So You WANT a Puppy!

So, You Want a Puppy?

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This is one of a series of blogs about living with your puppy.


· Choose a breed or mix

· Choose a breeder or rescue organization

· Prepare your house

· Prepare your yard

· Have all of the puppy items purchased and set up

· Get your library ready


Small or large? Short coat or long? Energetic or couch potato? Puppy or adult?

Dogs really are available in all shapes and sizes. In my experience, people seem to do a good job deciding what they want in regards to age, size or shape and finding suitable breeds or breed mixes to meet those needs. What a lot of people forget to consider is the adult dog’s activity needs based on the breed’s energy level. For example, a Labrador retriever is a great size for those who want a large dog, but (in general) completely inappropriate if you want a dog that needs minimal exercise and will lie on the couch all day. (There are, of course, exceptions to the general rules of thumb for any breed, but don’t go to a breeder expecting the exception.) On the other hand, a greyhound, also a large breed, is all about snoozing the day away. So really think about what your goals are.

Remember, individuals from all breeds are pretty active as puppies and will require some effort on your part when it comes to exercise.


Once you’ve chosen the breed (or general breed type if mixes are your bent), then it’s time to research where to go for that special four-legged family member.

For rescue organizations, choose one that’s well respected in your area. Look at their website, check out their requirements, talk to them and visit their facility or adoption events. There are many breed-specific rescues if you want to adopt an adult of a certain breed. A little Google sleuthing will help you find your options.

When adopting an adult dog, make sure the rescue has done their due diligence not only about the health of the dog, but the behavioral assessments as well. Ensure that you inquire what brought the dog into the rescue in the first place. The last thing you want is to rescue a dog that has behavioral challenges you’re unprepared to address.

When choosing a breeder, ask her as many questions as she asks you. Do your research about your chosen breed. Ask about the prospective parents and their temperaments. Ask how she raises her puppies. A good breeder has a whole puppy-raising program that includes early socialization, exposure to many surfaces, objects, environments, and people as well as early training. A veterinarian should evaluate the puppies before they go to their new homes at about 8 weeks of age. Breeders worth their salt will ask you a lot of questions as well. In fact, expect to fill out an extensive questionnaire and, in some cases, even have an interview with the breeder. If your adopting from a rescue organization they may want a veterinary reference as well.


Before you go to pick up your puppy, your house should be ready for him. This is advantageous for several reasons – first off, you’re going to be busier than you expect from the moment you bring your puppy in the door. Secondly, it will give the whole family – canine, feline and human – a chance to get used to the new set up. Finally, if you’re anything like me, even with the best planning something is going to be missing.

Here are some guidelines to help you get organized:

· Safe area for the day - crating spot in the family area

· Sleeping area for the night - crating spot in the bedroom

· Outside play area

· Potty area outside – consider an ex pen

· Food and water - bowls, buckets, food puzzles

· Jewelry J – collar, harness, leash

· Entertainment – toys and fine climbables

Let’s go through each of these individually.


There’s a whole blog on crating for your puppy. Check that out for details. Click here to read!

Set up a crate in the living area. Ideally the crate will have a bed to lie on (soft is fine for non chewers, consider Primo Pads ( for breeds or individuals who chew a lot). If you’re going to be away for more than a few hours at a time, consider an exercise pen attached to the crate.

Crates in the living area are valuable because your puppy won’t always be out and about even when you’re home. He needs a safe place to call his own where he can be comfortable and still be part of the family but take a nap or a rest or be out from under foot. This is also the crate I recommend using when you leave the house and need your puppy (and your books, electric cords, shoes) to be safe.

Ideally, consider setting up an ex-pen (exercise pen) around the crate and using a double door crate. One door of the crate opens to the exercise area, the other to you. Go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and buy a large piece of vinyl flooring to place under the crate and exercise pen. Voila, safe place for the puppy, and the carpet or hardwood floor is protected!

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I really like to have a puppy crate in the bedroom with me. Puppies are used to being with their litter. It’s really tough on them to come to a new home and have no family members to sleep with. However, sleeping on the bed isn’t practical or wise – accidents happen. And while urine is easy to clean up, a puppy falling from the bed and breaking a leg is scary, overwhelming and preventable.

Consider setting up a crate right on your bedside table. Really! Most puppies are small enough that when they’re first home with you, this is reasonable. And it’s only for a few days. Think of it this way, the puppy feels like she’s sleeping with the pack, but she’s also protected. Believe me, this is the best way to prevent nighttime crying as well. So move the lamp, the stack of books, and the alarm clock and tuck that crate right there by your pillow.

As outlined in our crating blog, once your puppy is sleeping well with no whimpering, you’ll be moving the crate incrementally to its final location. (Though I do still recommend considering having the crate in the bedroom with you. Dogs are pack animals and want to sleep together in the same room.)


Play is a huge part of being a puppy – it’s part of how they learn to use their bodies (just like kids). The puppy’s early experience with her littermates was eating, sleeping, and playing-playing-playing. That’s a big part of what will help your puppy be tired as well.

Set up a safe area outside for running, playing with toys, and exploring the world. If you own your home and have a fenced yard, you’re already in great shape! You can also keep your puppy on a leash outside. Your goal is to keep her safe from traffic, other dogs, and running off (which isn’t such a likelihood at 8 weeks but is much more possible when she’s a teenager). Some people will want to put in a fence before getting their puppy home so plan ahead. In short, think through your situation and decide if you need to adjust things at all.

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If your puppy will spend her life pottying outside, set that up from day one. Have a family meeting – where is the best location? Is it winter and cold? Set it up close to

the house but off of the walking path and away from stairs. Summer and hot? Consider a shaded area. You want to keep it relatively close to the door as well, of course, because little puppies need to go Right Now!

Consider an exercise pen where your puppy will potty. Puppies are as distractible as 5th graders (or my husband), so helping them focus on the task at hand by confining them to a small area is very helpful. I let my puppy into the exercise pen and stand by quietly until the business is complete then I quietly tell her how good she is, give her a small treat and open the ex pen. That’s the perfect time to explore the yard and play.


Your puppy should have constant access to water - choose a bowl (non-tip) or bucket (clipped to the crate). There should be water in the overnight crate as well. Think about the size of your puppy and make sure the bowl or bucket is low enough that she can drink easily.

Food is a little different. It’s one of the magic ways to tire your puppy. Believe me, you’re going to want to collect all of those magic ways that you can! So get the pretty food bowl that matches the water bowl if you want, but consider leaving it empty for the first year. See the next section for details on the magic of food and puppies!


Food is one of the great ways to entertain as well as train your puppy. Consider taking the daily allotment of food – use it for training and food puzzles throughout the day and if there’s some left over at the end of the day, feed it in a slow feeder (really, just another food puzzle).

Food puzzles come in many styles and difficulty levels. Most people are familiar with the Kong and this is often what I start with. Get one that is appropriate for the size of your puppy. She should be able to get her mouth easily around the small end and be able to roll it around. Put dry kibble in the Kong and place it on the ground. She’ll sniff at it and probably knock it with her nose and kibble will fall out. Magic! Once she’s eager to have the Kong and push it around and then is picking it up to empty it, she’s completely figured out that puzzle and she’s ready for the next most difficult.

Another easy and very helpful food puzzle is the Snuffle Mat. There are various different styles but the general idea is strips of fleece tied close together in a mat. The kibble is hidden amongst the pieces of fleece so the puppy has to hunt for the food. They really love this puzzle.

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Once your puppy is proficient at the Kong and the Snuffle Mat, it’s time to consider more difficult puzzles. Most pet stores have many options of food puzzles. Check the

labels for the difficulty level. If your puppy can’t make the puzzle “work”, she’ll give up so you want to make sure you’re escalating the difficulty slowly.

Your puppy also needs some toys to play with, both by herself and with you. Pick a variety of puppy-appropriate toys (not too hard). You’ll want to monitor her with any toy to ensure she’s not ingesting any pieces of the toy. It’s impossible to know ahead of time which puppies will be toy destroyers and which will be toy huggers; you’ll just have to do some exploring. Be careful though. We perform foreign body surgeries every year to retrieve toys (or other items) that a dog (often a teenager) has unexpectedly ingested.

Finally, it’s fun play on different surfaces with your puppy. Providing obstacles can increase confidence and is especially important if your puppy will be doing dog sports with you. Start easy with your baby puppy – a cot appropriately sized for your breed, a cardboard box to go in and out of, maybe a balance disk to climb on or some children’s playground equipment to climb on. Of course, you’ll monitor your puppy closely when he’s on this equipment, but you still want to be safe – choose things based on your puppy’s size.

Some breeders will provide a lot of opportunity for the puppies to play on equipment of various types before they even go to their new homes. Here’s a little video of our teenager when he was still with his breeder and the rest of his litter.

Seeker (Sirius) and his littermates in obstacle course heaven!

Talk about inventive!


Your puppy will need a collar and leash, of course. Choose something you like, but remember your puppy will very quickly outgrow the puppy collar. Most puppies really don’t like collars at first but they adjust to them quickly. If you have a thick-coated puppy, there are some collars that are less likely to damage the coat. One such company is White Pine Outfitters.

I personally prefer to use a harness with my puppies for walking purposes. It’s less likely to slip off and it’s what I use to walk my adults so I want my puppy to get used to wearing one early. Again, a puppy will outgrow his first harness fairly quickly so save your bling account for when your puppy is older (say 6 or 7 months). In between arriving home at 8 weeks of age and 7 months of age there will be a LOT of change in size so plan to purchase several harnesses or consider one or two that are adjustable.


There are so many books available for puppies and early training that it can feel overwhelming. Here are a few books that I highly recommend adding to your library:

· The Puppy Primer by Pat McConnell

· The Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Sophia Yin

· Cooperative Care: Seven Steps to Stress-free Husbandry by Deborah A Jones

· Beyond the Back Yard: Train Your Dog to Listen Anytime, Anywhere! By Denise Fenzi

· Growing Up FDSA, Surviving Your Dog Sports Puppy by numerous authors (This ebook is available free at )

· Susan Garrett’s Crate Games for Self Control and Motivation by Susan Garret

So You Got a Puppy! - 8 to 12 weeks

So, You Got a Puppy! | 8-12 weeks


This is one in a series of blogs about what to expect with your new puppy. I hope this makes transition to life with your new four-legged family member a little easier.


