We’re Getting a New Puppy (or Dog)!Prior Planning Makes for Success
In January, Kate and I did a two-part series on The Woof Meow Show (woofmeowshow.com) about finding the right dog for you and your family. You can read a companion article and get a link to the podcast at http://bit.ly/2kcuXnD. This column discusses what to do after you have found your dog but before you bring him home.
Adjust your schedule and priorities – Your new puppy is going to need significant time from you, especially during the first few months. A puppy has a key developmental period between eight to sixteen weeks of age, during which certain things need to happen if you want a well-adjusted puppy. This is not something you can postpone until you have time. Block off time in your daily schedule for your pup now and stick to your commitment. Get other family members to pledge to do their part as well. It takes a family to raise a puppy.
Learn to accept, laugh and relax, and ALWAYS be kind – Your attitude and emotions will be a big factor in your pup’s happiness and readiness to bond with you. Trust me, dogs read us better than many of our closest human friends, and if you become angry with your dog, it will damage your relationship. Understand that a new dog, whether a puppy, a senior, or anything in between, will need you to be patient and understanding. Accept the fact that both you and your dog will find one another frustrating at times. Rather than get mad, laugh and relax. Dogs like kind people with a good sense of humor.
Determine how you will handle your puppy’s housetraining – Your puppy will not housetrain himself and will need someone present to take him out several times during the day. This need will continue for the first few months of his life. A rule of thumb for how many hours a puppy can “hold it” is his age in months plus one. For example, a four-month-old puppy will be able to “hold it” for five hours, at most. If you work all day long, you need a plan now if you want your pup to become housetrained. Leaving a puppy in a room or an X-Pen while you are gone is just rewarding him for going to the bathroom inside, which will make training him to go outside take that much longer. If you cannot be there for your puppy, consider hiring a friend or family member to help you.
Make an appointment with your veterinarian for your puppy for the second day he is with you – No matter where you get your puppy, even if it is from your most trusted friend, take him to your veterinarian for his first wellness exam within twenty-four hours of your bringing him home. Make this appointment well in advance, so you are not delayed because your veterinarian's schedule is booked.
Consider pet insurance – If you want to protect yourself against future major expenses, the time to consider pet insurance is when your dog is young as it does not cover preexisting conditions. I recently had a client who adopted a new puppy that was diagnosed with a heart condition at his first appointment. While this is rare, it can happen. There are many pet insurance options available, so do your research.
Select a qualified trainer and enroll you and your puppy in a Puppy Headstart class – Do this now, before you have the puppy, so that you can make sure there is room in the class when your puppy arrives. Every dog will benefit from training, as will you, and the relationship between you and your dog. Developmentally, a puppy will benefit starting in class when he is eight to nine weeks of age, definitely before 16 weeks of age, when socialization windows close. A well-designed puppy class will focus on important issues like: socialization and habituation, housetraining, play biting, jumping up on people, and chewing. These are vastly more important at this stage than working on things like sit and shake. Working with a professional, certified, reward-based dog trainer can greatly simplify your life.
1) If you enroll in class, you are more likely to train your dog;
2) A trainer can answer your questions as they come up; and
3) A trainer can teach you how to avoid unintentionally training behaviors you do not want.
Do not just choose a trainer solely based on location, convenience, or price. Training is an unregulated profession and not all trainers are created equal. Review how to choose a dog trainer at http://bit.ly/2kBs7Ht
Purchase Basic Supplies – You will need some basic supplies for your puppy. Minimally, these include a crate, a leash, a collar, an ID tag, food and water bowls, and toys.
Purchase Food and Treats – What you feed your pet and use for treats is a big decision which can have significant effects on your puppy’s health. I believe that quality nutrition is the key to health and a long life. Be skeptical of television ads for pet food. The pet foods that you most often see advertised on TV are currently facing a lawsuit for misleading advertising. Avoid anyone suggesting that one and only one food is the best food for all pets. Recognize that breeders, veterinarians, pet stores, shelters, and others trying to sell you food, have a bias. Either commit to learning about pet nutrition or find someone you can trust to help you.
Find a groomer – Not all dogs will need a professional groomer for their coat, but unless you plan on trimming your dog's nails on your own, you will need the services of a professional groomer every four to six weeks. If you have a long-haired dog such as a Poodle, Doodle, Sheltie, etc., you will want your dog to start to become familiar with the grooming process between 8 and 16 weeks of age. I suggest a minimum of two to three visits to the groomer during this period, not for a full grooming, but just to have some “happy time” with the groomer and for your dog to become habituated to the process.
Have fun and enjoy your new companion – If you think I have made raising a puppy sound like lots of work, that is because it is. However, the more you know and plan ahead of time, the easier it is. The investment you make in your puppy will be paid back in fun and companionship.
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. He is committed to pet care and pet training that is free of pain, force, and fear.