Ah, those new puppy experiences. Our family welcomed our first dog, a beautiful blue heeler rescue puppy, into our home four weeks ago. And he sure is a handful! We've had a packed schedule with all the playtime, the cuddling, the endless photo opps"¦ and, of course, the chewing. The messes. The little accidents that turn into big problems, unless handled properly.
They say having a puppy is a lot like having a baby, which seems to be true - but babies don't chew through furniture, shred your favorite shoes or pee in every corner of the house. Sure, the puppy bonding times, training sessions and Instagrammable moments have been fantastic, unforgettable fun. But our new puppy Koda is just 13 weeks old, so he can't yet go outside for walks and to socialize with other dogs. This can lead to boredom at home, so the inevitable flipside to the great times is ruined couch cushions, gnawed table legs, eaten homework (it really can happen!) and messes everywhere. And thanks to those not-so-little potty training accidents, our house is starting to smell like a New York City subway in the middle of a Summer heat wave.
Planning on getting a puppy or a dog? Great! They're wonderful additions to a family, and can bring incredible joy for many years to come. But there's a sharp learning curve, and a little preparation can save you a lot of frustration. After a month getting used to being a Dog Family, we've put together a few pre-emptive priorities that will make all the difference between a positive puppy experience at home and a stressful, stinky time.
Protect your possessions
Love that new pair of shoes? How about that new book you just bought? If you don't want it chewed on, clawed up or destroyed, you'll need to configure your house to minimize the impact of a teething puppy. Keep important items or sharp points high and out of reach, if possible.
Teething is a cornerstone feature of a puppy's life. As your dog's teeth grow in, they're constantly chewing and gnawing just about anything they can get their mouths around to alleviate the aching, nagging feeling of growing chompers.
Thankfully, there are a number of great non-toxic no-chew sprays for your furniture and other home items, to help prevent excess chewing. File this one under "things we wish we'd known sooner". We'll be making a trip to the furniture store soon enough.
For a good chewing workout, some treats are better - and safer - than others. Rawhide is tough for puppies to digest, but there are some great teething-treat substitutes out there that won't harm your pup.
Create a safe space
It may seem obvious, but it's important to make sure your new dog has a bed and a comfy place in your home. Many dogs love the den-like space of a crate, and this is a great way to create a consistent resting place for your puppy that they know is safe. This will help your dog adapt to all the new sights, sounds and smells of its new home.
Crating is a great way to give your dog a sense of security with their own mini-domain, as well as to protect your home when you head off to run errands. Reward your dog with a treat when he (or she) uses the crate on their own, and make sure you don't create an association between the crate and punishment for the dog. In other words, don't put him in the crate when he makes a mess or chews something he shouldn't.
If left alone at night, even crated dogs have a genetic tendency to feel left behind, as if their pack has abandoned them. We found that bringing the crate into our bedroom at bedtime prevents the whining, barking and clawing that would otherwise happen throughout the night. He can rest comfortably, knowing he's close to us, without being on the bed (we learned that lesson on night one, with his first accident).
Learning how to train a puppy to pee outside is a challenge in itself, with conflicting training tips all over the internet. But the best way to clean up after puppy accidents indoors is to eliminate odors, rather than just wiping up the mess you can see, so your dog isn't tempted to return to the same area over and over. Urine can seep through your carpet into the padding beneath, or leak between the boards in your flooring, which can cause major odor issues and even mold. Chances are, looking up "how to get dog urine out of a mattress" was not what you had in mind when getting a puppy. But that's what we're dealing with!
Getting rid of stains and eliminating odors at the source takes more than the average home-remedy solution, and you won't get the job done with just any cleaning product. Simple Green Bio Dog Stain & Odor Remover safely eliminates tough stains and unpleasant odors from urine, feces, vomit and more. It's great for use on porous surfaces such as carpet, rugs, pet bedding, upholstery and even clothing. The orally non-toxic formula contains natural enzymes and benign bacteria that penetrate surfaces to break down and digest soils at the source, which discourages revisiting and remarking.
Choose your toys wisely.
Chew toys are a saving grace for homes with new dogs. You can almost hear the dining room table legs breathe a sigh of relief as Koda gnaws his way through an appendage of his next stuffed-toy victim.
Of course they love the squeaky ones. But before you buy all the noisemaking, silly sounding toys your pup could want, picture a scenario: you're in bed, deeply asleep, when you're startled awake by the high-pitched squealy sounds of a chew toy, your new puppy's favorite plaything.
It's happened to me. It's a nightmare.
Remove dangerous items
Puppies aren't picky when it comes to playtime. Power cords are chew toys. Wires are chew toys. A broken lightbulb is a chew toy to a puppy. Cord protectors are key, as well as keeping all exposed wiring out of reach as much as possible. Keep a tight lid on your trash can, to prevent a free-for-all flavor raid when your back is turned.
Make sure to store any poisons and chemicals such as antifreeze, fertilizer and pesticides securely out of reach. Now is also a good time to get rid of any household cleaners containing harsh chemicals, which can leave behind harmful residues, putting your newest family member at risk.
In today's age, you don't need dangerous cleaning chemicals to get your home clean. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner is orally non-toxic and biodegradable, but this powerful formula can easily handle over 200 household cleaning tasks - from charred baking pans to spills on carpet, to stains on clothes or grimy buildup on your barbecue and beyond.
Gate the forbidden zones
Like it or not, your puppy's going to want to get into the very places you want to keep him or her out of. Rooms with fragile or potentially dangerous items, such as bathrooms, kids bedrooms (full of toys and little objects a dog can destroy or ingest) and kitchen areas, should be blocked. Got a cat at home? We do. The litter box must be protected at all times and all costs, because the litter-coated messes your cat leaves behind are apparently delicious crunchy-coated treats to a dog. They can't get enough of it.
Pet gates and security gates are relatively inexpensive, and can fit in the space of your doorway without harming the door frames or adjacent walls. Also use interior latches to keep cabinet doors closed and avoid a potential mess.
Wish us luck with Koda! And if you're welcoming a dog into your family, happy housebreaking! Check back soon for the next installement of our Puppy Tales series.