This post is in honor of my best friend and brand new puppy owner, Whitey.
Finding the Perfect Pooch
When deciding to get a dog of your own, it is never the time to rush into it. You need to take account not only what will be best for you, but for your soon to be new family member as well. (Don’t forget cost– you are adding a new member with needs!) First thing first– puppy or dog. Puppies take more time, training, and attention. Not to mention, less sleep and more accidents to deal with. Do not fear that by getting an older dog that you will be unable to form a bond– I have done both. With older dogs, the bond may take a while longer, only due to being unsure this relationship is lasting having known previous owners. With puppies, you are all they know since you plucked them from mom so they immediately depend on you. Either way, the love created is lasting and unconditional.
Next– picking a breed. This is important, you need to base it on the amount of energy you want to put into it. With more energetic dogs, including herding and hunting breeds, you need to have the time to play fetch, run around, throw the ball and run again. So make sure the breed you choose matches your “outdoorsy/physical activities” side… aka you love daily walks and the game ring toss- you can go energetic, including Aussies, Labs, Retrievers and Weimeriners. On the other hand, if you would rather stay inside and bake cookies, then make sure your breed does not require much leg work. Go little so they wear out quickly or for the more “foofy” breeds (no offense)- including Maltese, Shitzu, and Pampions. You need to realize that if you get an energetic dog and cannot put in the time, this can lead to health problems– including obesity, depression, and heart complications. Also, make sure you research their temperament, whether or not they are good with kids, as well as common health problems.
Another reminder for breed choice- your environment. It is not fair to get a large dog for a tiny apartment/townhouse, not to mention most apartments/rental agencies have weight and breed requirements of their own.
For those who already have a dog, sex will matter. Older female dogs have a tendency to get competitive with younger female puppies for attention when first brought into the home. It is best to get a male with an older female dog, otherwise it is up to you.
Once you have chosen you breed, I always recommend going to different breeders/shelters to meet the possibly new bundle of joy. I cannot stress this enough. Just like people, you cannot judge a book by its cover or know how they act/behave until you are there seeing them interact with you, the current owners, and other litter mates. From personal experience, I went to a breeder looking to purchase the brother of the dog I have now. He had zero personality, was not interested in myself, the other puppies… basically he just wanted to lay on the couch and face the wall. Not at all the personality, activity or behavior I was looking for, for my companion.
Upon choosing you new joy, always make sure they are up-to-date on shots and exams. It is an extremely emotional and tragic situation when you get attached, bring a do home and they have complications.
Bringing home baby
Be prepared. You should already have a crate, food/water dish, food/treats, leash/collar and a couple toys. Also extra towels, accident cleaner and for puppies potty pads if desired.
Depending on the time you bring the pup home, your day will vary. With puppies, the car ride home is usually filled with wines for mom and a familiar face. However, if getting them in the morning or afternoon, you have more time to bond before bedtime. Bedtime. Oh lord. Now, if you made the conscious decision, in that you enjoy sleep and feel it necessary to maintain function, and went with an older dog you will most likely not have the next couple of nights… Puppies cry at night. Nonstop. Similar to the ear-piercing shrieks of dolphins, ranging in volume and tone. No matter how fun-loving and easy-going your puppy was, night makes them remember they are away from mom. My first night with Archie resulted in myself getting under 30 minutes sleep, and that was only with the help of my ever so loving sister who came in town and held him while I got some rest. This is especially true if your puppy was not crate trained. Going from an open pen with family to a crate– similar to a little jail cell– is unnerving. However, the worst thing you can do is let them sleep with you– this makes it near to impossible to ever leave them alone, as they will hate , cry and bark 24/7 in their crate. I recommend two things…
1- Invest in a toy that makes a noise similar to a heart beating, or get a loud manual alarm clock and place it under a warm pillow in their crate. This will give a similar feel to the warmth and beating heart of their mother.
2- Sleep just outside their crate with a blanket covering most of crate, allowing about an inch at the bottom so they can see your body next to the crate. It will comfort them that you are near, but without the blanket they will continually wake anytime you move.
The first couple of nights will be the worst, with the first couple of weeks being similar, just slightly less whining. You need to stand strong and keep up the routine. Routines are the most important thing to instill early on. Puppies will adjust quicker, more easily, and more comfortably with a structured routine.
