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  • 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

each place-

● 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

the sand

● 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

adult dog.

○ 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.

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