Preparing Your Family for a New Puppy
Last week, we discussed puppy prep boot camp here on the Dogster Guide to Dog Training where I shared a few humorous recommendations on how to prepare your family for the arrival of a new puppy. While the post was intended in jest, there are some serious elements of truth to all the recommendations - puppies are a lot of work and can be very destructive!
Today, we'll talk about some more serious steps to prepare your family for the arrival of a new puppy. A family meeting to discuss these items should happen well in advance of your new puppy's arrival.
Divide the work: who will be responsible for daily maintenance for the dog? Each of the following "chores" must be relegated to a family member - walking the dog (multiple times a day, at least 3 twenty minute walks are advised, though this varies widely for breeds and particular individuals), feeding, training, attending puppy class, cleaning the yard of poop, and yes, 2 a.m. potty breaks in the rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
While teens can often help with walking, training, etc., younger children may be better suited to tasks like feeding the puppy or helping to keep toys picked up. Once responsibilities have been divided, you may want to create a chore chart so you can track your kid's adherence to their responsibilities.
Because all creatures are more likely to repeat behaviors which are reinforced, in advance you will need to determine how family members will be rewarded for compliance. This can be a way for your children to earn their allowance, opportunities to attend favorite functions (movies, school dances or trips, etc.), or select the family's dinner or movie for a night. For more information on how to appropriately reinforce (and train) humans, visit TAGteach International.
Get your family trained first: While this is important for all families, it is most important for families with small children, those under the age of 10. Small children are the population most likely to be bitten by dogs, and unfortunately, when small kids get bit, the bites are usually disfiguring to the face. Getting yourself and your children training well in advance of the puppy's arrival will help your entire family enjoy the dog more thoroughly and safely. Doggone Safe and Dogs & Storks are two organizations which specialize in educating children and parents on bite prevention, both with wonderful resources.
Reserve your spot in a puppy class: Before you even bring your puppy home, you should research trainers in your area and find one who you will entrust with the developmental success of your new family member. Attending a well taught puppy class is the most important thing you can do in making sure your puppy develops into a confident, socially acceptable member of society. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has two position statements available which will help, AVSAB Position Statement on Puppy Socialization and AVSAB Position Statement on How to Choose a Trainer will get you off on the right path! While you're at it, research other pet care professionals you may need: groomers, veterinarians, boarding kennels and/or pet sitters, dog walkers, etc.
Puppy proof: This step is very important and will help keep your puppy and important belongings safe. Here is a basic list of puppy proofing considerations from Raising Spot that you may find helpful.
Shop: be prepared! A sample shopping list of items your puppy may need includes:
- leash and collar or harness
- food and water (dishes for each)
- a variety of toys (Kongs, tug toys, squeaky toys, puzzle/food-dispensing toys, etc.)
- healthy treats for training
- a crate
- an x-pen
- grooming supplies - shampoo, conditioner, brushes, combs, driers, grooming table, nail clippers/dremel, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.
- baby gates
- poop scooper and bags
- cleaning supplies for potty accidents (select an enzymatic cleaner specifically designed for doggy messes, like Nature's Miracle)
- a clicker and treat bag
For more information on preparing for your new puppy, you can download a copy of veterinary behaviorist Ian Dunbar's classic book Before You Get Your Puppy for free on his website, Dog Star Daily.