Tips, Quips and Observations from an Empathic Trainer

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Updated: 3 hours ago

March 10, 2018 © Hearts and Hounds Dog Training /

You’re getting a new puppy! Congratulations! But are you ready for your new little ball of fur? Are you feeling overwhelmed? The key to surviving your puppy’s first weeks at home is all about planning ahead. Just as couples expecting a new baby must make certain preparations before the baby arrives, so too must puppy parents prepare for their fur-baby.

Here are the top 10 things you can do to make this truly life-changing event easier on both you and your puppy:

BEFORE BRINGING PUPPY HOME

1: Puppy-proof the house

  • Hide electrical cords using cord covers or raise them off the floor onto a piece of furniture

  • Discourage chewing on electrical cords (and other not-to-be-chewed items) with a pet deterrent spray such as Bitter Apple; reapply often, as the spray evaporates

  • Remove plants that are dangerous to dogs, or move them out of reach

  • Ensure garbage cans either have tightly fitting lids or secure them behind closed doors

  • Keep foods that are toxic to dogs, and medications (including supplements) out of reach

  • Move shoes and clothing off the floor or into the closet

  • Store small items such as paper clips, push pins, bobby pins, pens, pencils, markers, loose change, jewellery, etc securely and away from the edges of counters or furniture

  • Ensure cleaning products are stored in cabinets or elevated out of puppy’s reach

  • Consider keeping the doors to certain rooms closed (e.g., bathroom, children’s bedrooms) or block access with baby gates

2: Purchase supplies


  • Food –It’s a good idea to find out what your pup has been eating and try to use the same product, or at least keep the protein source the same to avoid tummy upset

  • Treats –You can use your pup’s dry food for training when there is nothing else going on to catch her interest, but you’ll need something she finds really yummy (perhaps freeze-dried liver or cheese) when training amid distractions

  • Water bowl

  • Collar, harness and leash

  1. A flat collar is your best choice, but is best used for attaching your pup’s licence and identification tag rather than the leash (If your puppy pulls or jerks on a leash attached to her collar, she can damage her neck and throat, thyroid, and even her eyes)

  2. Avoid choke, prong, and shock collars which “work” by causing discomfort to outright pain to the dog and often have negative behavioural effects

  3. A “No-pull” harness is a great option right from the start to lower the chances of your puppy learning that pulling is rewarding (to be clear, these harnesses do not train the puppy not to pull; you must train your puppy not to pull)

  • Licence and identification tag

  • A car restraint specifically designed for securing dogs in the car (e.g., a seat belt- or a car harness-style) will keep your precious puppy safe; you can also use a crate but you may need to tether it to keep it from moving around inside the car

  • A crate to aid in housetraining, and as a short-term confinement area to keep your puppy safe when left alone for a short period; also often used as a safe place to retreat to for puppies who need a break from hectic households

  • Bed(s) and soft blankets for the floor and confinement areas

  • Exercise pen and/or baby gates to prevent access to certain areas of your home

  • Toys, particularly chew toys, made of non-toxic materials; interactive toys for you and your puppy to play with together; and food-dispensing toys for meals and enrichment

  • Kongs are the classic food-dispensing toys but there are now lots of others. Use these instead of a food bowl to prolong mealtimes and provide mental stimulation as your puppy works to remove the food

  • Lots of towels for cleaning up messes, wiping dirty paws and drying your puppy off after rainy walks

  • Doggy toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Grooming products

  • Enzymatic, pet-specific cleaning products to remove stains and odours from potty accidents

3: Prepare confinement areas

  • Crates are an excellent tool for housetraining and short-term confinement

  • You’ll also need a long-term confinement area for when you have to leave your puppy for longer than she can be crated

  • This can be a room or area of a room sectioned off by a puppy gate or exercise pen and should include the crate

4: Have a family meeting to establish rules and schedules for the puppy

  • when and where will the puppy be fed?

  • where will she potty?

  • who will take her out for potty breaks?

  • where will she sleep?

  • is she allowed on furniture?

  • who will walk her and when?

  • what methods of training will be used? (hint: positive-, reward-based)

ONCE PUPPY IS HOME

5: Schedule a visit to your veterinarian


  • General health check

  • Flea/tick prevention

  • Deworming if necessary

  • Depending on age of puppy and when she received her first set of shots, possibly a booster

6: Begin house training

  • Prevent accidents through vigilant supervision, anticipating when your puppy will need to go out, and using confinement when she cannot be supervised

  • Puppies need to potty when they wake up, after eating, after playing, and about every hour or so during the day

  • Reward her when she gets it right

7: Begin crate training

  • Introduce your pup to the crate gradually

  • Create a positive association with the crate by feeding your puppy in it, tossing treats into it, and/or giving her food-dispensing toys in it

  • Keep it in a central location so she doesn’t feel like she’s being isolated

8: Socialize, socialize, socialize!


  • Socialization is much more than meeting other puppies; it involves positive exposure to a variety of novel sights, sounds, smells, surfaces, and environments

  • Plan outings to new areas where you can safely introduce your puppy to new stimuli

9: Enroll in reward-based puppy classes

  • Avoid trainers who use aversive training methods and/or use the term “dominance” or “pack leader”

  • Hearts and Hounds uses progressive, reward-based, positive methods and offers Puppy Preschool and Puppy Kindergarten classes in Vancouver (please see www.heartsandhounds.ca)

10: Have FUN and cherish these new beginnings; puppies grow up so fast!



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