We bought food bowls, borrowed a crate and dusted off baby gates. But soon after we adopted our 13-week-old puppy, we discovered the house really wasn’t ready.
Clove, a Labrador retriever mix, chewed wires we thought were hidden and investigated stairs we thought she’d ignore.
She rummaged through deep plastic bins holding smelly shin guards and plucked snow-soaked mittens from our warm radiators. Within a week of her arrival, we had to block off power strips, reorganize our mudroom, devise a new plan for drying winter gear and gate the staircase.
“It’s a lot like having an infant in the household,” says Pamela Barlow, animal-behavior counselor at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ adoption center in New York City.
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Barlow says puppies need constant supervision and a safe environment to explore. She cautions against confining them so much that they don’t get outside experiences. It is hard to go back and socialize puppies if owners miss the window of opportunity to do so.
Puppies are drawn to things they can chew on and are stimulated by things that move, says Dr. Carlo Siracusa, director of the Penn Vet Behavior Service at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Many times we think that we should protect our home from a new puppy,” Siracusa says, because the puppy could potentially cause damage. But more important is the opposite: making sure that puppies are safe in their new home.
Most essential is to create a safe haven — a place where the puppy can rest and sleep when there is too much excitement or stimulation, such as when kids have friends visiting, Siracusa says.
For the Sullivan family of South Orange, N.J., a crate has proved to be more useful for keeping their puppy, Angus, safe than his exercise pen has. Angus, a 5-month-old Bichon Frise-poodle mix, learned how to get out of the pen the first day, says Elie Sullivan. She keeps the door of his crate, located in her sons’ room, open.
Sullivan blocked stairs, moved low baskets into closets and bought tall hampers to prevent Angus from raiding the laundry.
“I like my house,” she says. “I didn’t want it torn up.”
She also ensured that her house plants are safe for dogs.
Alexis Shield was prepared with puppy gear and house-training research before bringing home Teddy, an Australian Labradoodle, when he was 9 weeks old. Thanks to her planning and consistency with Teddy, she has been amazed at how fast he learned.
What she didn’t expect, says Shield, who lives in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., was how hard it would be to prepare her three young sons and supervise them with the puppy.
She has Teddy’s crate in the kitchen, a safe place for him amid the household hubbub. Initially, Shield would occasionally put Teddy in the crate when she needed to do something and couldn’t watch him; now a bit older, he’s just in the crate when she leaves the house and at night, when he sleeps.