Congratulations! You’ve done your homework, researched the breed that’s right for you, found the perfect breeder and checked their references, now the day has come to pick up your puppy. Making sure you have all the right toys, treats, and management tools in place will make your first month a relative breeze, and ensure you keep your sanity during the puppy phase.
First, let’s talk management. You can’t have your eye’s on your puppy at all times, you need a safe place for the puppy to stay when you’re away from home or you need to divide your attention to other important matters. These two management tools are also going to play a major factor in house breaking, start off on the right track to avoid major headaches down the road.
Crates What type of crate do I need? So many factors go into making this decision…
- What breed of dog are you bringing home?
- Is this dog going to be a sporting/working dog or an at home companion?
- How much space do I have for a crate in the short and long term?
- Will I be traveling often with my dog and the crate?
- Has the breeder started on any crate training?
All types of crates have their pro’s and con’s, let’s break it down…
Pro’s: Probably the most versatile of the options, these crates fold flat for easy storage and transportation, often they come with a movable divider to help with potty training through every stage of your puppies development. Can be easily covered with anything from a blanket to a custom cover that matches your interior. They generally come with two doors (and sometimes three) to make access to and from much easier. The removable pans at the bottom of the crate make for easy clean up too.
Con’s: Can be a little noisy with little puppy feet tapping on the crate pan. If you are bringing home a slightly older puppy that has not been crate trained, wire crates can be easy for escape artists to open or squeeze through weak points. The crates are made from metal, with extended use and time the metal can develop rust.
Vari-kennels (plastic crates, typically used by airlines):
Pro’s: This type of crate is very sturdy, and can be zip-tied for extra security during travel. Right off the shelf this style of crate creates a den type feeling for the puppy without the need of an extra cover. Bottom portion of crate is a smooth, solid surface, which can help keep puppy accidents in the crate and off the flooring.
Con’s: Even when broken down, this crate will take up a fair amount of cubic space, which can be cumbersome to travel with in a smaller vehicle, or when storing. While great for containing an accident, getting in and cleaning the crate can be difficult depending on the size of the crate. This style of crate only has a single entrance, making placement in the home less flexible.
Soft Sided Crate (Canvas and Mesh):
Pro’s: Light weight, easy set-up and tear down, folds flat for storage. Great for traveling with Toy Breeds.
Con’s: Since the crate is made of fabric, it is slightly more difficult to quickly clean up after an accident, in comparison to our previously mentioned crates. Although most can be cleaned in the washing machine, they must line dry leaving you without a crate during this time. Most medium to large breeds can tear through the mesh quite easily, or simply paw the zipper closures open. The crate can tip easily during travel, unless you have belted or tied down the crate.
Whether you choose one economical option that can suit many needs, or a separate crate for home and travel be sure to get your puppy started on crate training ASAP. You never know, down the road your dog may need to be on crate rest, due to surgery, travel or unexpected repairs in the home. Getting your dog comfortable with the crate from an early age is an important step to long term success and reducing stress in unusual situations or environments. If you’re not familiar with introducing your puppy check out this article on crate training.
Your puppy may destroy it’s first bed, either by chewing or just with wear and tear that comes with potty training. During the first 2 weeks use a blanket or towel that is easy to wash, you can use multiple to make the crate as comfortable as you (or your puppy) like. Your puppy will let you know whether it prefers a big plush bed or a bare crate, some dog breeds naturally run warm and will only push that $100 bed out of the crate!
There are several options for bowls that attach to the crate, non-spill or just something cute. What’s practical for a 100lb breed obviously won’t work for a tea cup, don’t worry about buying the best bowl that will last a life time, buy something simple and size appropriate until you know your dog’s habits. I personally recommend metal bowls at this stage, you can easily wash and sanitize, and your puppy can’t chew it apart like a plastic bowl.
