Friday is (oh my lord) something like the fiftieth puppy I’ve either bred or bought or rescued. Wow. I had to look at the ceiling and take a deep breath after realizing that. Compared to more experienced breeders that’s a drop in the bucket but it’s a pretty crazy number for me to contemplate.
Does it get old? No, never. Every puppy is pure, distilled magic; every single one of them is my most favoritest puppy I’ve ever seen. I hold my breath just as tensely when the forty-ninth is sick as I did with the first, and feel just as elated or crushed when the puppy turns out or washes out.
What DOES get old is equipment and tools, and in my case all my dog stuff was lost in the fire anyway. So I am going to get a huge kick out of puppy shopping for Friday and I hope that together we can put together a rockin’ puppy checklist.
Breeders tend to accumulate a rather alarming number of crates. Considering how stupidly expensive crates are, this is confusing to all of us, but before you know it when your husband asks where the soap dispenser refill is you’re saying, “Oh, I stuck it in the spare crate near the bathroom. No, the other bathroom. No, not that spare crate, the green one. Oh, heck, yeah, you’re right; that one is full of leashes. Did you check the second blue crate in the garage under the two soft-sided crates next to the ex pen?”
I lost SIX CRATES in that fire and I still have too many. So a crate is not on the shopping list but if you don’t have one or five lying around you will definitely need one. Every breeder has a different opinion about what size or shape or material of crate is the best, and I’m not going to step on any toes deliberately. So I’ll say that for ME, I like a crate that is big enough to hold the adult dog. Even when you’re introducing a tiny puppy. Most well-bred puppies who have had a chance to get away from their own waste at the breeder’s house will hold it just fine in an adult-size crate and if they do have an accident I like them to be able to sleep somewhere that’s not on top of it.
The crates we use most often for the corgathon are plastic shipping crates, Medium or Intermediate (200 or 300, if you’re going by Vari-Kennel’s nomenclature) size. I think most of ours are Intermediates at this point. We used to have three or four XL crates (24 wide by 48 long by 36 high) from the Danes and I absolutely loved those for going to shows. I could bring one giant foldable crate for the entire crew (obviously not a good idea if your dogs don’t get along) and I bungeed a grooming table on top of it. But for housetraining, you’re going to want something just big enough for the puppy to move around and stretch but not so big that he can have a frat party in there.
2. CRATE PAD OR BED.
I have used every single type of crate pad and bed there is, I think. Danes are (typically) very dedicated chewers as babies – and by babies I mean until they’re two years old – so I went through dozens of pads and blankets. The corgis are a LOT easier. Here’s what I’ve learned:
– Kuranda or PVC “hammock” style beds are fantastic if you have a crate that is tall enough to fit them, or if you want a bed for the dog that is not inside the crate. If you go to a typical breeder’s house to look at a litter of puppies, she’s usually got a bunch of new or newish blankets and pads or twin-size comforters in with them, and one or two super-old and beat-up hammock-style beds. The reason those beds look so bad is that they’ve actually lasted; those blankets that they’re lying on are going to be a casualty of the first weekend they’re in crates of their own.
– Be VERY careful with anything that is stuffed, until you are absotively sure that your puppy is not a bed-chewer. Most of the time ingested polyfill is not going to be any big deal; it just comes out the back end in a comical fashion. But every once in a while things get scary and you’re looking at surgery. It’s really best to avoid stuffing until you know your puppy.
– I’ve used FELTED wool blankets with great success (get a big blanket at Goodwill and wash repeatedly on hot until it shrinks and thickens) and I’ve also had success with beds that are two-sided sherpa (fake sheepskin). For some reason it’s a lot harder for puppies to get a hole started in fake sheepskin and they don’t tend to go digging for a seam in the same way that they do for the thinner fabrics. A genius old breeder told me to spray the four sides of any bed with aerosol antiperspirant, because it’s safe but puppies hate the taste. So far that’s worked for me every time, as long as it’s fake sheepskin. Anything made of cotton or poly and they just find those seams irresistible. My favorite beds of this type are made by White Dog Bone Company. I only see sheepy/fur combinations on its site, but I’ve bought double-sheep pads from them at shows.
3. TWO THOUSAND LEASHES.
I have a rather famous and marked attachment to leashes. I seem to need one for every nuance of every dog-related situation. Beach? Begging for a Mendota-style slip lead, easy on the hands and doesn’t collect sand (and washable!). Hiking? Ruff Wear Knot-A-Leash, with the carabiner locked so there’s no way it can come off the collar. Walking through town is perfect for one of the fancy fleece tug leads, preferably with some fake fur and bling. People see a dog on a lead like that and feel that the dog is approachable and fun, so it gets the crew lots of pets and attention.
If you are not a lead addict like I am, you basically need two leashes: One short and one long. The short one is for teaching the puppy to walk on leash and to control the puppy in crowds or near traffic, and the long one is for the long walks and hikes that you’ll be taking with your puppy.
When you buy the short leash, buy a cheap nylon webbing or round poly rope one. It’s going to get chewed and you’re going to modify it. So don’t get a leather one with “BAYVIEW’S POOPSIE MOOPSIE” engraved on it with gold letters.
OK, DO get that leash (wow, awesome!) but don’t use it for every day.
Next, modify it as follows:
Put the puppy right next to you, or (if you don’t have the puppy yet) dangle the lead so the clip is where the puppy’s neck will be, and hold the leash like a briefcase, right at your side. Depending on how big your puppy is, somewhere between a few inches and a couple of feet of leash will be hanging down from your hand. Now tie either a bit fat knot or (if your leash is long enough) a loop right at that point.
Now either put the puppy a couple of feet in front of you or have a gullible volunteer hold the leash in that position. Again, tie a knot or a loop in the leash at that point.
You should be left with a leash with three “stops.” The first one, closest to the collar, is where you’ll hold the leash when you are in traffic or are teaching the puppy how to walk on leash beside you politely.
The second (middle) one is where you’ll hold the leash on a regular basis. The puppy can range a couple of feet but no more.
The end loop (which is the only one that the leash manufacturers typically give you, and the only one that many people use, which means their puppies are running around out of control at the end of a useless lead) is ONLY FOR SNIFFING AND PEEING. When you arrive at your destination or your designated pee spot, you release the puppy from her heel or walk position and you let her out to the end of the lead. But she’s not just out there ranging around; as soon as you need to bring her back in to a position of better control, you just reach forward and grab that middle knot or loop.
If you are like me, you will get so addicted to having the knots and the loops in the lead that you’ll probably end up spending fifty bucks on a lovely custom lead with loops woven in at just the right spots, and then leave it hanging off the dining room table and your dog (I’m not saying who, but she’s MERLE and LYING AT THE END OF THE COUCH RIGHT NOW) will drag it down and chew it into seventy-leven tiny little pieces and the seventy-twelfth will be hanging out of her butt the next morning. And then you’ll have to go buy a $5 leash and tie knots into it again.
Your long lead can be as low-rent as a piece of soft poly rope from Home Depot with one end tied around a clip or as serious as a professional check cord. Doesn’t matter. The point is that any time you are planning on going on a hike or a long woods walk or into the fields or even (if your puppy is inexperienced) into the dog park, you need a way to let the puppy feel that she’s free and unfettered but actually keep her within your control and within a safe distance. You can use one that is twenty or thirty feet; that’s a common length. This is a leash you keep in your car, or in a backpack, because it won’t be used often but when you need it there’s absolutely nothing else you can replace it with.
NEXT! Collars and toys.