- Blair Bunker
All Things Puppy
Updated: Feb 10, 2020
This was written (by yours truly) and published for the American Bullmastiff Association yearly magazine.
So you got a puppy. Now what?
You furiously click on all the articles that pop up on your google quest for
puppy advice. You want to do everything right but it’s easier said than
done. Your training should be about what works best for you and your
puppy and it is important to find a trainer or mentor that can help you
achieve the success you seek. If you don’t already have that person in your
fold then start looking around your area, ask friends who they use and
interview trainers to find the best fit. This person will be an important part
of your support system as you raise your puppy.
Raising a puppy is a fun and sometimes tiresome job! They come waddling
into your life knowing almost nothing. Here is a list of important topics to
get you started on the right paw with your new furbaby.
1. Routine- Create a routine for your puppy that will fit into your
current daily routine. Think about what time you would like to wake
up, feed, walk, play, rest. What does your daily work schedule, extra
recurring activities look like? Start a journal. Write down your perfect
schedule as you would like it be. Then make up another chart of your
current schedule with your puppy. This will generally include more
potty breaks & waking up earlier or mid-night, additional feeding
times, shorter workdays, etc. Each day mark off each activity and as
your puppy develops slowly start to wean out the additional
activities or increase time between them until you have adjusted to
your preferred routine. This will happen over the course of 4-6
months as your puppy grows. Your trainer will help you through this
transition. Not every puppy is made the same so try not to mold your
puppies mental growth or ability to adjust to an exact timeline. Nor
should you compare to Betsy’s perfect Golden Retriever down the
street who was potty trained in a week and has been a perfect angel
his entire life.
2. Rules & Boundaries- Think about your puppy as an adult. Do you
want your 130 pound adult dog sprawled out on your couch, bed or
in your lap with you? Are you ok with your adult dog jumping on
guests in excitement or sleeping in the middle of the kitchen while
you cook? Rushing out the door or pulling you down the street? If
your immediate thought was “nope” to any of these then these are
rules that need to be enforced now rather than later. Think about
what you would rather see your dog do. Sleep on a dog bed vs the
couch or your lap, sit politely instead of jumping on you or your
guests, stay out of the kitchen while you cook, sitting politely for an
invitation out the door and walking by your side. Your puppy is
largely being shaped by your reaction to his actions. If you show
approval or even ignore a negative behavior and it leads to a
pleasurable outcome it will be repeated. If you stop the negative
behavior and there is a negative outcome it will be abandoned. It is
important to provide your puppy with what you would rather see.
Anytime “no” leaves your lips it should be followed with the correct
action needed to create a better outcome. I know what you’re
thinking- easier said than done! I agree! Remember that support
system I mentioned? They can help you apply the rules & boundaries
that fit your lifestyle.
3. Socialization- The first 15 weeks of your puppies life are some of the
most important in shaping how they will view the world and the
animals/ people in it. This means that appropriate exposure to
people, dogs, sounds, objects, places ( literally everything ) is crucial.
Here is a list of some good social encounters & possible goals for
● Your friends and family- goals: meet 5 new people each week
● Their dogs/cats/other pets- goals: meet 1 new animal each
● Lowes/Home Depot: experience one new section each week
● Park with leash laws (no dog parks)- goals: explore a new park
area each week
● Puppy playdates with a training organization- goals: attend at
least one every other week
● Puppy training classes- goals: complete the course
● Local breweries or other casual dog friendly dining
establishments- goals: visit once a week on a weekday and
build up to weekends
● Take a short road trip to the lake, ocean or other fun outdoor
destination- goals: go swimming, explore the woods
● Playground- goals: climb on different textured items, play in
● Vets office- goals: visit once per week- get treats and lots of
love from the techs
Avoid taking your puppy to dog parks. There is no control over who
comes in and no structure in the interactions. This could lead to a
dangerous or fear inducing experience. Control all of the
interactions your puppy has with dogs and people. Be sure to guide
these interactions so that they are fun and not overwhelming. This
means that you don’t over expose. Keep interactions with dogs and
people to one on one and slowly allow more players to the field. This
gives your puppy a chance to acclimate and grow confidence in
each interaction. Meet as many different types of people as you can-
old, young, short, tall, man, woman, dark, light, beards, hats, glasses,
etc. Introduce a variety of objects as well- umbrella, big hats, coats,
walker/cane/scooter, rake, vacuum, skate board, bike, big trucks,
ballon, cart, tarp, plastic bags, etc. Have fun with it but go at your
puppies pace. Don’t overwhelm your puppy. Continue to bring your
puppy out into the world and keep socializing as they grow. The
more it happens the more normal it becomes.
