Puppy Comes Home Manual

Are you and your house ready to bring that puppy home?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

An in-depth guide for people planning to add (or who have recently added) a new puppy (or dog) to their household.

Puppy Comes Home Kit

How to prepare your household for when Puppy comes Home

Charley puppy lab


"Don't Blame the Dog for Failing to Live up to Human Expectations." Chris Bach


Your puppy's mission in life will be to put anything in his mouth that fits (and even if it doesn't fit, he may still try!). Your job is to make sure that there is absolutely nothing accessible to your puppy that he shouldn't have. This means putting shoes, children's toys and other objects in a location where your puppy cannot get them. Don't forget the potted plants! Rugs are of particular interest to puppies, too - you may have to pull them up temporarily, until Puppy learns some of the rules and gets through early teething.Get down on your hands and knees and take a look about. What might you be drawn to if you were a puppy, eager to explore and follow your nose? Try to see the world through your dog's perspective.


Sign up for a puppy class before you get your puppy! Know the trainers in the area and their philosophy and methodology. Choose a trainer who embraces and practices positive reinforcement-based training. 

Clicker training rocks!



Crate training is a must - not just for housetraining but for the life of your dog. It's a safe, cozy, quiet "den" - much like our bedrooms are to us. The crate is always a rewarding place to be. Relegating a puppy to the crate when he's going out of control is not punishment as long as you are not confrontational. We crate dogs for the same reason we put infants and toddlers in playpens: to keep them safe and out of trouble.

Have confinement options on every floor of your house. Crates and pens are ideal.

The crate for a puppy in housetraining should be just large enough for him to go in, turn around and liek down in. Any larger and he may assign part of it as a bathroom. Place the crate or pen in an area that's on the edge of action, e.g., close enough to see what's going on but out of the way. Your puppy may appreciate his crate being covered by a blanket to make it more secure.

Your puppy needs to learn from the very start that you aren't always accessible to him - these confinement options provide an excellent learning experience.


Did you know that over half of a puppy’s critical socialization period is spent with the breeder (or, for the rescue dog, with the foster or shelter home)?  A young puppy up to about 17 weeks is open to taking in stride the variety of people, places, sights and sounds of the world, but that door was open the widest up until he was 8 weeks old. Click HERE to learn more about this critical period in your dog's life. It's a huge responsibility to do it right, as there are life-long implications if we don't.


Keep the mouth busy!

Chew toys are "furniture insurance." Have a variety on hand which your puppy can chew through, destroy, consume or just plain spend time with - he needs to keep his mouth busy and teething is an important part of his development. Revel in this developmental stage and provide him with plenty of appropriate items for him to chew on. Raw meaty bones (can be found at Planet Dog) are the ultimate chew toy! Bully sticks, beef trachea… feed the carnivore in your dog!


All four on the floor! Create a "floor-happy" dog! Have plenty of things for your puppy to do that will engage him and keep him busy on the floor. Food dispensing toys, problem-solving games, "scavenger hunt" for treats - with lots of floor exercises, he won't try to find vertical activities such as counter surfing and the like. Keep in mind that a puppy crawling onto you is a dog doing the same thing. Puppies who get attention for making paw contact with humans often become dogs who jump on humans.


Choose a place in your yard where you want your puppy to relieve himself. Take him there on leash each time you think he needs to go or at regular intervals after he has eaten or drunk and reward with a tasty treat immediately after he does his "business."

"GEAR" TO ACQUIRE (most of this can be found locally):

  1. Treats, lots of them! Have a supply of "marinated kibble" ready to go in the freezer and an ample supply of soft, meaty treats available so you can catch your puppy in the act of doing good stuff. Avoid biscuit-type treats and grocery store dog food and treats which are full of junk.
  2. Crate(s) (plastic or wire) - for housetraining, the crate should only be large enough for your puppy to go in, stand, turn around and lie down in. You can use crate dividers to make a larger crate smaller.
  3. Baby gate(s) - you'll need more than you think you will!
  4. "Exercise pen(s)" Get one with a door, like this one
  5. Kongs - at least 2, several sizes (on the large size). Fill with canned dog food or ground meat and freeze to have on hand. You must keep that puppy mouth and mind busy or your puppy will come up with his own hobbies!
  6. Towels, including small, facecloth-sized towels for cleaning, drying off, introducing to grooming.
  7. Puppy Bedding. Large remants of polarfleece can be used as bedding in the crate. They are very soft, cheap and easy to clean and dry. I go to Marden's and purchase several yards of remnants and cut them up.
  8. Refillable squeeze tube. Fill with canned dog food or meat of similar consistency. Easy, super high value reward!
  9. Easy to use 6' leash (not a retractable)
  10. Anti-pull harness (my favorite is the Easy Walk). Don't wait for your puppy to get experience pulling before you do something about it!
  11. Enzymatic cleaner such as "Anti Icky-Poo" (yup, that's the name) to clean up any messes (works great as a general household cleaner, too)
  12. Bitter Apple spray (or similar) to put on items - or yourself - to inhibit chewing.
  13. Book: "Puppy Care and Training" (with DVD) by Teoti Anderson
  14. Toys - several types of toys - every week or so rotate them out so they retain their "specialness."


Subscribe to Whole Dog Journal - it's FILLED with wonderful information about dog care and training.


Choose a vet before you get your puppy. All vets are not created equally, so choose a vet you feel comfortable with. Consult with the breeder for recommendations on vaccinations. You will want to visit the vet several times with your puppy before he needs an appointment, just to get him happy with the place (pair it with GREAT stuff!)


If your dog will need regular grooming, familiarize yourself with area groomers and choose someone who you feel comfortable with. Observe dogs who are in a groomer's care or entering the grooming shop - are they happy to be there? You will want to visit the groomer several times with your puppy before he needs an appointment, just to get him happy with the place (pair it with GREAT stuff!)


You will need to call on people from time to time to fill in puppy care gaps. It is good for your puppy to have the experience of being cared for by a variety of people. Find out who in your area is experienced with puppies and who will continue good training techniques. Your puppy learns from each and every interaction. If you have been working consistently on anti-jumping and "Auntie May" comes along to take care of your puppy and gives him attention for jumping, your training will suffer! Not all petsitters practice appropriate puppy care and training techniques.


Your puppy may benefit from a day or two of daycare each week, but choose carefully! Your puppy is learning every instant he is awake


At some point you will have to leave your puppy behind. Visit kennels and other overnight care options to see what's available in your area - before you need it. Check with your vet, too - they sometimes offer boarding.


Your puppy needs a variety of places to go where he can explore the world off-leash, safely, and get important aerobic exercise and socialization in the process (which will keep him out of trouble in the house). Dog parks are not for puppies, so please do not take your puppy to places where there might be numerous unknown dogs. Book a Romp with me! We have a very large fully-fenced in yard and I fully enjoy romp-n-learn sessions which give a puppy the chance to spread his wings and learn at the same time.