Behavior and Training, Newborn Care Tips, Puppy and Kitten Care

Puppy Enrichment: Placing Puppies in New Homes Webinar

* How do I prepare a puppy for a new home?
* Why is puppy socialization important?
* How can I set up puppies for success in their new homes?

Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer, gives tips, recommendations and advice regarding puppy enrichment so the pup is set up for success when they go to their forever home. This must-see webinar on enrichment for puppies is ideal for both new and experienced dog breeders as well as anyone who works with pregnant dogs. Learn about puppy socialization, crate training puppies and puppy enrichment activities, games and ideas for puppies from birth and beyond.

***REGISTER HERE for Part 5 of Dr. Greer’s Newborn Puppy Webinar Series: The Troubled Newborn. This free webinar will be in April 2024.

Enrichment for Puppies Webinar

Puppy Transition to New Home

Can we make the transition into a new home easier for puppies? We want them to be successful. We want them to have fun with their new puppies. There’s some steps that we can take to help socialize the puppies and to make that transition into crate training and food and water changes and all those things a little bit more efficient, parasite control, some of those other important things.

Puppy Socialization

Puppy socialization is a term that gets thrown around a lot. And we talk about it a lot. We’ve talked about it probably since the seventies when we really started paying attention to these things. Learning really begins in our puppies immediately. As soon as they’re born, they start having experience where they start learning things.

Now puppies have a different social socialization period and social skills than kittens. For kittens, the social window starts at three weeks of age and ends at around seven weeks of age. Puppies really start later than that. They start around six or seven weeks of age and then continue ongoing for the rest of their lives during their socialization. So it’s important that we start the socialization appropriately and easily and at the right time for the puppies, depending on where they’re at in their development, when their eyes open, when their ears open, when they start learning, when all these things start to happen.

We can’t overemphasize the importance of good socialization for our dogs. A lot of people are still suffering the effects, lot of dogs are suffering the effects of what happened during COVID. A lot of people went out and got new dogs because they were at home. It was a good chance to get them. They were lonely. They felt like they put the ownership of a new dog off for too many years and that their kids were home saying, Mom, dad, really, can’t we get a puppy now we’re home? Can’t we make this work? So, yes, the market changed a lot during COVID and a lot of people bought dogs. Some of them are not well socialized, are showing at AKC events and we’re still seeing puppies hitting the grooming tables and the judges coming over to puppies that may be a little uncomfortable being handled because they weren’t socialized well.

ENS for Puppies

The most important thing that we really start thinking about for puppy development is early neurological stimulation, ENS, for the Super Dog program. It was started as a military program for dogs that were going to be used as military dogs.

The dogs that were sitting in the trenches or the foxholes with our soldiers were, as soon as they were able to start being handled at three days of age, they were put through a series of very important and very structured exercises to help them be more social, more stable and better able to handle stress. If I were sitting in a trench with a dog and there was rocket fire over my head, I would want that dog to be cool, calm, collected and really know how to handle themselves.

We know from the study that Carmen Battaglia really did a great job in popularizing this. I will tell you from firsthand experience, it makes a huge difference in how puppies handle stress. The benefits noted from the ENS program were improved cardiovascular performance. In other words, the puppies when they’re stressed, don’t have as high heart rates, and are cooler, calmer. They have stronger heartbeats. Their adrenal function is better, so when they’re stressed they don’t act as stressed. They’re more tolerant to stress and they have greater resistance to disease. Really important aspects of how our puppies develop. And if you are experienced with this, you can probably already shake your head and say, Yes, I know it makes a difference.

It’s important that we start at the right age and we end at the right age. It starts on day three of age. As soon as the puppies are born, you start counting day three, you start, and day 16 is the last day that you do it. That’s when they start opening their eyes or hearing things. I think other kinds of social input start to happen at that point. So I don’t think that I would continue it after day 16. And you only do it once a day. It only takes you a few seconds with every puppy, probably about 30 seconds a puppy. One of my first litters of farm dogs, I didn’t do this because the mom was really great with them. It was different than raising corgis. The mom was great. The puppies were social. They were settled. I felt like, I really don’t need to mess with them. She’s doing a super job. I really didn’t do this with this one particular litter. And I’ll tell you that some of the puppies in the litter are not nearly as socially stable as puppies from other litters from the same dam and the same sire born in a different litter where I handled them differently. So I’m going to tell you from firsthand experience it makes a huge difference in their social skills.