Your puppy should be weened and onto solids when you get them, which is after 8 weeks. Ask the shelter or breeder what brand of food they use, it is important not to mix and match as it can upset your pup’s digestive system. Also ask about feeding times, eating three times a day for the first year, and amount. These are questions you can ask your vet as well during the first check-up and most dog food bags have the suggested serving size based on your dog’s weight, age, and overall size. Only leave down the food about 15 minutes per meal, don’t allow them to come and go as they please– routine is the best route.
If your newest member is not potty trained, here are my best tips. Although potty pads are scented with some kind of chemical that supposedly attracts dogs to have their business there, I do not believe in them. Only twice perhaps did Archie use potty pads versus my carpet or tile if he was inside and decided to unexpectedly go. I recommend, more so for larger/less ‘foofy” dog breeds, skipping over the potty pads, considering they are supposed to be a transitional tool anyway (moving them from inside to outside) and go immediately to nature. Puppies need to be taken out several times an hour, especially after naps, feeding, and playing. Every dog, like toddler, has a “potty dance” you will pick this up and be able to know, hopefully before it is on your floor, that it is time to rush out. Also with dogs, while having an accident, if you pick them up mid-stream while saying no A-they will know they cannot have accidents and B-they will stop going as they do not want to pee on themselves, so you can rush them outside and praise them when they finish on the grass. Potty training will take several weeks, and accidents will still occasionally happen, especially with apartment dogs as it is not as simple as stand by the back door to be let out, but its mom has to get the keys, down the hall, stairs, etc. You just need to be patient, pay attention and continually take them out.
Your dog’s crate should only be big enough for them to walk in, turn around, and lay down comfortably. Now, since no one wants to spend money buying multiple crates through the growth process, you can buy dividers. Without dividers, your dog will have accidents in one area and sleep in another… epic fail on crate training.
In order to get them comfortable with the crate, you should not only put them in there for bedtime or when you need to leave them home unattended, but “for practice” as well. Letting your puppy into the crate while being in the same room in eyesight will let them know it is ok, they can relax because they will get out.. it is not forever.
You should never use the crate as a disciplinary tool. The crate should be their sanctuary, never a time-out spot. You want them to want to go in there so they are comfortable when they do need to go in there when you leave.
After bringing your dog home, immediately set-up an appointment with your vet. Make sure to get all paperwork and records from previous owner’s in order to stay on top of vaccines and not accidentally double-up or miss the necessities. Plus, if you are like me, in order to plan your pup’s first b-day, you need the BOD.
Puppies require multiple shots and check-ups while maturing. You need to make sure not to bring your puppy around unvaccinated dogs until they have received their third puppy shot, rabies, bordatella and several others. I feel most people ignore this important rule by bringing they puppy around to multiple places, around a bunch of people or to dog parks. Puppies can easily pick up an airborne or ingest a virus from another dog just by being in the same field as an unvaccinated or sick dog… who may have been there weeks prior. In order to avoid your puppy getting sick, please consult with your vet concerning their safety, when they can be introduced to other dogs, and only bring your dog around dogs whom you know have all their vaccinations. It is usually around 3-4 months that puppies can safely be taken to the dog parks as they have completed the necessary vaccinations.
Do not fret if your puppy snoozes multiple times a day– puppy life seems to happen in spurts… excited play, feeding, potty and tons of napping.
Puppies can only handle certain shampoos, chew toys, and food for several months. Make sure to check all labels.
Here are some of my favorite treats, toys, and tips for dogs:
Training treats: Bill Jak. They come in several flavors, sizes (small/large dogs) and are a moist treat great for training.
Waggon Train: These duck and chicken jerky treats are good for gums and should be given minimally– there is a serving size recommendation on the bag.
Nylabone: By far my FAVORITE BRAND. They have great puppy starter packs, ranging in safe-chew flavored bones, teething toys and treats for healthy gums and clean breath.
Squeaky toys with Zero Stuffing: Puppies love noise and squeakers. You will love that when they tear it up, there is not cotton sprinkled around your floor.
Pet Training: I love PetSmart. They have good prices, great results– which are guaranteed otherwise you can re-take the class for free.
I hope my insight will help those to finding, bonding, loving and living with their new best friends. Archie is nearly 1… his birthday is Aug. 8. I know I am still learning as a new “mom” but I am happy to say it has been the best decision and most rewarding work. I mean, just look how he has grown up!!