Preparing for Our New Puppy

Now that I’ve gotten my introduction post out of the way, I’m going to talk about the steps I have taken to prepare for a new puppy coming into our home. These are all things I have done ahead of time, in anticipation of having a puppy. I highly recommend doing some preparation ahead of time and putting some thought into what your goals are for your new addition to your own family. Here are some of the things I have already done:

  1. Kanyon’s first vet visit – a happy visit and vaccine appointment for Bordetella (a strain of canine upper respiratory infection – commonly known as “kennel cough” – vaccine) – is set up for a few days after he comes home. Kanyon will be participating in the puppy program at our facility, so I want his immune system to be prepared. As a side note: even with the Bordetella vaccine, dogs can get other strains of respiratory viruses so this isn’t a magical cough-immunity vaccine. 😉
  2. I’ve enrolled Kanyon in TWO – yes, TWO – puppy classes. I don’t necessarily insist everyone take two puppy classes with their puppies – one is sufficient. However, Kanyon will spend a lot of time at the facility I own, and it’s important to me that he experiences plenty of new environments during his critical socialization period and beyond. With COVID still being a barrier to being able to interact with lots of new people, I think two puppy classes on different nights at two different facilities will be helpful.
  3. I have purchased a new wire kennel for my home, large enough for him to fit comfortably once fully grown. The kennel has a barrier included so I can make the space smaller as he’s growing, and we are potty training. Crates should always provide sufficient room for your puppy/adult dog to comfortably stand up, sit down, lay down, and turn around in.
  4. I have also purchased a soft-sided, collapsible travel kennel large enough for a fully grown Berner. I wouldn’t have needed to buy this just yet, but since I plan on taking classes, and perhaps some competition-style classes, I want to have an easy-to-move kennel ready to rock and roll. I also want to teach him to relax in this kennel, and I don’t want him to chew through it, so we will practice in this kennel in addition to his wire kennel.
  5. I have everything I need for our drive from Wisconsin to North Carolina to pick him up: travel water/food bowl, the food the breeder is feeding him so I don’t shock his system, a collar and leash, a small wire crate that will fit in the car and will be big enough for a puppy, a couple blankets in case he soils one, plenty of chew options, a lickimat in case he needs to self-soothe, potty bags, a blanket to cover his kennel in case he feels safer in a “den,” an Adaptil puppy collar for some calming pheromones since this will be his first time truly away from his mom and litter, an AROMADog calming toy, and water.
  6. We groom at our facility, however, I have a puppy groom appointment set up at a different local groomer so that he can experience something mildly stressful in a different environment, with a different person, without me present. This is an important skill for him to learn if I want a well-rounded adult dog. We will groom him regularly at our facility, but I want him to experience being handled by others as well.
  7. I have already talked with a couple of people about setting up socialization opportunities for Kanyon. Socialization is not just all about meeting other dogs! I want Kanyon to experience walking past another dog on leash without becoming stressed, scared or reactive. I also want him to experience greeting another dog on leash, BUT I want the other dog to be a dog I know is vaccinated and gentle with puppies. I have socialization opportunities set up with another friend who has horses and other large animals, as well as puppy-friendly dogs so Kanyon can experience seeing large animals in a new place.
  8. Tim and I have a plan for introducing Kanyon to our current household of dogs. Our girls – Lacey and Lyra – are dog selective. They both typically do fine with puppies, but I am not just going to walk him in the house and let them run right up to him – this would be a recipe for disaster. We have a slow-intro plan which I will share and, hopefully, demonstrate when he comes home. I have also prepared the other dogs by working with someone who can help me communicate to them about it. That may sound strange, but I have a deep connection with my dogs, and it’s important to me that I share important life changes with them.
  9. I have already researched foods and have decided I will likely not keep Kanyon on the food the breeder is feeding. It appears to be a decent food, but the ordering is inconvenient for me and I don’t know much about the brand. My previous experience with the food the breeder was feeding when I got my previous Berner was terrible – Kodiak had diarrhea for 8 months straight before I switched foods – so I would like to feed something I feel more comfortable and familiar with. I did order a small bag of the food the breeder is currently feeding so that I don’t shock his system – we will transition to his new food slowly once he settles in.
  10. Lastly, I have recognized some of the things that are important to me as Kanyon becomes an adult dog so that I can work on these things during short training sessions from the start. I don’t want to overload his little brain with too much training and not enough environment exploration, but I do have some skills I want to start working on while he’s young: calm in a kennel wherever we are; relaxed when I am sitting or standing in public; appropriate leash reactions to other dogs, including appropriate leash greetings; confidence in new situations he has not experienced before (coping skills); polite greetings with new people as well as appropriate leash interactions with new people; polite leash walking skills (not pulling on a normal walk) – I will need to get him a Balance Harness at some point but I will wait until he’s a bit older and I may use another brand as he’s growing. There are probably lots more things that will become important as he gets older, but these are things I will want to start working on early.

As you can see, I have put a lot of thought into what the first few weeks/months of our life will look like. I have a plan for potty breaks, socialization, some puppy training, and starting to teach life skills. You may have noticed that I have not "puppy-proofed" my house - that's because I already have three other dogs and they are the reason we don't have nice things as it is. So our house is pretty much always puppy-proof. BUT, we will make sure things are picked up, and if you are getting your first puppy, you may need to puppy-proof your house a bit more than we do.

One other thing to notice is that I am not at all focused at this point on “obedience” or “commands.” Dogs have their whole lives to learn specific behaviors like sit, down, etc. I am sure I will start cuing those behaviors early. But it’s not important to me that my dogs are sitting perfectly still like robots at my whim – it’s much more important to me that he can learn to be calm and control his impulses and be polite when in public. I care little if he’s standing, lying down, or sitting if he can be calm while doing it. I’ll talk more about cues, training, and not thinking about “commanding” my dogs to do things in a future post. I think that’s more than enough for now though!

Lastly, I have already spoken to my vet about bringing in a stool sample the day we get home with Kanyon. In my experience, puppies very often come with parasites, so I will have them check for those right away, including a check for Giardia which might not be caught on a regular parasite panel. Since I do have other dogs, we want to make sure Kanyon is parasite-free so we don't spread anything to our other dogs, or to any other dogs he might interact with.

Thanks for starting this journey with us! I will have pictures to share once I actually get him! For now, you’ll just have to be patient. 😉