Puppy Time

By Ryan Eder

We are entering the time of year where those considering a new puppy begin the process of researching and looking for their next companion. This is no surprise, after all, the holidays are a time where people have time off of work, and kids are home from school on holiday break, making the addition of a new puppy easier to focus on. One of the most popular line of questioning I receive is “what will I need to bring my new puppy into the home”?

My guess is if you were to google that exact question, there would be thousands of recommendations for what items you should purchase, what food to feed the puppy, how to train your puppy and everything else you can imagine. I encourage you to do your own research, and read as much as you can; having as much information as possible is never a bad thing!

Being that I am fortunate enough to write an article for this publication, the focus of this article will be my summarization (key word “summary”; there are far too many pieces to the puppy puzzle to fit into one short article) of what answer I give to the question “what do I need to bring my new puppy home”?

The Crate
While there are several opinions out there regarding crate training, I crate train all of my dogs. In my opinion, crate training is the best method of house training, and also a great way to establish a schedule for your pup. Personally, I prefer the plastic crate simply because it is easier to clean, and if there is a mess it confines the mess to the crate (versus wire crates where the mess can escape the confines of the crate to your floors or walls). Keep in mind; puppies will have accidents, especially when crated for extended periods of time. Be patient and understand that young dogs have young bladders, and anything longer than 1-2 hours is questionable when a pup is 8-10 weeks old. Plan on buying 2-3 crates for your dog, beginning with a smaller crate for the puppy. Depending on the breed, your puppy will grow quickly, and need a bigger crate in a matter of weeks or months. Go with a medium sized crate. For larger breeds, you may need to upgrade one more time to a large or extra-large size. The reason for the gradual change in crate size is simple; too much space in a crate encourages accidents. Dogs are den animals, and have a natural instinct to not make a mess where they sleep. A crate that is much too large gives them a place to mess, and sleep with no consequence.

Establish a routine
More important than anything when bringing a new puppy home is to immediately get your routine and schedule established. Sure, a young dog will have accidents and make puppy mistakes, but your routine sets the tone for everything. The dog’s mind and body will sync up with your routine; feeding times, play times, potty time and bed time all become part of their daily regimen. Everyone has their own routine simply because we have different work schedules, family schedules, etc. Personally, I am in the kennel every morning around 5 am. At this time, dogs are aired out for potty time, then fed and taken out for a morning run after meal time. This is my opportunity to give the dog’s morning exercise, and also allow them to use the bathroom after meal time out in the field (keeping the kennels cleaner). I have a day job so early morning is my best chance to exercise the dogs before they spend the day in the kennel.

When I get home from work, I air dogs out again, clean kennels if necessary and get to training. After training I give the dogs a chance to cool down and drink water. Once they are settled, I feed again for their evening meal. The dogs know when they eat, when they air out, when they train and when they go to bed. They know to go to the gate when it’s time to run, and know which kennel to go to for feeding time. This makes dog chores much easier, and would be the same in your home.

Establish and teach your vocabulary
Make sure before you bring your puppy home that you know what your vocabulary will be. What commands do you wish to teach? What will your cues be for things like going potty, loading into the crate, etc.? Even though eight week old puppies are young with limited attention spans and certainly limited capacity to learn everything at once, it is important to begin training immediately! For example, when I crate train a new puppy, every time I take them outside to go to the bathroom I simply say “go potty” a few times while the dog sniffs around and looks for a place to do their business. When the dog does go potty, I praise them and incorporate the vocabulary into the praise (“GOOD, go potty, GOOD” while petting and rewarding the dog). It is amazing how quickly the dog catches on that “go potty” means to do just that. This comes in handy when we take the dog outside late at night or early morning when we are in a hurry. I also like to feed the puppy in their crate for two reasons: 1) it makes them more comfortable in their crate and establishes it as a positive place and 2) I start to put their food dish in the crate and instruct them to SIT, then tell them “kennel”. At first the pup has no clue what either means, but when they see their food in the crate they’ll go in there to eat and we have begun teaching them how to sit, and how to load into their crate.

Notice that my summarization focuses on crate training, establishing a routine and vocabulary. I did not discuss toys, and all kinds of products that ultimately are not as important as the environment you create for your puppy, and the time spent teaching them. You can spend hundreds on toys and guess what; your puppy will prefer sticks, rocks and wood chips! Socialize your dog; introduce them to all kinds of people, other dogs (dogs that are good with puppies of course) and as many places as you can. Keep in mind young puppies are not through a complete vaccination schedule so plan accordingly. For more information, please email us at [email protected]