Preparing For Puppy – A Checklist

Posted on September 6, 2019September 15, 2020Categories Featured, Pet Care, Puppyhood, What Would a Trainer Do?Tags , , ,

You’ll be surprised at what a professional dog trainer buys before puppy comes home.

What does a professional dog trainer buy when preparing for a new puppy? The answer might surprise you.

Shopping for a puppy is always exciting, but what do you really need? Many new dog owners are overwhelmed by the choices and myriad opinions of everyone they meet.

“Your dog needs a crate.”

“Don’t get a crate, it’s cruel. You want a pen.”

“Get a pen and put the crate INSIDE.”

“Get raised dog bowls. It’s better for their spine alignment.”

“Don’t get raised dog bowls! It causes Bloat.”

“You need stuffy toys.”

“Don’t get stuffy toys, it’ll teach the dog to chew children’s toys!”

Everyone has an opinion, don’t they? And everything is so expensive!

Well, I just picked up my new puppy this week. I’m a professional dog trainer with a decade of experience, certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, and I am a veterinary technician who graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Guelph and who worked as Director of Medical Services at a veterinary clinic.

Want to know what I bought?

The Essential Puppy Supply Checklist.

Wide water bowl that isn’t too high and isn’t easy to tip over.

I went with a cheap melamine bowl from Bosley’s.

Plastic mat to put under that water bowl.

Most puppies are sloppy drinkers and some actively paw the water out of their bowls. A mat with a rim will help catch some of that mess. When your puppy is older, a microfiber absorbent mat is your best bet, but a puppy would just eat that up and they aren’t cheap.

A rusted, broken, zap-strapped-together old crate

I got it for free on Facebook Marketplace. This crate is missing all of its bolts. The door is rusted with age. The plastic is chewed and scratched and cracked. It’s perfect.

Crates are completely essential both for your puppy’s safety and your sanity. Dogs don’t like to urinate or defecate where they sleep – even though they love urinating and defecating everywhere else. Plus the crate provides a safe place to put the puppy when you can’t keep an eye on them.

It isn’t cruel to put a puppy in a crate any more than it is cruel to put a baby in a playpen or crib. And it is vital for easy and painless potty training. Since housebreaking issues are one of the major reasons dogs are relinquished to shelters, please just get a crate.

But if you’re getting a large breed dog, like me, you have a problem – if I get a crate big enough to hold a full grown Bernese Mountain Dog, that will give the puppy so much room that she could sleep in one corner and pee in another.

This crate was free, clean, and is nice and snug for my 20 lb Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. When she gets too big for it (probably by next month!) I can size up.

Always check Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for hand-me-down crates. Many people don’t bother with them once their dog is a couple of years old, potty trained, and past the point of chewing up their shoes. Then they list them online and depending on the condition of the crate will price them at $50-80 or even free.

Dollarama leashes, including long-lines.

An off-leash puppy is trouble. The best thing you can do for your stress levels, next to getting a crate, is to keep the puppy on a leash at all times. Leashed puppies can’t pee behind the couch or chew your shoe when you’re busy with the kids. You don’t want your dog to get into the habit of wandering around looking for trouble.

Why the dollar store? Well, puppies chew things. They are adorable bundles of predatory destruction. Don’t get anything expensive until your pup is at least six months old, preferably one or two years old. Expect to go through multiple leashes as they get shredded, urinated on, and dragged through goodness knows what.

A subscription to Bark Box.

No, this is not a product placement.

Bark Box has NOT paid us or offered us any kind of incentive to advertise their monthly subscription boxes. They’re just genuinely THAT good.

Bark Boxes come once a month and each one has its own adorable theme. Matching that theme will be a couple of high-quality toys that crinkle, squeak, and sometimes even have bonus toys hidden inside. I once got a stuffed Viking ship and when my boarders finally destroyed it I found a squeaky Viking ball inside!

Along with the toys are two bags of grain-free treats. Common ingredients include pork, chicken, beef, and fish. Last month they were alligator!

Finally, there are two chewy stick type treats. Sometimes they are dog pepperoni, sometimes a sort of bully stick.

As a dog trainer, I find this constant supply of treats and toys for $22 USD a month to be invaluable. For anyone with an active, destructive puppy, I think a Bark Box subscription – even just for three months during puppyhood – could be a life and wallet saver.

By the way, it also makes a GREAT gift for someone expecting a new puppy. You can even pick and choose the theme of the gift box!

Totally Optional Purchases

A food bowl.

That’s right. Food bowls are optional. Most dogs prefer to earn their food from your hand than to eat it for free from a bowl, especially breeds like Yorkies and Poodles.

I’m a big believer of puppies earning kibble from my hand by sitting, pottying outside, and dropping the socks they pick up. But I still feed them three small meals to keep bowel movements regular and blood sugar levels even.

