Thursday, May 29, 2014


Take It Easy the First Day.
Keep it mellow and quiet in the first few hours home, at the very least. All family members have to be made to understand that this is a big transition for a baby dog, and that lots of noise and commotion make it even tougher for her.
Sit on the floor and watch her explore the space you’ve set aside for her. Give her a chance to meet her new people—at her own pace. When she comes over to any of you, use a calm, friendly voice to greet her and give her a gentle scratch or stroke on the chest or back (don’t reach right for her head).
  Decide on a “Potty Area.”
The puppy’s “go to” area can be outside if you have a yard or on papers if you don’t or live in an apartment. First thing in the morning, when you take her out of the crate, immediately place her in the potty area. Do the same thing after every play session, after she eats or drinks, and first thing when you get home. It doesn’t matter whether she goes or not. Housebreaking is probably the biggest challenge with a puppy—not just training her to relieve herself outside, but the fact that you have to take her outside frequently to do so, sometimes in the middle of the night. However, don’t even try to house-train the puppy for the first day or two. Give her a chance to settle in before tackling that challenge.
  Start to Learn Your Puppy’s “Language.”

Puppy behaviors such as crying, whining or barking are all forms of communication—it’s up to you to try to figure out whether she really needs to go out, wants to be let out of her crate (if she’s in one) or is being playful. Like human babies, it seems that puppies are each quite different in their sleep patterns and the related frequency with which they have to relieve themselves. So your first weeks may be fairly restful at night or fairly hellish, but at least puppies grow up a lot faster than human babies do, so it shouldn’t be long before the pup outgrows her immature bladder and sleep cycles.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Sunday, May 25, 2014


There are quite a few things you need to get before you bring your new dog home. Some of them are fairly obvious; others might not have occurred to you. Some items you may be able to borrow from friends (for example, you could borrow a small crate for your puppy, who will quickly grow into a much bigger fellow). The same goes for a collar. A puppy who is going to become a large dog will need at least three sizes of collars that he will grow out of until he reaches his full size. You may have a friend who saved her puppy’s outgrown collars and will pass them along to you to use during the growth spurts of the first year.
Collars come in dozens of materials and shapes. What you pick will be influenced by your personal taste, your budget and your dog’s neck. There is rolled leather, which can be good on a long-haired dog because it doesn’t get stuck in the fur. Flat leather collars come in many widths, with an endless variety of adornments attached. There is every imaginable hue and thickness of collars in nylon webbing, cloth, needlepoint, ribbon, rhinestone, etc.
Some people opt for a nylon collar that has your name and telephone number stitched right into the nylon, so that there’s no tag to struggle with or lose.
  Your Dog’s Collar Is His Only Link to You If You Are Separated.
Your dog needs to be wearing a collar at all times. With his name tag, he can always be returned to you. Without it, you may never be reunited. Even if your dog never runs away or has no opportunity to get lost, there are other ways that he can be separated from you. For example, your dog may be inside a car in an accident and not even be injured, just get spooked and take off.
Fireworks or lightning storms can frighten a dog so much that he runs away from home and becomes so disoriented that he forgets where he lives. The people who find him won’t know, either.
Many vet’s offices and pet stores can order ID tags for you. The tags generally come within two weeks. See the “Lost Dogs” section of Chapter Eight about the importance of having a temporary identification on your dog from the first minute you bring her home.
If you have no intention of moving in the next year or two, have an extra tag or two made up, because most dogs lose their tags or collars at some point.
  Metal or Plastic?
All the tag companies seem to sell both metal and plastic tags. The metal tags are often harder to read and can make a clanking sound against the dog’s license. The plastic ones can wear out against the metal license, but most of the tag companies have a lifetime replacement guarantee.
There are some fancier or more unusual tags available from a number of companies, all of  which have Web site listings:,,,,,,
You need to check the tag from time to time to make sure it is still attached, and to see that the information is still readily visible.
  What to Put on the Tag?
The tag companies expect you to put your name, the dog’s name and your address and phone number on the tag.
One problem with this method is that there really isn’t room for two phone numbers because the tags were designed before cell phones became so prevalent.
Another problem in putting all your personal information on a tag is that it can make you or your house a target. I have also heard a warning that if you put your dog’s name on a tag, anyone who wants to steal him can get the dog to respond as though he were his own. These seem unlikely eventualities to me, but these precautions would clearly be an issue in some locations more than in others.
One solution to these problems is to put the word REWARD on the hang-tag and then put as many telephone numbers as you can fit on there: your home, office and cell at the least. The dog license has a phone number, but no one answers it after hours. Imagine how awful you would feel if you lost your dog, someone found him and generously tried to contact you—but could not reach you.
  Digital Dog Tags
The information age has caught up with dog tags, and now you can get a Dog-e-Tag that digitally stores up to forty lines of information. You can put your phone numbers, license and vaccine numbers, destination phone number if you’re traveling, medications she’s taking and the number of the dog’s veterinarian, etc.
The tag can be updated when traveling or moving, or for changes in your dog’s health and medical condition. The high-resolution digital display is easy to read and can be programmed in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The cost is $40, and the tags are available at (866) DOG-ETAG, or
  Safety Collars
There are collars that glow in the dark, which could save your dog’s life if you live in the country or suburbs and there’s even the remotest chance that your dog might be out in the dark without you. If you walk your dog at night anywhere but in a brightly lit city, there are also leashes that have built-in reflective strips.
One such product is the “Co-Leash Night-Lite,” which is a collar with a leash attached (both of which feature a wide Scotchlite reflective strip) that runs about $20 in various sizes and colors. Go to for more information, or check out similar products on any of the dog-product Web sites or catalogs.