The five steps include number one being head up. You hold the puppy with its head above its shoulders and above its hips, just directly up firmly and securely in your hands for a count of 5 seconds. So I just count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005. I don’t set a stopwatch, I just count. It’s 5 seconds head up, 5 seconds head down. I don’t sharply move them down like you’re swinging them. You just gently turn them over so their head is directly down below their pelvis and their front legs and their shoulders. The third step is 5 seconds on their back. And you can actually do these in any order. It’s just this is the order I tend to do them in because it’s sort of how I’ve learned it. You roll them onto their back and hold them for 5 seconds. It’s really interesting to see which puppies are very cooperative about this step. Some are really great, even at three days of age, and others take a few more days before they really adjust to the fact that you’re laying them on their back because they should have a natural tendency to right themselves.

That’s a normal reflex that puppy should have, but they also can learn to be relaxed and accept this position, not that it’s a dominant position, but that is just a position that they learn to respect, and would be relaxed in. The fourth step is thermal stimulation. It’s a cold, wet towel. I had one kid that came to one of the meetings and said he held the puppy on the cold glass in the kennel. My husband uses a cold pop can because it’s just too hard to go to the bathroom, wet down a towel, wring it out and bring it to the bedroom or the puppies. He’ll pull out a cold can and lay their belly on that for 5 seconds. That’s 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005. The fifth step is tactile stimulation, where you tickle the bottom of the foot between the pads, not just on the pads, but between the pads with a Q-Tip or cotton swab or something. And I tend to use different feet on each puppy. I tend not to do the same one, like the left front foot isn’t the one I always do. I’ll move it around so they get accustomed to the other feet being touched. It takes about 30 seconds per puppy and it can make a huge difference socially in these puppies.

How Do You Introduce Scents to Puppies?

I’ve also had some clients tell me that they’ve introduced scents at this point so that even though the puppies don’t have their eyes and their ears open yet and they don’t have any sensory coming in from those two organs, that they are already able to smell their mother, they can feel where she is. So they introduce scents.

There is a kit that you can purchase online. You can set up your own. You certainly don’t have to buy a kit. You can do cloves one day, you can do lavender another day, and you can do the smell of beef or liquid smoke or something. You can vary these things and just have your own little kit that every day. This is the sixth step that you introduce a new scent. It should be sensitive, relatively pleasant. I try not to do anything that’s offensive to the puppy. Fingernail polish is offensive. You know, there’s a lot of things that we have in our lives that are kind of offensive. I like to make it something that’s rather pleasant, maybe something that would be a food source. It’s just kind of fun to see which puppies react, in what way to different scents. There’s lemongrass and all kinds of things. You can very easily go to your kitchen and to your medicine chest and probably find all kinds of interesting things that you can develop for scents. Introducing scents to puppies just gives them some experiences that they hadn’t had otherwise. It’s kind of fun. I mean, let’s face it, we should have fun when we’re raising our puppies.

Does Light Affect Puppies?

The next step is when the puppies open their eyes around 14 days of age. When the puppies first open their eyes, I like to have the lighting fairly soft in the room. I don’t like it to be harsh fluorescent, harsh lighting, bright light, sunlight, those kinds of things. I think it’s nice if they’re their first experiences are with a gentle, soft kind of light, just so that they have that experience. When they first open their eyes, you’ll see that their eyes are a little bit cloudy and it’s not unusual for them not to have really clear vision at that point. The clouding of the cornea takes a little while to resolve so it’s just nice for some gentle light to come in initially.

How Do I Introduce Puppies to Noises and Sounds?

The same with the sounds-it’s nice to have gentle, soft sounds. There are a couple of devices you can purchase that have particular songs or particular sounds that are appropriate for dogs. The other thing that you can do is to buy CDs and mp3 files and all those things of sounds that you can use to help desensitize puppies, especially if you have dogs that are sound-sensitive dogs with upright ears like German shepherds, dogs like shelties. They tend to be fairly sound reactive. If you can very softly and gently play the sounds of sirens or lightning and thunder, lightning, of course, you can’t play, the thunder that goes with it. Any of those sounds that might be a little bit startling to a puppy. I had one of the first litters of corgis we sold. The puppy was in the kitchen with their family and they heard the squeeze of the ketchup bottle. When it was kind of empty, it made kind of a loud noise. It kind of startled the puppy. It made me realize early on that we needed to make sure that our puppies were able to hear normal household sounds. We initially were raising puppies in the bedroom, and once the puppy’s eyes and ears were open, and they were accustomed to those lighting and those sounds, we very carefully and gradually moved them out to the rest of the household where they could hear the sounds of the kitchen and smell food cooking and the other things that happen in a household. It’s really important when you sell your puppies to families that these puppies are going to have experiences that preexist and that they’re not startled or afraid of any of the things that might be happening in normal life settings.

