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Here Comes the Puppy

By: Joan Paylo

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Of course you're thrilled about bringing home a new puppy. She, too, will be excited - curious enough to gambol about your house, poking her nose into everything. But before you bring home your new acquisition, spend some time puppy-proofing your home and gathering the supplies you'll need to start your relationship on a happy, even keel.

Stock Up on Puppy Supplies

Scout out your neighborhood for pet supply stores and establish a relationship with the manager. Think ahead to bad weather or times you'll be really busy. Do they deliver? Are store hours convenient?

Here's a basic list of what you'll need to get before the pup arrives:

  • Bowls for food and water. Glass and ceramic can break; plastic is chewable. Metal is sturdy and easy to wash. You'll need a bowl holder, too, so your puppy doesn't learn the neat trick of pushing her dinner all around the kitchen.

  • A crate to serve as her den. Wire is more portable than plexiglass and allows for better ventilation in warmer climates. Since your puppy will grow, you may want to buy one that can be sectioned off to allow for expansion. Or, be prepared to buy a new one in several months.

  • A bed and accessories. For most dogs, especially at the beginning, a washable plastic bed padded with washable towels or blankets, as well as a tee shirt or old bathrobe that carries your scent, is just fine. Be sure the bed will fit inside the crate. You might want to have a hot water bottle on stand-by. A ticking clock and a sturdy, baby-proof stuffed toy may also keep her company the first few weeks.

  • A soft, adjustable collar with identification tags and a leash.

  • Safe toys. Don't buy too many at first, but have enough to keep her distracted from chewing your shoes and furniture. Check the labels and look for quality, same as when you buy toys for children. Be sure that parts won't break off. Buttons, plastic shards and small balls can lodge in her throat and block air passages.

  • Grooming tools. It's not too early to find a nearby groomer with hours that match your needs. He'll advise you on which tools are best for grooming your dog's coat.

  • Baby gates. It will be some time before you can trust your puppy to roam the house alone. Baby gates, vetted for safety by consumer organizations, protect her and your belongings. Use them to block off stairways, carpeted rooms and other forbidden areas.

  • Puppy food. Ask your breeder or shelter what brand your pup is used to. Changing her diet abruptly may cause stomach distress. If you want to change foods, phase them in by mixing them with her old brand for several weeks.

    Put Away Poisons and Precious Possessions

  • If your home, garage and yard make for a puppy wonderland of chewy sneakers, enticing power cords, sweet-smelling antifreeze, warm and fragrant flower beds, dolls with button eyes and hanging drapes with tie-back tassels, sweep through and put them away NOW. Digestive tract X-rays of sick dogs have revealed all sorts of unusual things, from ribbons, spoons and dominoes to knives with blades six inches long.

  • Look at your home as your puppy sees and smells it. You might want to keep your kids' rooms off limits for a while. Close closet doors and be sure that cabinets are secured. Hide electrical cords under carpets. Put knick-knacks out of reach. Lock up anything chemical, from soaps, waxes and cleaning solvents to medicines and cosmetics. Certain human foods and plants such as English ivy and tiger lilies are poisonous, too.

  • Puppy-proof the contents of your garage. Put away ethylene-glycol antifreeze and other automotive compounds, fertilizers, pesticides, paint, nails and anything else that may cause trouble if swallowed.

  • Make sure your backyard fence is in good repair, so your puppy can neither jump over nor dig under it. Fence off flower beds and trees and check for a long list of poisonous plants, including boxwood, bulb flowers, hemlock and sage. Watch out for uninvited milkweed, poison ivy, oak and sumac, too.

    Rehearse Your Family's "Puppy Speak"

  • Agree on a game plan for keeping the puppy warm and calm during her first days with you. Your puppy will want to please you and will be eager to learn how, but she'll also be nervous. Every member of your family must give uniform commands. "Sit," "stop," "down," "kennel," "come" and "stay" must have the same meaning, no matter which family member uses them.

  • Write up the schedule you'll use for your pup's first few days home. The puppy needs you to be regular and consistent. Don't invite the neighborhood over to welcome your new dog. Brace yourself now, so you don't yell at the pup when she soils the carpet or bites off Barbie's head. She won't know any better at first.

    Have a Vet to Turn To

  • Your puppy will probably come home with medical and inoculation records. If you don't already have a family vet, ask friends to recommend one and visit several offices to check for efficiency and cleanliness. As soon as she's settled in, have your puppy checked over by the vet you choose. That way, you'll be prepared for emergencies before they happen.

    Be Able to Afford Your Pooch

  • Consider pet insurance. Many pet lovers get a puppy without consideration of the costs involved in medical care. What if the puppy gets sick or injured? Could you afford a costly vet bill? Pet insurance allows you to do what's best for your puppy in the event of an unexpected accident or illness. For example, Embrace Pet Insurance offers policies that cover up to 90% of the vet bill. The best time to get pet insurance is when your puppy is young, before he has any accidents or illnesses that might be considered pre-existing conditions.

    If you don't have insurance, consider a pet savings plan or have a credit card with substantial available credit that you can use if an emergency does occur.

    I hope these tips help you get ready to have a successful relationship with your new puppy!


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