X-Pen’s (aka: exercise pen, play pen)
For many people used to companion dog’s, use of the x-pen is a new idea, for those in the sporting world this is a long time constant. The x-pen comes in many designs of varying height and weight, again the type you will choose should be based upon your long term/short term needs. It is important to note, a puppy should never be left unattended in an x-pen for any great length of time. This management tool is meant to keep the puppy in a safe area, while providing more space than a crate would. It keeps puppies in a contained area, away from furniture, cords or other area’s that they could get themselves into trouble. However, the play pen is not designed to assist in housebreaking (although it can be used to keep them off the carpet, if placed on a tiled area). If using a play pen that the puppy may be able to push over, or jump, you should never leave them unattended, in fact I could tell you some real horror stories. It is however a great a tool if you work from home, and want to have your dog out of the crate, but have minimal supervision to provide in order to get your daily tasks completed. Below are just a few options:
Puppy Proofing Your Home and Yard
Puppies love to explore, and they love to feel out their new world with their little mouths filled with sharp little teeth. Not only will you protect your favorite pair of flip flops, but you’ll also protect your puppy from chewing on electrical cords, toxic plants, choking hazards and items that could cause intestinal obstruction. Making sure your home is secure and clear of any items that could get your puppy into trouble is a major step before bringing puppy home. Make sure that any areas of the yard that your puppy has access to has good fencing in place (no gaps the puppy can squeeze through), move or eliminate access to any toxic plants and planting materials (fertilizers, mulch, pesticides). For a list of common toxic plants check the ASPCA link below:
When bringing your puppy home, make sure you can secure him in your vehicle. Your breeder may even provide a crate if that is part of your purchase contract. Don’t get me wrong, we all let our dogs ride free range in the vehicle at some point. In fact if you’re a child of the ’70s you probably rode free range in the back of your parents car or truck…and yet we’re still here, alive to tell the tale. But, common sense and newer safety standards tell us we should wear seat belts, and to prevent our little puppy from becoming a projectile in case of a collision, it’s much safer to keep your dog crated until they get home. Not to mention, today’s vehicles have many more safety features designed to work in conjunction with safety belts, if you decide to drive home with little fluffy on your lap you run the risk of having your air bag deploy and annihilate your brand new puppy…remember most airbags deploy in crashes of 35 mph.
Leash, Collar and Harness
Walk into any pet store and you’ll see a wide variety of options, more than you could imagine were possible. When it comes to leashes, start simple, a 6ft nylon leash is all you need. Remember your puppy will undoubtedly chew on the leash, don’t buy an extravagant leather leash just yet, wait a couple more weeks for that one! And absolutely DO NOT BUY A FLEXI (retractable) leash…friends don’t let friends use Flexi’s (more on that rant in another article).
Whether you use choose to use a collar or harness is debatable, although I personally do not like harness’ for teaching your puppy to walk this is something you should talk with your trainer about. Depending on your training goals, you may or may not want to use one over the other. A collar is a good idea in general, even if you don’t plan on walking your dog on the collar. You’ll eventually keep your dog’s tags on the collar, so it behooves you to get them used to wearing one now. Again, start simple, a nylon martingale is a great first collar, and you puppy won’t slip out of it if you need to quickly grab them.
This is a topic with much debate, I personally believe the old adage “you are what you eat”. If I stop for highly processed, fast food, frequently I can tell you I will feel the consequences. Same goes for our dogs, if you constantly feed over processed, dry food, especially with poor quality ingredients your dog will feel the consequences. They can develop allergies, inflammation, tooth decay and gum disease. If you don’t believe me, watch this video below…the dog went from a lifetime of biologically appropriate diet to 17 days of a well known prescription diet food. It’s no coincidence that the dog begins to develop plaque within a few days.
Feeding Raw or a Whole Food diet is a new concept for many pet owners, after all most of us grew up with our parents buying Chuckwagon or Gravy Train at the grocery store for old Fido in the back yard and they seemed fine, right? Think back, was Fido fine? Was his coat soft and shiny, did he have clean breath, bright eyes? So much has changed over the years, our use of pesticides, GMO’s, what is considered approved “food matter” for animals. Personally, I would rather spend a little more money on food, than on prescriptions for illness caused by poor nutrition. It can seem a little overwhelming at first, but it’s not terribly difficult once you know what you’re doing. If you’re not much of cook, there are several options for prepared raw or cooked diets.