Litter Box Training Puppies

How does litter box training puppies work? Anytime you have a lot of puppies, you have a lot of a mess to clean up. So we tried a number of different things and over the years I’ve tried a variety of these. I’ve tried shallow trays, I’ve tried other things. What works best for me with my little tiny puppies, my little farm dogs and my little corgis is to use a paint pan.

Just your basic silver metal paint pan that you can purchase. Then at some of the stores, they sell the disposable paint liners. They’re simple, they’re inexpensive, and they very nicely fit into the paint pan. Now, the reason I buy the metal pan is because I can take those feet that stand that the paint tray up a couple of inches and I can flex them and bend them out so that that paint tray is only about an inch off the ground for the little tiny short legged corgi puppies. But the opposite end is a little bit deeper, so it helps to contain the litter material so it doesn’t go flying out. It keeps the box neater. If you introduce this at just the right age, between three and four weeks of age, you’ll have pretty good success. Occasionally you’ll have a litter that’s a little messy. Most of the time these puppies very easily are attracted to the use of the litter, the substrate that’s in the litter box. If you wait until they’re too old, if you’ve already got puppies that are five or six weeks old, it’s probably not going to work out very well for you. If you have puppies coming up that are coming of age or will be coming of age, go ahead. Go out and get your litter box, whatever device you decide to do. But make sure you start it between three and four weeks of age. It’s really interesting that’s developmentally where the puppies seem to really respond best to it. Now, substrates can be a variety of different things. I use the Mars horse pellets. I can buy them at my local Fleet Farm. You can buy at Tractor Supply or the feed mill. You can also buy newspaper pellets that are made for cat litter boxes. You can buy cat litter, the clumping kind or the clay kind. You can use shredded newspaper. There’s a variety of different substrates that work. I used to use pine shavings. Those got caught in the coats of the puppies, so it made the puppies kind of messy. But the wood pellets tend to break up and just stay kind of granular on the bottom of the box. If wet down with urine, they’ll kind of fall apart a little bit. The newspaper pellets do a nice job of absorbing things. I also have a lot of people that say, aren’t the puppies going to eat the litter? I have never had a puppy eat cat litter or the pelleted newspaper or pelleted wood. It could of course, and you should be observant. Never going to say never, but I’m going to say that it’s pretty unusual, if you introduce them at this age that they will eat it. If you start them a little bit older when they’re already starting on solid food, you might be more likely to have that happen.

When litter box training puppies, I set up my whelping box in my bathroom. By the time they’re three weeks old and I introduce the litter box, I no longer have the whelping nest from my whelping box plugged in, so it’s not like baking the urine and the stool. It’s unplugged. It’s still present. There’s a little bed there and a little tray. I also include another litter tray, and that’s for the dam, for the mother and occasionally, if I’ve had a female that I’ve raised at my house and she’s needing to go out during the night and I’m not awake and not aware that she needs to go out, she’ll actually go into that tray and urinate and/or defecate.

It’s kind of interesting to see that those females, even as adult dogs, will revert back to the use of the litter box. The other thing that you’re going to see is there’s a white mesh bath mat laying there so that if the puppies do urinate outside the litter box, the urine runs through that and it’s on the surface of the whelping box instead of against the puppy’s skin. It keeps these puppies much cleaner, much drier. A couple of times a day you go in and clean the litter box. If it’s really messy, I throw the disposable liner out. If it’s just a little bit, I’ll dump that out because the stool will stick to the pellets, and it won’t unless they have diarrhea, it won’t mess up the tray. I’ll just throw that litter away and replace it. So it’s a very efficient, very effective system and it’s a great way to keep puppies clean and dry while you’re in the process of getting them ready to start going outside. As soon as they wake up, you put them in the litter tray and you get them accustomed to that pattern, they will urinate in there.

