The holiday season is upon us and I adore this time of year.
Every year I look forward to this season, enjoying the celebrations and time spent with my family. I also look forward to the influx of puppies at K-9 Coach that follows Christmas and Hanukkah – little balls of flying fur who are in desperate need of training and socialization trailed by new owners who are sleep deprived and a bit in shock as to what the cute little puppy has become: a whirling dervish. Often, by the time we see these puppies, they are already engaged in some behaviors and habits that the new family is not enjoying so much. Last month, we examined the top five things to consider when choosing a pup. If you missed that, look at last month’s Our Town issue or visit us online (www.k-9coach.com) and see our blog section. This month, I focus on bringing a puppy in your home and starting off on the right paw.
Routine – Every dog needs a routine and puppies need a routine even more! Decide when, where, and how the puppy will get exercise, sleep, play, train and potty. REMEMBER – when, where and how. Then decide who is responsible for puppy and when. Stick to this routine, even on weekends. Dogs and puppies on solid routines are faster and easier to housebreak, crate train, teach basic obedience skills, and sleep through the night. Puppies on routines are less likely to have behavioral challenges, housebreaking problems, separation anxiety, or destructive chewing.
Crate – Use a crate from day one. Dogs are naturally den dwelling animals and most puppies feel much more secure and safe in a crate. It is not punishment but, rather, what they would prefer. There are many different types of crates from plastic to metal as well as fabric crates and they all have different pros and cons. Remember that a crate should only be large enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around in as well as lie down but not so big that it encourages soiling in the crate. Feed your puppy in their crate. Give them safe toys in their crate. Put them in their crate at random times throughout the day and night. The crate SHOULD NOT only be used when leaving or at bedtime. If you do this, puppy will accept the crate as their own space, will feel safe in their crate and will be safer as well.
Food – Make sure to bring home the food that the rescue or breeder has been feeding your puppy. You may choose to continue that food, or you may choose to switch to another brand. If you do choose to switch to another brand, make sure you mix the current food with the new food. Gradually switch your pups’ food to the new food over several days to avoid gastrointestinal distress. Choose a high quality puppy food and make sure to feed the appropriate amount recommended on the bag or by your vet.
Space – The single biggest mistake new puppy owners make is giving the puppy way too much freedom, space and full access to the house. Loose puppies are puppies in trouble. Choose a safe area that is puppy proof: no wires, furniture that may get chewed on, rugs or carpets that may be hit with a potty accident or family shoes, etc. You may choose to fence off a portion of your home with baby gates. This is highly effective and easily temporary. When the puppy is not in his or her crate or with you, they can play safely in this space. Leave safe toys and interactive toys as well as a small bed for the puppy to lie on in this space. Often, families choose to create this space where they spend time as a family so as to include the new puppy in family time and make sure the family can watch for when the puppy may need a potty break.
Toys – Puppies are very curious, exploring their world and teething. These all lead to chewed up legs of chairs and tables or even shoes! Provide your pup with safe, interactive toys to both entertain them and teach them to chew appropriate items. Toys that can be stuffed with treats or dinner are perfect for interactive play as well as good for teething. Remember to remove any toy your puppy is chewing up or swallowing and to avoid toys that mimic your personal items or your children’s toys. Giving an old shoe for example, will teach puppy that shoes are acceptable to chew.
We look forward to seeing all the new puppies in the New Year and recommend puppies start training very early before any behavioral issues set in or habits take hold. As always, our off-leash puppy classes run year-round and you can start at ANY time once puppy has received their second round of shots and up until they are 18 weeks of age. And, for those of you who may have missed this window or have an older pup, our Winter Quarter of all our classes will begin in January. So, make sure to visit us and sign-up now.
From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!