Moving into a new home is an emotional time. After being squashed into a place that was ‘just what you can afford’ for so long, now you have space and permission to do what you like and really make it your own. Once things are unpacked, the pictures hung and your new neighbourhood explored, it’s not uncommon to start to feel like something is missing. Maybe it doesn’t feel quite as much like ‘home’ as you were expecting, or maybe you are ready to take the next step and care for someone else now. A new baby may be too much of a commitment, but a pet can be ‘just the right amount of life changing’ as a transitionary step to actual parenthood.
There are plenty of options for pets for beginners - from goldfish and terrapins to cats and guinea pigs. Nothing says home though as much as an adorable puppy dog racing to the door to meet you each day. Dogs offer unconditional love and companionship and are known for being instinctive to human emotions, so can be a great support and company, especially if you live alone. There are plenty of breeds to choose from to suit whatever size home you have – even those with limited outdoor space. Some aspects of your lifestyle will change however as a puppy needs to be trained and supported until it grows into its new family and environment. The rewards are well worth the investment, however, and as long as you keep these 5 tips in mind, the two of you will be well into the happily-ever-after stage before you know it.
1. Safety first
Many of the strategies parents use to childproof their home come in handy with puppies too. Before the puppy moves in, go through every room in the house and deal with any things that might present a safety risk. All cords should be well out of reach or firmly secured in chew proof tubing. Doors and cupboards that may be easily accessible should have childproof latches attached and everyone in the house trained to keep the toilet lid down (or just latch it). Blocking off areas you don’t want them to go into can be useful too – rather than dealing with the mess just don’t give them access. Child safety gates work fine here.
2. Chew proofing
One of the ways puppies explore their new environment is by chewing through everything that stands in their way. They will also chew anything that smells like you, which in your bedroom is basically everything. From toilet rolls to Prada heels, TV remotes to chair legs – nothing is sacred and the damage can be devastating. The saying ‘the dog ate my homework’ is not a work of fiction after all. Habits such as kicking your shoes off on the floor, or draping your jacket over a chair when you get home, or leaving wardrobe doors open, should be changed immediately. Every new thing or space is a chance for them to indulge their curiosity. Keep lids on rubbish bins and wastepaper baskets, and scraps of carpet secured temporarily around furniture legs or edges will prevent them becoming pseudo chew toys. Distraction such as actual chew toys can be a great help.
3. Choke and swallow proofing
Just as you need to remove things so the dog can’t chew them, you should remove things for their own safety too. The condition called pica is common amongst many puppies, causing them to eat things that are not food. Just like children, the list of things dogs will get into their mouths is endless and if they can’t chew it, they may swallow it instead which presents a choking hazard. Buckets of clothes pegs, remote controls with loose backs that could easily release batteries, socks, earrings, razors, light globes, dental floss, sofa cushions and more. There are so many things that get randomly left around the house that can present sincere danger. You only have to google ‘things dogs have swallowed’ to get a sense of the possibilities. As is the case for children you should also keep poisons cupboards locked and dangerous liquids and objects well out of reach. If you’re puppy has swallowed something they shouldn’t have there are some clear signs, and it may be worth considering pet insurance before your puppy gets into too much trouble.
4. Toilet training
If your dog is inside a lot of the time they will need a routine when it comes to toileting. Start toilet training your puppy as soon as they move in, remembering that consistency is key and establishing a routine will get you both into a good rhythm and reduce the frequency of ‘accidents’ in the home. Your puppy should be taken outside first thing in the morning and last thing at night and be able to access an outside area regularly throughout the day. Identifying a spot in the garden they can use every time is useful too and if they do go inside by mistake, make sure you clean it well so they can’t identify it later for a repeat performance. Never, and we mean never, rub your puppy’s nose in any accidental messes it has made. Reward outside toileting immediately with small treats and plenty of praise.
5. Dog vibes
Sometimes a dog becomes another part of the furniture and sometimes the dog takes over the entire house, giving new meaning to the term ‘dog person’. Putting protective rugs over sofas can reduce clumps of unsightly hair accumulating and training the dog to go to the toilet outside will minimise smells in the home. The comparison with children is again useful – is it a house that children live in or the children’s house? If toys and dog paraphernalia are strewn all over the house, not only does your house look untidy and potentially put people off from visiting, it also teaches the dog they have some ownership of the space – which they do not. Have a designated box with a lid for puppy toys (this keeps them tidied away and also contains smells that some much loved dog toys can accumulate. Wash soft toys and blankets regularly and get fresh air in the house to minimise the smell of wet dog/dog pee/dog food/hairy dog and so on. Yes, they are adorable but they are also still an animal so pay attention to the basics and the two of you will be loved up in domestic bliss with a long and happy future together ahead of you.