The next step is to follow Mom outside. It’s great if you can have a door that opens off of your kennel, your bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, wherever you raise your puppies. It’s really great if you can have a puppy door and let Mom just take the puppies outside with her so she can teach them to go potty in the yard. They learn so much from their mothers and from other dogs in your household that you’d be surprised. Don’t forget to take advantage of this learning tool.

Now, I’ll tell you honestly, the girls and the boys do a very good job of having stools in the litter box. The girls do a really good job of urinating in the litter box. The boys, on the other hand, often will put their front feet in the litter box, their back feet right on the edge of it. So they urinate right on the side of it, not actually into the litter. So I’ll often use an absorbent pad underneath it so that I can catch that urine. It’s just the boys aren’t very specific about where they go potty. I’m just going to say it’s not that different for boys, boy puppies, but I don’t use just those flat puppy housebreaking pads. I don’t have good success with those at all. And I know there’s folders and you’re supposed to keep them flat. But in my experience, when I’ve used those with puppies, they’ve picked them up and dragged them around and torn them up and just made them into a great big puppy toy instead of being a place that they’ll urinate. It might be different if you only have one puppy, but when you have a litter, if you’ve got four puppies or ten or 15 puppies, it can be fun messy to have that pad not really effectively staying where it should stay. So I’ll often use the washable pads like the Breeder’s Edge® Repeat Pads that we have under the litter tray. For the puppies that just don’t quite make it into the litter box, I just have to wash that, and not everything in the whelping box.

So those are some tips and tricks for litter box training and I think it’s really useful. People that buy your puppies really appreciate that you have started the puppies on crate training and litter training. When I sell a puppy and they’ve been litter box trained, I will send home a Ziploc bag full of the substrate that I’ve used, whether it’s pelleted newspaper or pelleted wood. I’ll send that home with the client that purchased the puppy, not with the expectation that they’re going to continue using the litter box in their home, but that if they take it outside in the yard in the area that they want the puppy to go urinate and defecate. That’s a substrate that’s familiar to the puppy. As soon as they see those pelleted wood pieces, they’ll be like, “I know what I’m supposed to do when I’m out here.” So they’ll squat on those surfaces. Not only does that get the puppy going outside, but it also helps to direct them in which part of the yard you’d like them to urinate and defecate in, so that when you go to do yard cleanup, you’re not walking all over the yard looking for everything. It’s all in one little section of your yard. It’s very convenient.

How to Crate Train a Puppy?

Crate training, of course, is another really important step. Before my puppies leave their home, I like for them to be sleeping in a crate. They may not be in crates during the day, but at least at night. I like them to be in crates. I like to have a nice absorbent pad in there so that if they do have an accident, it absorbs. Our Breeder’s Edge® Repeat Pads can be really helpful. I start off with the crates next to each other so they don’t feel too separated and then they’ll move a little further apart. And oftentimes then by the time they leave, they’re sleeping in a different room from each other so that they’re not unfamiliar with how it feels to sleep in a crate their first night at their new home, so that people aren’t tempted to put them in the other room and close the door or put them in bed with them, and all the other bad habits that develop by puppies not being familiar with sleeping individually in a crate.

The other thing that’s really helpful is have some kind of music or a white noise machine like they have for kids that can play some kind of background noise just so that there’s a little bit, not too much silence for the puppy. It also kind of helps to cover up the noise if the puppy does whimper a little bit during their first few nights in their new home. I don’t want people to have to put the puppy six rooms away in their house. I like to, when they get a new puppy, to have their crate in a bedroom where someone is sleeping. But I don’t want that puppy being disruptive. I want them to be comfortable in a crate, comfortable with the white noise, comfortable with a little pad and a toy so that their crate training goes well. The more effectively we can help people get their new puppies get crate trained, the more likely they are to stay in a forever home. So I think crate training is very, very important for our puppies.