That said, your breeder may have some contractual obligations for your dogs health guarantee. Talk with your breeder about their preferred diet, if they have started weaning the pups on a dry food brand, for potty training simplicity keep them on that brand for 2-3 weeks. Once you’ve developed a routine and feel like your puppy has a handle on this whole “don’t pee and poop in the house” thing, start to transition to your preferred diet. If you’re limited on feeding options for financial reasons, there’s still plenty of options for supplementing along side dry food. There are countless articles on the internet about what to feed and what not too, my best suggestion is to talk to your vet (or a vet in your area that specializes in nutrition), who can give you idea’s based on your current commercial food and your dog’s specific dietary needs.
Fiber is one of those great emergency items to have in your pantry, especially with a puppy whose digestive tract is still developing. I recommend psyllium husk, which can purchased at most health food stores (BE SURE IT’S ONLY Psyllium husk and NOT a Senna blend). You could also keep Metamucil wafers, or pure canned pumpkin on hand. There are several brands of fiber supplements at the pet store, but I’ve found that plain old psyllium husk can really help when transitioning foods to keep stool firm.
Probiotics are an abundant staple in the supplements aisle. You can purchase something specifically packaged for your dog, or simply add 1tsp of plain yogurt to your puppy’s food. Primal Pet Foods also carries raw goat’s milk, another great source of probiotics.
Diatomaceous Earth is another great supplement, not just for your puppy, but for you too! It’s basically silica, but it can act as a natural dewormer and topical flea treatment. There is a ton of information on DE on-line, this link in particular provides a lot of information.
The most important information I can leave you with is to make sure you are purchasing FOOD GRADE DE from a health food store…don’t feed your dog the stuff you put in the pool!!
It goes without saying, but for legal purposes, we’ll bring it up again…always consult with your veterinarian when changing diet or adding supplements.
You may have had a vet for years with your previous dog, or are a first time owner on the search for a vet. With so many styles of veterinarian care, choosing a vet that’s right for your dog can be a daunting task. With more vets taking a holistic approach and realizing owners are more involved with nutrition and vaccination options, sharing your questions and concerns about care with the vet and staff is an important step in choosing the right team for you and your dog. While there are some vets that absolutely won’t budge on vaccination schedules, or push prescription diets, remember you always have the choice of getting a second opinion. If you have different opinions or you’re truly unsure about a recommendation, and your vet is unwilling to debate or share options based on different research, you don’t have to continue with that vet’s treatment plan. Regardless of your opinion or experience with vaccination and sterilization, I strongly encourage my clients to research both sides and make an educated decision. Then find a vet that supports your choices, while giving your pet the best possible care.
This is an extremely hot topic, let me just start by saying…if you have no option to avoid other dogs that frequent the dog park or dog beach, get all the recommended vaccinations and do your best to quarantine your dog from other dog(s) in the house (or family) until your puppy is fully immunized. If your dog will be exposed at an early age to common contagion’s, don’t risk it. You could argue that there are other hazards in long term health…but Parvo can do a lot of lasting neurological damage to a puppy that survives.
Now, if you’re a good candidate who isn’t exposed to many common threats, you may decide to try a different vaccination schedule. I always recommend the core puppy vaccinations, but after that there really isn’t a need to stay on the “standard” vaccination schedule. I could go on and on and on about this topic, but that’s another article. Do your research and make your best informed decision!
Spay and Neuter
And yet another hot topic…ask many in the Rescue world and it’s not a choice, it has to be done, sometimes regardless of age. While our country as a whole faces a great issue with pet over-population, many other countries don’t enforce spay and neuter and yet, they don’t have the same issues with over population. While this is a whole other topic for debate, I think it’s very interesting food for thought and something our society needs to openly debate on. With this in mind, I do believe there are some homes that benefit from an early spay neuter, homes that have adopted littler mates of the opposite sex, homes that cannot securely quarantine an in-heat female (or male that escapes often), owners that are frequently out with their dog and off leash with limited obedience. While these may seem like simple issues to handle, depending on your dogs temperament and agility, keeping them away from a breeding mate is sometimes easier said than done. If you know you run the risk of an unwanted litter, get your dog spayed or neutered.
