June 10, 2011
Puppy-Proofing and Preparation: What You Need Before Bringing Puppy Home
With 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:
____ 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.
____ 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.
____ Clean up the yard. Put away any hoses, tools, toys, or other objects the puppy could chew on or try to eat.
____ 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.
____ A plastic, vented, top-handled travel crate to bring puppy home in, and to use for transport in the car until your pup is large enough to use a car harness
____ Decide on the vet you will be using for your puppy, and schedule an appointment within the first few days of bringing the pup home for a wellness checkup and vaccinations, and to discuss spaying or neutering
____ Puppy food: To determine what food will be best for your pup, you can consult with your vet in advance to make sure you pick a food that will meet your puppy’s size- and breed-specific nutritional needs. Buy some of what you are planning to use, and find out in advance what kind of food the puppy has been eating at their current home and arrange to have some of that food on hand as well. Puppies’ stomachs can get upset by a switch, so when you do switch, it’s best to do it over several days to a week, starting with ¼ of the new kibble and ¾ of the old kibble, and gradually swapping the ratios until the puppy is entirely on the new kibble. This is also a good idea for any new dog.
____ Food and water bowls. Stainless steel is safest, holds up the longest, and is dishwasher-safe. Ceramic bowls are another dishwasher-safe option, but the glaze used on some of them may contain lead, so make sure to read the label fully. We suggest avoiding plastic, as it can cause irritation and acne for many dogs, may contain chemicals, and is not as antimicrobial as stainless steel or ceramic, which means it can retain bacteria and germs that may make your puppy sick.
____ A piece of cloth that has been rubbed on the puppy’s mother, litter mates, and/or the person who has been raising the puppy so that it will have their smells on it. This can be very comforting to the puppy as it adjusts to its new surroundings and new family.
____ A flat cloth or Nylon collar that will fit loosely enough so that you can fit two fingers under it, but not so loose that the puppy can wiggleout of it. An easy way to pick the right collar size: measure your puppy’s neck with a tape measure and then add 2 inches to the measurement.
____ An ID tag to go on the collar. Even if your puppy doesn’t have a name yet, it’s a good safety measure to get that ID on in case he manages to get loose before you’ve properly named him. You can always get a new ID tag later once he has his official name.
____ A short leash, usually 6 feet, for walking, and a longer leash, usually 15 feet, for training. We caution against retractable leashes for puppies, as they do not offer enough control during the training process. They tend to be best for dogs that have already been leash-trained.
____ Grooming tools: nail clipper or Dremel-type tool, dog brush and comb, and any special tools for the breed you are getting. You may also want styptic powder to stem bleeding if you cut too close with the nail clipper. In regards to the brush and comb, make sure to consider your dog’s coat before purchasing. Different coat lengths and thicknesses require different grooming tools. In addition, you may want to consider investing in a FURminator® or other special de-shedding tool to reduce the amount of fur your pup leaves in his wake.
____ Puppy pads or newspaper for use in potty-training
____ Paper towels for cleaning up messes (which are likely to happen until your pup is fully potty-trained)
____ An enzyme carpet and floor cleaner to neutralize any urine that gets onto floors or carpets. The enzyme breaks down the urine and odors and helps prevent the pup from associating that spot as an acceptable potty place.
____ One or more ways to clean up the poop that your puppy will be gifting to you. Plastic grocery bags work just fine for picking up messes, but pet stores also sell bags made specifically for picking up poop, as well as carriers for them. If you plan on letting the puppy do his business unattended in the yard, or are particularly squeamish about handling puppy poop, you may want to consider a pooper-scooper device. These come in long- and short-handled models, depending on your need and preference.
____ A wire crate for crate training and/or sleeping at night
____ Bedding for the crate that can be easily washed. Old towels will work initially if you do not want to get a bed that the puppy may soon grow out of.
____ If you choose not to have your puppy sleep with you, as many owners do, a hot-water bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in old towels can keep the puppy happier at bedtime, as can a ticking clock.
____ A puppy Kong, a Nylabone, and a few other toys, such as a rope toy for games of tug-of-war. Having something for your puppy to safely chew on is essential to the health of both your puppy and your furniture and other household objects! Be sure the toys don’t have buttons are other things that could be a hazard if the puppy chews the toy to shreds. We’d also suggest avoiding squeaky toys while the puppy is in its teething/chewing phase, as the squeakers can be choking hazards and cause digestive issues if swallowed.
____ If you want to use rawhide chews, only get good quality ones and only let the puppy have them when someone is watching. We generally advise against these, as hunks have been known to break off and get caught internally, causing choking and breathing difficulty or gastrointestinal distress. Rawhide is also very water absorbent and can expand in the dog’s stomach or intestines, causing further digestive distress and potentially even gastrointestinal blockages. Any of these serious issues can and most likely will require veterinary intervention or even surgery. Rawhide chews can also contain formaldehyde and other chemicals that are used in the bleaching and tanning process. For this reason, we’d recommend using safer, more digestible chews such as bully sticks and trachea sections, and non-digestible chews like those made by Kong and Nylabone.
____ Bitter apple spray to deter puppies from chewing or licking objects it’s sprayed on. This is pretty important, as teething puppies will chew just about anything they can fit in their mouths (and even things they can’t)!
____ Flea and tick control products approved for puppies, particularly if the pup will be spending a lot of time outdoors and you live in a wooded or otherwise flea- and tick-filled area. Your vet should be able to recommend a good product to use. For more information on flea and tick control, see our blogs posts here.
____ Small, training treats to use as you train your new puppy. In training sessions, multiple treats are given, so it’s best to have small, bite-sized treats that will not make your puppy sick if a lot are eaten.
____ Dog toothbrush and toothpaste to help keep tartar, gum disease, and bad breath at bay
____ A gentle dog shampoo that is approved for puppies
____ A bed for use outside the crate. We suggest getting one with a removable, washable cover.
____ A storage bin for the dog food, unless you have an absolutely secure, puppy-proof place to store it. Puppies can and WILL get into food bags, and we know many dogs personally that have made themselves sick after getting into a big bag of dog food and overindulging! Pet stores sell special dog food bins, but we find that a large Rubbermaid bin works just as well.
____ Microchip, tattoo, or other permanent ID; your veterinarian can discuss these options with you and help you decide which is best for you and your pup.
____ For first-time puppy owners, a comprehensive puppy book, which be found at your local book store or ordered online. This will act as a good reference for common questions, training, emergencies, and veterinary needs and concerns.
____ Pet insurance. While not a necessity, it definitely comes in handy in defraying the mounting veterinary costs that occur during the puppy’s first years of life. It’s also useful for unexpected accidents and helps take the strain off the already-stressful situation of having a sick or injured puppy.
We know this all seems like a TON of work, but we guarantee you, it will be worth every last minute and every last cent when you are enjoying your time with your happy, healthy new puppy!
Think we missed something? Feel free to comment below and let us know what you would add to this list, as well as how these checklists worked for you! We always love getting your feedback.
Photo credits, top to bottom: