Your Puppy’s First Night Home: What to Expect

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Puppies 101:  Your Puppy’s First Night Home

Your puppy will whine and cry.  It will be heartbreaking.  You may even question why you thought this was a good idea.  You might even have a vision of frantically calling the breeder/shelter, “Can I return him/her??”  It’s OK.  Breathe.  I promise you that it will get better, and you will have an opportunity to catch up on sleep later.  As a new puppy parent, you might have to get by on a few hours of sleep for the first week or two.  Again, it will pass.

For us, when we first brought Mellan home, the first night was excruciating.  There was nothing that would comfort him.  He moaned and whined and cried for hours.  We ignored him to no avail.  We moved him into our bedroom and still he cried.   He could not be soothed!  Eventually, since being near us didn’t seem to help, we put him in our bathroom and turned the fan on to help drown out some of his cries.  Since then, I’ve picked up a few lessons that I fully intend to try out on a new puppy…

If it’s not already the first night home…

There are a few preemptive remedies to reduce your pup’s crying the first night or two home.  The reason puppies cry so much is it is a big change–they’ve spent the past eight weeks with their littermates and mama.  Now, they’re in a place they’ve never been, all alone.  If you’re a real planner, you can take a towel or old shirt and bring it to your breeder, so that the scent of your pup’s littermates gets all over it, and you can nestle your pup in it at bedtime (and so it will be familiar).  You can also set a ticking clock or a radio on low nearby–the clock can help simulate the heartbeats of its littermates.

Where will your puppy sleep?

Think about where you intend to have your puppy/dog sleep in the long run, not just the first few nights.  Some trainers believe that puppies should be confined but kept in your bedroom so they can hear and smell you, while others believe they should be confined but kept in another room (by themselves, essentially).  Most agree that bringing your pup into your bed isn’t a good idea, though.  The important thing is that wherever you put the puppy… you don’t want to end up coming to it when it cries, because it may reinforce unwanted behavior (if I cry, my human will come).

Be prepared to take your puppy out at least once to potty!

Not all whining should be ignored–puppies have very small bladders, and if your pup is between 8-12 weeks, you can expect one or two trips to the potty zone each night.  The rule of thumb is for however months old your puppy is, add one, and then you’ll have the number of hours it can hold.  So an 8-week old puppy is two months, add one, and he can hold for about three hours.

Prepare your puppy for sleepy time!

Make sure you take away food and water four to six hours before it’s bedtime.  The idea is that you don’t want your puppy going to bed with a full tummy–this will help prevent any accidents as well as minimize midnight potty trips.  Try to keep your puppy from indulging in any epic naps right before, as well.  Ideally, you want to tucker your pup out and then say goodnight–play a few games, get him to run around and wear himself out, and then in his crate he goes.

Photo Credit: Flickr

How to Select the Right Dog for You

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How to Select the Right Dog for You

When you’ve decided to add a furry companion to your family, it can be important to think about what kind of dog you want.  This has to be the right dog for your lifestyle, family, personality, and so on and so forth.  If you love going for long hikes, you’ll want a dog capable of trekking miles with nothing but a goofy grin on his face.  If you know you want to take your baby everywhere you go, a toy or small-sized dog would best suit your needs.

Many dogs will easily adapt to your environment and lifestyle, but it can be a good idea to have an eye out for certain qualities or breeds that might best fit what you’re looking for.  The breed of a dog only tells part of the story, while observation of the potential adoptee tells a much larger part.  This particular post is going to focus on questions you should ask yourself and things to look for based on the breed(s) of the dog in question and less on behavior (to be addressed in a future post).

  • Do you need a family dog?  Do you have small children? You may not want to have a 200lb dog that can take out a small toddler (though they’re often gentle giants!), just like you may not want a dog known for stubbornness and won’t take kindly to a child pulling on its tail and ears.
  • What is your activity level?  Low, medium, high? Not all dogs want to go, go, go.  Some dogs have to exert themselves for an hour… or three… per day to stay mentally fit.  You don’t want to commit to two hours of exercise a day if it’s just not something that’s in you.  But you also don’t want to take home a dog that doesn’t want to do all the activities you want to.  Senior dogs make great low-energy pets!
  • Do you live in a house, condo, apartment? Big dogs can thrive in small spaces, just like small dogs can thrive in large spaces, but it will often depend on mitigating factors.  But if your 400 sq. ft. apartment already feels cramped, adding a Great Dane might not be something that appeals to you!  If you lack a yard, be ready for multiple trips up and down stairs or elevators to take your pooch out for walks and pottying.  For condos and apartments, keep aware of any rules or restrictions [on breed and weight, typically].
  • Do you have time to invest in training? Puppies require a great deal of time and patience, because they need to be trained to do all the things that older dogs are supposed to know.  You’ll need to go through basic obedience commands (sit, stay, come, etc.) as well as housebreak.  Many adult dogs have some basic training (and usually are housebroken), so going for an adult dog may be a better idea.  Senior dogs are also a great option, because they’re even more likely to have basic obedience down.
  • Do you have time to invest in good grooming? Some breeds require daily grooming, while others are pretty much just wash and wear.  There are even a couple of breeds where regular baths are a thing of the past.  Consider whether you can keep up with the daily grooming particular breeds need, if you’re willing to pay for groomers to give it a regular trim/cut, and the like.
  • How much can you afford? Puppies can be expensive, because they will outgrow several of the things they need (toys, collars, etc.), so they’ll have to be replaced more frequently in the first year or two.  They may need more shots and most will be neutered/spayed.  Senior dogs may have more health problems and therefore present additional veterinary expenses.  Bigger dogs are more expensive:  they need more food, bigger beds (have you seen the price differences between an extra small and an extra large bed?), kennels, crates, bowls…
  • What kind of health problems are you willing to deal with? Certain breeds are predisposed to certain hereditary/genetic problems–some may never occur, others may occur towards the end of life.  For example, many of the larger breed dogs suffer from hip dysplasia, but it’s usually not prevalent until the last few years of their life and often just looks like arthritis–but for some, it may require hip replacement.  Shar-peis are also known for a host of health issues requiring regular vet visits.  Make sure you’re knowledgeable about a particular breed’s potential health issues; there are definitely some made hardier than others.  Adult and senior dogs may have more easily detected health problems just from sight/observation, while puppies may not show any symptoms until much later in life.

