You’ve Got a Puppy- Now What?

Not long after we’d returned from my honeymoon, Melanie and I decided that we needed something new around the house. We debated for a while, but in the end we decided to do what many couples do: we got a puppy. Needless to say, this hasn’t left me much room around the house by myself!

Enter Hazel

Hazel, our (now) 16 week-old labradoodle has been a joy thus far. Technically she’s what some would consider a double doodle- having both of her parents being varieties of the doodle lineage (goldendoodle and labradoodle). Regardless, she will be a quick study when it comes to training. 

So what are some things to consider if you plan on getting a puppy of your own? After our first two weeks of dog ownership, here’s a few things we think you’ll need to consider.

1) Food

Whether you plan on feeding your pet a grain-free diet, a standard mixture with fillers, dry food or wet food, there are tons of things to consider for your pup’s health. As with any area, I found that through researching it, the Purina Focus dog food was rated the best for puppies across the board; but it might not be for everyone (as it contains rice and chicken). 

If you happened to buy your dog from a breeder, they will likely tell you what they’ve been feeding the puppy and what you should probably be feeding it in order to keep it healthy (as they’ve done with their dogs for years). If you’re rescuing or buying from another location, the work will likely come down to you to research and determine what is right for your dog and what you can afford to buy for its consumption.

Another thing to be concerned with is the dog’s necessary food allotment. We read that labradoodle pups can eat anywhere from 1 cup to 2 ½ cups of food a day. Hazel tends to eat at least 1 ½ cups if not slightly more as of present, but this number could rise as she continues to grow.

2) Finding the Right Veterinarian

Just like people need to have a doctor that they can trust for standard checkups and specialty visits, so too do you need a proper vet for your dog. The Internet can be a wonderful place- and that is where we did our research to find the best local spot to take Hazel for her visits. 

Another great source of knowledge includes anyone you know that has had a dog (or presently has a dog). Most people are pretty particular when it comes to caring for their canine pal- and the right vet tends to be something that is held in high esteem when found. Typically your mates won’t think twice about sharing their vet with you because they want you to have the same success that they did with their dog.

This puzzle ball is one of Hazel’s favorite toys. Not only does it keep her busy for 20-30 minutes getting all of the treats, but it also tires her out.

3) Treats / Trainers

Want to reinforce a positive behavior with your new pal? Just like during the time of Pavlov and his experiments, food is still the best motivator for your dog. Did they do something you want them to? Reinforce them with a delicious morsel. Did they do something you didn’t like? Ignore them (if able) or remind them of the proper behavior. When the behavior is observed, offer a reward.

Since you’re going to be giving out a lot of treats, it’s often a good idea to get a trainer-specific variety of reward. Some of these are 1 ½ calories a piece. Others (like Zukes) are 3 calories each or greater. To maintain your dog’s weight (and its health, to a point), treats this size or smaller are likely the best option. We tend to use ‘high reward’ treats (higher calories or larger sizes) for very favorable actions- but these kinds of treats should be using sparingly to show the value that they hold.

Another great option to use in conjunction with treats is a clicker trainer. More or less, a clicker or click trainer has a button that when depressed bends a small piece of metal. This metal produces a clicking sound when it is bent from pressing the button and also when it snaps back into place. 

Your dog (over time) will associate this clicking sound with proper activity if rewarded with treats at the same time it is pressed. It is a strong bonding tool to use along with the treats. Eventually, the dog won’t need treats and the clicker will still be enough to show that the act that was performed was a desirable trait.

4) Cleaning / Special Use Items

During the training process (and perhaps even after on occasion), your pooch is likely to make messes in the house. Whether it was physically ill or you haven’t managed to get it outside quickly enough to relieve itself, you will need to clean up odors and eliminations in the house. 

We’ve found that products made by Nature’s Miracle work pretty well at eliminating any unwanted odors from the house to allow for proper house-training to occur. This makes it harder for your pet to find the same smell they used before for an ideal (or less ideal for us) place to eliminate. 

Of course, your dog will also likely want to be biting things around the house- especially during the time that it is teething. While lots of companies make sprays to help dissuade puppies from chewing, we’ve found that the bitter cherry spray by Vet’s Best seems to be the best option. While it smells a bit like a sweet spray for rooms after use, it also puts a coating of non-desirable material on whatever surface you’ve sprayed it to- thus teaching your pet to not want to lick/bite it anymore.

5) Other Essentials

There’s tons of things you’ll need in order to take care of your dog, but here’s a small list of items that are high on the list of essentials:

  • A suitable crate (if you intend to crate train your dog)  
    • Make sure the crate does not allow for too much extra movement- as your pet will likely use that space to eliminate and will live in the clean area afterward.
  • A leash and/or harness setup
    • Make sure that whatever collars or harnesses you’re using fit tight so that there is little play for the pet to work with. 
  • Poop Bags/Poop Can/Scooper
    • Don’t be ‘those people’ that let your dog’s mess be another person’s problem.
    • Having a designated poop can and scooper can save you a lot of time and trouble in your own back yard. Get a single bag to line the can and then put all of the waste into one bag.
  • A Collar and ID Tag
    • An obvious must for any dog- identification is essential in case a pet gets loose or needs to be taken home for any other reason.

While there are countless other items that are incredibly important for your dog, I believe that this list (and the above categories) cover most of what you’ll need as a new dog owner in order to keep them happy, safe, and above all- loved by their owner.

Hazel in a Thunder Shirt. These are supposed to relieve anxiety and help your dog feel as though they’re being held in times of difficulty. In this picture, she was outside during one of her first heat-lighting experiences.

Surely we’ll have more to say after we’ve had Hazel longer- but these are our findings thus far. Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share about training your dog(s)? Leave a comment below.

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