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Monday, December 27, 2010

So, you got a Christmas Puppy!

this was a three room condo in the basement for
the litter of pups, notice the cheap vinyl flooring and the sides were
made from wood. The condo had a potty area, feeding area
and play area each room was accessible through doors or ramps
which I could easily close for for cleaning.  The pups here were about
6 or 7 weeks old.  

This was a ramp to the potty area. At 8 weeks old
potty was taught to be outside.

First the Sally rant, hey, you knew it was coming!

All I can say to some is Congratulations, and to others, OMG! What were you thinking? Each year I hear a lot of Christmas puppy questions normally  about house training, or nipping the kids, but there is one question I hear which really drives me crazy and it goes like this. ‘Is it okay to leave the puppy alone for a long time during the day? I start back to school and my parents go back to work so the puppy will be alone 8 or 9 hours a day.’

WHAT? I ask with a slight bodily twitch! I just want to smack someone when I hear this! (And it only need be the nearest person to me, not the actual person who's asking the question! )  What were they thinking? I understand a kid not getting it, but parents? Come on! Who do you think is most likely going to suffer from this act? Yup, the dog!

I’m sorry folks, but I must vent before offering solutions because let’s face it, it’s my blog and I'll vent if I want to! (as memories of the old song "It's my party and I'll cry if I want too!" dance through my head) 

I am not perfect by any means ( just ask my kids), but when it comes to another living creature I do try to plan things out as it regards to my situation and the safety that might surround it. I do believe I took this subject up in my schooling years … way back when they called it…um… oh yeah, "Common sense 101!"

Puppies are usually purchased at 8 weeks of age if they’re lucky enough to stay with their litter for that length of time anymore. People are so into making a profit off of their dogs that puppies are leaving the nest as early as five weeks old, which is totally ridiculous.

I have to ask, would one feel safe leaving their 8 week old baby in a crib all day and expect nothing to happen? Basically the kid and the dog have the same thought process and bodily functions! Only your kid probably wouldn't eat its diaper! Okay, okay, a toddler might!

NEVER buy  a puppy to teach kids how to be responsible! Kids are not responsible until they are adults, and even then it is questionable!  Remember this is another life you are asking your kids to be responsible for. Would you really want to rely on them to feed and cloth your great Aunt Betty that lives alone? Of course not!  Puppies are fun, but kids should not be given the job of caring for them. When I was a kid I wanted a dog so bad I begged my mother constantly, telling her I would care for it. I never got that dog and thank goodness my mother knew best!

Alright Sally, take a deep breath! (I remind myself)

So you did it, what now? It’s time to rectify the situation as best you can.

A young pup should not be left alone longer than two to four hours daily without someone checking up on it and even at that, don’t expect it will be able to hold its bowel and bladder. You are more than likely going to come home to a mess, both a messy crate and stinky dog because it was forced to lie in the mess it made. This type of situation can also make it harder to potty train them later on as the dog learns to sleep and eat where it  eliminated, which goes against every fiber of a dog’s being. Sometimes this can be very hard to retrain.

If you must leave longer than four hours have a neighbor or relative bring your young pup out for you every two to three hours so it learns to eliminate outside. If you can’t find someone you know, then hire someone. Sometimes, when looking at family or friends for the job, it may be a more enticing if you offer to pay them!

Check out doggie day care centers as they are a big help for someone who needs to be away all day and if there are no doggie day care centers in your area, again, go to a friend /relative and offer to pay them to bring the dog into their home. There are many people who don't work outside the home, or they only have a part time job so they may be looking to make a little extra spending money and may happen to like dogs!
(for pet sitters net of the US click here)

If needed, you could run an ad in the local paper that you are willing to pay for a babysitter for your dog and that you will drop the dog off and pick it up. Of course you want someone who is knowledgeable in dogs and in potty training. Ask them how they would handle certain situations with the dog. Would they be able to put the dog on a schedule, and what is their knowledge of dogs as a whole? If you are paying someone to do this, you can ask the same questions you would ask a certified babysitter. Never be afraid to ask a question when you are dealing with a life! Don’t pick a person who believes that sticking a dog’s nose in its excrement will prevent it from happening again. Feel free to print this article off my blog on potty training 101 and hand it to a potential caretaker!

They should be knowledgeable about your breed of dog as well so they know the amount of exercise and food it will require through the day. Also, supply a pet first aid kit which can be purchased through the American Red Cross, a pet store, or you can make your own as many people do not have these in their home. Inside the kit put your phone number, your Vet's phone number, as well as an emergency Vet number should it be after hours, and the pet poison control hotline number.  Write down directions on how to make the pup vomit if it ate something it should not have, such as a poisonous plant (always call a vet or pet poison control first to see if vomiting should be induced) as well as write down the normal temperature for a dog and  other vital signs so the caretaker if needed, can describe to a Vet what they are seeing. Sometimes in an emergency everything we once knew flies right out of our head!

Have a contract in place as to what you expect the sitter to do in an emergency. Do you want them to call you before going to the vet? Everything should be written down, signed and dated by both parties.

