So you’ve brought home a puppy… now what?

rowdys-cuteOnce you’ve figured out a good puppy formulated food and you’ve seen the veterinarian for a health check up, what are the most important purchases to get for your new pooch? Here’s a list of the top things you should get at the pet supply store…

1. A buckled collar


Plastic “easy clip” collars are what you will find most of the time when you go to your average pet supply store, but they have more than a few flaws that can range from frustrating to downright dangerous.

First of all, the easy clip apparatus doesn’t allow the dog to put the collar on themselves. And a dog should feel ownership over everything they’re required to wear. Often when I’m teaching a dog how to put on a collar, I’ll hold it out and invite them towards it via the use of food. A buckled collar allows you to do this. You can hold the collar out and invite the dog to move their head through the loop, praising them when they achieve this feat of bravery. The easy clip collar is to small for this method, and usually results in a wrestling match, unwittingly teaching a dog that apparel is to be resisted.

Easy clips are also often made from plastic, that becomes brittle over time. You won’t know that your dogs collar is about to break until a squirrel darts out in front of you and into the street with your pooch in hot pursuit. This is especially true during extreme weather. So whether its very hot or very cold you’re always safer with a buckled collar.

I sell these for ten dollars each if you have a hard time finding them at a pet store. They are sturdy, come in a variety of colors and you can easily cut them to fit your dogs neck.

2. A Six Foot Leash


The leash is the most powerful communication tool in a dog trainers toolkit. Often misunderstood, the leash should not be thought of as a means of restriction, but rather as a way to develop rapport between dog and handler. There have been many attempts to improve the leash like putting a bungee in between the loop and the link, or adding a second loop closer to the link in order to have a closer grip on the dog. By far the worst reiteration of the leash is the retractable leash.

We’ve all seen them. A big box with a handle that spools in and out, with a cable or flat leash that locks or retracts at the push of a button. First of all, these things are dangerous. Just like the clip on the collar, the brakes on these mechanisms will fail at the worst times. The way these things work is that the dog is encouraged to pull in order to get the leash to spool out, and as a result, the dog learns that pulling is the best way to get what they want. This often results in a frantic animal that has very little self control.

Another way they can be harmful is that the thin, cable-like leash is exceedingly sharp. And if it ends up getting wrapped around a person’s exposed skin, or god forbid, your pet, well, I won’t post pictures here because they turn my stomach. But you can do a google image search of retractable leash injuries and see what I mean, and why I refuse to work with them.

I will go into this in more detail when I post about the heel command and how to best achieve a good side by side walk with your pooch. But it’s important to remember that we have our dog walk alongside and somewhat behind us not because we’re in control of them, but because they’re in control of themselves. There is no better tool to teach this than the six foot leash.

3. Training Treats!


As proper fee for service, treats can become a powerful tool for engaging your dog early on in the training process. I am not going to say what “The Best Dog Treat” is as that should be left to your dog to decide. That being stated here are a few guidelines…

Good is good

Don’t keep using a dog treat your dog doesn’t like or is tired of. Change it up try new stuff all the time and don’t be afraid to use whatever it takes to engage your dogs attention. If that means using deli meats because your dog won’t eat Pupperoni, go get some ham.

Challenge tastes better

Don’t just hand out treats without getting something in return. Use these treat only during training when you have specific goals to achieve and reward only that progress.

Smaller is better

When looking for training treats look for something that you can easily break up and dole out in pieces. For this reason I usually recommend against milk bones as they are cumbersome in this regard.

Be creative and observant

Not all dogs have the same palate. I bought some primo roast beef and brought it to a training with a particularly picky pooch. He couldn’t care less. His owner said “Yeah the only thing he gets excited about is old bananas.” and that’s what they use to this day for his training sessions.

4. Puppy Pads


Yes, I realize that this is not a photo of puppy pads. I’m sure you know what those look like though. This is a picture of painters tape. You can find it at any hardware store or paint shop. It’s cheap and works great to keep your wee wee pads in place. The best reason to use painters tape from the beginning is that puppy never gets the chance to see the pad as a play thing. If you have a particularly playful pup it may be a good idea to tape the entire edge all the way around the outside of the pad so as to prevent the edge of the pad becoming an invitation to scrappy puppy mouths. It also may be a good idea to spray the tape with Bitter Apple.  Bitter Apple is a chewing and biting preventative. It’s totally non-toxic and safe for dogs to have near or even on their bodies but it doesn’t taste good to them. Bitter apple is also good to put on wires and furniture that might otherwise become targets of your pups mouthy ways.