When Dallyn McCuistion was ready to welcome a pup into her home, she didn’t adopt just one; she brought home two puppies and their mother. Last October, she adopted Elly, a 6-year-old longhaired Chihuahua mix and her then-4-month-old pups, Cub and Bentley, from a San Diego rescue group.
This dog-loving registered nurse from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., thought she was prepared for the arrival of the trio into her home shared by her fiancé, Mike Jameson. After all, she had adorned her home with comfy pet beds, dog toys and traveled to dog-welcoming places with her Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix named Bear. After Bear passed away last fall, McCuistion knew she wanted to share her home with at least a pair of puppies. She quickly learned that her home was not quite puppy-ready.
“I forgot just how much energy puppies have,” McCuistion says. Although Bear was an easy- going adult, Cub and Bentley required a lot of time to housetrain. McCuistion and Jameson realized they needed to provide the puppies with lots of activities to keep them from becoming bored and chewing on the furniture. “We’ve installed baby gates, covered our new couch in plastic and found out the hard way that the basket I used to hold Bear’s toys was too tempting for them to chew,” McCuistion says. “Yes, it’s been a lot of work, but we have loved every minute of it. We love them.”
McCuistion is experiencing what many animal behaviorists refer to as the Wonder Year — that special first year of your puppy’s life when you:
- wonder how your pup can get into so much mischief.
- wonder if you will ever enjoy a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
- wonder what to do to address his need to chew, chew, chew.
- wonder when you can quickly become a savvy pet parent and save your sanity.
- wonder how to make cost-effective and attractive changes inside your home to keep your pup safe.
“Puppies take work to raise. In many ways, they are just like babies,” says Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, veterinary behaviorist, best-selling author and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass. “The more attention that you pay them as puppies and arrange for them to experience pleasant and happy circumstances, the more they will develop into happy, well-adjusted adults.”
Here are six ways to make your home welcoming to your puppy:
1. Map out puppy-safe areas and no-no zones
Install baby gates to restrict your puppy’s access into bedrooms and bathrooms. McCuistion used baby gates to keep Cub and Bentley safely in the kitchen where they can be supervised.
2. Improve your pup’s chances for housetraining success
Temporarily store prized (and pricey) throw rugs, and place synthetic grass puppy patches near the door leading to the backyard to encourage your puppy to head in that direction when nature calls.
3. Use chew-proof bowls
Provide stainless-steel water and food bowls with rubber non-skid bottoms that you can easily wash and that can withstand chewing. Train your pup to sit before you place down the filled food bowl. Keep tabs to make sure the water bowl stays clean and filled.
4. Watch the weather
Keep your puppy safe from Mother Nature’s wrath by fitting him in a warm sweater for cold-weather potty outings, and skip taking him on walks on the sidewalk during hot summer days to avoid burning his paws or causing heat exhaustion.
5. Select a quality doggy door
If you are able to provide a safe outdoor enclosure for your puppy, the doggy door you’ve installed should have a double flap and be well-sealed to prevent rain and wind from getting into your house. The doggy door must also be completely framed with a durable, chew-proof lining.
6. Temporarily sacrifice the look of your home décor
Remove small breakable items from tables and counters within paw’s reach. Cover your sofa in plastic or top it with an easy-to-wash cover during your puppy’s chew stage.
“When you adopt a puppy — or two puppies and their mom like we did — expect to make some lifestyle compromises,” McCuistion says. She and her husband accept that their new, beautiful couch will sport plastic and blankets for at least the next year. They also accept that there will be puppy toys around the floor, and they’re fine that they had to buy a cordless vacuum cleaner that they use almost every day to suck up the dog hair. “But you know what? It’s all worth it,” she says. “Cub, Bentley and Elly bring Mike and me so much joy and happiness.”
About the author: Arden Moore, The Pawsitive Coach, is a pet behavior consultant, master certified pet-first-aid instructor, author and host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Learn more at fourleggedlife.com and follow Arden on Facebook and on Twitter @ardenknowspets.