Best Way to Socialize a Puppy

Next, we’re going to talk about some of our tips and tricks in raising a social puppy, particularly when we had our isolation. But even now, there are people who are still not quite as willing as they were to let people traipse into their homes and do some socialization because of a variety of different social isolation. We’re going to talk about games for our puppies. This is one of my favorites, a metal muffin tin with a ginger snap just purchased at the dollar store and peanut butter or cheese spread cheese underneath the ginger snap. So during conversations while you’re on a Zoom meeting for work, when you’re trying to help the kids with their homework or whatever, something like this can be really useful in keeping the puppy busy instead of them getting into trouble. It’s a fun tool to do. The other thing you could do with these muffin tins is take their regular dog kibble and you can mix it with yogurt or chicken broth or just some water and put it in the freezer. And then when you go to work in the morning, you give them this tray of their frozen food so that it as it thaws out during the morning, they have a little bit of time for it to thaw out. It keeps them busy. You don’t want to feed them more than you normally would. You want to measure the amount of fluids that you’re giving and then just pop it in the freezer.

I don’t suggest that you use the silicone trays. I want you to use the metal ones because I don’t want them to rip the silicone up and to eat it. But the metal trays, you can get a six holer, you can get a 12 holler. You can get them with little tiny holes if you have small puppies. You just have two of them, one for the freezer and one for the dishwasher so that you’ve always got one clean and ready to go for the next feeding. And this really slows down a lot of puppies, Golden retrievers, labs, the large breed dogs tend to gobble their food down really quickly and have everything gone in about 30 seconds. This will take your puppy instead of 30 seconds to eat, maybe a couple of hours so that while they’re in their crate after you leave for work in the morning, instead of them going, “I’m going to be home all day by myself,” you lock this in their crate about 15 minutes before you go to work. Don’t let them in the crate. Let them see it through the crate, and they’re going to be done standing at the crate door going, Let me. You want my breakfast. So now they start looking forward to you leaving them when you go to school or go to work instead of them going, “It’s going to be a long day all by myself.” Just kind of a fun way to psychologically turn that around.

Create a wading pool, actually a kid’s sandbox, but it’s filled with water, with little rubber duckies floating around in it. This is kind of a fun way that you can keep your puppies entertained.

Now, this is really fun. I cut honeydew melon. You can do cantaloupe, you can do watermelon. I cut it in half, scooped up the seeds and then cut it like the grapefruit and segments and put it down in front of the puppies. And they had an absolute blast eating this. Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, whatever has the rind on it. Just I just cut it, scoop out the seeds, cut it like a grapefruit around, like rim it around the edge and then into sections so that they can pick up a little piece so that they’re not all fighting over the same opening in the bowl. But any fruit or vegetable, carrots, celery, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes any of those can be broken up into small pieces. And the puppies, it’s such a great experience for them. It’s so much fun that and it’s fun to see which puppies like cauliflower and which ones are like, ewww. And it is really an enjoyment, as part of the great joy of watching puppies grow. There’s nothing more fun than watching your litter grow up and be ready to leave home. It’s a blast. I know there are some dogs that are sensitive about diet changes, so you do have to be a little bit careful if you have dogs with sensitive GI tracts. Fresh fruits and vegetables other than grapes and raisins are great choices for puppies, for treats, for some variety in their diet. Just a lot of fun.

What Are Different Surfaces for Puppies?

All right, surfaces. I have raised six dogs for Canine Companions for Independence, and I can tell you that surfaces are really important to these dogs and to any dog that’s in any kind of a real life setting. When you have them only in your kennel or only in your home, the only experience they’re going to have will be the flooring that you have. It can be carpet, it can be concrete, it can be sealed concrete, it can be, you know, whatever surface. You’re raising the puppies on linoleum, whatever. By giving them exposure to a variety of different surfaces, this can really significantly increase their level of confidence on different surfaces. During COVID, I went to the store and found 11 different styles of bath mats. I bought two of each. I bought a number of different surfaces, most of which will go in the washing machine, the slatted ones that are rigid don’t go into the washer, but all these others can. Then you just hang them outside to dry. The mesh ones allow urine to run through if they’re really young puppies. There’s a bristly one, the slatted ones, one with square holes instead of round holes and you don’t think that makes a difference to a puppy, but it actually does.

Puppies are not generalized learners. They’re very specific learners. It’s important that we give them different experiences. There’s the slatted ones and some that are more of a mesh type. There’s some rounder, big holes, some shiny ones. So again, that’s a visual difference to puppies. It’s a textural difference. Anything we can do to give our puppies a variety of experiences will improve their social skills.

