I was planning on writing a craft post today, but we’ve had an unexpected house guest this week, and she’s thrown off all my plans. She has quite terrible manners, but is really sweet on the inside. She’s broken every rule of house guest etiquette, starting with chewing on my furniture, and escalating to peeing on my carpet. But she’s so cute, we keep letting her stay.
This is Trixi. She’s a 3-month-old lab/shepherd mix that we’re fostering. We are thinking of adopting her, with varying stages of enthusiasm, depending on what she’s chewing on at the moment.
Since I’ve been a puppy parent for, oh, about 48 hours now, that makes me an expert, right? Perhaps not. But the job description of a blogger specifically states “will share random knowledge at will, whether or not she is properly qualified.” So I’m ready to share with you everything I’ve learned on our journey so far. It’s not much yet, but it may help you prepare if you ever find yourself in our shoes. Well, actually we’re not even in our own shoes at the moment because they’re all stowed away to keep them safe!
There are bazillions of products out there (and an industry that annually rakes in more than the the gross national product of a small country) to help you puppy proof your house. But when you are fostering a puppy, or perhaps dog-sitting for a friend, you may not want to go all out redoing your whole house for what may be a short term arrangement. Here are a few things you can do on a small budget to save your sanity and your carpeting.
Prepare yourself and your family. Here’s my earth-shattering revelation that I’m sure no one has ever noticed before: Puppies are a lot of work. Especially when they’re teething. To expect anything else from her would just be foolish and unfair. So with that in mind, we’ve had a lot of conversations at our house about what to expect from the dog. Here’s what I’ve been telling my kids:
- She will jump up on you. If she does, stand still and turn your back on her.
- If she gets excited while playing, she may nip at you. This is how she plays, but you don’t have to take it. If she does, yelp loudly and we will help get her off of you. If she sees that she gets taken away from you every time she does that, she’ll eventually learn not to.
- You may not be alone with the puppy right now. She hasn’t learned manners yet, and I don’t want you to be scared when she gets rambunctious. So Dad or I have to be with you while you’re playing together.
- Mom and Dad will be responsible for feeding her and kenneling her. These are the times she’s most excited and needs a firm hand.
Trixi came to us already partially kennel trained. That is a HUGE bonus! She’s not to be trusted on her own anywhere in the house, so when I can’t be watching over her, she stays in her kennel. It seems sad, but really she’s perfectly happy to hang out in her “den.” And as long as she gets lots of exercise in between, she does really well in there with a couple of chew toys. But when you open that kennel door, she takes out of there like a shot, runs to the back door, and promptly pees on the carpet right in front of the door! It only took us a couple of tries to realize that we have to pick her up and carry her all the way to the backyard. Now it’s a whole process. I’m not sure who’s training who here.
Prepare your house. I believe that house training a puppy takes so long partly because they are just so darn excited about life. When we get home, she’s so happy to see us that she can barely control herself. She hates to be out of the action for even a moment, so she holds it until she can’t any longer and then it’s too late. Much like potty training a toddler, it takes a lot of patience and paper towels. Fortunately we have a lot of tile in our house, so we mostly keep her constrained to the tiles areas. That helps with the patience factor.
We have a baby gate that we never got rid of after our babies outgrew it, which has been the handiest tool in our puppy proofing. If you don’t have one, you can probably pick one up at a thrift store. Our Animal Humane Society has a great thrift store where you can find all sorts of pet supplies for great prices. We simply set the gate at the end of the hallway where the tile turns to carpet, and she’s safe on the right side of the fence.
Close the bedroom doors. It sounds simple, but it’s been a hard habit to get into. There’s just no reason to let her wander around unsupervised in the places with the most interesting things to chew on. My kids’ bedrooms are not known for their neatness, so they’re like a treasure hunt for a puppy. We’re all a lot happier when she’s not nosing around in their closets and under their beds.
We also had to go through and pick up all our decorative items that were at puppy level. (Puppy level is anything within reach of her outstretched paw while standing on her hind legs.) It took us a while to figure out just how un-puppy-proof our house was. No more throw blankets gracefully draped over the chair arms. No more books on the end tables. And no more kids’ shoes strewn around the house. (This one was a bonus for mom as well!) Fortunately, this just took a little time and trial and error, but cost nothing, other than a slightly unraveled throw blanket.
If your puppy is going through a chewing phase, it’s worth a few extra bucks to get a couple of good sturdy chew toys. The more she can chew on approved items, the happier your relationship will be. If you don’t want to spend any money on toys, you can tie a knot in an old athletic sock or two. Just be aware that if you keep her long term, you may want to switch away from the socks, so you don’t inadvertently train her that all your socks are OK to chew on.
Prepare your yard. The first thing is to realize that your puppy will be spending some time out there, and if your yard is properly set up, she can be alone for a little while. Having her own space to explore and giving you a little break is a great thing for both of you. Walk around your yard and try to envision the ways your puppy could get in trouble.
In our case, the fence is quite secure, but our gate was not. We simply bought a roll of landscaping netting at our garden center for about $8 and zip tied it to the fence so she couldn’t slip through.
Trixi’s rescue person tipped us off that she is quite predictable when it comes to, er, digesting her food, so to speak. (In other words, she poops right after she eats.) She recommended feeding her outside to save us a lot of cleanup in the house, and that has been such an easy and wonderful tip. We’re working on training her where to do her business in the yard, but so far it’s a little hit-or-miss. Or a lot. But at least it’s not in the house. We also leave a full water bowl out there, but like a toddler, she has to be reminded sometimes to stop playing and get a drink.
It’s also a good idea to check out your plants and make sure none are poisonous to dogs. You can find a good list of toxic plants on the Pet Poison Helpline’s site.
We try to spend a good chunk of time outside with Trixi, so she doesn’t feel banished when we put her in the backyard. When we need to leave the house, we bring her inside to her kennel, where we can be sure she’s safe till we get home.
Spring is a great time to bring a new puppy home because it’s fun to spend lots of time outside with her. I feel like she’s already helped us be more active and outdoorsy, and spend less time in front of the TV.
I hope if you’re considering fostering or adopting a puppy, these tips have helped you and not scared you off. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I feel like we’ve learned some valuable lessons in the last couple of days. Of course, every puppy will be different in size, personality, and special needs, but with a little patience you can figure out what your puppy needs to feel safe, loved, and happy at your home. Here’s to finding a happy home for each puppy who needs one!
Do you have any tips for me? I need them! Leave me a comment below…