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Setting Up Your Home for a Puppy

Updated 10/22/11


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3 month old Eli is confined to kitchen until she's trustworthy in the whole house.   Notice the dog- door insert in the patio doors.  These are wonderful aids to housebreaking if you have a fenced yard and they can be blocked when you don't want them to have access as in muddy weather.  New wicker look crates make them less offensive in living area's.

Coming home with a new puppy can be challenging.  Lots of questions come to mind such as: do we have to puppy proof the whole house?  How do we keep the (more than likely) un-housetrained pup from using everywhere as a potty spot?  What about chewing on everything?  How long is it humane to crate a new puppy?  I have to work so what then?  What about at night?  Where does the crate go when we go to bed?   What's the best way to housebreak this puppy as quickly as possible?

One of the very first things you have to understand is your new puppy is a pack animal.  What does that mean really? Well, what it means to you as his new owner is that your new puppy doesn't want to be alone. When you take your puppy away from his mother and littermates you have become his new pack.  When you consider how to set up your house to accommodate the new addition this becomes a large factor in how successful your set-up will be.  If it's poorly thought out you'll have an unhappy puppy that cries and whines, both frequently and loudly.  And if your living in a building with other residents it can be a totally unacceptable situation.  This doesn't sound appealing but actually living it can be even worse.

The good news is that it's easy to create a place for puppy that both works from puppy's perspective and saves your house from lasting effects of this stage of puppy hood.


Where to put puppy

First, puppies are hard to keep an eye on all the time and they can get into things you don't want them into.  Secondly, bad habits start early and letting a puppy have the opportunity to relieve himself in your home, possibly in a place that's difficult to find or clean the smell from completely will make your job harder in the long run.  A crate is a great tool as an aid in housetraining, as a safe place for puppy to be when you need a timeout from supervising him or you are out of the home and can't supervise.  It's also something they should learn to accept for car rides to keep them safe.  But a crate can be overused if puppy has to be alone a lot.    So what's an alternative way to confine your puppy?

 Your puppy will want to see you.   This is key.   Your his new pack and he's most likely never been alone....without Mom or at least a littermate or two.  For this reason putting them alone in a room in the back of the house or in a bathroom isn't really the best solution usually.   As you can see in the above picture we use the kitchen because in our home it's central and most of the time the puppies can see us.   This is also where we place the crates we use for daytime use or both day and night use in an older puppy.  Because our opening was so large we used a 2' expen extended across the area and held in place with cup hooks and tie-wraps - 2 on either end to hold it in place.  We used tin cutters to cut it to the size we needed for our opening.  The holes made for the cup hooks could later be filled with caulk if you decide not to use it later when puppy is old enough to have access to the whole house.  This is easy to step over or undo to get in and out.

cup hooks and tie-wraps are a way to attach an ex-pen to the wall to confine a puppy



Using some kind of system to confine your puppy from free access to your entire house is important and will serve a number of purposes.  

For very young puppies we like to keep them near us at night rather than using the crates in the kitchen.   We do this because the first few nights a puppy is away from it's litter and mother they frequently we cry.   Being all alone is frightening to them and seeing us is comforting to them and lessens their crying.   It also is easier to deal with them if they continue to cry if they are right with us.  Sometimes all it takes is your finger in through the crate door to stop them.   We elevate the crate so they can see us and we can easily stick a finger in to them.  If they are all the way in another room you have to get up and go to them.  They see you and quit.  You leave to go back to bed and they start crying again.  It makes for a long night for all concerned.  




Using a basket or chair to put pup at eye level the first couple of nights can make sleeping easier for everyone



For very young puppies that are having difficulty in an area the size of a kitchen, an alternative is to use an ex-pen.  These can be put in a kitchen or family room.  If you have carpet, get a piece of inexpensive vinyl  at Lowes or Home Depot a few inches bigger than the area you need to cover to place underneath it.  This is a good alternative to crating a puppy for long periods if your working.  By placing their crate in it with the door open it also helps puppies get used to being in a crate.  They like the den like feeling of it and will naturally go in to sleep and rest during the day.   Although we've never had great luck with puppies using potty pads if you wanted to try them you can place it in there too along with water, food and toys.   For most puppies by the time they realize they can climb out of it they are ready to be moved into a larger area like a kitchen anyway.




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