Puppy Prep 101

Our New Aussie Pup, Willow

Written on February 27, 2012

As I write this I’m thinking about tomorrow and am giddy with excitement because tomorrow we’re adding a new puppy to our home.  There’s nothing like a puppy to spice up one’s life!  But bringing a new pup into your home should be done with much forethought and preparation….no snap decisions please.  Here are some important things to do prior to the little one joining your family.

The moment you even “think” about adding a puppy to your home, get a book on puppies.  Read it.  Two that I recommend are Whole Dog Journal’s “Puppy Primer, What to Do and Not to Do in the First Months” and “Puppy’s First Steps” by Nicholas Dodman, BVMS.  Puppies are LOTS of work.  You may prefer to bring an older dog into your home.

  • Sit down and discuss the possibility of a puppy with your entire family.  Do your research to determine what breed or mix of breeds would bet suit your home.  Consider size, energy level, temperament and grooming needs.  And of course, consider time and expense.  This decision is a 10 to 15 year commitment and should not be taken lightly.  Decide who will be the primary caregiver of your pup.
  • Decide where you’ll get your pup.  If from a shelter, make an intelligent decision, not an emotional one.  Enlist the help of a trainer to help you with a temperament and behavior assessment.  If from a breeder, make certain you pick a reputable breeder.  Start with a phone call to interview the breeder to ask many important questions. Key information to know is:  How many females does the breeder have?  The fewer the better as whelping/raising litters takes time and you want your pup to get the early attention it needs.  Where does whelping take place?  Right answer is inside the breeder’s own home.  Be sure to meet the puppy’s mother and father so you can understand their temperaments.  Ask if people come and go in the home and if there’s interaction with pups.  If so, then your puppy is getting nice early socialization before leaving the litter.  Ask if the puppy has littermates?  A singleton puppy is very much at a social disadvantage because of lack of time with siblings.  And do not, I repeat do not bring a puppy home earlier than 8 weeks.  Actually 10 weeks is preferred.
  • Adjust your schedule so that you’ll have time off of work when the puppy comes home.  You want to make sure the introduction to your home and family goes well and you need to be present for that to happen.  If possible, take an entire week off of work.
  • Purchase a crate that will be your puppy’s safe space and will aid you in preventing unwanted behaviors and help you with housetraining.  Be sure to buy a front clip harness, a collar and a 4 or 6 ft nylon, leather or cotton leash (stay away from retractable leashes).
  • Buy a puppy Kong, Nylabones and other toys made for chewing.  Your puppy explores the world with its mouth and you want to be sure to have safe items for chewing.
  • Puppy proof your home just as you would for a human toddler.  But valuable items and everyday items you don’t with you puppy to touch up and out of reach of that little mouth with sharp teeth.
  • Consider pet gates to keep your pup in specific areas of your home until she/he is housetrained and to aid in proper introductions with other members of your animal family (you can check out the Cold Nose College blog for proper introduction tips).
  • Look ahead and arrange for a puppy socialization class for your new canine kid so that he or she learns that new places, people, sounds and places are good things vs. becoming afraid of the new things in his/her life.  You’ll learn about housetraining, how to deal with puppy nipping and biting and how to safely introduce your pup to a variety of new experiences.  A puppy’s most formative time is up to 16 weeks of age.  Puppies love everything early in life…..you want it to stay that way and proper socialization will help make that possible.

So, tomorrow I’ll be a puppy parent.  I’ll embrace the lack of sleep, the little time for myself and the constant supervision needed for my girl to grow up into a confident, well-adjusted pup.  And I’m already enrolled in puppy class……see you there!

Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a Pat Miller Certified Trainer-Level2, a dog*tec Certified Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina.  She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities for dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S.  


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