Another product is the waterproof “Night Light Collar” from American Leather Specialties Corp. It can be set to slow flash, fast flash or continuous shine. The lights are visible from a mile  away. The batteries included provide 125 hours of service, and the collar runs about $25. (718) 965-3900.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


We Speak a Dog’s Name to Get His Attention.
A dog’s name is his primary way of being alerted that you are trying to communicate with him. In the training chapter of the book (page 235) and the section on communication between man and dog (page 148), you will discover that we say a dog’s name before any command, before anything we want to give him, even to warn him of danger. So it puts both you and your dog at a disadvantage not to have a name ready to start applying as soon as he enters your life.
  Try Out a Few Different Names and See Which One Suits Him the Best.
Experiment with two or three names that you think might work and see which one you feel suits him best. With a puppy you can call him by absolutely anything you want—it’s more the way you call him that will get the response. With a youngster his response to a name is really not as important as it is for an older dog whose name you may be changing (see chart below  on “Naming Tips”). It is your tone of voice—the energy and up-inflection when saying his name—that will catch his attention. If you give the puppy a treat when he looks up or makes eye contact or comes over when he hears his name, then you are teaching him that his name is a good thing.
  If the Dog Comes with a Name, You Can Change It.
If you are inheriting, adopting or rescuing an older puppy or mature dog, don’t feel obligated to keep his name unless you like it. If you know the dog’s name—and do not like it—before you adopt him, then you may want to choose two or three possibilities for a replacement name. You can test which one suits him best, or which one he seems to respond to more. Let’s say he was called Killer before and you like the name Satchmo (after considering the name-choosing tips in the chart below). In order to switch him over to the new name, you call him with a hyphenated name: you simply say Killer-Satch, putting emphasis on the “Satch.” Reward him with a treat when he responds to the new, hyphenated name. If you’re using a bright cheery tone it shouldn’t take more than a few days for the dog to look up at you when you say just “Satchmo”—and when he does, give him a ticker-tape parade. You want to give a jackpot treat when you get a quick response in a challenging learning situation like this. “Jackpot” is part of a theory of training reinforcement, which is described fully on page 240 of the training chapter, but basically it’s a high-value treat plus several more as booster treats.
  Move On if You Don’t Get a Fairly Fast Response to the New Name.

It could be that the replacement name you’ve chosen does not resonate with the dog—which you’ll know because he doesn’t put one and one together and come alive to the sound of that name. If that is the case, then try your second choice in the same way—say it by hyphenating it with the dog’s old name. You’ll soon see if he responds to your second choice.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Monday, May 19, 2014


Give Her a Small Amount of Water (One Cup) When You Get Home.
If she doesn’t throw that up after fifteen or twenty minutes (from the excitement and car travel), you can leave water down for her.
  Give a Small Bowl of Food at Her Normal Feeding Time.
Ask the breeder (or wherever you got her) when she is accustomed to eating. Also find out the brand of kibble she has been eating and ask the breeder (or shelter) for a couple of days’ supply to give you time to purchase some, if it happened to be one of the preservative-free healthy brands (it’s unlikely that either a breeder or shelter would spend that extra money on the premium brands). If the puppy has not been fed a high-quality brand like Innova or California Natural, then mix some of the kibble she is used to with the new brand you’ll be feeding. Ask if there is any special way the food has been given to the dog (with or without water, a bit of meat, etc.). For some dogs it is more important than others to feel comfortable with food. For a sensitive dog like that you can avoid an upset stomach from “new home stress” if the puppy gets food that is familiar in the unfamiliar setting of your house. By mixing the two foods she can gradually get used to the new brand.
  Adjust the Dog’s Feeding Schedule over the Next Few Days.

