For the past few weeks, as I have been saying goodbye to each darling little sammie and shiba puppy face – sending them off with their new families to start of the best lives I can hope for them, with tears and kisses and last puppy snuggles 😙. While doing that emotional work, though, I’ve also been answering questions from the adoptive families: What food should I buy? Do they have to sleep in a crate? How many more vaccinations do they need? How soon can I walk them around my neighborhood? Were along the top ones. Then there is the information that I want them to know that is a priority for me – things they have not thought of (yet) but that I know will come up! Stuff like, what sort of collars, harnesses, and leashes to buy (and not to buy), how to housetrain the pups, and why they should have signed up for a puppy training and obedience class already. No matter how much emailing, texting and calling we have been doing in preparation for puppy pick-up day, there is always something I feel I have missed. So I have started to, compile a whole puppy manual that contains answers to every question that adopters have asked me, with all the information that I have learned over the past years of owning and breeding dogs from my personal experience as well as from trainers, veterinarians, nutrition experts and fellow breeders. This will be a work in progress and I will be adding more links and resources to this post as my time as a busy mom to three wonderful two-legged and 20 loving four-legged kids would allow.
Q: What’s the secret to housetraining? Start thinking about it on the ride home. Plan to carry the pup from the car straight to the area where you want him/her to eliminate, and make sure that no other dogs or people are present to distract or intimidate him/her. And then just wait with him/her calmly, for as long as it takes for him/her to “go.” (Prepare yourself to wait to empty your own bladder until your pup has emptied his/hers! 🥴😅)
The goal is to immediately give him/her a safe, quiet place where he/she feels relaxed enough to empty his/her bladder (and perhaps his/her bowels) – so when, in another hour, after introducing him/her to his/her new home and family, allowing him/her to drink water and perhaps having a little meal, you take him/her outside, he/she will recognize that safe space and, more quickly this time, “go” again. Praise him/her! And don't forget about treats, too.
From then on, for the next few days, your job is to shadow your new pup every minute that he/she is awake – and to whisk him/her outside at every moment that it appears he/she might be feeling a little full. That thought will occur to him/her routinely, within a minute or two after drinking, eating, or waking up from a nap – and then, of course, at random moments in between all that. The only times you can relax and take your eyes off your pup are in these first few days. Will be when he/she is outside or enclosed in a crate or small exercise pen – someplace where he/she will be disinclined to make a mess. (I’d add, “or sound asleep,” but puppies have a way of waking up and going pee the moment you step out of the room!😅😜).
The secret, if all of this can be boiled down to one sentence, is, from the first minute in your home, TO NEVER GIVE HIM/HER AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A MISTAKE and eliminate in the house, to give him/her many, many opportunities to eliminate outdoors, and to richly reward each of those outdoor successes. And if he/she does eliminate indoors, to make every effort to remove every scent-bearing molecule of the urine or feces, so it doesn’t enter his/her nose to alert him/her subconscious brain that “It’s time to pee again!” every time he/she walks by that spot.
For more about housetraining click here Solving Potty Training Problems
Q: What should I feed him/her? I would say, “Find out what he/she has been getting fed and start there ….” However in the case where you want to change his/her food do your research and consult with your breeder and/or vet before you bring your bundle of joy home. The first thing to do is to make sure that you are buying foods that are formulated to meet the needs of growing puppies. Look for the “nutritional adequacy” statement on the bag, aka the “AAFCO” statement. (It’s called this because it will reference the Association of American Feed Control Officials in the statement.) For puppies, the statement must say that the food meets the nutritional requirements of either “dogs of all life stages” or for “growth.”
Then as you probably read through my posts I am a strong believer in a natural species-specific diet and I’m a big proponent of feeding dogs and puppies a decent food variety. The more kinds of foods they get to try and eat (hence, therefore, will be exposed to), the sturdier their digestion seems will become (as well as lesser the chances of developing an allergy). I feed different foods and food textures to my pups so I can determine what they like the most and what foods and ingredients best agree with their little digestive tracts. The most critical part of this is to KEEP TRACK of what you are feeding and how his/her tummy handled it by noting any deviations from a nice, normal poop.
To keep track of what I’ve fed, I like to write down their meal ingredients o a sticky note and tape them on the calendar (but feel free to utilize your smart gadget calendar for this 😜). And once the number twoes are coming out after each meal I would make a note of it as well. A liquid poo, a trend toward constipation, terrible gas? I would make a note. After a few weeks, you should start seeing some trends. If he/she tends to turn up his/her nose at a particular food, stop feeding it. If fish-based meals seem to give him/her the runs – cut them out of your rotation. If he/she vomits a few times each time he/she is being fed beef-based meal, start avoiding it! If he/she gets itchy after eating certain meals, go back and look at your calendar for clues; what do those itch-correlated meals have in common in terms of ingridents? It may take time and detective work, but you should start to see trends.
For more about food choices and diets click here or follow my blog https://www.pawtopia.ca/blog
Q: Should I crate-train him/her? In my opinion, teaching a puppy to be comfortable in a crate and by him/herself is doing him/her and you a huge favour – if for no other reason than making them feel safe and calm when they have to be created (particularly in a small cage) at the vet or groomer, or in an environmental emergency or for travelling purposes. As an owner of a dog boarding hotel (not that we keep our guests in small cages we actually have state-of-the-art kenneling rooms for all our guests and our own dogs. Check it out here https://www.pawtopia.ca/our-facility ) I have seen how traumatic it is for some dogs who have been separated from their families during their stays with us (regardless of how hard we work to make them relax and enjoy their stay)– and how others accept the roomy containment placidly, fully trusting that their owners will return for them at some point.