·         Sleep peacefully through the night (see our crating blog for this topic)

·         Potty outside

·         Learn to love people

·         Safety and enjoyment with my pack, human and animal

·         Keep my teeth to myself


We have a blog, “Before Puppy Comes Home” that will be published soon. It will go over the details of preparing yourself, your family, and your home for that wonderful day when your puppy arrives. I suspect, if you’re reading this blog that your puppy has already arrived. So let’s go from there!


We have a blog dedicated to this very important issue in which we talk about crating in detail. Check it out here..


Timing and awareness are the two keys with housetraining. If your puppy never has an “accident” in the house (wouldn’t that be amazing??), then she’s learning the correct behavior from day one.  Here’s how to set her up for success:

  • Choose the potty location – for most people that’s going to be outside. If you’ll want your puppy to use the great outdoors, don’t start with newspapers or puppy pads in the house. It’s much harder to transition to pottying outside later on than to use the outdoors from day one.

  • Choose the surface - If you’ll want your puppy to be willing to potty on various surfaces, don’t forget to make that part of the process from the start. Every few days or so, switch it up – grass, gravel, mulch, dirt, pine straw, etc. If you have a specific potty location, use it from the start and voila, she’ll want to go there regularly for the rest of time. (That’s a double-edged sword. Believe me, I know, as I inadvertently trained one of my dogs to urinate on the front steps. In my defense, she came to us in February and right by the front steps was a convenient place to take her at 4 am in my PJs. Lesson learned!)

  • Create the set up – Curtail your puppy’s ability to explore when she’s supposed to be focused on pottying. You can put her on a leash if you like. You could also consider setting up an exercise pen (or ex-pen) outside (especially if your puppy isn’t yet comfortable on a leash). Make the ex-pen big enough for your puppy to move around – ~4 ft square for little breeds, ~5 ft for medium, and maybe a little bigger for large breeds.

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  • Timing – puppies need to urinate and/or defecate most commonly after waking up, after eating, and after playing. Start with those as set times to take her outside. In addition, you’ll want to take her out every hour or so (when she’s awake) initially. After the first week or two, it can be every 2-3 hours or so.

  • Awareness – in addition to the timing outlined above, watch for the key signs your puppy needs to go out. Most puppies will stop what they’re doing and start sniffing the ground – that instant is when you need to get her outside. When she’s little (<10-12 weeks), just gently pick her up and carry her to the potty area. When she’s a little older, call her in a “happy” voice, pat your leg and head for the door.


Puppies from 7-12 weeks of age are in the key window for socialization. Done properly, socialization can prevent a host of problems that often result in relinquishment of teenaged dogs to shelters. So let’s get this one going early!

 Socialization is all about positive reinforcement associated with seeing and experiencing things in the world. Interestingly, many of those things don’t have to touch or interact with the puppy. For example, sitting in your lap eating something delicious while watching a woman walk by who is wearing a big floppy hat gives the puppy a positive association about women with big floppy hats. Neither the woman nor the hat has to touch the puppy! I find one of the best places to take my puppy for socialization is outside the grocery store on a Sunday morning. Everyone is heading there and has a purpose. While some folks might stop to say hi, most won’t, and that’s absolutely fine!  

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What about other dogs? Well, you don’t want your puppy to be afraid of other dogs, but many dogs won’t spend their lives needing to interact with lots of dogs they don’t live with. So the same rules apply – seeing from a distance (and eating delicious treats) gives you a huge benefit. The Holy Grail for most folks will be that your dog can share the street with other dogs and not come unglued barking and pulling to go say “Hi”. If that’s your focus, work on seeing from a distance and getting cookies. Slowly build up too moving with you while other dogs are around and your puppy maintaining focus on you. That’s really all you need. The key is to always keep far enough away that your puppy can eat treats and focus on you. Decrease the distance over the course of weeks to months.

 Playing with other puppies is something I would aim for in the safety of a puppy class. Be very cautious about letting your puppy play with adult dogs you don’t know. Many people assume that since their adult dog is good with other dogs, he’ll be good with puppies. That isn’t always the case. Make sure both the adult dog and your puppy are on leash and be very vigilant. Accidents happen so quickly.


Your own dogs are a different matter entirely. Let’s face it; many of us have more than one dog. We have 5! (Yeah, my husband is a saint.) So the puppy needs to be integrated with the pack. Adult dogs come in three broad categories – love puppies, indifferent to puppies, and “Puppies are the devil, don’t even let them near me.” We have some of each.

 Management is critical. When your puppy first arrives home, don’t let your adult pack overwhelm her. In fact, the safest approach is to keep the adults behind a baby gate and allow them to sniff noses through the gate with you supervising. Start with the puppy in your arms.

 We set up “mat time” with our adults twice a day – morning and evening. Before the puppy arrives home we remind everyone of the game. Each dog is on his or her own mat or cot or bed and gets paid lavishly for staying there. (We use some of their breakfast and dinner.) When the puppy comes home, teach the go to mat trick early. (We go over this trick in our blog on skills and tricks coming soon.) You can have the puppy join in with the pack from the first week by having her on a leash and on her own mat right beside you. This is a nice way to have controlled integration with the pack but the puppy can’t visit the adults and the adults should be trained to stay on their mats ahead of time. If you don’t have this set up, consider a small crate or ex pen for the puppy so she’s with the pack, beside you, but no unplanned interaction is possible.

 Here’s a video of our pack quite a few years ago now.

