Tips, Quips and Observations from an Empathic Trainer

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Updated: May 13, 2020

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:


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)


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

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

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© 2017 Hearts and Hounds Dog Training. All Rights Reserved

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Updated: May 13, 2020

February 23, 2018 © Hearts and Hounds Dog Training /

Puppies are adorable, and hard to resist. Advertisers use them to sell everything from toilet paper to beer to stereos. We have to “say hi” to every puppy we see, and they make us laugh with their awkward gait and wiggly rear ends. So how do you know when it’s the “right time” to bring a puppy into your life? This is an important question and it merits careful consideration. After all, dogs live on average 10 to 13 years (and often longer) and will be dependent on you for all of that time.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re ready for a puppy:


Puppies are like babies; they have biological, physical and emotional needs that we must commit to fulfilling if we are to provide the best care for them.


Puppies need to eliminate many times a day: after sleeping, after playing, after eating, when first let out of their confinement area, before bed, often during the night, and whenever “nature calls.” Getting it right from the very start and preventing accidents as much as possible are key to successful housetraining. While you may set up an indoor potty area at the beginning for when she cannot be supervised, you (or someone) will still have to take your puppy outside as often as possible for her to learn that she is supposed to potty outdoors. The good news: there will be lots of opportunities to practise!


Young puppies need a lot of sleep, but they also need gentle exercise for their little growing bodies and brains several times a day. A combination of short-distance “walks” where they get to sniff and explore their environment, supervised play with an appropriate dog or puppy, play with humans, and supervised self-directed play provides a variety of experiences for your pup.


It is critical that you dedicate time to properly socializing your puppy by the time she is twelve to sixteen weeks old. The time and effort you devote to exposing her in a positive way to as many novel items, people, and experiences as possible will affect her for the rest of her life.


Puppies come to us behaving like, well, puppies! They bark, dig, chew, jump up, help themselves to food within their reach, among other things that (most!) people don’t appreciate. It is up to us to teach these little creatures how to fit into our human-centric world.

Can you fit all of the above in with your work, family, and social commitments?


Along with the time commitment, a puppy is a financial commitment that will last on average 10 to 13 years. Here are some of the costs you’ll need to consider:

  • Cost of the puppy

  • Supplies

  • Food

  • Vet bills

  • Pet insurance

  • Training

  • Dog walker/daycare

  • Cost to travel

Surcharge at hotels

• Pet sitter


We all go through various stages in our lives. Some transitions can be anticipated while others come out of the blue. Because a puppy is a long-term commitment and we can’t know exactly what the future has in store for us, the best we can do is assess our current situation.

Your schedule

If you currently have a set schedule, you’ll have to rearrange it to accommodate your puppy’s needs. If you’re used to going out a lot, you’ll likely have to curtail that for awhile, particularly at the beginning while you’re doing housetraining and feeding your puppy three times a day. After that, you may need to modify your activities to more pet-friendly ones. Alternatively, you can arrange for someone else to help, but that can cost money, and you’ll want to choose someone you know you can trust with your fur-baby.

Social life

You may not be able to stay out as late because you have to get up early with the dog. If your dog gets sick, you might have to cancel plans to stay home and look after her. You also might not be able to see certain friends as much because they’re afraid of or allergic to dogs.

Relationship status

Maybe you haven’t settled down with someone yet, or you end up with someone different down the road who doesn’t love dogs like you do or is allergic. What happens then? (I know what I’d do, but not everyone is as crazy about their dogs as I am!)


Having a dog will also influence your vacation plans. If you’d like to take your dog with you, you’ll need to consider your mode of travel, accommodation, and types of activities that will be appropriate for your four-legged travelling companion. If your plans do not include your dog, you’ll have to arrange for someone else to care for her in your absence. There are more alternatives these days than just a boarding kennel; your choice should be based on what you think best suits your dog and is within your budget.


It is becoming increasingly difficult to find pet-friendly accommodation whether you are renting or trying to buy a home. People are having to make heartwrenching decisions to give up their beloved pets because they have to move and can’t find a place that allows pets. Or, the landlord or strata impose restrictions on the type and/or size of pet. No one knows what the future holds for us, but if a move could be in your future, you need to be aware of the possible challenge you may face in being able to bring your dog.

The bottom line is that getting a puppy is a big commitment and one that will last for, hopefully, at least ten years. Many things can change in that time, but the one constant will be your dog’s dependence on you. Unlike a child, she will not grow up, become independent and “leave the nest.” Her needs, too, will change throughout her life, often requiring different levels of care from you. Are you prepared for that responsibility? If so, congratulations!  Get ready to have the time of your life!

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© 2017 Hearts and Hounds Dog Training. All Rights Reserved

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