Put a mirror in front of the puppies. Here are some wobble boards that they use for agility, but another opportunity to give the puppies a chance to feel different stability. Little baby agility equipment. When they grow up into big dogs, they can do agility. There’s a little baby teeter that we made and a little baby dog walk. They’re just a few inches off the ground, but they get those when they’re really young. Here’s tunnels. You can buy them for kids. But this caterpillar, I have one of those on my deck that I bought at a garage sale, Really fun for the puppies. Here are some other little things. You can see a caterpillar in the background. Here’s a xylophone that’s standing up, and then you can see there’s a rocking bed that this puppy’s laying in. Again, a variety of surfaces. Kid and baby enrichment centers. When the puppies get old enough to be aggressive and chew aggressively, you don’t want to give this to a golden retriever or lab puppy, but if you’ve got little breed puppies or they’re really young, they can play with these very safely.

For exposure, you want to give the puppies exposure to a different a variety of different surfaces, a different number of experiences. You can use walkers, you can use people with canes, you can have people with umbrellas, people with hats on, people with raincoats on. It’s a funny thing that Tim Conway used to do. He wasn’t old when he did it, but he would shuffle across the stage. And those are the things that you need to expose your puppies to so that they’re familiar with different people, different gaits, different things that happen. The better we can expose our puppies, the better off we are.

Kids’ toys. Some of these I pick up a garage sales, to be really honest, some of them I found sitting on the side of the road, when people are just going to throw them away. So they’re kind of fun. We built a puppy enrichment center out of PVC tubing and a variety of different things. I’ve got balls. I’ve got things that make clattering noises, I’ve got spoons, I’ve got all kinds of fun stuff here. Now, this is a snuffle mat. You can buy them. You can make them. There are some people who think they’re fabulous because you can hide little treats and it gives the puppies something to do. There are other people who are like, No, you know, I don’t really want my dogs to go out in the yard and start looking for things. Now, if you’re doing barn hunts and set work, maybe this is a good thing to raise your puppy. If you’re trying to do obedience, maybe that’s not what you want. So think it through as to whether that’s something suitable for behavior.

I’ve used a little baby bathtub I picked up on the side of the road. It was really fun. The puppies would lay in that little mesh netting and just have a really fun time. I didn’t put water in it. They were just hanging out in it.

How to Introduce Puppies to People

We want to make sure our puppies get exposed to a variety of different people. Young, elderly and everyone in between. When my kids were young, it was really easy. I would bring puppies home for other breeders that my kids could socialize with. It’s really important that kids get to see puppies and puppies get to see kids when they’re still really young and impressionable. It’s a very important social skill.

Puppies don’t have full immunity from vaccinations until they’re probably about 18 weeks old. If you don’t start socialization between six and seven weeks, you have social disasters. So you need to make sure the people that are socializing with are clean, that they’ve taken off their jackets, taken off their shoes, that they washed their hands, that you haven’t taken in devices that aren’t safe. But it is a tradeoff and which is worse, a puppy that isn’t socialized or a puppy that picks up an infectious disease. And I think more puppies are poorly socialized and will succumb to that than infectious diseases. But be smart about it. Don’t take them to someplace that has diarrhea on the floor. That’s not good.

How Do I Write a Puppy Sale Contract?

Here’s another opportunity that it’s very important. We are using a contract when we’re selling puppies over selling direct. And I’m just going to give you some very short pieces of advice. Number one, you should have an attorney draft the contract, an attorney in your state that’s familiar with the animal law. It may not be a dog law person. It might be a horse law person. That’s fine. But you need to have somebody that is familiar with animal law in your state.

Number two don’t just take bits and pieces of contracts from online and put them all together in a contract, because if you do that, you can end up with conflicting statements which will not serve you well if you end up in a conflict over a contract.

Number three, it’s most important that you do this when you’re selling a puppy or co-owning a puppy with family and friends. You want to keep them as friends. You want to keep them as speaking family members. Be sure that you are getting good information written down so that it is in writing and that you don’t have any misunderstandings as things evolve. Sometimes you’ll forget what you said. There will be a change in how things work. So be really careful that you’re doing this well.

Be careful with what you guarantee because there may be genetic diseases five or ten years from now when that puppy still alive that we didn’t know were genetic at the time you wrote your contract. As more and more DNA tests come to market, we’re finding more and more things are inherited. Cancer, pyometra, infectious diseases. There’s probably a genetic component to some of those so be careful what’s in your guarantee. Be sure it’s in writing and be sure you sign it. It’s sometimes easy to write a contract and forget to give a copy to each person that signed.

