You’ve decided to take the plunge and welcome a pup into your home. It’s a big decision, especially for a first-time dog owner. Now that it’s made and you’ve picked out your pup, you’re counting down the days to the homecoming.
This is the time to get busy and do some preparation… to take some steps that will get you off on the right foot and make things less stressful for both you and your new family member. And there are some things you should be doing during the first few days with your new pup that will build the foundation for a harmonious life together.
There's nothing cuter than a sleeping puppy!
Make a visit to the pet store and stock up on what you’ll need
There are several things you should have on hand from day one. Those items are:
Dog food, and food and water bowls
A collar with an ID tag and leash*
Potty pads (if housebreaking a puppy)
Grooming tools (for example, a brush)
*Retractable leashes are very popular, however, did you know that veterinarians and dog trainers alike strongly recommend against them? They can be dangerous for both you and your pet. Please read this article if you are considering a retractable leash.
**Many people don’t want to put their pup in a crate because they feel it’s akin to imprisonment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Providing your pup with a crate is like providing a child with a bedroom. It’s a safe place that is ‘all his’ and once crate trained, your pup will find comfort in it. As an adult dog, Micky’s crate is always available to him (the door is always open), and he goes in it often. In addition, if and when your pup needs to be boarded or spend an overnight at a vet’s office, she will do so much better if already crate trained.
In addition to the ‘essentials’ here are some other items you might consider:
A dog bed
Training tools, like a clicker
Stain and odor remover products, like Nature’s Miracle
A lift harness or ramps if bringing home a senior dog
… this list is almost endless. Stroll down the aisles of a pet superstore and you’ll see a zillion things you can buy to pamper your new family member.
The Early Days
Regardless of your pup’s age or prior living experience, you’ve just turned his world upside down by bringing him into your home. To him, it’s a strange and unfamiliar place, regardless of how welcoming it may be. Of course he’ll get past that. And there are things you can do to help him along… to make the adjustment as easy as possible.
Bring your pet home when you’ll have lots of time so spend with him. Take a day or two off from work if possible, and spend that time at home, with your new family member. The faster your pup bonds with you, the easier it will be for him to adjust to his new home.
Keep things quiet, low key, and calm. Don’t bring your pet home the same weekend you’re having a big family gathering or out of town guests. Let your new family member get comfortable with her new surroundings and with your immediate family before introducing other people, animals or activities. And make sure all interactions are quiet and gentle.
Supervise ALL interactions between your children and your new pup.
Establish the routine early. When you prepared for your new pup, you decided on a routine. Start that on day one. Very quickly your pup will learn that routine and it will be comforting to her.
Sleep in the same room with your new pup — especially a young puppy who just left her mama — for the first several days. Maybe your new pup’s sleeping area will be your bedroom. If it’s not, try to sleep in the room where your new pup will sleep. A young puppy who wakes up alone in a strange place is likely to become very anxious.
Welcoming a new dog into your home is so exciting! Do some preparation, learn a bit about your new pup’s needs, and you are likely to discover that it’s a fun and rewarding experience. Enjoy those early first days... they'll be over in a flash!
Puppies and children make great best friends
Before you bring your pup home
Here are a few things you should do before welcoming a new pup into your home:
Prepare to train your new family member
Training your dog is essential. It will keep your pup safe, and it will keep both of you happy. It’s a fantastic way to bond with your new family member, and it can be a lot of fun!
Unless you end up with a really difficult dog, it’s something you can do yourself. I read several dog-training books before bringing Micky home. The most helpful - by far - was My Smart Puppy by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. This book includes training techniques that are easy to learn, easy to apply, and, despite the name, work well for dogs of all ages. I suggest reading it before you bring your new pup home.
Have a plan in place for medical needs
Don’t wait until your pup is sick or an emergency arises before figuring out how you’ll deal with it. Talk to friends and family members and get recommendations for a vet that you’ll be comfortable with. In addition, determine the location of an accessible 24-hour vet emergency clinic, and make sure you know how to get there. I recommend Emergency Pet Clinic on Broadway at 410. Micky has gotten terrific medical care there. Slightly closer to the neighborhood is Becker, on the I10 access road near Crossroads.
Do some research and learn about what substances are poisonous to dogs. Lots of foods that we eat regularly can make our pups ill or even be fatal. Most people know that chocolate is a no-no. Did you know that onions, garlic, raisins, grapes and Xylitol (sometimes present in sugar free candies and gum) are toxic to dogs? Know what to do if your pup accidentally gets into something he shouldn’t.
Like people, dogs get sick and need medical care. And like little kids, that’s especially true of puppies. Having a plan in place for getting help will make these unforeseen situations easier.
In addition, make sure you are prepared with flea/tick and heartworm prevention meds.
Dog-proof your home
Make sure your home is ‘dog-ready’, both to keep your new family member safe, and to protect valuable belongings from ‘puppy destruction’. Dogs are curious, they love to explore, and they love to chew. Take some steps to keep everybody safe and happy. Here are some suggestions.
Make sure that hazardous substances such as cleaning products, toiletries and medications are locked up or stored on high shelves that are not accessible to your pup.
Did you know that tulips, azalea, and rhododendron can make your dog ill? Learn about plants that are poisonous to dogs and remove them from your home and yard, or make sure they can’t be reached by your pup. Take a look at this article on petmd.com.
Consider the size of your new pup, and then go through your home and look at all areas that will be in his or her ‘line of sight’. Identify ‘triggers’ and safeguard them from your new pup. For example, you might have items on low shelves that could entice your new pup that you don’t want to see destroyed, or that may be hazardous to your dog. Like with little kids, you don’t want your pup picking up and swallowing small items that could be dangerous.
Consider buying baby-gates or barriers to keep your pup out of rooms that are off limits and to avoid tumbles down stairs.
Use child proof-locks on low cabinets to prevent your pup from opening them and exploring what’s inside.
Remove or secure loose wires or cords.
Make sure your trash bins have secure fitting lids.
Establish rules and a routine, and make sure everybody is on board
Dogs are creatures of habit. They need a routine, and they need consistency. Regardless of its age, your new pup will become confused very quickly if Dad allows her up on the couch and Mom doesn’t. And a confused dog will be a stressed-out dog. Before bringing your pup home, figure out ‘the rules’. Will your new pup be allowed on the furniture? Will some rooms be off limits? Where will he sleep? Make sure everyone’s on board so that you can help your new family member learn what’s expected from day one.
In addition, figure out your dog’s routine. When will he be walked?* When will she be fed?** Who’s going to do those tasks? When will he go to bed? Have the family agree on a routine so that you can implement it right away.
*Take a look at this article to learn about walking a puppy… when should you start? How often should you walk your puppy? How long should the walks be?
**This article provides good information on feeding a puppy… how much? How often? What type of food?
Teach your children how to interact with the new family member
If you’ve got kids, make sure they know in advance how to interact with your new pup. They need to know not to wake a sleeping dog. They need to know not to approach a dog while it’s eating. They need to know how to tell if the dog wants to be left alone. Of course you’ll be supervising interactions between your children and your dog — at least early on — but arm the kids in advance with this information. This article offers some good advice.
Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.