Is Your Home Ready for the New Puppy?
Not long ago, as I rushed around my house preparing for a new arrival, I realized that I hadn't had a puppy in a long time. Every room was a wonderful adventure for my new pup, and every room was a disaster waiting to happen.
Sometimes when a new puppy arrives, you and your house are totally prepared and you've even contacted a positive trainer for a few pre-puppy consults. Sometimes you go to a movie on a Saturday afternoon and come home to find you have a new puppy. Life is not always predictable.
However you acquire your new best friend, once your house is ready, the fun can begin.
Puppy-proofing Your Home
Before you bring a new pup into your home, take a slow walk around your house to assess and prepare. If you've been thinking about putting away Aunt Jean's crystal candlesticks, now is the time to do it. No matter how well you manage the puppy situation, there will be times when your pup strays. For that reason, keep all irreplaceable items up high, preferably in a cabinet or a room your pup won't have access to. You don't have to put everything away -- just the things that are valuable to you or dangerous to your dog.
Rubber bands, paperclips, pencils, pens, children's toys, golf balls and anything small that can be swallowed should be unattainable. Clear floors, tables and open shelves of these kinds of things. Phone cords computer and electric wires should also be out of reach.
Get down on the floor to get a dog's perspective of your home. If an item looks interesting, move it. Make it a habit to start closing doors to the rooms in your house, especially children's bedrooms and bathrooms, so that if your puppy gets away from you, the only place she can run to is an empty hallway. Also keep those kitchen counters clear in the first months until training kicks in, so you don't start the puppy off with a life of food thievery. This is not one of those cute bad habits.
Make your garbage inaccessible. To us it is garbage; to our canine family it is the king's feast. Check the house and your backyard for plants that may be toxic to pets. Check fences for holes and loose boards or nails popping up. Check the basement and garage for rat poison and other toxins. If you don't know the history of the house, deny access to rooms where toxins may have been used.
Puppy-proofing your home is about putting away paperclips, legos and telephone wires so the house is safe when the puppy gets away. But don't forget, puppy proofing is also about management and training. Positive training can start as soon as the dog moves in, and the earlier she learns house rules, the easier it will be.
Not that it will be easy. Puppies need constant supervision, as do any new dogs in your home. Shelter dogs of any age should be considered puppies until you get to know them. This supervision ensures that your dog does not develop bad habits and enables you to reinforce all good behavior when it happens. After you have told your dog a few times to leave the shoe and have traded it for an appropriate toy, you'll be surprised how the value of the shoe goes down and the value of the toy goes up. (I recommend that you keep a few different kinds of toys around for those first months, and when you learn what kind she loves best, stockpile those for trading.)
When you or another adult in your family is supervising your dog, it is a good idea to tether her to you with four to six foot leash. This helps with all management issues and house training. You can prevent unwanted behavior and therefore prevent bad habits. If your new dog is underfoot you will know when she starts sniffing and wiggling to get her outside and avoid an "accident." This makes housetraining quicker and less painful.
Leaving a puppy alone in the house is akin to leaving a two year old alone. It's not safe for anyone: the pup, the house, or your other pets. If you or another adult in your family cannot be there with your new dog, she should be in a crate or gated area. Dog crates are very important for managing your dog. See the blog on Crate Training Safety Tips
The Cute Factor
Puppies are not really smarter than us; they just make us think that they are. And as much as we may think otherwise, their will is not stronger. Their secret: The Cute Factor. Don't let it fool you into letting the puppy can get away with unwanted behavior. You are the leader and your dog needs you. You are the one your dog counts on to make the right choices to keep him safe and healthy. Some tips on how to be a gentle leader.
Happy new adventures and gentle teachings.