When you start to allow interactions, start on leash (both adult and puppy) and one adult dog at a time. As time goes on you can gradually start allowing more interactions but always monitored. Most of the time should be spent focused on you anyway – that’s where the training you want will happen.

 As for cats, chickens, rabbits, and the like, follow the same plan as with the dogs – control the puppy’s interaction so she doesn’t practice naughty behavior. Ever. The goal is no chasing, no “playing”, no nipping. The best way to achieve that is to set up baby gates (or leash her) when the other animals are around. Pay handsomely for your puppy focusing you and not the cat running through the living room on the way to his dinner.


Kids love puppies and puppies love kids. Just like with the animal pack mates in the household, supervision is critical for success. Have a family meeting before the puppy comes home so that everyone is clear about the rules. Especially if you have younger kids, ensure you’re holding the puppy during initial introductions. There should always be an older responsible and experienced kid or an adult present for puppy activities. Kids can be a great help training and playing with puppies, so let’s set everyone up for success. Find a puppy class where your puppy and her young human pack mate can attend. Our early puppy class at Southpoint Animal Hospital (taught by Lynn Rives) is a great start!


Puppies often treat little kids as littermates; consequently, nipping, chasing, and rambunctious play can be a real problem if you’re not planning ahead. Ensure you start puppy playtime with kids and adults sitting or standing still and the puppy on a leash. Have toys on hand to redirect the puppy to playing with those instead of nipping at quick moving hands and feet.

 The key to preventing these challenges is to work on appropriate play from the start. Watch a litter of puppies and you’ll quickly see that chasing is a favored pastime. Ensure your little kids are staying still when playing with the puppy and you’ll be off to a good start. In the section on tricks and skills we’ll go over some games you can play that are kid friendly.


Here are some books and websites I recommend for puppy raising, cooperative husbandry, and training.


·         The Puppy Primer by Pat McConnell

·         The Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Sophia Yin

·         Cooperative Care by Deb Jones

·         Beyond the Back Yard: Train Your Dog to Listen Anytime, Anywhere! By Denise Fenzi

·         Growing Up FDSA, Surviving Your Dog Sports Puppy by numerous authors (This ebook is available free at )

·         Susan Garrett’s Crate Games for Self Control and Motivation by Susan Garrett


Websites and Blogs

  • – all things dog training. This website focuses llargely on dogs competing in dog sports but there’s also a lot for those interested in addressing building toy play, cooperative care, fitness/conditioning and preventing reactivity/fear.

  • - Hannah Branigan is one of my absolute favorite trainers. She’s a self-proclaimed geek about the whole thing. She’s a serious dog sports competitor and has not just a blog but a podcast (all things dog training) and a book (competition obedience).

  • - This is Sarah Stremming’s blog about dog training, cooperative care, and positive approach to living with your dog.

  • - Deb Jones is another positive trainer with a fabulous blog. She’s one of the key people to follow for the ins and outs of cooperative care.


Are you prepared?


With us coming full strength into hurricane season, its important to not just prepare for yourself but also for your pet. Below is an informational image from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about how to best prepare your pet for any emergency. We also have the following information available for you on a handout that you can pick-up at our office for reference.

Pet First Aid Kit:

Essentials -

  • Hydrogen Peroxide

  • Cotton Bandage rolls

  • Bandage Tape

  • Leash/Lead - we have free leads at our hospital! Come pick one up!

  • Towel/Blanket

  • Scissors

  • Copy of Your Pet’s Vaccine Records including Rabies Tags

  • Cat Carrier - if you have a cat

Additional Items to consider:

  • Water Bowl

  • Small Bag of Pet’s Food or Cans - a few days worth (watch expiration dates!)

  • Flashlight

  • Pet’s Medication - a few days worth (watch expiration dates!)

  • Wet Wipes

Keep the kit along with your own emergency kit. Check it yearly to be sure that everything is still up to date.

Have a Plan*:

Don’t leave your pets behind, they may be lost, injured – or worse. Never leave a pet chained outdoors. Plan options include:

  • Create a buddy system in case you’re not home. Ask a trusted neighbor to check on your animals.

  • Identify shelters. For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets.

    • Find pet friendly hotels along your evacuation route and keep a list in your pet’s emergency kit.

    • Locate boarding facilities or animal hospitals near your evacuation shelter.

    • Consider an out-of-town friend or relative

  • Locate a veterinarian or animal hospital in the area where you may be seeking temporary shelter, in case your pet needs medical care. Add the contact information to your emergency kit.

  • Have your pet microchipped and make sure that you not only keep your address and phone number up-to-date, but that you also include contact info for an emergency contact outside of your immediate area.

  • Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control office to get advice and information.

  • If you are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Find out where pet boarding facilities are located.

  • Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet's medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current.

  • If you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home, there are some precautions you must take, but remember that leaving your pet at home alone can place your animal in great danger!


A Gated Community | Crating Your Puppy

A Gated Community | Crating Your Puppy


 Let’s face it; we’re all beyond busy. So, as we go about our many tasks during the day, our puppy needs to be safe. That means keeping her away from electrical cords, the other dogs, the garbage, and the cat. If we could watch the puppy every minute, maybe we wouldn’t need a way to confine her. But think about this – at some point our puppy will have to be alone. When she becomes an adult dog, she’ll need to be alone from time to time as well. Getting your adult dog to be comfortable with being home alone starts when she’s a puppy. So get at least one crate. Trust me.


