Now that the stress of the holiday season is winding down, and the kids are back to school, this would be a great time to take a look at the puppy you added to your family this season
and make a plan to raise a housetrained, well-socialized pup that you will be proud to take to all the outdoor activities that await us in the spring. I promise, spring will come!
House training in the winter Wow! You are a brave one. Bringing a puppy into your family in the winter brings with it its own set of obstacles. How do you housetrain a puppy when its -10 degrees, or when your yard is a winter wonderland full of snow?
The answer; you just do! Skipping housetraining because of the weather and the time of year is going to set you up for a lot of frustration. Now while there is nothing wrong with wanting to bring a new puppy into your home in the winter, you just have to be aware of its challenges.
Take the time to stop and smell the roses. Seriously? Where are the roses? Great question.
You should probably have an idea of this before you begin housetraining. One of the first, and biggest mistakes people make is simply bringing their puppy right outside their door and letting them eliminate in the closest, most convenient area. The problem is, your little canine superstar is going to start to associate this area with its bathroom. A dream come true when a puppy learns where to ‘go’. But a nightmare when come spring you realize that your desire to stay close to the house during the frigid winter weather has created a situation in which your puppy thinks his or her bathroom is the area right near the door which also just happens to be your prize rose garden. As miserable as it sounds, take the time now to shovel/plow/
trudge your way to the areas in your yard that you would like your puppy to learn to eliminate in for his or her lifetime so that in the spring everything will be coming up roses.
But I don’t have a thing to wear. The topic of dogs wearing clothing and paw-protection can be as divisive as a political election. Everyone has their opinion on it. Truth be told, teaching a puppy to be able to be handled in a manner that would allow one to put a coat on it, or booties on its paws, is an important life lesson. Within reason, and done right, we really should be able to handle our dogs all over their bodies and with little notice. If you are reading this and live with a puppy or dog that does not allow you to touch them in certain areas, or only allows it when your perceive them to “feel like it” please consider reaching out to a canine behavior specialist or enrolling in a positive reinforcement obedience class. Proper and safe handling is critical to a happy relationship with your canine companion. All the fancy, long down-stays in the world don’t mean much if you have a dog you cannot safely handle and examine.
But back to doggie clothing. Lots of it on the market. Some super cute stuff. Your favorite
color, your favorite sports team, your favorite designer even. All the dog clothing you could
want is available some way and somewhere. But talking in terms of necessity you have to
know the breed/s of puppy you have, and know its limitations. Truth be told their paws are
what are going to matter the most. There are products that you can apply directly to their
paw pads before you venture out (and are safe to taste because you know a puppy is
going to lick some of it off and you know eventually this will somehow also make it into your mouth). This will help protect their delicate paws from the cold and the elements.
Want to know the good news? Yes, there is some…movement encourages ‘movement’.
Puppies and dogs don’t typically eliminate when we walk them outside and stand perfectly still with them. I know why we do this. We are cold and we are stubborn. We want to spend the least amount of time out in the cold as possible and so standing still, somewhere within a short distance from the door (but remember, stay out of the rose garden) seems like just the right thing to do. However, dogs need movement in order to become, let’s just say, inspired, to eliminate. The good news (I told you there was some) is that the act of moving around not only helps the puppy eliminate quicker (yay! time to go back inside) but the moving around does help prevent their paws from freezing to the ground, and the moving also helps keep
their circulation going. So if you didn’t want to put a hooded onesie on your puppy, you may not have to. Another simple solution which will save money is that children’s t-shirts make really good dog shirts. What’s better than being able to re-use something, and if it does get tattered and torn you haven’t spent big bucks on it in the first place. A win-win.
Socialization. Simply said, you have to get out of the house. I cannot imagine a better feeling than being curled up on the couch with your canine family member. Those long, depressing winter days are just that much happier when you have a puppy or dog. But when you bring a puppy into your home during the winter, your desire to snuggle and stay warm can result in an adolescent dog in the spring that goes bonkers when all the strange humans and other
things start coming out of their houses. Admit it, most of us dog owners very rarely see anyone else outside when we are walking around our yards (remember, don’t stand still)
with our puppies working on their housetraining. It’s always a bit of a shock to us even, when folks start venturing out of their homes come warmer weather. Imagine what it must be
like for a puppy, to have spent his/her critical learning period on your lap in front of the T.V. only to one day go outside to eliminate (congratulations on the housetraining by the way)
and suddenly see all these aliens wandering about. And some of the really small aliens are on things that roll, and they all want one thing, to touch your puppy. That’s the stuff that therapy sessions are made of for us humans. Please don’t isolate your puppy all winter long only to have him/her have a mental breakdown come spring. As much as it pains us, we need to regularly leave the warmth and comfort of our homes, and go places this winter with our puppies. Obedience classes are the first and foremost easiest thing to do. Even if you don’t have dreams of having a dog that can drop on a dime, these classes are hot-spots for socialization. And for humans, they are what we call pet owner therapy sessions. How nice to realize there are others out there just like you! Your puppy may have dug a hole in the couch or chewed up your new shoes, but someone else’s puppy in the class did something much worse. I guarantee it!
Other options; just go visiting people. Honestly while you have a puppy, you are at your most popular. And even folks who aren’t necessarily dog people tend to tolerate puppies. So go visit people, bring your pup, and let others help do the work of socializing. Some stores allow you to bring your dogs in. Aside from just the popular pet supply stores, others do as well. Now I’m not suggesting we all do anything illegal, but again, you have a puppy. You have a window of time where you can essentially do nothing wrong. I am going to suggest that a store that may not normally open its arms to people bringing their dogs in is going to have one clerk or manager who is going to see you walking in with your puppy, and likely not say a word.
Puppies are power, people! Use the puppy charm while you have it, and the benefit of good socialization will not only reward you come spring but will put you on the right path for raising a truly good canine citizen.Congratulations on your new puppy. May you have many, many happy & healthy years together.
If you are interested in finding an obedience class and trainer, consider checking in with your veterinarian’s office. Clients will often share their experiences, both good and bad, and your veterinary hospital should be able to give you some great choices based on word of mouth!