There he is – your puppy. Now what? A quick trip to the local pet store may have your head spinning. Take a deep breath in and let it out slowly. Feel better? Good. Let’s take a practical look at puppy prepping and puppy proofing.
I’ll be honest, I LOVE looking at dog products. I’m afraid to know how much money I’ve spent on things that none of my dogs liked. There are so many cool new things on the market. But what I think is cool does not mean any of my canine companions will share my enthusiasm for the new thing.
The challenge for the new puppy parent is figuring out what puppy will like. When selecting toys keep in mind that no toy is indestructible (I don’t care what the package says) and that ALL toys should be seen as disposable. So why spend extra money on toys? If they toy is well made it may last longer, which means it will cost less in the long run.
When you’re first getting to know your puppy offer a variety of toys with differing textures, shapes, sizes and noises. Include toys that are meant for interaction (a tug toy or a ball) and toys meant for occupying a puppy while you get things done (bully stick or antler). Before purchasing that adorable pig squeaky toy try it out. Can you tolerate listening to that sound for hours? If not, keep looking.
Keep in mind that a tug toy is only fun when puppy has a friend to play with – you or another dog. When selecting toys think about what toys puppy will enjoy alone (puzzle balls, chews, busy boxes, squeaky toys, etc) and what toys require a friend (tug toys, balls, Frisbees, etc).
Your puppy NEEDS to chew. And she will continue chewing throughout her life. Start out right by getting a variety of appropriate chew objects. There are many different opinions about what is and is not appropriate. All chewing toys present some risk, you can’t get away from that. Supervising while chewing and regular safety checks on chewing objects mitigate the risk. As you puppy goes through different developmental stages his preferences will change. His toy selection should change as he does.
Walking & Travel gear
Collars are made for ID tags; well fitting harnesses are made for walking. A simple flat collar with a plastic clasp is all that’s needed. Metal may look good, but many dogs have allergic reactions to the metal clasps on collars.
I recommend these two harnesses: Freedom No-Pull harness and The Balance harness. Both of these harnesses allow for full range of motion while eliminating discomfort caused by straps rubbing against the skin.
A 6’ flat leash is all that’s really needed for day-to-day activities. Choose a material that feels comfortable in your hand. I like leather leashes and I have several very comfortable leashes made of recycled climbing rope. Retractable/flexi leashes are not recommended due to the potential for injury.
Securing a dog safely while in the car is simple. Kurgo makes several nice products, ranging from bucket car seats for tiny pups to seat belt loops and an amazing zip line for the back seat. Please do not allow your dog in the front seat with an air bag. Airbags can kill dogs on impact.
Safety & Supervision
Puppy proofing your home can seem like a daunting task. It’s amazing what a puppy can find and have in her mouth in a microsecond when your back is turned. Taking proactive steps to ensure that your pup is having fun with appropriate toys goes a long way toward building a strong, healthy relationship. Take a slow walk through your house and yard. Get down low, puppy eye level, and note every possible item that a puppy could put in her mouth, yank, grab, chew, knock over and then either secure the item or remove it temporarily. That’s a good start.
At this point, puppy doesn’t know the word “no” and may interpret the emotions associated with the word in a way that leads to fear and anxiety. Not at all what we want for puppy! When your puppy finds something inappropriate to chew or destroy, and it will happen, take a moment to breath deeply. Then find something else of value to your pup and trade up – no words necessary! You’ve just shown him that 1) you’re safe and won’t steal his resources or respond aggressively (yelling, hitting, prying mouth open, pinching nose/shout shut, shaking/scruffing – you get the idea); 2) there are far more interesting things to chew instead of your human’s objects AND bonus, your human will give them to you – SCORE!; 3) your puppy learns what is appropriate for chewing without confrontation.
As a rule of thumb, you should always be able to see your puppy OR he should be confined to a crate or an x-pen. That simple management tool will prevent most, if not all, confrontations between you and your puppy. Remember, every time you aggress toward your puppy (yelling, hitting, prying mouth open, shaking, etc) you reinforce the belief that people, even you, are scary and untrustworthy.
