receive no commissions for anything listed here. The link to Dr. Dunbar's book is a convenient recommendation only. Please buy what you need from the bookstore and pet supply store of your choice.
Even if you had a puppy before, evaluate your knowledge and skills. What worked well and what didn’t? There are many excellent resources to refresh experienced dog owners, and to learn from if this is your first puppy. Here is my primary recommendation (others are listed in your Adoption Kit):
Before & After Getting Your Puppy, by Dr. Ian Dunbar, hardcover, 224 pages, New World Library (2004), ISBN 1577314557. I strongly recommend this book, and I urge you to read it well before you pick up your puppy. It's full of valuable, practical advice that will help you prepare for your new puppy, and to deal with socialization, house training, chewing behavior and many other issues after you bring your new puppy home. Dr. Dunbar can be dogmatic in his insistence that certain things be accomplished by a specific time in order to avoid total failure. Take those pronouncements with a grain of salt. Few of us have the discipline to follow his advice in every detail. In general, his approach and advice are excellent, particularly with regard to crate training, house training and chew training. He ties these three essential efforts together very well, and that's why I recommend his book.
The only significant issue on which I disagree with Dr. Dunbar is his insistence that puppies not be exposed to other people until their vaccination regime is completed. Except for dog parks and pet stores, which I agree you should avoid with a puppy, you should socialize your puppy to as many different kinds and ages of people and other dogs starting as soon as your puppy comes home with you, and especially during the first few weeks and months. The small risk of a contagious disease are outweighed by the benefits of new experiences at this young age. Supervise these encounters closely to ensure they remain positive.
Puppies are chewy and impulsive. They swallow without thinking. Go over every area of your house that your puppy might get into. Remove cleaning solutions and other potential poisons from open shelves and cabinets. Remove anything that dangles, like drapery pulls, electrical cords (or put them in “cord minder” conduits), and tassels on furniture. Look under furniture and cushions to remove anything that might be a choking hazard. Remove armrest covers and plush pillows from furniture. Be aware that shoes, caps, scarves, gloves, underwear, socks, house plants, cell phones, pens and pencils, TV remotes, hand tools and kitchen towels are all delightful chew toys for your puppy. They will be ruined if not picked up or protected. Puppies will also swallow coins and batteries if left within reach.
Keep an eye on the arms and legs of furniture, door moldings and the corners of baseboards. It will take more than a year for your puppy to outgrow its teething compulsion, and some things will never be safe. For furniture items, bitter apple spray (available from your pet supply store) may deter chewing.
Once you remove everything you want to protect or that is dangerous to the puppy, you must provide safe options to satisfy its chewing and teething compulsion. Provide a variety of chew toys, but not all at once. Rotate them to maintain the puppy’s interest.
To safely redirect your puppy's chewing impulses, see below on Chew Toys.
As soon as you reserve your puppy, start the conversation with all family members about how the puppy will be taken care of, and by whom. Everyone must be on board and consistent to avoid confusing the puppy and causing behavior problems. Get agreement on:
Before Adoption Day, schedule a well-puppy appointment with your vet. This must be within three business days following Adoption Day. I make sure I’m selling you a healthy puppy. I want you to be sure as well. Take a stool sample in a plastic bag or a stool collector that you can request from your vet ahead of time. Take your Adoption Kit with the documentation of your puppy’s previous vet visit(s) and vaccinations. Your vet will advise you about further vaccinations. If this first visit reveals any problems, contact me within five days of Adoption Day.
Your puppy needs to chew. You need to redirect chewing to avoid destructive or dangerous behaviors.
The traditional approach is to provide a variety of toys and rotate them, but this doesn't keep puppies from chewing indiscriminately on anything else within reach.
For an improvement on the traditional approach, see "Errorless Chewtoy Training" in Dr. Dunbar's book Before & After Getting Your Puppy, cited above. I wish I had that excellent advice before I got my first puppy! After I found Dr. Dunbar’s book, I’ve had much more success training my puppies to chew the right things, not the wrong things.
Crate and Bed
A crate is not just for travel. It's also a cozy sleeping area for your puppy, a safe place for it to spend time while you're away, and a key aid in housetraining. In Dr. Dunbar's book (cited above), he provides extensive information on the benefits and techniques of crate training in his chapter on "Errorless Housetraining and Chewtoy Training."
Visit your local pet supply store to see what’s available. The crate should be large enough for your puppy’s anticipated adult size, and include a divider that can restrict the puppy to a smaller area of the crate. Your puppy will try to avoid soiling the area it recognizes as its bed. If you provide too much space when it's little, it may use a corner as a bathroom. Wire crates usually include a plastic tray for the bottom. Put a nice pet bed or several layers of old towels on the tray to make it comfortable.
Before Adoption Day I’ll let you know what kind of chow your puppy is eating. I’ll give you a gallon bag on Adoption Day, and you should stock the same chow for initial feeding. You may transition the puppy gradually to other foods as it grows. Canine nutrition is big topic in itself. While many dogs will eat anything you put in from of them, some are fussy eaters, and others like a little variety from time to time. You may have to experiment with different brands. Pet supply stores often have free sample packets for the asking. Your Adoption Kit will include tips on nutrition as well as toxic foods to avoid.
Your puppy will come to you with its first collar. On Adoption Day you should bring a 6-foot leash. The puppy will quickly outgrow its first collar, but the leash will last a long time.
Your puppy should not have the run of your house. Ideally, it should be restricted to a room or a couple rooms with tile or vinyl flooring for easy cleanup. Puppies do not like to eliminate in their den area, but anything outside of that is fair game. Housetraining can be accelerated by following Dr. Dunbar's advice. Nevertheless, you will want to initially restrict your puppy's access to your living space, and even after it’s grown you should crate it or keep it in a secure area whenever you’re away.
Adjustable or expandable gates, like those used for child safety, are useful in doorways. Pet supply stores also sell flexible enclosure systems that can be used to keep the puppy within a smaller area of a single room. Sections of quarter-inch plywood can be trimmed to fit openings and can be easily moved out of the way when not needed. You can stain the plywood to match your home furnishings. Twenty to 24 inches high is enough to restrict your puppy and it will learn to respect the gate as it grows up.
Here are some supplies you will want on hand right from the beginning:
For Adoption Day
When you come to pick up your puppy on Adoption Day, bring the following things for the drive home, especially if it’s more than 15 minutes:
After Adoption Day
Things to do after you bring your puppy home are summarized in the Adoption Kit you receive with your puppy, and are covered in detail in Dr. Dunbar's book cited above.
Email me with any questions.
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