Additional Tips For Finding Homes for Puppies

Now, we’ve got some additional tricks here for you when it comes to finding homes for puppies. If you have puppies and puppy sales are a little slow, or you’re having a little trouble with selling them or income, you can do what some of my clients do. If you keep the puppies for an extra 2 to 4 weeks, you can charge an additional fee for crate training, for housebreaking, for leash walking, for some of those things. I also have clients that have families that do this for them. They may raise the dogs in their kennel, but they may have families that are homeschooling their children, so they’ve got kids at the house. Mom’s home with six kids, homeschooling’s a great opportunity for those families to get a little bit of income from you, having your puppies socialized and trained at their home. I have clients that are charging up to an extra thousand dollars for the service because clients really appreciate the buy your puppies that they come with those skills. If they’re working from home, working at the office, it’s a really great opportunity. Now, you want to set expectations. They’re not going to be perfectly housebroken two weeks from the time that you would have normally sold them. But it does give people a chance to come with a puppy that’s, got some initial housebreaking opportunities, and the skills that people really seem to appreciate are going to be walking on a leash, crate training and housebreaking.

Another thing you can do, if sales are slow, is the opposite of not letting people to your house. This is an opportunity that one of my clients did in the summer when we had nice weather. He had a party at his house. He sent it out on Facebook. He had several hundred people show up. He had roasters full of bratwurst, coolers full of beer. And then he had the puppies out in the lawn. He had a pen of puppies that weren’t sold. He had a pen of puppies that were sold and people that were just kind of testing the waters or maybe had already bought a dog for him, were interested in coming to see what was there. He cleared out every puppy that he had for sale that weekend in just two days. It does require people coming to your facility or your home or your kennel or whatever. But it is a great way to market with people that are familiar with you because they’re already Facebook friends and followers of yours.

If you aren’t able to meet the new puppy owners in person, using Zoom or Facetime or whatever service you want to use, is a really nice way for people to see you, see your puppies. You meet them without having a meet and greet in person. It’s a nice way for people to see that you really do have a dog for sale, because there are scams out there. It’s a really nice way for them to look at the dogs and make sure that they like what they’re going to get before they buy a plane ticket, before they make a commitment to buying a puppy. It’s a great way to place puppies.

Be sure when you’re placing the puppies, you’re sending their medical records. And there are some pet insurance companies, AKC has it, Trupanion has it, that they can get a free first day insurance trial. That’s a great way to make sure that your puppies are getting insurance, health insurance, so that later on when they have a health problem that they’re already insured.

The earlier you insure a puppy, the less likely they are to have an exemption because of a preexisting medical condition. So pet owners appreciate that 30 days of free insurance. And if they like the insurance, then they can continue paying for the policy.

How to Discourage Puppy Biting, Chewing and Mouthing

When it comes to puppy teething and how to discourage destructive habits or developing mouthiness, make sure that the puppies have appropriate things to chew on. If they’re coming over and mouthing at your hand, always have a stuffed toy in your pocket so that you can put that in their mouth instead. Then go pick up another one and stick it in your pocket so you’re always armed. Giving them appropriate-directed things to chew on are going to be your best bet. And we’ve got lots of them soft toys if their mouth is sore, harder toys when they’re a little bit more aggressive chewers. So just be well-equipped for those things. Bitter apples to keep them from chewing on the chair legs in the furniture. There’s a lot of tools that we have to give that direction.

What is the Best Way to Train a Puppy on a Leash

Leash walking is kind of interesting, and I’ve learned this from a client that they took on the collar for the puppies. They would put like several puppies up together and they would take a little short piece of a leash attached to that collar and the puppies would pull on each other’s tab collars, tab leashes, and they would learn the of having pressure put against their collars by another dog. And they tolerated that much better than you trying to walk the puppy up and down the hall up and down the sidewalk. Now, of course, you want to make sure that they’re supervised when they’re in this situation because you don’t want a puppy to get strangled by another puppy. But it’s a really cool trick for faster leash training.

How Can I Help My Puppy Adjust to a New Home?

