Announcing the DogWatch Cutest Puppy Contest Winners!

After weeks of overdosing on cuteness as we’ve perused the puppy pics you entered in our Cutest Puppy Contest, we’re happy to announce the 2011 DogWatch Cutest Puppy Contest Winners!
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Chihuahua puppy on carpet

Housebreaking Your Puppy (Without Losing Your Mind)

There are lots of things to look forward to when adopting a puppy: cuddling, playtime, kisses, and the pitter-patter those four tiny little feet. One thing that dog owners do not look forward to, however, is housebreaking their new puppy. A notoriously challenging task that can try your patience and lead to some embarrassing moments, housebreaking is a necessary part of puppyhood.

Dog Tails’ Puppy Month continues with the best advice we can find to quickly and successfully train your puppy to “go outside.” Trust us, we’ve been through it all with our dogs, so we understand!

Based on our experience and what we’ve learned from dog trainers around the country, we believe that there are three universal rules of housebreaking your puppy:

1) Consistency

Dogs thrive on routine, especially when they are young. Housebreaking is no exception. The “Dog Whisperer” himself, Cesar Millan, asserts that daily consistency is the key to successfully housebreaking your dog.

Basset Hound sitting in front of doorEven before you bring your puppy home for the first time, work with your family to a devise a daily dog schedule. Meals, walks, playtime, sleep, trips outside – try work in these activities at the same time every day. Your puppy will soon learn to associate these times with these activities. “7:00AM, I eat. 7:30AM, I go outside. 8:00AM, I play with toys…”

When creating this schedule, be sure to include plenty of “potty breaks,” and not just first thing in the morning and before bed. A good rule of thumb from the Humane Society of the United States: a puppy can typically control his bladder for one hour for every month of age. Because of this fact, Millan suggests scheduling “potty breaks” at various times throughout the day, including immediately following each meal, after waking up from a nap and after long play sessions.

Finally, be aware and vigilant about where your puppy spends his time in your home. Set clear rules about what rooms are off-limits to the puppy, and make sure everyone (even the kids and visitors), follows them. You can use baby gates to help enforce these rules, or you can talk to your DogWatch dealer about indoor hidden boundary solutions.  These safe, small, wireless systems will teach your dog to recognize “off-limits” areas, such as formal rooms, kitchen counters, couches and even the cat litter box. Your DogWatch dealer can help you design a system for your home, and work with you to determine the right age for your puppy to start training with an indoor boundary system.

We know it will be challenging to fit a rigid schedule into your fast-paced, crowded, multi-tasking life. Just remember: establishing a routine and sticking to it is the fastest way to rid your house of puppy “accidents.”

2) Commitment

Neglecting the routine, on the other hand, can quickly lead to housebreaking failures and months of frustration. This brings us to the second rule of housebreaking – be committed. Teaching your dog important lessons like housebreaking when they are young is a great way to set up your pet for a healthy, well-behaved future.

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Welcome Home, Puppy! Introducing Your New Dog to Your Other Pets

Your puppy checklist is complete, and you’ve purchased everything from chew toys to puppy pads to a monogrammed food dish. You’re almost ready to bring home your new arrival, but in the excitement you forgot about one thing: your other pets.

Well, we’ve got you covered. Week 3 of Dog Tails’ Puppy Month is all about introductions. We’ve consulted the experts, and shared their rules, tips and tricks with you. Learn the correct steps to a successful first meeting between puppy and the resident pet, and hopefully it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And don’t forget to capture these eventful first meetings with your camera – a perfect way to preserve the memory AND a perfect way to capture a great image to enter into our Puppy Photo Contest on Facebook!

dog and catIntroducing Your Puppy to Your Cat

The most important rule of introducing your new puppy to your cat is to take it slow.  When it comes to a dog and a cat’s first meeting, do not just open the door and let them chase each other.  Instead, let the two animals slowly move closer to each other, while maintaining control of them at all times. For this reason, it is best to have another person help with the introductions, so that both animals can be quickly pulled away if necessary. Finally, for particularly nervous cats and boisterous pups, we suggest starting off with the pets in crates placed near each other, or separated by a baby gate.

On your puppy’s first day home, schedule sufficient time for the introduction. The best time for it is often after your puppy has had some exercise and a meal. This will put him or her in a more calm mood for what can be a stressful situation for all involved.