It is fine to slowly change the times the dog will eat to make the hours more compatible with your schedule. Any dog’s feeding routine can be reprogrammed to accommodate your life. This is true of every dog except the young puppy, who still needs to continue the three or four daily feedings she is used to and that her growing body needs. However, at least you have the option of slowly changing the hours of her meals to coincide with when you or someone else can get there to feed her.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Sunday, May 18, 2014

You want to pick a few rooms that the puppy can be in with you without too much danger to his health or your home. The kitchen is always a logical room. It can be made safe and cleaned fairly easily, and there is generally a lot of activity in and around the kitchen, which is perfect for a puppy who is trying to acclimate to life with you.
Depending on your personal lifestyle and decor, there may be other rooms that you can safely make puppy-friendly. Areas that are closed off from the rest of the house, like the garage or basement, are not a good choice. These are unkind locations for a little dog, and do nothing to help integrate him into the life of the household.
Look at things from a puppy’s point of view and remove or protect anything reachable that he  could chew—ties on chair cushions, electric cords, tassels on carpets . . . even the carpets themselves.
  Preparation for the Puppy’s Arrival
Put away any object or aspect of your decor that could be destroyed by the puppy and any item that could be dangerous to him.
Think of a human toddler and how everything goes in his mouth—it’s the same with a puppy when it comes to protecting the youngster from dangerous substances (except with the puppy those sharp little teeth will chew through anything you leave in his path).
Put human baby-proofing latches on low cabinets—some pups can open these doors.
Any electrical or phone wires that you can’t tuck out of the way should be treated with Bitter Apple cream (the spray is too messy for thinner wire).
Any object that smells like you is a magnet for a puppy.
  Creating a Safe Space for the Pup
Set aside a confined area if you will be going out for longer than the puppy should be confined to her crate (her age in months plus one for the acceptable number of hours).
If you have a really big kitchen, you’ll need to enclose only part of it or choose a bathroom instead.

Get a baby gate to close the doorway—try to find a wire one, since pups will chew on wood and/or plastic.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Sunday, May 11, 2014


There is no “right way” to introduce a dog into your life. Each person has to find his own way of weaving the canine arrival into the rhythm of his household. There are practical considerations covered in this chapter, but then you’re on your own: take what applies to you, use what works for you. Beware of people or publications telling you what you “have” to do; avoid the mind-set that the whole experience is some kind of test, just another thing in life at which you can “fail” or  “succeed.” You are not being graded here. Being a dog owner isn’t something that has a test at the end. Adding a dog to your life is supposed to be fun and pleasurable for all concerned—otherwise, what’s the point, right?
Personalize your choices: there are as many different possibilities for handling the first few days and nights with your dog as there are differences in people. There is rarely an absolute “right” or “wrong.” Keep in mind that dogs basically exist to please us. They have evolved over centuries to be companions to people: it’s what they are wired to do. Make your dog as happy as you can, but remember that the love and company of their “people” is generally what means the most to dogs. Trust yourself—go with whatever works for you and your particular dog.
Based on your personality and lifestyle, and the age and attitude of your new dog, you will find your own way. Trust your instincts to find the most satisfying way to incorporate a dog into your home. Your dog is a one-of-a-kind individual, too, with her own personality—whether she’s a little puppy or a more mature dog with “emotional baggage.” She is her own special self: half the fun of dog ownership is discovering that uniqueness. Together you will discover a harmonious way to share your lives.
Adding a dog to your life is decidedly different than getting a lovely object you’ve wanted. Although a material acquisition may give you a certain kind of pleasure, acquiring a beautiful new couch is obviously an entirely different experience than acquiring a dog, a living being who comes into your home with her own unique personality and emotional depth. Another difference, of course, is that you don’t have to housebreak the couch.

One “dog essential” often forgotten is an easy-to-use camera and extra film. Keep the camera loaded and accessible so you can create lots of mementos of the puppy or dog sleeping or at play. Taking pictures might not be the foremost thing on your mind during the new dog’s first days with you, but he’ll never seem so cute and new and amazing as he does at the beginning. If the camera is lying around you’ll be more likely to pick it up. Puppies grow so fast that there’s no way you’ll remember the smallness and clumsiness of his roly-poly self a year from now. And no matter how old the new dog is, in years to come you’ll be glad to have the recorded memories.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner