Puppy: A Guide for First Time Puppy Parents

Yes, they are adorable. The little pitter-patter of their tiny feet as they follow you around, the tiny yips and barks, even the puppy-breath smell is irresistible. So arm yourself with knowledge so you know just what you're getting yourself into.

What about the costs?

The cost of obtaining the puppy is only the beginning. Even if you are given the puppy for free, owning a dog is not. Let's look at what expenses are involved so you are fully prepared to bring your puppy home!.

You'll need some equipment. 

  • Start with a crate. Dogs are by nature den animals, and once your puppy is used to the crate, he'll go there on his own anytime he wants some alone-time. (Never use his crate as punishment. NEVER.) 
  • You'll also need some steel or ceramic bowls to feed and water him. (Always keep his water bowl full of fresh water. FRESH.) 
  • He'll need a good leather or canvas leash of about a six-foot length and a soft, leather collar. Rolled leather collars will not break the hair on his neck. (NO CHAIN OR SPIKED COLLARS!) 
  • Get him a bed (or two so you'll have one for when you're washing the other). 
  • Buy a few high-quality chew toys (but avoid rawhide, which can be swallowed and cause intestinal blockages). 
  • Lastly, you will want to invest in a pet gate (or a baby gate) to partition off areas where you don't want him to go or to keep him confined to a "safe place."

Puppy-proof your home before you bring him home.

  • Get down on his level. What does he see? Can he chew on it? Can he knock it over? Can he get tangled up in it? If any of the answers are yes, change the environment so that all the answers are no.
  • Get a trash can he can't open. Believe me, if you don't, he will.
  • Put his new crate in your room, near your bed. It may make for a few nights of sleeplessness, but in the long run, you'll be glad you did.
  • Watch the clutter. If you're in the habit of leaving your shoes by the door, don't. Shut doors to rooms that have expensive furnishings. Close closet doors and keep your stuff out of his reach.

Sign up with a vet and consider pet insurance.

If you have friends with dogs, ask for their recommendation on veterinarians. Make an appointment to meet the vet and ask about pet insurance. Get his or her advice on puppy food and routine vaccination schedules. Then set up your first appointment to bring your new puppy in for a check-up. It is best to schedule this visit within two or three days of bringing your pup home.

Supervise your new puppy!

Your puppy should only be out of his crate or a small area you have set up for him (his room) when you can watch his every movement. By supervision, I mean your eyes on him. No telephone calls, TV, or other distractions. The second you take your eyes off your puppy, he'll get into trouble or disappear. If you must take care of something else, put him in his safe place first.

  • Take him outside to his "potty place" every time you let him out of his crate. Carry him outside and wait for results. 
  • Set a routine and stick to it. Potty training goes much easier if your puppy knows what's coming next. Feeding and immediate play outside should be the same time every day so that digestive upsets are minimized and potty training is easier.

Make sure everyone is on the same page.

Don't leave a child with the sole responsibility of caring for your new puppy, and be sure that every member of the family knows the rules and routine for his care. It's fine to have more than one person caring for your pup, but designating one person as the main caretaker will smooth the transition from pup-less to puppy as a member of the household.

Don't expect good behavior unless you train him to know what that means.

Enroll your new puppy in a "kindergarten" class. In these pre-training classes, puppies and their owners learn how to socialize with other dogs. This is a very important part of dog-training so that your puppy develops a confident, non-aggressive social personality. Without this kind of training, your puppy could end up being timid or aggressive around strangers or strange dogs. DON'T SKIP THIS ONE!

After your pup "graduates" from kindergarten, enroll him in the next training class so that you can learn how to train him to be a happy, healthy member of your household. It's best to have one person doing the training. Don't switch out another family member because it's as important for the person training the puppy as it is for the pup to learn the details and develop the techniques that will result in a well-trained dog.

Embarking (pun intended) on your new adventure with a puppy will be immensely rewarding. You will gain a friend that will love you no matter what, loyal and constant. Throughout his life, you and he will find out what other dog-owners before you already know. A dog is man's best friend.

Road Trips with your Dog!

So you're off to visit Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas, but you don't want to leave your four-legged buddy at home. If your relatives are amenable to having your pet visit with you, make sure that he's welcome back next year, too. Here's how.

Preparation

To get ready to travel anywhere, you prepare for your trip, don't you? Now you just need to add a few extra preparations to make sure your dog is welcome wherever you go. Here are some handy tips to help you do just that.

  1. Ask. Don't assume that pets are or are not welcome when you travel. Check with the hotel you plan to stay in. Ask specifically what their pet policies are and if you decide to stay there, abide by those rules.
  2. Pet apps can help you find places that welcome Fido. Consider these: 
    • All Trails. This crowdsourced app has the largest collection of trail maps with a search function that helps you find dog-friendly trails.
    • Bring Fido. This is the best travel-with-your-dog app available. Every one of the places this app finds has the Bring Fido Guarantee, so you know you're seeing the truth when it says dog-friendly, whether it is a hotel, a restaurant, a trail, or any of a host of other attractions and places that welcome Fido.
    • Pet First Aid by American Red Cross. A guide for step-by-step instructions for common pet emergencies, it also helps you locate the nearest emergency animal hospital.
  3. Pack the essentials. 
    • Food and water. Food goes without saying, but bringing the water he is used to can well prevent an upset stomach.
    • Bowls. The collapsible ones pack easily and don't take up much space.
    • Toys. Let Fido chew on his favorite toys to alleviate both anxiety and boredom.
    • Bed. He'll sleep best if his own bed is packed. 
    • Crate. A crate is the safest place for your dog to travel in a car. Be sure to put it on a flat surface (not a seat) where he can lie comfortably. Secure the crate so it doesn't go flying in case of a collision or accident. Alternatively, you can purchase a dog "seat belt" that secures him on the seat and allows him to lie down safely. A warning, though. Keep an eye out to make sure he isn't chewing on the seat belt!
  4. Pack his medical records and be sure he is microchipped and his vaccines are current.

Make him the perfect houseguest.

If you want to be welcomed back next year with Fido along, follow these suggestions to turn him into the ideal houseguest.

  1. Let Fido say thank you with a gift. Bring a host/hostess gift from your dog. Any dog-themed item such as hand towels or coffee-table books will be welcome. If your host has dogs, bring them something, too. Maybe a bag of gourmet dog biscuits!
  2. Find a neutral place to introduce Fido to your host's dog. Meet at a dog park or around the corner where they can walk together before "invading" the other dog's territory. Occasionally give Fido a break from resident dogs so that his alert-level can be let down.
  3. Stick as close to his schedule at home as possible, especially when it comes to feeding and potty breaks. Take the time zone into consideration. A dog who never has accidents at home may not be as trustworthy in another place, particularly if there is another dog already living there. 
  4. Even if the host has a fenced-in yard, go outside with him to make sure he "did his business" and then reward him for a job well-done. 
  5. Don't assume you know the rules. Ask what their dog on the furniture preferences are and whether there are any off-limits spaces in the house, like the dining room or upstairs. Is there a specific place you should take him to potty or any places in the yard they'd prefer Fido didn't visit? Your best bet of being asked back next year is by following the rules.

What if he just won't behave?

If issues arise while you're visiting someone's home, be prepared to keep Fido tethered near you so he can't sneak off and get in trouble. Increase the number of times you take him outside and utilize his crate when you can't supervise him. Preparation, training, and socializing your dog before your road trip should make you and Fido welcome.