Imagine your puppy’s first night with you – she’s left her litter where she was used to sleeping every night in a pile with her brothers and sisters. They kept each other warm and provided companionship. Mom was nearby, so everyone felt safe. Tonight, your puppy’s first night at home, is going to be a huge transition. So let’s make it easier for her.

 For the first few nights I’d strongly urge you to have her sleeping crate where she can smell you, see you and feel your fingers near her. Put her crate on your nightstand. You can do this – it’s only for a few nights. Make sure she has some water, a toy, and a soft blanket. Only put her in her nighttime crate when you’re ready to get in bed. Don’t make a big deal out of it, just say good night, place her in the crate and close the door. Get into bed yourself and if she’s not settled down immediately, you can put your fingers in the crate, but don’t talk to her. Just be there. She’s very likely to fall quietly asleep.

 If she gets restless and cries during the night, take her out to potty. Again, don’t make a big deal out of it. Get out of bed, put on your slippers and bathrobe, open her crate and pick up your puppy. Carry her outside. Put her down and let her do her business. When she’s done, pick her up and carry her back to her crate, all without much ceremony. Honestly, you’ll be half asleep yourself, so this shouldn’t be hard. Put her back in her crate. Get back in bed. Don’t talk to her. Don’t give her treats (not even for pottying outside). You want this midnight trip outside to be SUPER boring. If she fusses in her crate, put your fingers through the crate door and just be there, like Mom or her littermates would.

 My husband and I recently brought home a puppy (and I daily alternate between being elated and saying, “What was I thinking?”). I’ve kept in close touch with the other 5 puppy parents of our litter. Nearly all of us created this nighttime setup. Those of us who did had puppies easily sleeping through the first night without complaint. The one who didn’t had a puppy screaming off and on for much of the night. The second night he did what the other puppy people were doing and, voilà, peaceful night. It was like magic!

 Once your puppy is comfortable in her new home and sleeping quietly at night without any fussing, you can go to step two. This will probably take 3 or 4 nights. Now you can have your nightstand back because we’re going to move the crate to the floor. Put it right next to the nightstand. If the night is no big deal, great, the next night, move it to the foot of the bed. You get the idea, incrementally, as your puppy is successful, you’ll move it to where you want it to be located for the next few months to a year or more (depending on the percentage of devil gene in your puppy).

 I strongly urge you to consider keeping the sleeping crate in the bedroom, after all, pups are pack-oriented and this is what will feel natural to them. But if you’re absolutely set on having that crate out of the bedroom, just follow the above plan to slowly and incrementally move it to its final location.

 The sleeping crate can be either wire or plastic. For this, I prefer the plastic crate because there’s less visual stimulation. With one of my dogs I also used a crate cover for her early months. The crate cover helped prevent sleep deprivation for the Mama. Any movement in the bedroom was especially stimulating for her (as in she woke up ready to play). My current puppy is fine with no crate cover, bless him.


Crate and Ex-Pen

Your puppy needs a safe place whether you’re heading to work or you’re home and need a little me time. Let’s face it, even though the puppy is incredibly cute, we all want occasional freedom from the need to constantly focus on puppy’s next potty break, what she’s dragging around now, and whether she’s chewing on a toy or the couch. Let’s set up her very own special place.

 The general idea is you’re going to set up a crate with an exercise pen (ex-pen) attached to it. She’ll have her sleeping spot and her romping area right next to each other. You’ll put vinyl flooring underneath the whole shebang to protect your flooring or carpet.

 Pick a place for the day-time crate that’s near enough to the general activity of the household that your puppy can be in there and still feel a part of the family. Purchase a crate with two doors (the metal variety often comes with two doors and is easiest to attach to an ex-pen).

 Next pick out an exercise pen that’s large enough for your puppy to move around in but small enough to fit in the space you’ve chosen. The size of both the crate and the ex-pen should be based on your teenaged puppy rather than the cute 8-week-old ball of fluff you’re bringing home. The height of the ex pen can be three feet for little dogs but consider 4 or even 5 feet in height for large breeds especially those that are, um, mischievous by nature. We don’t want your puppy to even try to jump or climb out of the ex-pen.

 For my puppy who will be 50 lbs as an adult, I use one that’s 5 ft. high. Really. That height does two things – it makes it very unlikely that my puppy will ever be able to jump out of it. It also prevents me from reaching over the top of it. If you don’t reach over the top of it to pick up your puppy, she’s less likely to try to do the same – climb over it to get to you.

 What about the carpet or the brand new oak hardwood floor underneath the crate and ex-pen? Puppies have accidents and they LOVE to tear at things, so we need to keep the beautiful carpet safe. It’s time for a trip to Lowe’s or Home Depot to pick up a piece of vinyl flooring. They sell small sections of it – 6 ft. x 9 ft. should do nicely for most families and you can cut it to size from there if that’s too big for your Papillon puppy’s daytime area. Since the vinyl flooring can be trimmed to size so if you’re not sure, get a little extra (like I wish I’d done the last time I had this set up in my dining room/kitchen area).

