So you are taking the plunge and adding a new, four-legged, family member? Congratulations! If you have reviewed our other articles I’m sure you understand just how much time and effort goes into training your new dog. Make sure to go through and browse all of our reading material, and prepare yourself for what your new pup is going to need to learn behaviorally.
This article will tackle everything else you need to do to prepare for your pup. It would be best to be prepared prior to the arrival of your little one, but if you are holding your new puppy with one hand, searching the Internet with the other, and pushing a shopping cart with your elbow, we can still work with what we’ve got!
The first step in planning is choosing a space to dog-proof. Some frequently used locations are small rooms capable of being gated off, such as laundry rooms or kitchens.
A gate is used so that your pup can still see, hear, and smell everything going on around them. You should purchase one that will be tall enough for your dog as an adult.
You should also choose a gate that has an easily opened door, to avoid having to remove and replace the gate out of inconvenience.
For more open floor plans, a confinement space can be created using a playpen. If your puppy does not potty inside the playpen it can also be used instead of a crate during potty training, but if your pup has accidents while alone it should be used as an area for semi-supervised confinement.
A good example of this would be; Brenda is playing with her new puppy Stella, but her favorite TV show is about to start. Brenda would prefer not to put Stella in her crate, so she puts her in a playpen in her living room while she watches TV. Because Brenda can see Stella, and vise versa, when Stella needs to go to the bathroom (and can’t sneak off to another room) she begins to whine, giving Brenda the opportunity to take her outside.
If your pup has accidents in the playpen while you are in the same room you should not be using it as a confinement area. Your confined space’s purpose is to prevent accidents in the house, but if it does not you most likely need a smaller space (i.e. crate). If however your pup can be placed in a nearby playpen without having accidents, or they do not have accidents in their playpen at all, we can be comfortable using the playpen frequently.
The unfortunate downside of playpens is that they typically have a catch-22, the pretty ones are not particularly mobile, and the mobile ones are not pretty. When chatting with clients about their needs I tend to recommend they get both types of playpen: one that is aesthetically pleasing that stays in a room they frequent often, and one that they can easily move wherever they need to keep their dog within sight.
Choosing a Crate
Once you have chosen an area to be your pup’s “space” we can choose a crate to use for housebreaking. As discussed above, if your puppy doesn’t have accidents while they are confined to their dog-proofed space or playpen, you may not need a crate.
If you would like to try this before crating your dog, I would still recommend purchasing a crate but closer to the time you pick up your dog so you can return it if necessary.
You should always purchase a crate that comes with a divider, as this allows you to change the amount of space your pup has based on how large they are and how quickly they grow. A standard wire crate is usually ideal for most dogs. A good wire crate option is the Midwest Homes Dog Crate, which comes with a divider and is offered in both the double door and single door configuration.
When placing the divider you should allow your pup just enough space to comfortably lie down, stand up, and turn in a circle. Your dog will naturally want to avoid going to the bathroom where they sleep, so if they have enough space to “go” off to the side they may have accidents inside the crate.
If you need additional assistance with crate training take a look at our comprehensive guide, Crate Training a Puppy.
Your Toy Shopping List
If you want a puppy that doesn’t eat your drywall it is immensely important to keep them mentally stimulated, we do this using a variety of different toys and chews. For a thorough explanation of how and why this stimulation improves your pup’s health see Combatting Dog Boredom With Mental Stimulation.
The more variety you have for your pup the more success you will have with their behavior. You should have two styles of toy for your puppy, the general “toy basket” toy, and work-to-eat toys that you can give your dog to keep them occupied for a given amount of time.
“Toy Basket” Toys
The typical “toy basket” is what most puppy owners purchase when they go shopping for their dog. These toys will be available to your puppy at all times, but you should supervise each one first to make sure your dog plays with them safely. They can be placed in a basket or container of some kind and left where your dog has access to them, and you can use them to play with your pup during hands-on supervised play.
Some examples of “basket” toys:
- Soft Stuffed Animals – Soft texture toys are fun for your pup to play with, and many dogs like to play tug or fetch using stuffed animals. If your dog likes to “dissect” their toys you can purchase ones without stuffing. An example worth a look is the KONG Wild Knots Teddy Bear.
- Rubber Squeaky Toys – Dogs enjoy having a variety of textures to bite, especially while they are teething. Giving your dog a squeaky rubber toy provides a different alternative based on their preferences, choose a variety of different shapes. A tried and true example of this type of toy is the KONG Squeezz Ball.
- Anytime Gnawing Choices – In our work-to-eat section we will provide items for your pup to chew, but you should also have a selection or two for your dog to gnaw on at any given time. Nylabone offers a puppy chew starter pack that is worth considering for this purpose.
- Tug Ropes – Similar to our “soft and fluffy” category, tug ropes provide a different texture that your pup may enjoy chewing on, and that your pup can use to play tug with you. You can find a variety of different tug ropes available at most pet stores.
These toys are ones that your dog will not have constant access to, you will put them away in a cabinet out of reach when your dog is done playing/chewing. We want to be able to give these to our dog to keep them preoccupied, if they have them all the time they become bored with them. These toys will help you reach a healthy level of mental stimulation for your pup.
Some examples work-to-eat toys:
- Classic KONG Toys – Your classic KONG can keep your puppy interested for long periods of time, if used correctly. Put a mixture of canned pumpkin and peanut butter inside the KONG, and freeze it before giving to your dog. This can be left with them for longer periods, as they will revisit the toy when it thaws if they cannot finish it while frozen. Once it is empty you can run it through the dishwasher, the KONG Extreme Dog Toy will last the longest.
- Bully Sticks – These will take your pup a long time to chew, and many dogs will not finish a 6-inch bully stick in one sitting until they get a little older. If they do not finish it make sure to pick it up and put it away, you can give it back to them again at a later time. Your dog can chew and eat this safely, but it should be given sparingly so that it maintains its high value.
- Deer Antlers – Many dogs enjoy chewing on deer antlers, especially those that are split in half or “filet” style. Make sure to supervise your dog at first to ensure they are not breaking off chunks of the antler, as these could pose a choking hazard.
- Treat Balls – These toys are filled with treats and occasionally dispense the treats while the dog manipulates the ball. You can find a wide variety of styles ranging in difficulty at most pet stores.
- “Stick” Chews – Some dogs enjoy the texture of chewing on wood/sticks. Because this is not particularly healthy (splinters!), there are a few alternatives that provide a similar texture. The Petstages Dogwood Stick, and the Barkworthies Root Chew are a safe alternatives for your pet.
- Commercial Pet Chews – These take much less time to chew than the others on this list, but can provide some variety for your dog’s work-to-eat collection. Only dogs that do not have a sensitive stomach are good candidates for these, and they should always be given in moderation.
Once you have prepared your shopping list, scoped out an area for your pup’s “space”, and read up on properly training and mentally stimulating your pup, you are as ready as you will ever be.
Every dog is different and unique, don’t expect your new puppy to be the same experience as your last dog. Be patient, and if you need help you should seek it from a professional dog trainer. Beware the advice of your neighbor, cousin, or pet store cashier, there’s tons of misinformation floating around out there!
When training your dog make sure to always use positive reinforcement methods. When seeking a trainer, select one who doesn’t use punishment, “aversion”, or “corrections”, use only science-backed methods of training.
Enjoy your time with your newest family member, because before you know it those puppy days will be over. Make sure you enjoy them now, and utilize this time to teach your dog before problem behaviors occur!