There are several places on the web that can help you find the “best” breeds for you, and they’re a good jumping off point–we like Animal Planet’s.  Again, the breed of a dog is only one aspect, and not all dogs conform to breed standards–dogs are very much a product of their environment and how they are (or were) raised, much like us humans!

Photo Credit: Flickr

Puppies 101: Before You Bring Your Puppy Home, Part 2

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Puppies 101: Before You Bring Your Puppy Home, Part 2

As much fun as it is to take your new pup everywhere you go, when it comes to serious shopping, it’s still easier to go it alone.  The puppy isn’t ready to set paw down at your local pet store, and everyone loves a puppy, so don’t expect it to be a quick trip, either.  We definitely recommend grabbing the essentials prior to bringing your fur-baby home.

Just the bare necessities.

You’ll want to do some pre-puppy shopping to get their necessities for the first week or two that they’re home with you. This means a place to sleep, bowls to eat/drink from, food to eat, clean-up supplies, and a few chews and toys.

Nice Place to Sleep: I would not recommend buying expensive doggy beds at this time (likely to chew on it), but a nice crate or kennel is a must. Crate-training is an excellent method for speedy housebreaking, but it also serves as a way to confine the puppy when you’re not home or aren’t able to watch it like a hawk. We’ve always used the hard plastic type, but any variation on the crate, cage, or kennel will do.

If you’re on a budget, you can purchase the appropriate-sized cage for your puppy at adulthood and then use cardboard to block off excess room in the crate. If you’re not, you may want something that will work for your puppy for the first month or two, and then upgrade to the adult-size later on down the road. You can use old (clean!) towels to lay on the bottom of the crate, which may make it more comfortable for the puppy, but they can also soak up any mistakes.

For food and water bowls, I recommend investing in ones that have rubber grips on the bottom, because those bowls will slide around with a hungry puppy at the helm. The rubber grips definitely help keep them (and any mess) in one spot. We also like to put a plastic placemat underneath the bowls to help confine the mess to one area.

You’ll likely want to ask the breeder/previous owner/rescue what they were feeding the puppy prior to coming home to you, and then you may want to feed that food for a few days, then mix it in with the food you plan to feed it. We have switched foods without mixing and have done all right, but it’s always more foolproof if you do food changes gradually. If you have the time, do some research about what kind of food you want to feed your puppy.

Clean up on aisle 5! Most puppies will have at least a couple of accidents in the house, and they’re just that–accidents–you’ll need to be armed and ready to clean ‘em up. An odor and stain remover is imperative, particularly a pet-specific one, because you’ll want to eradicate any scents left behind by the accident so that the pup isn’t encouraged to use that spot as a potty area. You’ll also want to pick up an economy-sized supply of poop pick-up bags (biodegradable being best!) and puppy shampoo (something gentle). You may also want a brush/comb, depending on the breed of your newcomer.

I recommend just two or three chews and toys. Puppy Kongs and Nylabones are both effective, puppy-tested products that should entertain your growing fur-baby. Each puppy is different–some love balls, others love squeakers, and some just want a rope to toss around. By buying just a few toys, you can figure out what your pup likes and gravitate towards. Mellan’s had a big red Kong for eons (after he lost his puppy teeth), and he never plays with it.

Collar and dog tag are both helpful (the collar more so) if you have a good grasp of your pup’s size, as well as their name!

You’ll likely acquire many, many more products as your puppy grows, but these are all great items to pick up before your new friend comes home–that way they have everything they need to help them settle into their new forever home.

Photo Credit~Someone Else~ @ Flickr

Puppies 101: Before You Bring Your Puppy Home, Part 1

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Puppies 101:  Before You Bring Your Puppy Home, Part 1

So, you’ve made the decision to bring home a puppy of your own!  Hopefully, you have at least a day or two before the new kid arrives, because there are definitely a few things you should make sure you have done in advance.  (Trust me, it’s way easier to do it sans puppy.)

Puppy-proof your home.

Fur-babies are just like human babies:  they need to be protected from their environment as they begin to navigate through it.  Moreover, with fur-babies, you’ll also want to take steps to keep your frustration level down as well as save yourself some cash.  Puppies like to chew, chew, and chew.  The rule is you will lose at least a few things; the exception is you lose next to nothing.  You are likely not the exception.  (We were very fortunate with Mellan–he only chewed on the appropriate toys.)

Make sure any puppy play areas are free of miscellaneous debris, newspapers, wires, etc.  If you keep shoes relatively accessible (e.g. by the door), make sure they’re away from where the puppy might be passing by.  Wires also make for a nice chew toy for your young puppy, and those could prove quite dangerous should your fur-baby get through them.

Keep breakables at a decent height and distance away from romping areas, just in case the puppy stumbles, plays too rough, or otherwise gets into mischief and ends up toppling your Ming vase.  It would not be cute, I bet!  This also means that if you have an expensive Persian rug you’ll want to block off the area or be extra careful to ensure the puppy doesn’t oops all over it.

For those with larger rooms and areas, investing in an expandable gate or playpen is a great way to confine the puppy and still let it have some room to play when you’re around. These can also be used to block of areas, just in case.

Photo Credit tabitum @ Flickr