Advice for the new puppy parent
I got such a kick out of reading Ava Neyer's post-gone-viral about the myriad of conflicting baby sleep advice. I related not because as mom to four kids, I remembered hearing every bit of advice she listed. Her post struck a chord with me because as a new mom to a 14 week old puppy, I can REALLY relate to the maddening concept of plentiful and conflicting puppy advice.
If you are reading this, you probably fell for it too. You either fell for the cuteness of the puppy in the window (bad person, you should NEVER buy a puppy from a pet store!!!) Or like me, you fell for the puppy-dog faces of your kids begging for a furry, sweet. dog that they SWEAR they will love and play with and feed and walk every. single. day.
And if you're anything like me, after a day or two of "winging it," you realized that wasn't really gonna cut it like it did with your babies. So you went and read articles and blogs and the SPCA website and Housetraining for Dummies and ordered books and videos from Amazon. You might have even called on your local dog trainer for sessions. Or maybe you went to Puppy Preschool or had an especially precocious pup and went straight to Puppy Kindergarten or even Puppy College (apparently middle and high school are not cool for canines). You talked with friends who seemingly made it through to the other side of the puppy phase, and you avoided talking to friends whose dogs suck.
You got some great advice. But your head felt a lot like a ping pong ball in a table tennis tournament. So I've complied all the expert puppy advice for you in on place. Here is THE recipe for finding and raising the perfect puppy:
Finding the family pup
Never buy a puppy from a pet store. Those puppies are from puppy mills, which have horrible breeding and puppy-raising practices. Always get a rescue pup. This helps with the overpopulation problem and is the only ethical way to get a pet. But never bring a puppy into a family with kids unless you know their complete history. Make sure you know the background of the puppy, have health records of the puppy and her parents, know how she was raised and weaned, have met the parents and had visits with every member of your family several times before ever bringing a puppy into your home. Get your puppy from a reputable breeder, but not a backyard breeder.
A puppy must raised by her mama until 8 weeks. A family puppy should be raised with children and socialized well before 8 weeks. There is only a three month window for socialization, after that, you are screwed and will be raising Cujo. Get a puppy, rather than an older dog because you can acclimate them to your family's lifestyle. Older dogs are much better for families because their temperaments are set; a puppy's temperament is not an accurate predictor of what she will be like as an adult pup.
Definitely get a mutt/purebred/AKC registered/designer dog. Again, don't even think of getting a dog from a pet store. Unless the pet store does puppy adoptions, which is a wonderful humanitarian way for pet stores to help place shelter puppies.
Crating the puppy
Make sure you have a crate for the puppy. Puppies love crates because they're den animals. Puppies find crates confining. They simply want to be with their people, so just use a small play yard instead of an enclosed crate. Don't confine your dog, just keep your puppy on a leash while in the house instead of crating, then she will learn her cues from you and attach better.
Make sure the crate is only big enough that the dog can turn around in, or he may have accidents on one side and sleep in the other side. Make sure the crate is big enough for the dog to stretch out and lie on her side and have meals in there and play comfortably with puppy toys.
Make sure the puppy has toys in her crate. Put chew toys and bones in the crate to keep the puppy very busy. Fill a kong with treats. Buy puppy puzzles. A bored puppy will be anxious and get into trouble.
Never leave objects that could break or be chewed through in the puppy's crate. Always supervise your puppy with all chew toys and bones. Puppies love rawhide; make sure to stock rawhide knots, bones, and pretzels in bulk for your growing puppy. Rawhide is not a good choice for puppies because they can choke on it, and it's not natural or easily digestible.
Never take the puppy out of her crate if she's whining, or she'll learn that whining=freedom. Don't let puppy become anxious in crate or she'll develop separation anxiety. If puppy whines in crate, ignore her. If puppy whines in crate, give her a treat to keep her happy. But never WHEN she's whining because then whining=treat. If puppy whines in crate, take her out and comfort her. Always let puppy out of her crate when she sounds distressed so that she doesn't have negative associations with her crate.