 Place the vinyl flooring down then open up your ex-pen on top of it. Set up your crate at one end so that one door opens into the ex-pen and the other door opens up to the household. Attach the crate to the ex-pen with zip ties or small clips. You’ll want to use clips on one side because you need a way in and out of the play area. As I said earlier, you should avoid stepping over the ex-pen when the puppy’s there. She’ll learn really quickly how to climb out if she sees you do it. I know, I know, puppies supposedly don’t learn by watching… Murphy’s law has shown that if it’s going to happen, it’ll happen with some behavior you really don’t want her to learn!

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Place a soft bed (for nonchewers) or a thick, fitted pad (for chewers) into the crate. If you’re not sure which you’ll have, bet on a chewer. I love Primo Pads ( – they make many sizes to fit standard crates and they also will create a custom pad for you for a reasonable price.

 Hang a water bucket inside the crate. I prefer water buckets to bowls as they’re a less tippable. Though a dedicated mayhem artist can still make spills happen (eh hem, Seeker…). As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not a big fan of feeding puppies using standard food bowls; we’ve got other uses for all of the food she’ll get. So shelve the pretty food bowl that matches the water bowl, just for a while.

 When you have food left over from training and you’d like to offer it in the crate or ex-pen, consider food puzzles or slow feeders. We have a whole blog on that topic coming soon.

 Leave toys for your puppy to play with but always test drive them first – you want to make really sure your pup isn’t going to disembowel the adorable $25 stuffed dragon and eat the stuffing, treating you to a big vet bill in her first month home. You can use chew toys but ensure that they’re safe to ingest. I’m a fan of large carrots, frozen dog treats in an empty toilet paper roll with the ends pinched off, or Kongs. Again, test drive everything first with you monitoring to make sure your puppy isn’t chewing off and swallowing large pieces of anything.

 Consider a cot for your pup to lie on (pounce on, crawl under, move around) in the play area. Some of the cots available have the cloth portion completely contained within the plastic edging so that the puppy can’t chew on the cloth. The plastic edging is still fair game (sigh… Seeker).

 I also add in cardboard boxes for entertainment’s sake.

 Indoor Bathroom

For those of us with full time jobs, accidents are probably going to happen in the ex-pen. With my most recent puppy I learned about Fresh Patch – where has this been for the last 6 puppies?? Fresh Patch is sod (yup, grass and dirt) that arrives in its own waxed cardboard box. You place it right in the ex-pen – a little Mother Nature right there for your puppy to use. I know, I know. This sounds super fancy and it’s a little pricey. But you absolutely can’t beat it for house training when you have to leave your puppy at home long enough that a crate alone is insufficient, but the ex-pen allows enough room for easy accidents.

Ex-Pen with Fresh Patch.jpg



While we’re on the subject of managing our little heathen, I mean puppy, what about when she’s out in the house with us? We need to go about our daily life but also provide plenty of learning opportunities so that puppy grows up to be the teenager we can live with. If you have multiple dogs, you also want to be able to work with your puppy without having the adults horning in on the cookies and playtime going on. That’s where baby gates come in.

 In this video you’ll see baby Péle learning tricks in various places around the house. I use baby gates and ex-pens to manage the space, adults on one side, me and the puppy on the other.

 The kitchen is where I spend most of my early morning, before-I-go-to-work time. I want my puppy with me where I can entertain her, teach her, and, let’s be honest, keep an eye on her! I set up baby gates so that the adult dogs are excluded and I can focus on the puppy.

As I go about my chores, I offer her toys to play with (anything novel will do - an empty plastic bottle with some kibble in it, a strawberry, an ice cube). I periodically stop what I’m doing to call her name and reward her for coming then toss a kibble and tell her “Get it!”. If she picks up something she’s not supposed to have, it’s the perfect opportunity to practice “Trade” – I give an amazing treat and my puppy drops the dish towel, dustpan, spoon, or whatever she’s most recently grabbed. We’re training our puppy every minute of every day; let’s try to set them up for teaching what we want them to learn instead of managing mayhem.

Grain-Free Diet - The Debate About the Danger

The word is out that dog foods that are ‘grain-free’ may be the cause of some cases of DCM or Dilated Cardiomyopathy in dogs.  We wanted to take the time to explain what this means for our clients that have chosen this type of food for their pets.

Let’s talk about what Dilated Cardiomyopathy is. DCM, according to Cornell University, is

“a primary disease of cardiac muscle that results in a decreased ability of the heart to generate pressure to pump blood through the vascular system. The definitive cause of canine DCM is the subject of debate, although a number of factors including nutritional, infectious, and genetic predisposition have been implicated. The fact that canine DCM occurs at a higher incidence in specific breeds suggests a heritable genetic component to this disease, although it is likely that it’s etiology is multifactorial.”

Recent investigations into reports of this disease in dogs eating certain diets (as well as an increase in DCM in breeds not normally known to have the genetic disposition to the disease) has a few fingers pointing to grain-free diets as a potential culprit.  It is however, not definitive at this time.  The FDA is quoted as saying “Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.”  Like any issue of this nature, this issue could be a number of things but in order to “play it safe”, a grain-free diet may not be the best option for a pet diet.

The following diets have been listed in the FDA’s recent report (click here for the complete report):

  • Acana

  • Zignature

  • Taste of the Wild

  • 4Health

  • Earthborn Holistic

  • Blue Buffalo

  • Nature’s Domain

  • Fromm

  • Merrick

  • California Natural

  • Orijen

  • Nature’s Variety

  • Nutrisource

  • Nutro

  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

 By no means are we saying these diets are “bad”; we’re simply informing you of the FDA’s findings. Many of these companies do offer alternatives that aren’t grain-free.

