By Amy O'Connor
While puppies are innately cute, sweet, little fur balls, they have the potential to become barking, whining creatures of destruction if you don’t prepare yourself and your home for the arrival of your new canine wonder. A good way to prepare for a new puppy is to read a book such as The Love That Dog Training Program by Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz. Sylvia-Stasiewicz, best known as the trainer of President Obama’s dog Bo, has trained dogs for over 20 years, and her book is full of easy-to-follow tips on house-training, feeding, and teaching fundamental commands including Sit and Down and more advanced ones such as The Paw Shake and Toy Cleanup (wouldn’t that be nice!) plus how to troubleshoot common misbehaviors like jumping or barking.
Most important, Sylvia-Stasiewicz’s technique uses positive reinforcement rather than harsh reprimands and is not only more humane but also helps develop a strong bond between you and your dog. My puppy has recently mastered Puppy Pushups which I taught her after just a few tries by following the book, hope she picks up Toy Cleanup as quickly!
If your dog is a city dog as mine is, a book such as Training the City Dog by Katherine Kane provides supplementary information specific to raising a dog in the city: from defensive sidewalk walking techniques to urban “petiquette.” As much as we love our dogs, we must take special care to be sensitive to our fellow urban dwellers (human and canine) who may not appreciate or may overly appreciate our dog. We are asked to beware of drunken pub crawlers and to train Fido to be kind to people in uniforms (doormen, policemen, mailmen, etc) and not to swipe food off of sidewalk café tables. Kane understands that while for most non-urban dog owners the goal is a pup that goes potty outdoors all the time, for apartment dwelling dogs, “paper training” is a practical reality since Fido may not be able to wait for you to rise, get dressed and out of an apartment building in time for his first potty of the day. The book, humorous and instructive throughout, offers tips on mastering commands especially helpful on urban walks (including Leave It, Drop It and Heel) which will help Fido get down the block without ingesting the ever-present smorgasbord of urban detritus.
Available online at Amazon http://www.amazon.com in paperback and at Barnes & Noble for your Nook.
Between birth and six months puppies should be vaccinated against a number of infectious diseases, and a sturdy carrier comes in handy when transporting your pup to the vet by taxi or subway. My puppy, Biscuit and I both love The Original Deluxe Bag from Sherpa’s Pet Trading Company. I love that it’s beautifully made with seams covering supports that dogs might want to chew on, zips on top and on one end for easy entrances and exits, a pocket for storage, and hand straps as well as a shoulder/safety strap for attaching to luggage or a car seat belt and a “D” ring inside the bag for attaching the leash. Biscuit loves the carrier because the mesh sides give her lots of ventilation, and she loves the thick Sherpa pad lining the bottom in addition to the fact that digging into the back of the bag satisfies her terrier impulses. A major plus is the bag is designed to fit under airplane seats and is approved for use on major airlines. The Guaranteed On-Board program from Sherpa Pet Group guarantees your dog won’t be denied boarding on account of your Sherpa carrier. Biscuit still isn’t ready for long walks and her carrier has allowed us to get to appointments with the vet, the trainer, and the groomer on time and with ease especially when a delicious treat is waiting for her in the bag.
A puppy should also never leave the house without a properly fitting collar (two fingers should fit between the dog’s neck and the collar) and a leash. Initially, my puppy wore a harness, but I found she was pulling a great deal and would try to make like Houdini and back out of it, so she now wears a Martingale collar by Premier Pet Products which can’t be backed out of and discourages pulling in a gentle way (as opposed to choke collars). This webbed nylon collar has sliders that allow for adjusting the fit, and there’s an extra loop that will cause the collar to tighten when the leash is pulled. Biscuit’s pulling immediately diminished with the Martingale collar, and she never shows any signs of distress when the collar tightens as a result of her pulling. I use the collar with a ¾” wide, 6′ long leash from Premier, and happily both come in a wide array of colors – the deep purple stands out quite fetchingly against my pup’s brindle coat.
Available online at SitStay http://www.sitstay.com and at Biscuits & Bath locations:
(212) 419-2500 102 Franklin Street (@ Church St)
(212) 419-2500 160 Riverside Boulevard (@ 68th St)
(212) 419-2500 1535 First Avenue (@ 80th St)
A collapsible wire dog crate that is big enough for the puppy to sit up in, turn around and lie down in provides a den-like area the pup will call its own and also comes in handy when house-training since a puppy instinctively prefers not to soil its den. I thought I had blown my chances to crate train Biscuit since I had her for a few weeks before trying out a crate, but to my surprise, even as I was setting up the crate (a four-step easy process), she was clambering on in the crate. I got a Great Crate from Precision Pet Products which is a particularly good one because it has 3 doors (on one side, one end and on top) and a Precision Lock System that means very safe, secure doors, and the copper hammertone finish looks great and blends in nicely with surrounding furnishings. The crate also comes with a divider panel so that you can adjust the space to fit your puppy and remove the divider when the puppy matures to full size.
