In May we talked about making the big decision and finally popping the question – should I get a dog? Now I’ll conclude the series with some tips on the honeymoon phase. If this sounds a little like marriage, it should. Sharing your life with a dog involves love, commitment, communication, patience…and shopping.
If you’re getting butterflies thinking about the big day, concerned about your family’s level of involvement or losing sleep over household preparations, take a deep breath and relax. Let this article be your roadmap. Sit back and enjoy the honeymoon!
Yes, this is an exciting time for you and the rest of your two-legged clan. But the new guy or gal – your new puppy or dog – will be going through a much larger life transition. She’ll acclimate best to a calm, well-organized environment. An environment she’ll soon think of as home.
First Steps: Gather together everyone who will be in regular contact with your puppy and come up with a game plan that outlines your puppy’s basic needs. If you have children, remember that loud, chaotic environments can frighten or stress a young puppy.
Explain to your kids that the new puppy will need their help to feel comfortable and safe. In my private practice, I’ve found that the kids who are most involved in the puppy planning process are the ones most able to empathize with the new puppy’s feelings. Nonetheless, I encourage everyone to spend a few minutes preparing for the puppy’s arrival: on the big day, carefully review the “no glass-shattering screaming and no possessive grabbing” rule.
Shopping List: Before bringing a puppy home, purchase everything you will need to make her feel comfortable in your home: a crate, bowl, food, toys, chewies, leash, collar, tags, gates and/or playpen, wee-wee pads, etc. Designate a room for her, preferably a main room where your puppy will be surrounded by her new family. The kitchen is usually best.
Set Up: If possible, roll up the carpets in any room your pup will be spending time. Plan your potty training route, using one door or one route to papers. Consider hanging a bell to help your puppy signal when she needs to eliminate.
If you are paper training, organize the papers in a structured square off the main thoroughfare and preferably under a table or in a small room. Like people, dogs prefer privacy!
Finally, pick a location for feeding, watering and sleeping. Tuck the bowls in a low-traffic area and locate the bed or mat in a quiet spot. Put one or two toys or chewies on the bed. Don’t give her too many choices or she may think that everything on the floor is fair game.
Homecoming: Whether your new dog is coming by plane, train or automobile, she’ll be disoriented during the trip. Remember that unfamiliar places combined with the stress of travel will inhibit your puppy’s natural reactions.
She may be very quiet, very loud or very anxious. She might whine or throw up. Be ready for anything! Crate or otherwise secure your dog in the back seat. If possible, have someone ride beside her. Cover the back seat with a large sheet or towel to absorb any potential travel-related accidents.
Encourage all passengers to speak in calming tone. If you’re driving, focus on the road ahead: you’ve got a long life together so drive safely!
There is one more installment in my puppy planning series. Check back next week to learn how to make successful first introductions and survive your first few days together.