4. Chewing- Is your puppy trying to eat your rug? New shoes? Your
beautiful wood table? Drywall? If you are nodding your head yes or
cringing as you glance at the most recent damage done then know you
are not alone. Not only do puppies go through teething, but puppies use
their mouth to explore their exciting new world. Here are three types of
chewing you can expect from your puppy and appropriate chewing
● Flossing- Just like it sounds flossing is all about getting in between
the teeth to the gums. Perfect chewing items for this are knotted
ropes. Soak the rope in water and chicken broth then freeze it. It will
keep your puppy occupied and help soothe those sore gums.
● Shredding- Tearing and shredding are instinctual for any meat
eater and their teeth are definitely designed for it! A few great items
to add to your list can be easily found around the house.
○ Empty paper towel rolls- Fold one end in and add a small
handful of treats then fold the other end in. Hand it over and
supervise. Puppies will likely chew up the pieces and spit them
out like spit wads.
○ Oatmeal or small cardboard box- Peel off any paper or labels
on the outside of the box and drop a handful of treats inside.
Tape the top shut and hand it over. Puppies will likely chew up
the pieces and spit them out like spit wads.
○ Cloth Sack- Tear up an old shirt into square pieces no smaller
than 8 inches long/wide. Drop a handful of treats in and roll or
knot it up. Your puppy should work to shred the cloth to get to
the treats inside.
**Use caution. If you notice your puppy is swallowing or attempting to
swallow the pieces these project may not be a good fit.
● Grinding- This is all about those back molars and makes up for a
good bit of the chewing you may encounter. Here are some great
lasting chew items-
○ Kong- Stuff it with goodies like pumpkin, peanut butter, sweet
potato, rice & honey, coconut oil, egg, meat, treats or left overs
and then freeze it. Not only is it a lasting treat but soothing on
the gums as well.
○ Raw Knuckle Bone/frozen- This is a great LONG lasting chew
for puppies and allows them to grind away and shred any meat
off the bone. *Never give cooked or smoked bones to your puppy or
○ Elk Antlers- Another long lasting chew that allows them to
methodically chew to get to the softer center.
○ Bully sticks- These are a great edible chew. They are not as
long lasting but still a great way to keep your puppy occupied
for a shorter period of time.
○ Starmark Edible Chew toys- These heavy rubber toys come in
different shapes and have room for edible inserts.
Anytime you catch your puppy chewing or mouthing something they
shouldn’t, redirect them to something they should do instead. Take notice
of the type of chewing they are practicing and provide the right outlet for
them. For the most part puppies do move beyond this stage but can
continue to be heavy chewers well into adulthood so be sure to always
have good chew toys handy.
5. Obedience & Sport Training- Dogs love to learn new things and
thrive off structure and balance. They are highly intelligent and learn best
when given specific and consistent information. Don’t put boundaries on
your puppies ability to learn based on their breed. Every dog is capable of
learning and doing just about anything you set your mind to.
Get your puppy started in a puppy or basic obedience class. Even if you
are capable of teaching these behaviors at home it is a great way to go on
a field trip, work around distraction and get helpful tips to ensure quality
results. Make it fun and rewarding so your puppy enjoys the task at hand.
The relationship you build now with your puppy will largely shape the
success you both have as a team in the future. To quote a client of mine
“”He will always be himself, and his perfectness will come in the form of my
relationship with him and how we handle things together.”
Raising a puppy can be a challenge but it has so much reward. There is
nothing better than reaching all those milestones whether its 10 full days
accident free, graduating from puppy class or a sleep filled night. Before
you know it you will be looking at your puppy all grown up and be thankful
for the time and effort you put into them. The bond you will share will be
nothing short of amazing.