Most helpful are the crate training guide and “Pawsitively Housebroken” DVD that were included – they fully describe how to introduce your dog to its crate and how to use the crate for house-training. Once I added in a Snoozzy Pet Beds bumper bed in a plush, textured fabric sized to fit the crate, Biscuit fell hard for her new “den”, rolling around on the fuzzy fabric and hiding treats in the seams. She clearly relishes having a room of her own and regularly takes her toys inside for safekeeping and uninterrupted play, and considering that she had been barking to get in my bed at 4 am, I am now guaranteed uninterrupted rest overnight which does us both a world of good.
Available online at Dog Beds & Crates http://www.dogbedsandcrates.com and at Beasty Feast 630 Hudson Street (212) 620-7099
Safety gates are a great way to confine your puppy to a limited area while still allowing plenty of space for the little one to move around. Whether you’re going out to run a few errands or simply need to keep your puppy out from underfoot, (my dog, for instance, will incessantly attack any broom or dust mop), using a gate can keep your pup safely out of harm’s way. Initially I tried out a 24″ high gate which had been loaned to me, putting my pup in the kitchen with the gate securely in place in the kitchen door frame. I came home from a short errand to find my pup comfortably sleeping next to the gate on the wrong side of it! My little Cairn terrier had apparently jumped the gate with ease.
I now use a 32″ high extra-tall wood frame gate with vinyl-covered wire mesh from North States Industries, and this one my dog cannot jump over. The gate, which easily locks in place, adjusts to fit securely into door frames from 26″ to 42″ wide and because of its rubber pressure mounts, leaves no marks on the frame. I am still working on getting the message across to my dog that there are invisible boundaries she must not cross including one around the gate, and she vocally objects to being restricted to the kitchen despite having toys, food and a bed in there, but the gate provides a safe space without my having to close a door on her (something dogs tend to find distressing).
One thing you may find distressing is your home smelling like a port-a-potty. When house-training your puppy, an odor neutralizer will safely and effectively remove the scent of your puppy’s “accidents” which will help prevent the pup from returning to the same scent-marked areas for a repeat performance. Simple Green makes Bio Dog Bio-Active Stain & Odor Remover and Oxy Dog Stain & Odor Remover which are both non-toxic and biodegradable. The Bio Dog Bio-Active Stain & Odor Remover which uses bacteria to absorb smelly excretions and is best used on soft or porous surfaces such as carpets and bedding, and the Oxy Dog Stain & Odor Remover which is ideal for hard, non-porous surfaces such as tile, lineoleum, sealed wood and cages destroys odors and stains with peroxide. My puppy still misses the paper on occasion, and I’m confident these products are working their magic because I always ask visitors to honestly tell me if they smell a dog in the house before actually meeting one, and no one has noticed any odors.
Feeding your puppy the same food at the same time each day will help her digestive system, which also means easier housetraining. Puppies require twice as much protein and should eat twice as many calories per pound of body weight as adult dogs, therefore, a high quality, premium puppy food will ensure your puppy gets adequate nutrition during their fast growing phase (the first three ingredients on any dog food should be meat and not any grain like corn, wheat or soy). The same ingredient standards apply to the treats you feed your puppy, and believe you me, treats are key when teaching your puppy commands. While puppies generally want to be led and to please their “pack leader(s)”, a good treat is a great incentive during training. I’ve asked Biscuit to sit before and offered up a treat not to her liking – she clearly communicated the message, “Is this the best you can do? This doesn’t cut the mustard.” Your dog doesn’t like a treat when she politely holds the treat in her mouth for a second before sheepishly dropping it on the floor. For a more successful outcome with treats try Zuke’s Mini Naturals which come in a Chicken or Salmon or Peanut Butter Formula (chicken being Biscuit’s top choice). These treats are great for puppy training not only because they’re only 3 calories each, but because they contain no wheat, corn, soy, artificial colors or flavors, added fat or by-products. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good treat.
Available online at Doggie Food http://www.doggiefood.com and at The Barking Zoo 192 Ninth Ave (212) 255-0658
I recommend putting dog food and water in stainless steel bowls since they can be easily sterilized and are shatterproof unlike ceramic bowls. Durapet makes a wide range of excellent dishwasher safe stainless steel bowls. I use a large round bowl for water and put food in a square one with the bottom slanted for easy feeding – both have non-skid bonded rubber rings around the bottom. I have a feeling my dog would eat eagerly from any container, but I love knowing that her bowls are sanitary, safe and quiet (on account of the rubber rings).
Available online at Only Natural Pet http://www.onlynaturalpet.com and at Petco http://www.Petco.com for locations
The initial investment you make in high quality gear for your puppy and time spent reading up on and practicing training will pay off for years to come. My mischievous puppy does her best to get into anything and everything, but it helps to know I’ve got a range of tools to help keep her safe and me sane as she transforms from a willful, wild thing into a well-behaved, well-balanced, healthy, happy, puppy.