My Favorite Things
all by Patricia McConnell
by Pat Miller
Making the pup's world smaller and safer is your key to sanity. Be ready with fencing, crates, pens and gates.
A good old fashioned fence is a godsend for puppyhood. Don't put it off. Read this for inspiration.
Late in my dog-owning life I came to appreciate the crate. As a foster and then a trainer, I came to love it. My favorite is the easy-to-collapse-and-store wire version above. It has doors on two sides, which dramatically increases flexibility in placement as your needs change over time. I toss a covering over it for pups who like a more den-like feel. I'm a big fan of slow acclimation rather than shut-them-in-and-let-them-cry, because I want this to be their comfy safe space. I've learned it totally can be. Keep in mind that you can often borrow these from neighbors! Get a second so you can have one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom!
My favorite set-up for the first few weeks of a pup's life at home is a pen attached to a crate somewhere in the main part of the house. That way pup has a little home base that's safe for when nobody can actively supervise -- but there's no need to close that crate door when pup isn't ready for it. This kind of x-pen can create that space, or be used to block rooms, steps, bookcases, or anything else pup shouldn't have access to.
Setting pups up for success means limiting their access. I have pressure-mounted gates for our kitchen which often has puppies, and I have quick accordion fold gates for when we decide to bring pups in the TV room but don't want them in the dining room. I highly recommend you invest in or borrow a bunch of these. I find them at Home Goods, I order them from Orvis, I grab them at Petco.
TOOLS FOR A GREAT WALK
At first you'll want just a very light collar and leash, as pup gets used to that very weird feeling. (Use treats, of course!) But as pup becomes comfortable and you get into the swing of walks -- which you must, to get pup out to socialize during this important phase -- you may find you this equipment helpful.
If you've ever had a dog slip out of a collar, you'll appreciate the Martingale. It's a nylon collar that can be worn all day at a relaxed fit, but it tightens just enough when the dog pulls on leash to keep the pup safely with you. (I like this kind that has a buckle, rather than the kind that slips over the head. Those are too hard to get off.)
I see so many poorly designed, ill-fitting harnesses that well-meaning owners keep on their puppies all day long. Ugh. Not only are they bulky, uncomfortable, and actually easy to slip out of, but they have the clip on the back -- which only makes it super comfy for your dog to pull like a sled dog! Instead, use the Easy-Walk harness for your walks. Because it clips in the front, it'll help your pup stick by your side instead of forging ahead. (Click above to see my video demo.) You can make it extra safe by clipping the ring to your pup's regular collar if you're worried about an escapee. Then give your pup a break and take the harness off when you're not out walking.
I've used a thousand leashes. I, too, succumb to the marketing! But the best leash for basic walks and training is this simple standard. The thinner ones can hurt your hand, the thicker ones are too bulky. (See article on this page on why retractable leashes are evil.)
Don't walk your dog with out a treat pouch! You need to be ready to encourage the behavior you want to see, and to help keep pup's attention on you rather than on every exciting thing in the environment. Practice lots of sits and stays and downs and spins on your walks -- and reward with yummies from that treat pouch.
I hate to see pups trying to eat or drink while there's this super annoying noise of his tag clinking against the steel bowl. Dogs have amazing hearing. Can you imagine how annoying it is to have tags clinking 24/7? Ugh.