Preparing for Your New Puppy
Adding a puppy to your family is such an exciting event! The countdown to pick up day can be so exciting and becomes such a focus, but there are some things that should be done before your new puppy arrives.
One of the most important but least commonly done tasks before receiving a puppy is having a family meeting. Invite everyone that will be involved in the training process of your puppy and host a meeting on expectations, rules, decide on plans for handling possible situations, and make sure there is full agreement on what is and what is not allowed for the puppy.
One of the most important things to do at the family meeting is to establish the primary puppy parent. Establishing who will be the main caretaker and trainer in the home sets up a consistency for the puppy which will help the puppy have success in proper behavior and potty training. It also clearly defines roles before the puppy arrives so that once the puppy is living with you there is no confusion. The main caretaker should be an adult and one that is able to have confidence in the role. It should be one that is able to speak clearly and directly to the puppy without yelling. It's someone that is able to control their frustration if the puppy doesn't understand or follow through perfectly from the start, and it's someone that is responsible and reliable.
Decide now what sort of positive reinforcements that you will use with your puppy. One key example would be bathroom breaks. When the puppy potties outside you can tell him/her what a great job they have done in a cheerful voice and offer a small treat, playtime, or tummy rubs. If they potty inside the house, instead of yelling at them or pushing their nose into their waste (which should absolutely, under no conditions, ever be done!) you would not say a word and quickly pick the puppy up and bring them to their potty spot. They will quickly learn that if they potty in the house they get absolutely nothing besides the actual physical relief of relieving themselves, but if they go potty outside they not only get to relieve themselves, but they also get playtime, cuddles, treats, and/or high pitched happy voices from their humans. Through positive reinforcements they will learn that it is much better to potty outside. In your family meeting brainstorm other scenarios and how you can positively handle those scenarios as well, so that when the time comes you are fully prepared.
Have a plan on how you will introduce your puppy to as many new sights and sounds as possible in a safe way. You should be careful before all vaccines have been administered, but have a plan on how your puppy can meet new people and experience new places without having their paws or mouths touch unsafe places. I personally use a puppy stroller and absolutely love it. It allows me to take puppies with me to places that I wouldn't feel comfortable with them walking in or around. I will note that I highly recommend steering clear of puppy stores and dog parks, especially with young puppies.
Discuss household rules. Here is a list of ideas that might help:
Will puppy be allowed on furniture? If so, which furniture?
Which door will be used to take puppy outside?
Where will the puppy's potty spot be?
Where will puppy sleep?
When is puppy's bedtime?
What will puppy be allowed to eat?
Are table scraps ok, and if so what are the guidelines for what is ok and what is not?
Are there any rooms off limits to puppy?
How will the off limit rooms be inaccessible to the puppy?
What other house rules are needed?
Gather all of your needed supplies before your puppy arrives. Here is a list that can start you on the right path:
The dog food brand that is currently being fed to your puppy. (Do not attempt to change their food for at least a few weeks after having them home. Otherwise it could result in a tummy upset.)
Crate and/or puppy play pen
Dog toys. I recommend getting at least one of every type of texture/noise. Get one tug toy, one squeaky, one crinkly toy, one cloth toy, and one rubber chew toy. I also like antlers that are available at pet stores to help with the teething process. There are probably more options than this but this is a good starting point to help you discover your dogs preference. Not only do toys help prevent chewing, but they are a great positive reinforcement tool when you find your puppy chewing on a material around the house. It's great to be able to substitute that material for a very similar material that is a safe toy.
Dog dishes and water bowl, preferably stainless steel.
Collar if you plan on using one around the house. (Do not attempt to walk a bulldog puppy using only a collar and leash. They need to be walked using a harness.)
The next important phase of preparing for your puppy is to puppy proof your home. Make sure that the puppy can not get into anything dangerous and make sure that anything super valuable to you is not in puppy's reach. Make electric cords less easy to get to. There are also electric cord covers that are very helpful. Check your back yard and/or front yard for poisonous plants and/or mushrooms. Have medication out of puppy's reach. Make sure that bathroom trashcans are not easily accessible to your puppy and make sure your kitchen trash can is secured as well. Make sure cleaning supplies are completely out of sight and out of reach. Make sure small balls and other toys, q tips, toothpicks, bobby pins, etc. are not on the floor or accessible to puppy. The old rule of "if it fits through a toilet paper roll it's too small for the dog" is a great rule to follow. If you have a cat make sure that litter boxes are in areas that the puppy can't get to. Look around your home and imagine that you are preparing for a baby...a baby that likes to chew on things. Look for anything that needs to be removed for now or better secured.
Lastly, and most importantly, set up a visit with your veterinarian. Your puppy's vet visit should typically be done within 72 hours of receiving your puppy, so schedule this visit well in advance before your puppy arrives to ensure that there are available appointments for that time period. The point of the visit is to establish your puppy as a patient, to have the veterinarian check your puppy over for proper health, and to have any medical questions answered.
Congratulations on your new family member! Planning for a puppy is so much fun, but actually spending everyday with a new best friend is even better! Enjoy every moment, take lots of pictures and videos, and love on them as often as possible to let them know that you love them just as much as they love you.