Tuesday, April 8

My Puppy Cheat Sheet: Puppy Supplies

First of all, straight up, no two puppies are the same and not everything that works for one puppy will work for another. I read a lot of books and other materials before we brought Lola home, and I have been a faithful viewer of At the End of My Leash, Barking Mad, and The Dog Whisperer since I can remember. I didn't use all of one trainers tips or all of anothers, but I chose a mixture of techniques, tips and tricks that worked for our lifestyle and Lolas personality. I would definitely recommend proper socialization and professional training (if you join a group training class you can roll these two essentials into one) for all puppies. 
When we brought Lola home she was 14 weeks old, a little bit older then the typical 8 weeks when most puppies are adopted. This worked very well in our favour, since Lola's bladder development, training and socialization had all progressed further then we were expecting.

The reason most puppies are adopted at 8 weeks is that they are going through the first 'fear period' which makes it easier for them to bond with their new families. Personally, I feel that if you can adopt a slightly older puppy you will find they take to their crate better, they miss their litter-mates less (which means less crying and less separation anxiety), they're easier to housebreak, and at least in Lolas case, she bonded with us no problem!

I remember all the information out there was a little overwhelming, and I was very careful with everything we purchased and taught to Lola, so I thought I would share some of that info now that we're over six months in and I've gotten a feel for what works and what doesn't! 
Lolas crate all set up waiting for our puppy to arrive.
 First Day Supplies:
  • Pee pads. We didn't actually use ours since Lola had never used them before, was a little older, had less accidents then we were expecting, and also thought pee pads were chew toys and blankets. That being said, you can buy a very small box like we did and see if your puppy takes to them. 
  • A crate. We knew we were going to be crate training Lola so we purchased a medium sized hard sided crate labeled as the correct size for an adult Border Collie. We weren't exactly sure how large Lola would grow, but we didn't want to have to purchase more then one crate since they're fairly expensive.  At the beginning we divided her crate with a folded cardboard box so that she wouldn't have enough room to soil and still be comfortable. After a few weeks she began to chew the cardboard so we removed it. She's never had an issue with soiling in her crate, but as I mentioned before she had great bladder control at three months and for a younger puppy I would recommend purchasing a divider, or starting with a smaller size. Dividers only seem to come for wire crates so if you think you'll need to do this I might recommend purchasing a wire crate instead. That said, our Kong crate has been great for traveling, we can easily make Lola comfortable and safe in the car by putting her crate in the back seat. It also gives her a safe and familiar place to take a nap or have some quiet time while visiting friends homes, or staying overnight with a friend or relative. I believe wire crates are more difficult to transport and don't offer the same den atmosphere.  For those of you who have other pets, I would recommend setting up the crate several days or even weeks before the arrival of your pup. This worked well for us as Tommy had a chance to investigate and when Lola did arrive, her things already had his scent on them. 
  • Baby or pet gates. Cesar Millan teaches not to let your puppy have full run of the house right away, as it can be overwhelming for them and lead to bad behavior, as well as open your whole house up to messes! We started with Lola just in the kitchen. Our dog trainer says you should never let your dog in the kitchen, but it was the only room in our house that was central enough to give the puppy access to the family, but easy to cordon off with gates. We added a gate to each entry point. These can be expensive, but I wouldn't advise investing in anything fancy. We bought the cheapest one available and it works just fine.  We still use our gates if we leave Lola alone in the house, and in the morning if we're sleeping in.
  • Depending on what season you're adopting your puppy I would recommend being prepared with some puppy shampoo. This Spring Lola has needed a bath almost every day. We only shampoo once a month, and when we do we like Burts Bees tearless two-in-one.
  • A collar. It's important for pups to get used to wearing a collar early on. If they haven't been wearing one at the breaders or shelter, it's good practice to start them right away. Lola scratched at hers for awhile but now she doesn't seem to notice it. Training seems to involve a lot of tugging on said collar, so get one that is wide enough it won't hurt their little throats. Lola's was probably a little thin by our trainers standards so we recently upgraded to a thicker one.
  • A leash to go with that collar! 
  • And poop bags. This is pretty obvious. 
  • You will definitely, no matter how old or well behaved or partially trained, need some urine remover and stain cleaner. If urine stains aren't cleaned properly your dog will return to the scene of the crime and strike again! We like natures miracle.
  • A few toys. We purchased Lola a soft crinkle toy with chewable feet and a small Kong bone with holes on each end. This bone would become critical to her crate training! Her former home also sent her with a soft frog that had the scent of her littermates. 
  • Treats. To start her off we bought a couple packages of greenies and other larger, teeth cleaning chews that would take her a few minutes to chomp on, help keep her teeth clean, and help with her teething. I would also freeze her little Kong bone with some peanut butter or coconut oil in the ends to help with her soar teeth.
  • Training treats. It's never too early to start training, and training treats should be small, and few in calories since you'll be giving lots. We like Zukes Mini Naturals
  • Pet Insurance. This one might not be for everyone, I know that pets already cost a lot of money and not everyone can afford to pay for a yearly pet insurance policy, but I would highly recommend it and have got to say that for us, Pet Insurance is an absolute necessity. I'm a worrier. When Tommy was a kitten I used to worry that he would find the knife block and accidentally skewer himself while we were at work. I'm pretty sure that's not a thing. If you insure your puppy from the beginning of his life he will be protected against everything. Pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions, that means that if your puppy gets sick right after bringing him home not only are you going to pay out of pocket for that trip to the vet, if your puppy ever suffers the same illness you will pay again. We are insured through Pet Plan and Lolas policy costs $468. There are many options which might lower, or raise that cost. She came down with a tummy bug in January and we spent about $650 on vet bills including a trip to the emergency vet, special food and gut flora, tests and several follow up exams. After all that, we emailed her bills and medical history to Pet Plan and received a cheque in the mail for $350. That's a savings of almost half, and it pretty much paid for the yearly policy. Also, if she ever has that issue again we will be able to add to that claim, and get the entire amount back, having already paid the deductible. If you're on the fence or would like to look into other pet insurance options, I found this website to be incredibly helpful.
Our cardboard divider in Lolas crate.
Things we Didn't Purchase Right Away or At All:
  •  Food. This might seem strange, because puppies definitely need to eat, but most breeders or foster homes will send along a sample of the food the puppy has been eating. Puppys can get upset tummies if you change their food too quickly, so we waited until we knew what brand she was eating before we bought more. Lola was originally on Iams and we bought one bag of Iams and one bag of Blue Buffalo, the food we wanted her on, and then slowly mixed them until she was just eating Blue. 
  • Bowls. Also another weird one. If you're on a budget, you can skip fancy pet bowls and just use your normal cereal ones. As Lola gets bigger I realize we might need to purchase elevated bowls, but in the meantime these work great. After a few uses I just toss them in the dishwasher and give her a clean one. When we were using pet bowls I would forget to keep them clean, and Tommy developed cat acne from his old bowl. For water, both our pets share a replenishing water bowl like this one. The first month Lola was with us I didn't let her  have water all the time, but rather gave her water at scheduled times to help with housebreaking. This worked OK because it was winter, but in the summer I would advise keeping a constant water source for your puppy, especially when playing outside.
  • Rawhide. I know a lot of people feed their pups rawhide, but the research I've done seems to indicate that they are non-digestable. First, rawhide builds up in your puppies tummies and is passed like sludge. This is not entirely harmful to them, but it can be hard to tell whether your pup is healthy if all of their poop looks sludgy and wet. Secondly, if a dog is taking very large bites of the rawhide it can form blockages in their tummies which can be very dangerous. Thirdly, many critics of rawhide believe it can contain vast amounts of chemicals and toxins caused by everything from the tanning process, to the hair removal process, to the very flavoring added to make it palatable to dogs (like bubblegum?). Lola had lots of wet poop at the beginning and problems with diarrhea (overshare?) so we decided not to give her rawhides. Instead, we discovered split antlers. Dogs scrape the marrow out of the antler and it keeps them very busy for long periods of time. I love that it's natural as well. Be careful though, only split antlers are good for puppies (you will be able to see the darker exposed marrow on one side) as they can crack their baby teeth on the bone. Once puppies teeth are all adult you can buy them full antlers and they will begin to eat the bone as well as the marrow. Experts advise that you stick to natural animal byproducts such as pig ears, hooves, and real bones (being larger then their jaw). 