Grains have been promoted recently as "fillers", but they do have many healthy properties including essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, and fiber.  If your pet is on a grain-free diet, an alternative food with healthy, well-regulated grains may be a good choice at this time. If your veterinarian recommended a grain-free diet for your pet due to a medical condition or allergy, we recommend a conversation to determine if a suitable alternative diet is indicated.

If your pet has been on a grain-free diet for sometime and you feel that there have been some changes with your pet’s health, then we would recommend an exam with your veterinarian to ensure that all is well.  Some symptoms of DCM are as follows: lethargy, weakness, weight loss, collapse, coughing, increased respiratory rate and/or effort, abdominal distention.  These are symptoms of many conditions as well so an exam with diagnostics may be needed to find out the source.  DCM can be a serious and life-threatening condition so if your pet is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, please let us know asap.

To read more about what the FDA has to say about this situation and what as a pet owner you can do, click here.

Fear Free Visits - the How To!

Imagine laying on your favorite blanket, just starting to soak up the morning sun. Perhaps wondering which one of the many other favorite sunning spots you may have to visit today. Then suddenly, and without warning, picked up and stuffed into a small plastic box, carried by a giant moving machine and then unceremoniously plopped onto a cold exam table while various instruments poke into some of your most delicate areas.

Alternatively, imagine being so excited to be driven out on a car trip to your favorite ball park. The thrill is almost palpable in the air! But wait, what is this? This is not the typical way to the park. And I remember this place – they stuck me with needles and said I was fat! No way am I going in there!

As you have probably already figured out, these two scenarios involve a cat and a dog being brought to their veterinarian for an annual wellness exam. No wonder they don’t like it! But it does not have to be like this. Here are a few tips that can make the visit go smoother. This is better for your pet, is easier for you, and helps us to perform a more thorough exam!

  • Prepare your pet ahead of time for travel. For cats, getting them accustomed to the carrier (see Cats and Carriers), and for dogs to the car and leash, are a must. Go for short trips, give loads of treats, and then head right back home!

  • Happy Visits. That is what we call a visit when you drive in, have your canine friend grab a treat, maybe even a quick trip on the scale, and then leave! No appointment needed, no charge, and free treats – what is not to love!

  • Calm the beast within. Feel-good pheromones like Feliway for cats or D.A.P. for dogs, aromatherapy such as lavender, and/or supplements such as melatonin can be helpful.

  • To stay or not to stay. Some pets do better during the exam with their owners, and some do much better away from them. Talk with your doctor about your thoughts, and what has worked with your pet in the past.

  • Training. This is something that should be done well before a vet visit. This will include, of course, the basics – sit, stay, and recall on command. But by extending out to such things as a “training mat” or clicker training, you can direct a pet’s attention and reward the good behavior.

  • Prepare yourself. Oftentimes our pets can sense our anxiety or distress, and will react accordingly. You may be concerned about how the pet will behave, or an impending diagnosis, but you will need to put on your happy face (fake it till ya make it!). Also being prepared means getting to the appointment 5 minutes early and having your questions or concerns prepared so that the visit will be efficient with no need to rush.

  • Drugs. Sometimes we just need to take it down a notch. Medication can help take the edge off, but by itself will do very little with an already revved up pet. Talk with your doctor about some of these options if needed, but I typically use this as a last resort.

Oh, and coming to the hospital a little hungry is not a bad thing! It makes those treats of ours taste just that much better!

If you start using these tips when your pet is still a puppy or kitten, they will grow up only knowing that our vets are the magical provider of manna – also called treats! And remember, at the end of the day, we all want the same thing – a happy, healthy pet!

Some books/resources on fear-free training:

Dr Sophia Yin

A Little Wednesday Humor

We decided to take a slight break from the serious and share a story that was sent to us by one of our clients..because laughter is truly the best medicine.

“Omg.... The neighbors have been complaining that my dog had been barking non-stop. I hate the electric zapping bark collars, so I purchased a humane citronella collar. When a dog barks, it shoots a blast of citronella under their nose and apparently, they don't like it.

This morning I was getting the collar ready and filled it with the citronella liquid. And that's where my morning should have ended. But no, it's me, and I begin to become curious as to “how” the collars actually work. So, I'm standing by my back door "barking" at my dog's collar. Nothing happens. I make sure it's turned on, check the fill level, and go through the "getting started" check list one more time. Again, I bark. Nothing happens. Now I'm not quite sure, why I had this next thought, but I did...I put the collar on. I seriously extended the band and fit the growl box against my throat and barked.

Apparently, the collar only works if it feels vibrations, because I immediately received a blast of citronella to the face. I began coughing, which only caused the collar to continue squirting bug spray over and over into my nasal cavity. I'm now on my hands and knees in my back yard, trying to breathe, and to make matters worse, the dog is barking. So, between coughing and telling her to stop, I've emptied over a dozen blasts of citronella to my face. During all of this ruckus, I'm trying to undo the clasp of the collar, which has somehow managed to weld shut during this whole fiasco. I finally get the collar off and threw, yes, I threw that inhumane thing across the yard, and lay in the grass sucking in the cool morning air. In the middle of thinking this is probably the dumbest thing I've done in a while, I hear laughter.