Look into 4H, Girl/Boy Scouts, or after school programs that may be willing to take your pup in for the afternoon and not only play with it but also train it. Finding a program to do this for the last couple of hours on the home stretch can wear your pup out and make the evening for both of you more pleasurable as the dog won’t be so wound up.  Ask the leaders of the organization what they would like in return for doing this. Most may not be able to take money, but they probably can take donated craft items, a pizza party for the kids, movie passes, etc.

Such programs can contact a reputable local dog trainer and ask if they would be willing to donate an hour (or more) a week and show the kids how to train a dog. ( For Association of pet dog trainers click here)

Many therapy dogs are now in  ‘read to dogs’ programs so this can really turn into a win, win situation! This will also keep your puppy socialized with many different people which is always a good thing.
 click for Read to dogs video

Remember your pup is only as penned up as your imagination is!

Can’t find anyone to care for the pup?

Try to come home at your lunch hour to check on the dog and replenish whatever is needed. Know that small breeds may need to eat throughout the day to keep the blood sugar up.

Invest in an X pen for small pups to keep them from chewing on your furniture, cabinets or getting into harms way. Crate the pup in a regular dog crate for half the day and then put the pup in the x pen at the lunch hour and leave them with mind stimulating toys to keep them busy. Don’t leave any toy that can be destroyed or eaten, especially stuffed toys. Purchase items like the buster cube, the treat dispensing ball, giggle ball, and a few Kong toys, (fill the Kong’s with different items, one with peanut butter one with cream cheese and freeze them so they'll last longer) . There are so many mind stimulating toys for dogs and it is a good idea to interchange them so they always seem new to the dog. To keep the dog from gaining too much weight from food filled toys, you can fill these toys with some of the daily dose of kibble and some Cheerios instead of just treats, or buy non fat treats.

For a list of semi Indestructible toys click here  ( though nothing is truly indestructible)

Puppy pads, ugh, not my favorite. If there’s one thing that will teach your dog to piss on a rug faster than anything, it’s a puppy pad. Eventually the dog does not decipher between the pads on the floor and the rug on the floor, especially if the dog is left alone all day.

If you must allow the dog to potty inside, use a grass patch or dog litter so it at least feels more like what a dog would find in the outside world. Get two of whichever product you decide you want to place in the dog’s area because  many people do not realize that dogs rarely  poop and pee in the same place, even in the outside world, so lay one on one side of the pen and one on the other side.
This does not mean you won’t come home to a mess, but at least you are showing the dog a different feel under the feet until it can learn to go outside.

Use spill proof water bowls or use water bottles so you don’t have that mess to contend with.
I  recommend the  Buddy bowl as the best spill proof bowl I have found so far, however it is not chew proof.

Weather permitting, the dog can be put in an outside pen but you must be sure to leave the same mind stimulating toys with the dog. Also, secure and puppy proof the pen area as you would inside the home. Check for unsafe plants the dog may be able to pull through the fencing, check for areas where the dog may dig out of, or areas that he can squeeze through. In other words batten down the hatches and watch how the dog reacts in there for a day or two before walking away thinking all is fine. My 170 lb dog was able to squeeze through about 4 inches of bent  chain link fencing to get out of his pen. Remember these words, "if there is will, there is way!"

NEVER leave a choke collar or any type of training collar on a dog that is left alone or you may come home to find that the dog has hung itself to death. Use a break away collar or harness, no collar at all, or loosen the original collar so the dog can get out of it should it get hung up on a crate or a branch.  Nothing is ever fool proof or guaranteed but do the best you can.

Some dogs are clever or desperate enough to climb over the top of a pen, either an outside pen or an x pen so you want to cover the pen with something to make it look like there is no way out over the top. You can attach wire fencing or a strong fitting tarp. In some instances you can take some chicken wire and attach it to the top of the pen then bend it in so that it gives the appearance to the dog that the whole pen is covered.

No matter where you leave your dog always get down on the dog’s level to check for safety. If you put yourself on their level you can actually see things that would tempt a curious puppy such as wires /cords, air freshener plug- ins, plants either live or fake, cloth such as bedspreads, even molding is not safe from a curious puppy. If you have wires that must remain in place then purchase some small PVC piping and run them through that, just remember to unplug items and tuck the plug just inside the piping where the pup can’t reach it while you are gone.

Buy a piece of vinyl flooring that will lay completely flat under the pen (no edges inside the pen) so that your own flooring is not ruined. These pieces can be found wherever flooring is sold and for about 20-25 dollars. It will save you from a big headache!  The cheap vinyl floor can be thrown out when no longer needed.

Dogie doors can be an owner’s best friend as well and they now make them to fit in sliding glass doors so just a small fenced area off the back door should keep your pup satisfied through the day. But do remember to check for possible hazards that can harm your dog.

Hopefully this has been of some help to relieve some of the stress you may feel once life has returned to a somewhat normal pace after the holiday and now that your new pup is here.
As always, any other suggestions are gladly welcome!

Until next time,  Happy training:)

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