Things You Can Buy With Your Puppy: 

I don't think I'm alone in this, but I love taking Lola to the pet store with us. In the beginning, since it was winter, we didn't have a lot of opportunities to socialize Lola or expose her to strange sounds and smells. Any outing she could tag along on became a special, treasured thing. It turns out puppies also love to pick out their own stuff! Consider:
  • A bed. To start, Lola just had her crate pad and a towel. I began to train her to go into her crate on command by saying "go to your bed" but when we started putting her crate in our bedroom, she needed to have a bed in the common area.  The first time, I just bought the bed I thought would fit our decor, but this time Lola came with us and tested all the little beds out herself! It was too funny to see her little opinions on each bed.
  • Chew toys. I find it very helpful to have Lola with me when picking out bones or chew toys so I can compare the size of the item to her mouth! It's good to know that you're avoiding choking hazards, and Lola loves sniffing out the perfect bone from the bin (actually, she's pretty easy going. All the bones are perfect for Lola). 
  • A harness. As I mentioned previously, we usually use Lola's crate in the back seat of the car to go from A to B, but it's still not the easiest solution. I'm very much about safety and car safety, and having been in a car accident previously I know I want Lola to be protected just like us when we're traveling in the car. Lola has this harness and a seat belt adapter for when she's traveling loose in the car. The lady at the pet store recommended this method instead of a fancier car harness because Lola was still growing. You don't have to get too picky with your harness, but look for something made of mesh or fabric and not straps. It should evenly distribute pressure over their chests in the event of a quick stop. The seat belt adapter we have is adjustable so you can set the amount of room they have to roam. We keep it short so that she won't fall off the seat accidentally. As a note, Lolas old partially eaten dog bed has a new home in the back seat of our car now. We buckle her into the middle seat and she curls up in her bed quite happily, the bolsters of the bed keep her from sliding around too much and she much prefers having something back there then sitting directly on the seat. The reason you might want your pup with you when you're shopping for a harness is pretty evident, it's easy to buy the wrong size! I would also categorize booties, or any other kind of novelty dog clothing item that might come in sizes small through extra large. If pup can't come with you, try and remember to measure them instead of guessing in store.
  • A brush. Lola's not a big fan of being brushed, she's pretty sure brushes are chew toys and isn't quite straight on why I won't let her have at it. That being said, I have been using two brushes I originally bought for Tommy (who, incidentally, also dislikes being brushed). I think it helps to pick out your brush with puppy in tow so that they can let you know their likes or dislikes. It's fairly overwhelming standing in front of a huge wall of brushes trying to figure out what your puppy might allow you to use on them. There are literally hundreds of kinds of brush! Bristles, soft or spiney or rubbery, slickers, wire, silicone, you name it! Your puppy might be able to give you some insight on what will work for them. 
Well, I hope this ridiculously long post might help some first time dog parents! If you have any questions, fire away, or if you think I missed something let me know! Next up I'll be sharing what worked for us as far as training and housebreaking.

PS. This was my brilliant excuse to post pictures of Lola as a little bity puppy. ;)

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