During the introduction, be sure to reward good behavior. As always, treats are helpful signal for both animals. Ask the puppy to look away from the cat and look at you. If he complies, give him a treat – he is doing very well! If he does not comply, continue working with the dog to calm him down and divert his attention away from the animal. Toys and treats and words of praise are all helpful here.

Finally, don’t forget about your cat in these whirlwind first days. Make sure to give your cat plenty of time and space to adjust to this new situation. You should designate areas that are off-limits to your puppy. The blog Raising Spot suggests giving your cat “safe zones” where she can roam peacefully and not feel “evicted” by the puppy.

One last note: some dogs will need more guidance and training than others – it depends on the dog’s breed, and prior history. It is also important to remember that some dogs may not be suitable for a home with a cat or cats. Certain breeds – specifically, sighthounds (greyhounds, whippets, etc.), pit bulls and terriers – are more likely to be aggressive towards cats. We says this not to malign these wonderful breeds, but to prepare you. Some aggressive and predatory dogs may attack or even kill a cat if left unsupervised.  This activity could occur even if the dog and cat appear to get along when you are present; as a result, experts recommend separating the animals when you leave the house.

Luckily, starting early is often the key to a good dog-cat relationship. According to the ASPCA, puppies raised with cats are less likely to be predatory towards them as they grow older.  Most dog experts report that nearly any dog can learn to live comfortably around cats, if they are properly introduced and trained.

Introducing Your Puppy to Your Dog

When it comes to dog-dog introductions, the same basic rules apply: take it slow, reward good behavior, and be alert. At the same time, resident dogs require their own set of tips and tricks.

One of our favorite dog sites, Dogster, suggests starting with your dog’s strongest asset: his nose. Prepare both your new puppy and your current dog(s) by letting them sniff objects with each other’s scents (for example, toys, towels, beds or even you own clothes). These “smelling sessions” give the dogs opportunities to pick up information about each other and be prepared for their first meeting.

When the big day comes, we suggest enlisting a family member or friend to assist you. That way, each pet has his own handler, who can give treats and encouragement for good behavior, and, importantly, can pull a dog away if he or she senses hostility or aggression. If your current dog has a history of aggressive behavior towards other dogs, we strongly recommend that you hire a skilled professional dog trainer to supervise and guide you through the introduction process.

dog and puppyThe initial introduction should take place in a “neutral” area – such as your neighbor’s yard or a nearby park. That way, your resident dog will be less protective of his turf. Allow the dogs to approach each other slowly. If the puppy is very small, ask your assistant to hold him while you allow your bigger dog to watch and sniff briefly. After a few of these quick “visits,” you can start to put the puppy down and slowly walk him towards the older dog.

With all dog-dog introductions, start with short periods of sniffing and greeting, followed by time apart. Be alert at all times during these meetings, and watch out for aggressive behaviors, such as hair standing up on one dog’s back, teeth-baring, deep growls, a stiff-legged gait, or a prolonged stare. If you notice any of these behaviors, separate the dogs immediately. Distract both dogs with toys and treats, and reward them when they switch their attention away from the other dog and back to you. Once they both have calmed down, you can try again.

As with most dog training tasks, consistency is key. Repeat these meetings over and over again, extending them a little bit each time. Once they are comfortable together, try the introductions at home, again starting with quick meetings and then gradually increasing the length. Stay positive and patient – it will help you and your dogs get through the process much more smoothly. Eventually, if all goes well, you can progress to group walks and off-leash play sessions!

For those of you blessed with a full house of dogs, experts suggest introducing new puppies to one resident dog at a time – for your sake and the dogs! Another good tip for multiple dogs: start with the least excitable dog first, and work your way up to the feistiest one!

We hope these tips help your new puppy make a great first impression! Share you own experiences here in the comments, or via Facebook. And don’t forget to check back soon for more Puppy Month fun!

Dog and cat photo by fazen via Flickr.

Dog and puppy photo by Jim Winstead via Flickr.


Puppy-Proofing and Preparation: What You Need Before Bringing Puppy Home

Puppy ready to come homeWith help from last week’s DogTails post, you’ve now decided what breed is a good fit for you and your family, and perhaps you have even the found the perfect puppy already! Congrats! Bringing a puppy home requires a lot more work than just picking it up and putting it in the car, however. DogWatch Hidden Fences encourages all new puppy owners to make sure they are properly prepared to welcome their furry new addition. Here are our tips (and checklists) on how to do just that.