Housebreaking your puppy
All responsible dog training starts with your dog loving her crate. Your puppy needs to love her crate because all housebreaking depends upon crate-training. Again, all puppies love crates because they are den animals. If your puppy hates her crate, you need to teach her to love it. Always use the crate when not actively watching your puppy's every move. A dog will never pee where they sleep. If your puppy pees or poops in the crate, feed her there because then she will associate her den with food.
Your puppy will always tell you when she needs to go out. Learn to notice subtle cues for when puppy needs to go out. Your puppy will sniff and circle before she has an accident in the house. If your puppy crouches/sniffs/circles/lifts a leg/scratches at the door/stops eating/brings you her leash/barks/yawns/blinks or swallows, that's a sign that she needs to go out.
Take your puppy outside to go potty after vigorous play/eating/waking/being in crate/sleeping/drinking. If your puppy has an accident in the house, scream and yell and tell her to stop. If your puppy has an accident in the house, it is a learning opportunity. If your puppy has an accident in the house, it's is her human's fault.
Feeding the puppy
A puppy needs to eat three times per day. Feed the puppy only upon waking up and at dinnertime, offering only water in between. Feed the puppy kibble, but make sure it's grain-free. Avoid kibble... would you want to eat food that looks that dry and unappealing? Feed the puppy canned food, but make sure meat is the first ingredient. Avoid dog food all together. Just feed the puppy whatever you're eating, even if you eat McDonald's, but not if you eat grapes or raisins or chocolate because they can kill your puppy.
Always make sure your puppy has a fresh bowl of water. Never restrict water. Take puppy's water away 3 hours before bedtime, or you can't ever expect her to sleep through the night.
Training the puppy
Always have treats with you, as dogs need constant treats to shape their behavior. Avoid giving frequent treats, as it will ruin her appetite. Reward puppy with treats every time she comes/sits/goes into her crate/pees/poops/walks on leash/obeys a command. Command is too harsh a word because having a puppy is all about relationships. Don't call them commands, call them prompts.
Your puppy needs to know that you and all of the humans in your family are pack leaders. You must show the puppy who's boss and let her know she's below all of you in the pack. The pack leader theory has been debunked by the very guy who created it. It's all about your relationship with the puppy, not dominance. Do you want your puppy to listen because she's scared of you or because she loves you? If you have a good relationship, your puppy will want to please you naturally without being intimidated by your dominance.
Whatever you do, make sure that your pup knows that even your youngest child is above him in the pack. Never leave a dog and children unattended. Have your youngest child feed the puppy to show her dominance over the pup. Children should be fully involved in puppy chores and play. A puppy is a child's best friend. Puppies can not be trusted around children. Children and puppies are a dangerous mix.
Socializing the puppy
Puppies must be socialized with other puppies and dogs often and right from the start or they will become dog-aggressive. Make sure young puppies do not have contact with other dogs, as they can pick up deadly diseases from them. Your puppy should play with dogs of various breeds and sizes. Make sure your puppy never plays with a dog that's more than twice or less than half her size.
Your puppy needs to meet 500 different people before she turns 6 months old, so host puppy parties for friends to meet your puppy. Introduce your puppy to lawn mowers/baby swings/thunderstorms/women in hats/small pets/school buses to ensure she doesn't develop phobias or aggression towards them.
Knowing your puppy
If your puppy yawns, it means she is tired. Put her in her crate to nap. A yawn/lick lip/tail tuck/shake/eyes widening/eyes narrowing/smile/pant means the puppy is stressed. It may be a sign she will bite. If a puppy bites, close her muzzle and firmly say, "no biting!" Ignore biting and do not react to it. Puppies bite everything, it's just their natural way of playing and exploring their world, so they should not be reprimanded for it. Would you reprimand your toddler for biting? Never let a puppy bite you or a child or friend. Teach your puppy to mouth and bite gently because bite inhibition must be learned before the puppy is three months old.
I hope this compilation clears it all up for you like it did for me. Have you given or received advice not covered here? Please add your puppy advice below because I could sure use some.
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