You don’t need a food bowl – really! Kibble is boring…kibble in the bowl is a snoozer. Keep mealtimes consistent, but vary delivery and add some variety. Rather than defaulting to a boring bowl, use muffin tins (even better with tennis balls covering the cup), empty yogurt container smeared with plain yogurt or peanut butter then stuffed with food, try a Kong wobbler, put food in a box with the lid loose and let him put some mental effort into eating, add something delicious occasionally (low sodium broth, parmesan or feta, frozen veggies or fruit, freeze dried meat, etc). Turn mealtime into an interesting activity!
Fun with Food – Try these fun activities that nourish, hydrate and feed the mind!
Pupsicles – fill any container (bottom of a milk jug, solo cup, ice cube tray) with broth or plain yogurt. Add tasty tidbit – jerky, fruit, veggies, cheese - and freeze. These are great treats outside. One of my clients freezes watermelon cubes for her husky mix – he’s an absolute riot to watch when she brings out the watermelon tray for him!
Almost empty containers – yogurt, peanut butter, cream cheese, plain hummus, almond butter, etc
Drive thru – Starbucks can make “puppachino’s” (small cup filled with whipped cream – messy, but fun!), most banks give dog treats, burger patties (a special treat AFTER something traumatic, like a vet visit)
Kongs – The Kong website has great ideas for layering things inside a kong
Puzzles – there are many great food puzzle toys on the market, include balls, maze games and more.
Provide clean, fresh water at all times. Many pet guardians find that their pets enjoy drinking out of a pet fountain.
Hygiene & Grooming
How often does a puppy need a bath? Well, that depends on where you and your pup go. In general, a bath once a month is adequate, less often in the winter months to avoid drying out her skin and more often in the summer when you’re spending more time in the lake or hiking in the woods. Generally speaking, don’t bathe your dog more than once a week. If he gets dirty in between baths a good brushing and using a wet cloth or grooming wipes is sufficient.
When bathing, it’s important to use a shampoo for dogs. Human shampoo or dish detergent is drying to dog skin. Also, avoid dog shampoos that have strong scents. While you may enjoy Pina Colada shampoo, your dog may not. There are many good, natural dog shampoos that are lightly scented that work well and rinse easily. Don’t get water into your puppy’s ears or eyes.
Bathing too often can mask illness. If there is a change in skin condition (drier or oilier) it’s time to talk to your vet. While a soothing bath feels good if your pup has hot spots or hair loss, a vet check to rule out underlying health issues is needed.
Nail trimming is a health issue. If nails grow too long then walking or even standing become uncomfortable or even painful because as pressure is put on the food the nails get pushed into the toe. How often should you trim nails? That depends on how fast your pup’s nails grow. As a general rule of thumb nails should not touch the ground.
Grind or trim the nails? That’s a personal preference. Either way you will need to teach your pup that nail trimming is normal and should not be frightening. Training
There are a few things that are absolute musts for training: treat bag that can be worn and has easy access to treats, a clicker or marker, high value tiny treats, a mat, 6’ flat leash and a well fitting harness. That’s it!
You will see other “training” tools at the pet store that painful punishers – not training tools. What will happen if any of these tools are used is fear and anxiety in your pup. Things that should not be used on your dog: bark collars, shock/electric collars, prong collars and choke collars.
list 6’ flat lead
Flat collar for IDHarness for walking – Freedom No-Pull or The Balance Harness recommended
Treat bag & tiny, soft treatsCrate and/or exercise pen
Kong classic – at least 1
Chew objects: provide at least 3 different types of chews – antlers, bully sticks, buffalo horns, cheek rolls, raw hides, Kong chew toys, raw bones (never let your dog have a cooked bone)
Toys: provide at least 6 different types of toys, independent play and group play: long rope toy, balls (tennis, rubber), soft toy, squeaky toys, leather, etc)
Old blanket/fleece for crate
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