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How to Prepare for a Puppy

For new puppy parents, as well as old hands looking for a refresher on how to prepare for a puppy in their lives, here are our top tips for puppy-proofing, lifestyle planning and generally getting ready for your coming dynamo!

There aren’t too many things more heartwarming than a bundle of furry love joining the family. But as life-enhancing as becoming a pet parent can be, taking on the responsibility of caring for a dog for the next 10+ years isn’t something to do without some environmental—and mental—preparation. Let’s start with your home environment:

Puppy-Proofing Like a Pro

Take a puppy’s eye view of the spaces they’ll be allowed to roam around.

They’ll stand, jump, and use your furniture like an exciting jungle gym, leaping to higher heights than you anticipate. They’re also likely to have growth spurts that outpace your puppy-proofing if you don’t think ahead.

Puppies like to explore, most move faster than you’ll think possible, and they’ll test everything to learn whether it’s tasty or just a fun pull-toy. So indoors and out, check your spaces with your future puppy’s standing reach in mind.

Indoor Puppy Proofing
  • Shoes
  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Plants
  • Decor items
  • Paper stacks (including recycling)
  • Garbage cans (especially open-topped ones)
  • Tablecloths
  • Power cords of all kinds
  • Oh, and any rugs you may value…

Depending on the breed, you may need to consider their tail-clearing potential as well: what will be in the path of that beautiful long tail as it sweeps around? Consider those teething-friendly coffee table books, low lamps, knickknacks, candy bowls…

Prepare for puppy mayhem
Puppies love to explore… everything!

Also be sure to get child-proof locks for cabinet and/or closet doors—especially if they contain cleaners, pesticides, alcohol, medications or food.

Outdoor Puppy Proofing

Backyard spaces hold many potential hazards for puppies and grown dogs alike. Even if you’re planning to supervise outdoor playtime, it’s better to be thorough in advance; like toddlers, puppies act like lightning when it comes to getting in trouble!

Check for:

  • Hoses
  • Ropes
  • Toys
  • Fertilizer
  • Pesticides and lawn care products
  • Rattan or soft furniture and pillows
  • Paint or thinner, antifreeze, etc.

Also assess your plants as you prepare for a puppy, to make sure any potential hazards to dogs are removed or blocked off. Some common danger plants:  Ivy, Tomatoes, American Holly, Daffodils, Tulips, Azaleas. The ASPCA has a handy printable list.

How to Prepare for a Puppy… Mentally

While you’re crawling around on the ground, imagining yourself as a fluffy ninja puppy, it’s a good time to start to envision something else as well: the ways your life will soon change.

Yes, the time to think about the lifestyle changes you’ll likely need to make is BEFORE you fall in love with your little bundle of fur!

The biggest and best change will, of course, be love, laughter and plenty of face-washing lick fests. But even the best canine companions test your patience when they’re tiny.

Start to crate train your puppy
Crate training your puppy helps you both

So, how to prepare for a puppy barreling adorably into your routine? Remember that when they’re not sleeping, they’ll be eager to be playing, learning, testing, chewing…

Here are a few key mental adjustments to expect:

  • Early wake up calls: You puppy may be up early, whining to go out. Even when it’s raining. Even when it’s -10 degrees. So set your alarm with a high-pitched noise for 5am for a few weeks. Still up for a puppy? Great! Next…
  • Extra attention time: Puppies, compared to older dogs, need plenty of attention and interaction, and frequent trips to relieve themselves. In the early days, 2-3 hours is probably the most to expect them to manage on their own. Sit down with your family, and walk yourselves, mentally, through your daily routine. Make notes of what modifications you’ll need to make. Will you need to hire a dog walker or make similar arrangements during work days? Or a schedule of who’s with your puppy, when? Once you’ve got your game plan in place…
  • Safety: How will you make sure your puppy is safe when you can’t supervise him or her? Generally, we recommend starting your puppy out in a crate when you’re not home—be sure you’ve prepared for your puppy by getting a crate of the right size before you bring him or her home. Other types of barricades may help too, depending on your space (child gates, for instance).
  • Patience: Having the happiest, safest and most fulfilling life with your dog starts with patient training of your puppy—and yourself. Puppies test our patience, but the rewards are immense over the remaining 9-17 or more years!

After working with hundreds of dog owners over the decades, we can’t stress it enough: as you prepare for a puppy to bring giggles and extra life to your days, training will, truly, be the key to happiness.

It’s always best to set aside time for formal puppy training, as that fundamental skill development in listening and developing a working relationship between you and your puppy will be critical as they grow older (and larger!). It also definitely lays the groundwork for years of dog family fun. And we’re here to help, from day one!

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