That said, it’s not necessary to start a rigid crate-training protocol on DAY ONE in your home – and frankly, I think more puppies get traumatized by a “crate them at all costs!” approach than some puppies happily accept this close confinement (think of crate sleep training your human baby you not gonna do it on day one from the birthing hospital unit). I like to see a crate present and in use from day one, but with the door open! Let your pup begin to associate it with only good things. Toss treats into the crate, smear some peanut butter on the back wall (if you have a plastic crate), and feed him/her his/her food in there – all with the door open. If it seems like he/she is happily hanging out in there, reward him/her with one of his/her favourite toys, chewies, or a nice big meaty raw bone.
Of course, it’s nice (and sometimes quite necessary) to be able to secure the pup in an enclosed space to keep him/her out of trouble for a period that is commensurate with his/her ability to “hold it.” If your puppy is already completely relaxed and calm about being in the crate with the door closed – well, you’ve hit the jackpot. DO NOT ABUSE THIS OR TAKE IT FOR GRANTED! Don’t make him/her stay locked in there for too long at first, or his/her willingness to go in may quickly fade. If, in contrast, he/she is still on the fence about being in the crate, and anxious about you shutting the door, don’t rush it! Either invest in a nice, sturdy exercise/playpen, so he/she can be contained but not feel quite as trapped. Or, put him/her in a small room, like a bathroom or baby-gated kitchen, that you can thoroughly puppy-proof; put up all soaps and cleaners and garbage pails and anything that can be pulled down, such as shower curtains or brooms and mops. (click here for tips on puppy proofing your house https://www.pawtopia.ca/post/puppy-proofing-basics) If you need to leave him/her alone in his/her safe confinement area for more than an hour or two, you should also provide him/her with a “legit” place to eliminate. Training pads, litter boxes, artificial grass turf trays are available for this purpose. As your puppy matures, keep up the crate-training, never over-using it, forcing him/her into it, or failing to let him/her out when he/she is miserable in there.
For more about crate training click here or follow my blog https://www.pawtopia.ca/post/step-by-step-guide-to-training-your-puppy
Q: How do I keep him/her from eating my socks and chewing on the furniture? The extent of the puppy-proofing that’s necessary varies from pup to pup. (click here for tips on puppy proofing your house https://www.pawtopia.ca/post/puppy-proofing-basics) I have raised and seen some pups who could be trusted to hang out alone (while I'm in the same room like my office but not supervising them) for hours with no crating or puppy playpens whatsoever, despite the availability of multiple electrical and computer cords under my desk and books, magazines, and food samples on shelves all around the room and at puppy-height. In contrast, I have had others I couldn’t take my eyes off for a moment without something getting chewed up. So here are a few tips on how to be a master of distractions for your pup and keep your house (or at least give it a good try) in one piece.
👉Give him/her lenty of chewing toys. Determine what textures he/she likes best – hard plastic, soft plastic, silicon rubbery toys, meaty bones (read up on good and safe bones for your pup here https://www.pawtopia.ca/post/nutritious-additions-to-the-dry-food-diet), antlers, hooves, bully sticks, stuffie toys, fabric toys, wooden toys or sticks (just make sure to look for sticks and pieces of untreated wood and lumber wouldn’t splinter when chewed) – and make sure he/she has a lot of them.
👉Prevent his/her unfettered access to the things you don’t want him/her to chew. Use baby gates or doors to keep him/her out of rooms that can’t be puppy-proofed and puppy pens to protect bookshelves, or to fence off your home office desk so the pup can’t go under and chew on cords. Pick up socks and underwear, put shoes in closets, put the kitchen and bathroom trash under the sink, and so on.
👉Every time you catch him/her with something he/she is not supposed to have, don’t yell, admonish, or snatch it away; go find his/her favourite toy and trade him/her the toy for whatever he has.
Q: Should I start leash training right away?
The truth is, it makes total sense when a puppy is hesitant to head out on a leash with his/her new owner. As stunned as you are at this turn of events, look at it from the puppy’s perspective:
👉This first week, your new pup is suddenly in a completely new environment without his/her doggy family he/she is always known.
👉Previously, any new experience took place surrounded by littermates, but he/she has to process this leash-and-walk thing all alone.
👉This his/her first day wearing a new collar – a strange thing snug around his/her neck.
👉This may be his/her first moment with a leash attached to that collar, adding pressure that might make him/her feel trapped. (Just because we humans are used to seeing dogs on leash does not mean it is natural for them!)
👉It’s possible that his/her only prior outdoor time has been the same yard every time. As you open the door, he/she is overwhelmed by completely new smells, sounds, and sights. Maybe he/she is never gone down steps before, or heard a car, or seen a kid on a bike. He/she needs to process all of that at her pace. (please note that our last samurai puppies come well equipped and socialized to different setups and environments as we try to work it into our puppy socialization routine)
👉As nice as you are, remember you’re still a relative stranger to your puppy, so your presence may not yet be very reassuring.
Q: Should I enroll him/her into puppy training and obedience school?
This is where the “well-run puppy class” comes into play. A good trainer of a puppy class requires proof of current vaccinations for any puppies that come to class and will disinfect thoroughly and regularly. While veterinarians are right to be concerned about potential health risks from inappropriate contact with other dogs, they are often unaware of the risk of behavioral illnesses that can result from lack of puppy socialization – and these are sometimes deadlier than exposure to germs. The health risk from a well-run puppy class is very low. In fact, your puppy is more likely to run into nasty dog germs at many vet hospitals than at a well-run puppy class! On the other hand, DO NOT take your puppy to dog parks or let him/her socialize with random dogs you meet on the street, nor should he/she be allowed to investigate feces left by dogs in public places. The health risks are significantly higher in these public environments, and your vet is absolutely right to warn you about these.