MY NEIGHBOR SAW THE WHOLE THING! He was laughing so hard he couldn't breathe. Between gasps, he tells me, "I was gonna come help, but every time I started to climb over the fence, you'd set it off again and then I would start laughing and couldn't make it." So now, not only are my eyes red, but my face and ears are too. After checking to make sure I was ok, we parted ways and I went in to shower so I wouldn't smell like ode de' Tiki Torch.

Lesson learned: next time (yes, there will always be a next time with me) make sure that: 1. Don't fill the collar before trying to set it off. 2. Remember your neighbor is not a good source of help in a comedy crisis situation. On the plus side, I won't have a mosquito problem for a few days! 😂😂😂😂”

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Hot Happens FAST!

With the hot weather starting here in North Carolina, we thought it best to visit that “hot” topic of heat stroke in pets. An excellent source for information can be found below. Awareness is the best prevention. Please share this with everyone!

“Every year, too many dogs suffer and die from preventable cases of Heat Stroke. It happens in hot cars, while out exercising, on airplanes, and in a variety of other situations. What they all have in common though, along with the heartbreaking nature of these cases, is that the overwhelming majority of these tragedies can be prevented.

On their page you’ll find vital information and tips that can help you protect your own pets from the devastating effects of Heat Stroke, as well as the resources and tools to get involved in changing the dynamic and conversation to help protect pets the world over.

They keep this page updated with new stories, studies, and resources as they become available. We encourage you to have a look around, share your stories, get involved, and show these resources to your friends and family.

Together we can make a difference and stop these senseless and preventable deaths, as well as the anger, heartbreak, and suffering they leave behind. “

Click here for all the ins and outs that you need to know to prevent heat stroke!

Spring & Summer Parasite Control

Spring and summer are the times for barbequing, going to the beach, and bugs! Fleas, ticks and other assorted creatures make their way out of winter hibernation to infest our pets and home. But there are ways to help!

Make Fleas Flea!

Flea infestations need to be handled from three different angles to get control of these little pests. First – treat the pet. This consists of monthly topical medications such as Bravecto, Frontline or Revolution, which safely eliminates the fleas and interrupts their reproductive cycle. Talk to your veterinarian to determine which product is right for you. Second – treat your home. Dusting the carpets with Borax, vacuuming all areas (including couches/chairs) every two weeks, and washing all bedding can be very effective. Using a household flea spray may be used in severe cases. Third – treat the yard. In summer months and with severe infestations, several effective products can be sprayed on the yard and in play areas.

Tick Patrol

Ticks can spread many kinds of diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Most monthly flea preventatives also help repel or kill ticks as well. Certain collars also have effective tick treatments. Physically removing ticks before they have a chance to feed will prevent the spread of these diseases. Check your pets for ticks after being outside.

Mosquitoes Revenge

With the knowledge that West Nile Virus may be able to infect our pets, and that both dogs and cats are susceptible to heartworm disease, mosquitoes can be more than just annoying. Mosquito repellent is difficult and possibly toxic, especially to cats. Avoidance and giving a heartworm preventative is more effective.

Give us a call today to find out what parasite prevention is best for your pet!

The "F" Word!

You all know the one I am talking about, the elephant in the room (so to speak). Fat. Overweight. Obese. Husky. They all mean the same – your pet is too large! This happens to the best of us with the best intentions. A few extra holiday cookies, one less walk per week, and the weight starts to add up. Before long, your dog has a spare tire, your feline friend’s belly is rubbing the ground while walking, and the neighbors are starting to talk. And we all know the issues of this added weight: arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

The way I console myself (“My name is Brian, and I too have had a fat pet…”) is that this is a very natural method for animals to store energy when the getting is good, to help with the lean times. Except that our pets very seldom (I would argue never) have lean times! Their food bowl seems to fill up twice a day regardless of their hunting skills, weather or season – things that would normally help regulate how many calories they might consume.

Sooo… how do we tell if our pets are fat? A scale? Nope. Body weight can be very misleading. Gaining a pound of fat versus a pound of muscle gives the same number. I much prefer using a Body Condition Score, which is a way to quantify their relative muscle to fat ratio. The chart is located below. What I also like about this method is that it can be used at home, with no cost and is very easy to perform. We would like most of our pets to score around a 5.

OK, once we know whether (or perhaps confirm) our pets are fat, now what? The simple answer - less calories in and more calories out. The more complicated answer – the right food in the correct quantity, and the proper amount of exercise for the individual. In other words, every pet is different, and has different needs and abilities. Your veterinarian can help you to customize their weight loss approach, and to ensure there is not a medical reason for this weight gain, such as arthritis or thyroid problems. However, I will give some generic recommendations.

Less calories in. This generally means a bit less than you are now feeding. Most research shows that a 10-20 percent decrease in total calories taken in will lead towards weight loss. I tend to focus that decrease on foods that are not very good for them to start with. Less pizza, chips, crackers and cheese. That does not mean you can’t give treats – my pets would stage a coup if I did not give them a daily snack! But you can use raw carrots, small bits of lean meat, rice cakes, or even some of their regular food held back from breakfast. Also using treat balls or Kong toys with some peanut butter in it can give them a food reward but takes them some time and energy to get it. Notice I did not say diet food. For the majority of dogs and cats, diet food is not necessary and may be contraindicated.