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Your new puppy

11/2/2006

By VICTORIA SCHADE
Certified Pet Dog Trainer

You’ve done your research, plotted and planned, and now the day is finally near. You’re getting ready to bring home your new puppy! Now what? It’s an exciting time, but it can also be frustrating and confusing. Should you crate train? What should you do when your puppy has an accident in the house? How can you keep you puppy from chewing your shoes? The joy of a new addition can quickly turn to frustration without a roadmap, but with a little preparation, you can minimize some of the issues that might occur.

New Puppy Essentials
Certain new puppy purchases, like bowls, toys, and a collar, are fairly obvious. The following are a few not-so-obvious lifesavers that no new puppy owner should be without.

The crate: Many people are put off by the concept of crate training. It might appear to be a puppy prison, but in fact it’s one of the most useful aids in your new puppy toolkit. Crate training is a safe, humane way to teach your pup to “hold it” in the house, and will keep your pup from chewing inappropriate household items. Most puppies prefer a wire crate instead of the hard plastic travel type. Sizing the crate is key; your pup should only have enough room to stand up, turn around and lay down. This provides ample space to rest, but not enough room to soil one corner and sleep in the other. Keep in mind that the crate is not a babysitter; avoid leaving a pup inside for too many hours for a small bladder to physically hold it.

Baby gates: Your pup just came in from a successful potty trip, so you decide to have some playtime in the kitchen. Then he spies your cat walking down the hallway, and the chase is on. Baby gates narrow your pup’s potential target zone, and all but eliminate household “chase-me” games. A room sectioned off with baby gates should be your pup’s second home. A new puppy can’t be trusted out of sight, and baby gates are a great way to keep him on your radar screen.

Tether: A household tether is often called a “puppy umbilical cord.” A tether is a short, lightweight nylon or cotton leash that can be attached to a heavy piece of furniture to keep you pup close while you eat dinner, work on the computer or watch TV. Give your pup a bone or chew to keep him busy while he’s tethered, since young pups can’t amuse themselves for long! Like baby gates, a tether is a great way to begin to expand your pup’s world without giving him complete freedom.

6 ft leash: Less is more when it comes to leashes. Although retractable leashes seem like a good idea, giving an untrained pup 16 feet of freedom turns you into an anchor, not a companion. Taking a walk with your new pup is a superb way to bond, plus the physical closeness allows you to be right there to praise and reward him when he eliminates in the proper location. Leather leashes are great, but many pups consider them a delicacy, so use them only when your pup is supervised.

Chews: There’s a big difference between a toy and a chew. Toys like balls and tugs are built for play, but chews provide the texture and resistance puppies need to help them cope with a curious mouth and painful tooth eruptions. Buy a variety of chews so you can determine which type your pup actually prefers to chew. It might seem obvious, but check to make sure that your pup is actually enjoying what you’ve provided. If the hard plastic bone that you bought is still intact, it’s a safe bet that your shoes or baseboards won’t be!

Puppy Proof
With shopping completed, your next goal is puppy proofing. Look at your house from your puppy’s perspective. Shoes, book bags, garbage cans, electrical cords, area rugs with fringe – basically anything that your puppy can tip or move - are all potential targets and should be relocated. Don’t forget to look up as well. Dangling items like towels, toilet paper and purse straps are also puppy-tempters. Unmovable furnishings like couches, tables and wall-to-wall carpet are also potential targets, which is where keen supervision comes into the picture.

Create a Schedule
Daily life with your new pup will be a breeze if you stick to a schedule. Be consistent with your pup’s daily activities, particularly his meal times (if you know when the food goes in, you’ll know when it needs to come out). Schedule his walks and playtime, his potty trips, and make sure to schedule time for naps in the crate. Busy puppies need to be reminded when it’s time to take a break.

Training Time
When should you begin training your new pup? Now! It’s never too early to make good manners a part of your pup’s life. Find a reputable training facility with puppy classes that provide playtime and basic obedience lessons. Every interaction you have with your pup teaches him something, so avoid reinforcing behaviors that will cause problems later, like jumping or begging for food.

Dealing with ups and downs of puppyhood can be frustrating, but remember that it’s all a fleeting stage in your new best friend’s life. If you take the appropriate steps during puppyhood, the outcome will be wonderful for you and your well-behaved canine ambassador!

Victoria Schade is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, and creator of the puppy training DVD "New Puppy! Now What?"