Now on the other hand, if you are the perfect candidate with an impenetrable and inescapable back yard, you crate your in-heat female when away from home, you don’t take your in-tact dog to dog parks, you don’t have in-tact dog of the opposite sex in or regularly visiting your home, then you may consider the pro’s and con’s of holding off on spay/neuter. There are many physical benefits to postponing a spay/neuter until at least 2 years…especially for large breeds. For more information, see the link from Mercola Healthy Pet below:
Take a walk into most pet supply stores these days and you’ll be astounded by how many options there are for toys and interactive play. Everything from soft plush toys, “indestructible” chew toys, interactive food puzzles, water toys, training items…literally just about anything you can imagine. So what should you buy for your puppy right now? I like to buy something in every texture, as your puppies teeth begin to come in, chewing habits will change, daily and seemingly on an hourly basis at times. I try to make sure I have on hand an arsenal of items, most of which are for hard core teething, but some are for the early stages of training as well.
Rope Toy – This item supplies both soft chew and rip and tear tendencies. You can even stick the rope in the freezer and have on the ready when you puppy’s gums are really sore. As with any toy, supervision is a must, as your puppy works away at the knots and the toy begins to disintegrate you should be ready to replace.
Rubber Toy – I have always had great results with Kong Toys, they are versatile for in any terrain, can be chewed, stuffed and frozen. I especially like to stuff and coat with a thin layer of dog safe peanut butter and keep in the freezer for heavy teething episodes…works like a charm for most puppies! Just don’t over do it with the peanut butter!
Recreational Bones – Marrow bones, chicken necks, lamb femurs are just a few items your dog was meant to chew. The mess can be a little more than some vegans would care for, but your carnivore of a puppy will be so happy you made the sacrifice! I find these are great items to give you puppy during a heavy teething period, especially in the crate when you need them to self entertain. Again, until you know how your dog will handle this high value item, make sure you are supervising to avoid any kind of chocking hazard. And without a doubt, any bones given must be raw…under no circumstances should you ever give a dog a cooked bone.
Soft or Plush Toys – some dogs naturally love having a snuggle buddy, and other like to kill and destroy anything with a squeak and soft skin. Be sure what every item you get is initially only given under supervision. If you have a softer puppy that just wants a plush pal to sleep with, great!! If you have destroyers like I do, always supervise an never leave a toy that can become a choking hazard.
Many new dog owners are under the assumption that their new puppies require regular bathing and nothing could be farther from the truth. On average, depending on breed and required grooming, most puppies are fine with a monthly bath. What’s far more important is regular brushing, and in the case of a puppy, desensitizing them to the brush. Although for those times where a bath is inevitable it’s a good idea to have some gentle wash on hand. I especially like Natures Specialties – Coconut Clean Shampoo.
For regular brushing in-between consider a soft bristled brush for dogs with shorter coats and a long toothed comb for puppies with long coats. Be cautious when getting your puppy used to brushing, if you have a breed that is prone to tangles, regular, short brushing sessions are a must!
Cleaning everything else…
It’s going to happen, no matter how much preparation and planning you’ve done…there will be an accident, some place, some time. For crates, keep some Chlorhexidine on hand, it’s safe, non-toxic and kills microorganisms.
For flooring and carpet, follow your manufacturers guidelines to avoid staining and etching. It’s always a good idea to have some enzymatic solution on hand to eliminate any pheromone sent that may be left behind. The best place to find these products are at your local pet store, they can likely give you a great review and maybe even a sample!
It can seem a little overwhelming at first, but having the right tools on hand will make life with a new puppy so much easier! Remember training starts from day one, if you’re not sure how to get started consider booking a Puppy Consult with SoCal K9. We’ll spend 2 hours with your and your new puppy in your home, showing you the in’s-and-out’s of raising and living with your new puppy to give you the best head start!