When a puppy is transitioning to a new home, make sure that they bring a bottle for water so that you can send your own water with them. I tell new puppy owners to start with just your water you’ve sent home with them the first day or two and then start mixing it with the water they have at their home, so that they slowly transition because sometimes the water change is all it takes to throw a puppy into diarrhea and no new pet owner wants to wake up in the middle of the night with diarrhea in the crate or in the bed. It’s very unpleasant. So, yes, do that transition carefully and maybe have them bring home with them a couple of jugs of your water. If it’s a large dog, bring a couple of empty jugs and just fill them up with your own water. It’s simple.

Make sure that they already have purchased the food you’re feeding, or you send a small amount of food with them because during that transition we don’t want them to have diarrhea because of a water and food change. Then if you’re selling puppies that you may have had giardia in your facility, be sure that they know that the IDEXX test, the SNAP test for giardia can stay positive for a period of time, at least weeks, possibly months after the giardia is cleared. It can still show positive on that giardia test. If the puppy doesn’t have diarrhea and doesn’t have giardia cysts, I don’t get excited about it. If you educate the buyers about this, they’re not going to call you the week after they get the puppy and say, “You sold me a dog that has giardia. My vet said he’s sick.” Get ahead of that by educating them that giardia tests positive.

A couple of other tricks is that if you use Albon on the last three days at your house and the first three days of their new home, they are less likely to end up with diarrhea and parvovirus.

 Yes, parvo is a virus. Yes. Albon is an antibiotic, and it doesn’t treat viruses, but Albon stabilizes the bacteria in the GI tract so they’re less likely to get diarrhea, therefore less likely to pick up parvo. And fenbendazole you can do the last 3 to 5 days at your house, five days if you’re going to treat giardia so that they go out of your house, clean their GI tract is clean because it’ll get rid of roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, giardia and one kind of tapeworms. So people that are buying your puppies are leaving your house with the cleanest GI tract that they can have. You can use both Panacur and Albon at the same time.

If you have small breed puppies, be sure that they know that hypoglycemia can be a concern if the puppies don’t eat very well the first few days. You can have them pick up a bottle of Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk instead of the can. Nice handy way for them to have a little glucose on hand. If they don’t, they can use honey, they can use Karo syrup, they can use maple syrup. But some way to make sure that the puppy doesn’t have low blood sugar for missing a meal. This glucose product will also help if you have constipated puppies.

What Should a Breeder Give a New Puppy Owner?

Have a list of things that you want them to purchase before they come pick up their puppy or before the puppy is shipped to them. Make sure they’ve got their toys, their little beds, exercise pens. Crates are great and so are exercise pens. And unfortunately, other than the dog fencing, a lot of people don’t use exercise pens. They’re great, they’re portable. They’re going to their friend’s house for Thanksgiving or Christmas. They take it along and the puppy has a playpen outside or in the house. Really handy way for people to keep their puppies safe.

More products, like the microchip. Don’t forget to microchip your puppies. Make sure that they’ve got Doc Roy’s GI Synbiotics to help stabilize gut bacteria so puppies don’t have loose stool.

We have lots and lots of puppy pack products in bundles on our website, so don’t forget to check those out. Now, of course, we have the Canine Reproduction and Neonatology book, which goes through a lot of the material on getting your females pregnant, the males, the puppies, the C-sections, the raising the puppies, the neonates.

The Your Pandemic Puppy book is still really valuable, even though we’re technically no longer in the pandemic. For a new puppy owners, I make all my puppy buyers read this book before I sell them a puppy. I had one client that sent the book home with the puppy when the puppy was sold and the people bought the puppy and brought the puppy back to the breeder the day after. They got the puppy home, they read the book and they’re like, You know what? We’re not ready for this kind of a commitment. I’d much rather hear from a client the day after when you can still get that puppy back. It’s still safe, it’s still socialized. You can sell that puppy again and rehome it safely instead of six months out, when they realize that that puppy has grown up incorrectly and you have lots of behavioral and health problems as a result. So super important, have the book available to them and make sure it goes through all the new recommendations on flea and tick medications, all the new recommendations on ages to spay and neuter, the new recommendations of vaccinations. If they haven’t had a puppy in ten or 15 years, things have changed. So this will be an update for any new puppy buyer so that you can make sure that that puppy is getting the right medical care. There’s information on reducing the risk of separation anxiety in puppies. A lot of great information in there, about half on behavior, about half on medicine. So they’ve got a good foundation when they’re getting their new puppy.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

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