But why put it in a bowl?

A scoopful of kibble dumped on the floor is just as good from a dog’s point of view.

If your puppy doesn’t eat the meal all at once, then feed less next time.

Feeding raw or homecooked? Then a tupperware container or a flat, washable placemat is probably just as easy as a bowl. Dogs find bowls difficult to eat out of, especially when their food is soft. The food gets squished into the corners and their nose bumps the bowl across the room when they try to lick it out.

By all means, get a food bowl if you want one. Just know that your dog doesn’t care about bowls at all and you can save your money.

A Snuggle Puppy

These nifty little inventions have electronic hearts that go thump-thump-thump. A nice comfort item for a puppy sleeping away from Mom and siblings for the first time. Bonus points if you can leave it with the mother for a few days before the puppy comes home so it smells like Mom too.

Can’t be bothered to order a stuffed dog on Amazon? The old standby of a water bottle and a ticking clock is never a bad idea, and many puppies do just fine with a person sleeping nearby.

A Clicker

I didn’t need to buy one of these because I have them scattered all over my house. Clickers are a dog trainer’s best friend. A clicker is a clear, precise, and distinct way to communicate to a dog that they have earned a treat. Clicking improves communication between me and the dog which means the puppy learns faster and I don’t get as frustrated.

But a simple “yes!” or “BAM!” works just as well as a click.

If you do get a clicker, get a cheap rectangle one. They click louder and last longer than the fancy new-fangled kinds they sell in stores these days.

Front Clip Harness/Seatbelt

If you have a small breed dog, seriously consider a harness with a front clip and webbing in the chest area.

Small breeds are very prone to collapsing trachea and pulling on a collar can wreck their airway. A front-clip harness ensures there is no pressure on your dog’s neck.

Kurgo makes a great harness which also doubles as a seatbelt – very important if you have the size of dog which can climb onto your lap when you are driving or fly through the window as a projectile during a crash.

Large breed dogs also benefit from front clip harnesses especially as they grow, because the front clip gives you some extra leverage against a strong dog.

large dogs should also either be buckled onto a seat or should learn to ride on the floor footwell of the car rather than on a seat.

It can also be expensive to replace harnesses as the dog grows so I’m not bothering until the puppy gets bigger! In the meantime, a crate or the floor of the car are good places for her to ride.

Absolutely Banned

Retractable Leashes

These things teach dogs to pull. Their handles, if dropped, have been known to terrify dogs into bolting away. Dog trainers hate them. Don’t get one.

Puppy Pee Pads

These things are totally useless. Training your puppy to urinate indoors – even if it’s on a special surface – is not a good idea for the long term if your ultimate goal is a housebroken dog. Plus, puppies love ripping up pee pads and eating the not-at-all-safe-to-eat absorbent chemicals inside.

From day 1, take puppy outside and plunk them down on the dirt to pee. Live in a condo? No problem. Get a big litter box and fill it with dirt or sand or even turf from the local plant nursery and put it on your balcony.

Can’t take puppy out regularly? Consider hiring a dog walker to come by while you’re at work, especially if you plan to live a life where you don’t always come home to messes that need to be cleaned up.

If you’re still Determined to let your puppy pee inside, get old towels from Value Village like God intended and wash them regularly.

Anything Expensive

Puppies destroy everything. They chew it, pee on it, vomit it up, eat it again, then poop it out.

Do not buy anything you are not willing to clean diarrhea off of or throw away until your dog has hit emotional maturity.

Ready, Set, Go!

So, have you got your old/second hand/dollar store dog equipment? Good! Then you are ready for your new puppy!

New Puppy? This is priority 1

Posted on February 9, 2019April 12, 2021Categories Kids and Pets, Puppyhood, UncategorizedTags

Socialization and Conditioning

Ensuring your puppy is adequately socialized and conditioned to accept and enjoy the oddities, stressors, and changes in life is among the most urgent training tasks you must accomplish NOW, before your puppy reaches 16 weeks of age.

This critical period cannot be missed. Your puppy must have a wide array of pleasant experiences with people of all kinds, and dogs of every age and breed. You’ll need to find nice cats to mingle with, and don’t forget the cows, pigs, goats, birds, and rabbits, as many species as possible, especially the ones your dog is likely to encounter in their lifetime. Your puppy will need to meet kids and babies in a controlled setting with gentle, controlled kids. Your puppy will need to learn to love being alone, bandaged, handled, groomed, and examined by the vet too. You’ll need to accomplish all this, and much more, by the time your puppy is 16 weeks old.

But What About The Vaccinations?

