If the plethora of adorable new puppies in your neighbourhood and on your social media feed has left you and/or your kids longing for four-legged companionship, you’re not alone.
‘Pandemic puppies’ are trending and if you’re truly ready to make a long-term commitment, now could be the ideal time become a pet parent. The time you’re forced so spend at home at the moment is the perfect environment to get your dog’s life and their training off to the PAWfect start.
Whether you’re welcoming a curious puppy into your home or an adult dog who doesn’t yet know what’s acceptable and what’s off limits, any dog in a new environment is bound to explore so supervising your new addition and dog proofing your home are key.
Getting down on your hands and knees to explore your house through the eyes of a dog can give you a new found and valuable perspective. I always suggest people go through their home and make a list of all the things a dog might get into, which is pretty much everything.
Breakables, choking hazards: Place breakables out of reach and secure unstable items that could be knocked over by an excited dog’s wagging tail. Pick up choking hazards like paper clips and bits of string and pay attention to electrocution hazards. A puppy can chew through an electrical cord in seconds, potentially causing severe burns and electrocution. Either tape these wires down, tuck them behind/under furnitre or run them through PVC pipe to prevent your pup from becoming a hot dog with extra volts.
Remove potential strangulation hazards – such as mini-blind cords and a dangling curtain fringe – from your dog’s reach by taping them down, tying them out of reach or removing them altogether. And those area rugs? Roll them up at least until your pooch is housetrained.
Poisons, garbage: We know to put away small items like the remote control, hair elastics and batteries and also have to make sure chemicals are stored away. A lot of plants are toxic for dogs and puppies will absolutely chew on them. Do your research and see if your property contains any harmful plants. If you’ve got them, either remove them or fence them off.
Limit where they can go by closing doors and installing pet or baby gates. Properly secure rubbish and compost bins that could contain dangerous items, ranging from expired medications and rotten food to food packaging. Ensure toiletries like shampoo and sunscreen are out of reach.
Keeping your dog on a regular feeding and watering schedule will make housebreaking easier. A backyard is a definite bonus, but you can’t simply open the door and expect your dog to go outside to do their business and return. Especially with puppies, they’re going to investigate and get to know everything. They will be chewing on plants, digging in the garden, eating the flowers, nibbling on the deck, basically getting into everything they shouldn’t.
House training: For at least the first few months, going out with your dog on leash to the spot where you want them to do their business. Reward them heavily when they eliminate and give them appropriate activities, such as playing with their toys and relaxing. Invest in garden fencing or exercise pens to protect plants and gardens.
If you don’t have a backyard, pick up your puppy when heading out for a walk to prevent them from losing control of their bladder. If you have a balcony, consider setting out a puppy pad or specially designed, drainable, artificial grass for last-minute or emergency breaks. Take them out there even on leash and show them this is where they do their business and reward heavily when they do. A lot of people have a garden or plants on the terrace or balcony so make sure the puppy is supervised their too.
Crate training: This will restrict your dog’s run of the house and help keep them safe while unsupervised. If used correctly, a crate can be a highly effective toilet training tool as well as a comfortable den.
Teaching your puppy to accept and enjoy their crate by offering treats and crating them even while family members are at home will help prevent separation anxiety down the road, especially when you return to work and kids go back to school. A rule of thumb, a puppy can hold their bladder 1 hour for every month they’ve been alive + 1 hour. So a 4 month old dog can hold their bladder for 5 hours (not that they do unless asleep or in a crate).
Socialization: The first 6 months of your puppies life are where they form most of their thought patterns and associatons towards to outside world. Ensure their first time meeting new dogs, cats and other animals, buses/trucks/motorbikes, children, vets etc. is always a positive experience. For example, when out on a walk, if you see a bus coming stop what you’re doing, bend down to pat and feed your dog as the bus passes. Rather than associating the bus as a big, scary thing that’s noisy, it’ll be the thing that makes you feed and massage them. Apply this principle to as many things you can think of and your dog will never be scared of a thing!
Put these points in place and it’ll save you time, money, patience, headaches and your sanity in the future! Future you will thank you for it.