Many things must be done before a home can be considered "puppy proof," and not all these preparations have to do with the inside areas. A puppy can be a high-energy pet, and he will need to be watched almost constantly. Taking the steps to ensure that everything is ready for his arrival and new life will make the transition easier for everyone.
Inside the House
Prepare a room or set of rooms and establish boundaries with a gate or door. Your puppy will be used to spending time with his litter mates and mother and being alone will be a new and unwelcome concept. Providing a soft, warm place for him to sleep is crucial, and having him in an area where people will be is helpful in adjusting him to human contact. This does not have to be a high-traffic location; it just has to be near people. When puppies get lonely, they often resort to unwelcome behavior such as chewing or crying. Another way to keep him safe and close is to use an appropriately sized crate for overnight and while family is gone. Bedding or blankets can be added to the crate for his comfort. Crate training provides a safe and secure place to rest for the puppy that he can use throughout his life, and gives peace of mind to the humans when they're away.
Toys, food, bowls for food and water, and a leash and collar are essential. Puppies cannot eat adult dog food, and special blends are available that help promote steady growth and good nutrition for young dogs. Puppy pads -- for use during potty training -- can save you from having to clean carpets, floors and furniture after an accident. Puppies chew, so start him with toys that are chew-resistant and can be carried around. Small balls, plush squeaky toys, and stuffed toys are good choices. Interactive food toys also challenge your puppy's brain, another way to tire him out. Most toys have labels that include information about what size dog they're intended for, and knowledgeable staff at your local pet store can guide you to the proper toys. Scissors, nail clippers, and a brush or comb are standard grooming tools, and the earlier you get a puppy used to them, the easier grooming will be as he gets older and bigger. Consult with a qualified groomer or veterinarian if you're unsure how to safely use grooming tools.
The Great Outdoors
Providing a clean and sanitary place for him to use the bathroom as well as go for walks and play is imperative to his overall well-being and happiness. Puppies are naturally curious and might dig. A yard or play area must be secure enough so that he -- no matter how determined -- cannot escape from the yard's confines. Finding an area for him to play is important, too, whether it is the home's yard or a nearby park or field. Running and playing is a good way to get rid of extra energy, ensuring that he will sleep throughout the night and not try to tire himself out inside of the home. Establish a daily walk or outdoor play routine. Ask with your vet about when it's safe to expose your puppy to other dogs or public areas, based on his vaccination schedule. If you want your puppy to grow into your jogging buddy, ask your vet about when it's safe to start a running routine, based on the growth of your puppy's bones.
Bringing home a puppy will change the family dynamic. Setting ground rules and responsibilities before puppy arrives will save time and stress later. Decide who will feed, walk, clean up after and train the new pet before he's in the house. Make sure everyone in the home understands that the animal is not a toy but a living, breathing responsibility. It is important to understand that certain exceptions will have to be made and that everyone will have to pitch in when necessary. Each dog breed has specific typical characteristics, and having a general idea of how he will behave or respond to training can save a lot of time and frustration. Set a meal and potty schedule. Feeding him at specific times and always taking him out afterward -- as well as at other regularly scheduled times -- is a routine that will benefit both puppy and humans.
A veterinarian is vital to the health and welfare of your puppy. Ask questions, such as whether the vet has experience with your breed of puppy, offers emergency services or hours, and how interactive the support staff are in an animal's care, when choosing your vet. You also might want to work with a professional trainer, particularly if you're a first-time dog owner. Ask your vet and others in your community for recommendations, and find out what kind of training methods are used. It's a good to get your puppy used to being "examined" at an early age so that trips to the vet and groomer are a positive experience. Playing with and looking into ears, examining teeth (and even using a toothbrush), picking up paws and trimming nails are a few out of the ordinary interactions that will get him used to the kinds of touch he'll experience during vet exams.
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