New homes and new puppies go together like two peas in a pod; with all that space, it makes sense to want to share it with a furry friend. Puppies help kids learn responsibility, and as dogs grow with you, they make a wonderful life companion.
That being said, it’s easy to feel you’re in over your head when you actually bring the new pup home; dogs are a multi-year commitment, not something to pawn off when they make messes or chew up shoes. Here are a few key tips to help make sure you, your four-legged friend, and all of your material possessions make it through the transition.
Before deciding to bring a pup home, make sure everyone in the home actually wants a dog. No matter who spearheads the conversation, the whole family should be on board, so the new puppy arrives comes home to a happy, loving family.
With everyone on the same page, outline consistent rules and expectations. Who feeds and takes out the pup? What commands will you use, so the puppy doesn’t get confused? The more unified front the family presents, the easier it will be for your new pup to understand his place in the household and what’s expected of him.
Puppy’s New Space
Unless you planned ahead, you probably don’t have a second master suite waiting for your puppy to claim. Designate a specific place in the home for her to eat, sleep, and play as unsupervised reign of the house begs for accidents and chewed up baseboards. Clear the space of valuables and hazards to keep your pup- and your things- safe.
You’ll also want the puppy containment zone to have easy-to-clean floors. Interested in heading off the problem early? Make each successful outdoor potty break a celebration, and he’ll understand in no time what the rules are.
As your puppy gets older and completes her vaccinations, begin letting her wander around the home and backyard. Similar to the original puppy playpen, keep valuables and anything potentially dangerous out of sight and reach. This means wrapping and hiding electrical cords, storing beloved action figures, and, if needed, keeping certain rooms or spaces fenced off. For example, you might not want your pup to have free range upstairs, so an easy-access baby gate at the bottom of the steps is a great investment.
If your dog is spending time outside, prep the backyard. Holes in or below the fence, or weak planking, can make your dog an expert escape artist. Regularly check your fence to prevent problems from developing. Store gardening tools and treatments away from your doggo, so your pup can’t hurt himself. To finish up the yard, both your pup and your family will appreciate taking care of any fire ant mounds.
Remember puppies age at different rates, and some habits are hard to break; any unsupervised pup can get into trouble or injure herself, so take any measures you need, and don’t let her wander without a human around (or with only little humans) until she matures.
Fido the Destroyer
We all know puppies get instantly less cute when they make a mess of things, and even with all the preventatives in the world, accidents will happen. Expect bathroom breaks on the new hardwood floors, or making the expensive dining room set a favorite chew toy.
Here are a few common problems to anticipate, and how to handle them:
Whether on carpet, hardwood, or tile, the first step is to remove excess moisture and solid waste as soon as possible. The longer it sits, the more odors and stains will set. Grab a pet carpet/floor cleaner, or develop a homemade remedy, apply it liberally, and follow the instructions on the bottle. Typically, cleaners need to sit for a few minutes before excess moisture gets wiped up and the area is vacuumed.
Quick note: Many dog owners think spanking their pup will prevent future accidents, but that’s unlikely. Spanking only teaches dogs to hide their accidents. Instead, work on positively reinforcing doing business outdoors with praise, pets, and training treats.
Similar to babies, puppies go through a teething phase. Unlike (most) children, dogs also chew as a sign of anxiety, discomfort, general boredom, or just because they’re hardwired to naturally want to chew on things all the time. This is a hard habit to combat, and one to correct early on. If you catch your dog in the act, verbally reprimand them with a command such as “No!” But if you find evidence of chewing after the fact, leave them be; your pup won’t understand you’re reprimanding them for something that happened earlier, and instead will associate your negative response with whatever they’re doing in the moment.
Strong chew toys and challenge toys are a great fix for dogs who chew out of boredom or natural instinct. If your dog chews due to anxiety – most often separation anxiety – crate training is an option, as is spending quality time with your dog and researching ways to manage separation anxiety in animals. Taste repellent sprays are also available in most stores; if your dog has a favorite bookshelf he likes to munch on, spray the chewed edges with some bitter-tasting treatment (that’s still safe to ingest!) to deter him.
Any pup owner will tell you that dogs love to dig. Some are bred to dig or are hunting for burrowing prey, and others simply enjoy the act. Even though it may feel like it, your pup isn’t trying to get back at you by destroying your backyard. First assess why they’re digging. If they’re bored or are looking to focus energy, common with think working breeds, adjusting your pup’s schedule so they have other energy outlets is a great place to start. Redirect energy with midday walks, extra-intense morning playtime, a furry friend to play with, or challenge toys.
Dogs often dig for cool dirt on hot days or if their water has run out. Don’t leave your dog outside for extended amounts of time, and always give them water and shade.
If all else fails, placing chicken wire or rocks over common dig areas discourages the act. You can also designate an “okay to dig” area in your yard with sand or loose soil. Treat digging the same as inappropriate chewing, don’t punish digging after the fact, as your pup won’t understand why they’re in trouble.
Damaging Crate, Doors, or other Enclosed Spaces
If you’ve been working on crate training and you find your pup damaged their kennel, or if they are isolated in specific room and they resorted to destructive behavior, it’s likely out of anxiety. Dogs love their humans, and might get uneasy when those humans leave for long periods of time.
When possible, make sure your dog is alone for as little amount of time as possible. Thorough exercise is also very helpful; tire them out so they don’t have energy to charge doors or kennel walls. Should the problem persists, reach out to your vet or a dog trainer to get to the root of the behavior. While chewing and scratching is common, if your pup takes it to the point they might injure themselves trying to escape a space, there’s a bigger challenge than just a bad habit at play. Remember your pup is using what means they have to communicate, it’s your responsibility to listen.
No matter what happens, know your puppy isn’t perfect. They might have accidents or break things or chew up valuables; that’s all a normal part of growing up. Teach them as you would a small child, and do your best to redirect their energy to something more productive and less costly.
Knowing what you’re committing to, planning ahead, and keeping a calm demeanor will do wonders for your relationship with your dog. By starting out on the right paw, you’ll soon understand why new homeowners often seek out a new pup, and why dogs are a human’s best friend.
Mia Zozobrado joined Builders Digital Experience (BDX) in 2019 as a content writer. A graduate of Southwestern University with a degree in English, Mia is passionate about the written word and making connections. Outside of work, Mia also serves on the Board of Directors for the Writers’ League of Texas.