Assess Your Puppy Readiness Puppies are great. They spread joy, provide endless entertainment, and most could win cuteness contests all day long just by existing. But puppies are also fast-growing, potentially havoc-wreaking little learning machines. Nature packs in as much information intake as possible in those first few months and if you’re not prepared? Your puppy may learn all the wrong things and you could spend months—or years—playing catch up or trying to recover from early mistakes.
Are you equipped? Food, bowls, a leash, and a few toys won’t be enough. At a minimum, you will need a puppy crate, an X-pen or a baby gate; Kongs and treat balls; and, an ID tag, a flat collar, and a harness for walks—both and long and short leashes. And don’t forget a canine toothbrush and toothpaste, nail clippers, dog shampoo, brushes, and a variety of toys.
Is your home puppy-proof? Set up a confinement area (despite the name, this is a cozy den for your puppy) for alone time and potty training. The area should be easy to clean and easy to close off with a baby gate. Think kitchen, laundry room, or bathroom. Furnish the area with a bed or crate, a water bowl, and several toys.
Are the house rules clear? Decide on set routines and procedures for consistency before you bring your puppy home. If more than one person is responsible for puppy raising, who will be in charge of the house-training routine? Where will the puppy be allowed— on the bed? The couch? Who will walk the puppy? Take the puppy to classes? Practice homework?
Do you have good dog professionals lined up? You’ll need a veterinarian, groomer, daycare facility, dog walker, pet sitter, and, of course, a top-notch dog trainer and puppy class. Dream Dogs can help you and your puppy learn and have fun together. Check out all Dream Dogs has to offer puppies at www.dreamdogs.com. The key is to plan well ahead for your puppy’s first year of socialization and learning. Beyond the wonderful Instagram fodder, puppy time is a one-off opportunity to shape the dog you will live with for many years to come.
Preventing Obesity in Older Dogs
A trim figure is fundamental to good health for dogs. Statistically, lean dogs live longer than their chunkier buddies and have fewer health problems. Overweight dogs are more likely to develop pancreatitis, diabetes, heart disease, and joint pain. If the pounds have snuck on (if you can’t clearly see your dog’s waist), consult your veterinarian about any underlying problems that can contribute to weight gain and the correct amount to feed your dog. Then get serious about increasing your dog’s exercise level. Keeping up the activity level is advisable even if your dog is in great shape—one of the best things you can do for your dog’s long-term health is to prevent future weight problems.
Get the amount right. Exercise needs vary with age, breed, size, and overall health, but a good rule of thumb is for your dog to spend between thirty minutes and two hours being active every day. Collies, retrievers, and shepherds need lots of running time; bulldogs and dachshunds can thrive with moderate daily outings.
Change it up. Don’t limit your thinking on dog exercise to walks and throwing a ball at the park. Sign up for a fun dog class or activity like rally-o, flyball, nose work, or agility. Dream Dogs has lots of fun flexible classes to get you and your dog moving. Find a local dog group so your dog gets to play with other dogs regularly (if she enjoys canine company, of course). Or, if time is a problem, consider hiring a dog walker or joining a doggie daycare.
Ramp it up at home. Playing hide-and- seek, figuring out a puzzle toy, and practicing training cues and showstopping tricks for the next party are just some of the at-home undertakings that increase your dog’s overall activity level. Five minutes here, ten minutes there; it all adds up to a healthier, happier dog.
Lori Wainio-Carman, VSPDT, professional dog trainer and owner of Dream Dogs, has been successfully training for over 20 years. 760-899-7272, www.dreamdogs.com, www.Positively.com