First things first: puppy-proofing your house. A new puppy is akin to a crawling baby or toddler; it can and will get into anything and everything, and has a compulsive tendency to put things in its mouth. Here are our suggestions to protect both your puppy and your property:

Puppy-Proofing Checklist
Inside:

____ Put away floor plants, decorations, shoes, and clothing. Puppies won’t know that plants aren’t food or that those decorations are choking hazards, and they certainly won’t be able to tell the difference between your beat-up old Keds and your brand-new Louboutins. And as they’re learning potty-training, they may also have difficulty telling the difference between their wee-wee pads and your cashmere cardigan. Best to remove anything that could be hazardous if ingested, or that you don’t want potentially turned into a chew toy or bathroom spot.

____ Secure or remove tablecloths and other hanging fabrics. These are an irresistible temptation for puppies, especially if they’ve begun to learn to play tug-of-war with you using a rope toy. It may look like fun to them, but one tug and everything on top of that cloth could come crashing down on top of them.

Westie on table____ Put away breakable and small objects on low-lying tables, ottomans, fireplaces, or other surfaces. Anything the puppy could break and/or eat should be removed from its reach. Also, enthusiastic tail-wagging has been known on many occasions to shatter a vase or glass or picture frame, so pay close attention to objects at tail-height.

____ Lock up cabinets and secure hazardous materials. Make sure your puppy doesn’t have access to chemicals, medications, alcohol, detergents, household cleaners, and any other substances that could be hazardous to it. One good way to do this is to invest in the cabinet-locking mechanisms used in baby-proofing. They can be found at your local superstore for a reasonable price and are generally easy to install yourself.

____ Secure phone wires and electrical cords. Puppies love to chew and tug on things, and they won’t know the difference between these cords and the rope you use to play with them. To avoid accidentally disconnected phone or electric service and your puppy potentially being shocked by chewing through the cord, we recommend tucking these cords as far out of reach as possible and covering them in plastic sheathing or PVC tubing, which you can find at your local pet store or hardware store.

____ If there are children in your household, make sure they put away their toys and any small parts or accessories. General rule of thumb? If the part is smaller than the puppy, put it away. Also, having kids put their toys away when they’re done will limit the amount of tears shed when the puppy chews their favorite stuffed animal or destroys their new Lego creation.

____ Double-check every nook and cranny for small or neglected items that could pose a danger to your puppy. Common overlooked places? Under and behind furniture, tables, cabinets, and appliances.

____ Consider having a DogWatch indoor barrier system installed to keep your puppy out of the places you don’t want him going, or that aren’t safe for him.  Contact your local DogWatch Dealer to learn about the options and to find out when your puppy will be ready to be trained.

Outside:

____ Clean up the yard. Put away any hoses, tools, toys, or other objects the puppy could chew on or try to eat.

Puppy_in_pool____ Prevent access to dangerous areas like the pool or well. Even though your dog’s breed may be known for its swimming prowess, it may take your puppy time to learn, and he may have difficulty finding his way back out of the pool. Puppies have also been known to slip through the grating over storm drains and wells. A DogWatch Hidden Fence system is the perfect way to keep your puppy out of hazardous areas like these! Contact your local DogWatch Dealer to learn more.

____ Secure lawn products and chemicals. This includes fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, paint and paint thinner, antifreeze, and any other potentially hazardous chemicals. If you wouldn’t ingest it yourself, it should be kept well out of your puppy’s reach.

____ Check for escape routes and install a proper fencing system. If you plan on letting your puppy off-leash in your yard, you need to make sure there’s no way the puppy can escape into a neighbor’s yard, or worse, the street. Traditional fences do not always succeed at this; puppies can dig under the fences and even get themselves stuck in them. Your local DogWatch dealer will be happy to install a DogWatch Hidden Fence for you that will keep your new puppy both safe AND secure in the part of your yard you designate. Contact your local DogWatch Dealer to learn more.

Phew! Now that you’ve prepared your house and yard for the impending puppy invasion, it’s time to focus on what you’ll need to care for the puppy itself! There is a whole arsenal of supplies that you will need before you can safely bring your puppy home. Most, if not all of these, can be purchased online or at your local pet store. Some of the supplies we’ll mention can be considered optional, in that you will most likely eventually need them, but will probably be just fine without them initially. Ultimately, it’s up to you, and your puppy, which ones you’ll most need and when to add them to your kit. Read More