If the new addition to your family has four legs and a wet nose, you’ll need to make a few adjustments to your home. Here are 10 tips for a smooth transition that’ll keep everyone’s tail wagging.
1. Get the Right Dog.
Are you a couch potato who lives in an apartment and hates to walk? If so, don’t get a tiny puppy that’ll grow into an 80-pound, high-energy Labrador Retriever. On the other hand, an active apartment dweller who runs every day with that same dog would be a good match.
“People say, ‘Oh, what a cute puppy’ and don’t take time to research the breed,” said Rachel Hahn, co-founder of Lucky Day Animal Rescue of Colorado. “Make sure the breed fits your lifestyle.”
2. Use Crates and Baby Gates.
If you give your new dog too much freedom right away, he could chew up the couch or pee in the house, said Melody Kelso, president of The Pet Connection in Olathe, KS.
“Start them in a crate, and if they do well, put them in a room that is puppy-proofed or contained with a baby gate and the door open,” Kelso said.
Once your dog is trained, use the crate to confine your pooch for medical recoveries and visits to canine-intolerant relatives. For instructions on crate training, check out the American Dog Trainers Network.
3. Dog-Proof the Kitchen.
A lot of what you do for a puppy is like child-proofing, Kelso said. Use binder clips for electrical cords, and put safety locks on kitchen cabinets. Never leave food that’s toxic to dogs–raisins, grapes, chocolate and onions–within reach of your dog. “Don’t leave a chocolate cake on the counter,” Kelso said.
Bags of kibble attract pests, so put dog food in a plastic container that fastens securely and can’t be opened by your dog.
4. Remove Chew Temptations.
Keep remote controls, MP3 players, books and eyeglasses on a high shelf or in a drawer. Diana Mansell of Phoenix keeps shoes and socks out of her puppy’s reach by setting them on top of the kennel. Her terrier pup still managed to eat half of an important list of building materials needed for a project. “She’s eaten a few things,” Mansell said.
5. Provide Plenty of Toys.
Fill a Kong with peanut butter and freeze it. Get rawhides, deer antlers and knuckle bones (never bones from home, which can splinter and cause injuries) online or from a pet store. Offer some toy variety–squeaky, furry, hard plastic–to learn what your dog likes. Store toys in a basket so the dog learns that anything in there is fair game.
6. Organize a Station Near the Door.
Hang leashes and jackets on hooks, and keep poop bags handy for walks. A doggie towel for rainy days is also a good idea.
7. Make the Yard a Safe Place.
Block escape routes like holes in the fence or gaps where a dog could dig out. Roll up the garden hose and pick up sprinklers. Don’t landscape with cocoa mulch, which is toxic to dogs. Also, never leave a new dog out in the yard while you are gone. Boredom or anxiety can lead to digging or excessive barking.
“You haven’t had the opportunity to get to know him, so you don’t know what he’s going to do,” Kelso said.
8. Consider Beds and Bowls.
Place dog beds in two or three rooms, especially if don’t want your dog on the couch. Most dogs just need something thick and soft, so folded blankets or comforters also will do. If you allow your dog on furniture, spread a blanket or sheet over the fabric to protect it from shedding and wear. Make sure your dog’s water bowl is accessible and large enough to ensure fresh water at all times. If you have another dog, place its bowls in separate rooms at mealtime to avoid food fights.
9. Create a Dog File.
Keep everything in one folder: adoption and veterinary records, boarding information, pet sitter contacts and telephone numbers, and directions to emergency veterinary clinics.
10. Assemble a First-Aid Kit.
Suggested items: gauze and self-adhesive tape, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, antibacterial soap, wash cloth, towel, blanket, nail clippers, Benadryl (for allergic reactions), rectal thermometer, cotton balls, bottled water, ice pack. Keep the kit in your car in case your dog gets injured during an outing.