Yes, you should socialize your puppy BEFORE their shots are complete. I refer you to the AVSAB Puppy Socialization Position Statement and I encourage you to socialize early. Your 8-week-old puppy may already be woefully behind if they were raised in a barn, kennel, or any space separated from the hustle and bustle of the kind of environment you intend for them to cope with. Good breeders have a single litter raised in their kitchen and they purposefully expose puppies to varied stimuli.

What’s the risk?

Under socialized dogs are fearful of new situations. Failure to socialize will mean that interactions with strangers will be terrifying rather than joyful. Being groomed will be a stressful nightmare that repeats each month rather than a lovely ‘spa day’ treat. Your dog will shudder and run at the sound of loud trucks, fireworks, and thunderstorms, and shriek with fear on Halloween, making them more likely to run away and/or get lost and/or struck by a vehicle. They will bark at the vacuum, men with canes, and people who use wheelchairs. You dog may snap or bite when a child unexpectedly pokes them or tugs their tail. Indeed, socialization is a life and death matter.

How to socialize safely

It isn’t good enough to simply take your puppy everywhere and meet as many people as possible. Good socialization is pleasant, low stress, and low risk. We want your puppy to LOVE kids, to LOVE being groomed, to LOVE the world they live in. The best way to ensure that your puppy loves the new friends they meet, becomes confident with the surfaces they walk on, and learns to accept their time spent alone happily is to pair these new things with treats. Offering your puppy a tasty treat, a toy you know they love, pets, and praise when they bravely explore the world will help your puppy make positive associations to potentially scary stimuli like people wearing Halloween masks, screaming children running by, skateboards, clanging pans, and gunfire.

Allow your puppy to approach and explore at their own pace, never force or try to ‘flood’ your puppy by remaining too long, too close, or in too intense of a situation for your puppy to be comfortable. Meet only friendly, vaccinated, gentle dogs. Socializing with puppies of similar age is very important for bite inhibition. Attending a well-run puppy class well before your puppy is 14 weeks of age will allow your puppy to socialize in a relatively sterile environment and minimize the risk of contracting parvovirus. You should continue to reward and encourage friendly, playful behaviour throughout adolescence.

Going to puppy play school is fun!

Classical conditioning is the learning process that allows us to ensure that dogs make positive associations. Pair great things like treats with potentially irritating, scary, or loud things like truck backfires, kennel time, wearing garments like boots, umbrellas opening, getting accidentally stepped on, things falling on the ground, children screaming etc.

Parvo is transmitted through feces, so inviting a friend over to your clean, fenced yard to play is a great idea.

Prevent resource guarding

Do not constantly put your hand in your dog’s dish or take away their bones and toys to teach them to “get used to it”.

  1. Make a few positive associations so that your dog loves having you near their dish. Toss liver treats into your puppy’s dish of kibble. Take the dish away and add more liver before returning it.
  2. Make a few good trades so that your puppy learns to eagerly give up prized possessions when asked. An old toy for this fresh bone, sure!
  3. And then, just leave your puppy alone most of the time to eat, chew, and sleep in peace.  

Socializing with dogs

Don’t just toss them into the dog park. Choosing playmates that are well-matched is important. We want our puppies to meet a good variety of dogs but all of them should be puppy-friendly and vaccinated. Playmates of the same age are particularly great for burning off playful energy. The sensitive period for socialization is a time when puppies are primed to accept novelty but they are also primed to be negatively impacted by traumatic experiences. They are learning about the world and we want them to learn that the world is safe.

Socializing with kids

It is of the utmost importance that children are NEVER left alone with dogs or puppies, and that parents and kids take responsibility for learning, reading, and respecting canine body language.

Rewarding puppies with treats, praise, and petting when they see, hear, or are touched by kids can help. Being around kids should be wonderful, try not to scold or punish puppies too much around kids. Instead, expect that without guidance, your puppy will be a puppy. They will run around jumping, kissing, nipping, chasing, barking, and generally be a puppy. Be proactive, use your leash, treats, and obedience training to teach your pup how to interact calmly and appropriately in the first place so that everyone can have a great experience.

Allow them to communicate (even if that means growling!) to prevent and avoid bites. If your puppy seems uncomfortable, stop socializing. Dogs need an escape route and a responsible adult to look out for their signs of discomfort. Make sure your socialization protocol is safe, stress free, and rewarding for your new puppy.

Teach kids to stroke dogs on the back and to avoid touching their head, face, feet, ears, and tails. 1 child at a time petting for 3 seconds at a time is a good rule of thumb. After 3 seconds, ask kids to back away to check if the puppy still comes to them for more.

Watch our video on introducing your puppy to touch, handling, and grooming tools

Check out this great socialization checklist from Dr. Sophia Yin

Well, you’ve got your work cut out for you so get out there and have fun socializing your puppy!