Puppy season guest post: 8 Tips for Puppy Proofing your Home

We promised ourselves that we would take a break until the new year, and we’re holding to it. Today we bring you a timely guest post from Bernice Spradlin, a talented young writer who contacted us a few weeks back with a great holiday blog idea.

This post is for all those families who bring home a brand new puppy for Christmas or Hannukah. Enjoy!

Helpful advice for keeping dog dangers at a paw’s length

Your new puppy is like a baby. Well, essentially that’s what he or she is—a baby dog. And when I brought my new puppy home, I learned that babies make messes, chew on stuff, and get into things and areas that they shouldn’t. When I inquired with a puppy trainer, she told me that this is what puppies do until they are trained to know right from wrong—just like children.

I decided to teach my new dog a few new tricks, so I enrolled him in puppy class.  As he matured, he learned to stay off of my leather furniture, chew on his or her toys only, and go to the bathroom outside and not on my daughter’s bedroom carpet. I have this advice for new puppy owners: understand that training a new puppy will take time and patience.

However in the meantime, as your puppy grows and learns, here are eight helpful tips that I learned from my vet, my puppy trainer, and other friends with puppies, for puppy proofing my home:

1. Pick up anything chewable:

Like babies, your new puppy will be a chewing machine. For instance, my puppy, Ruddy, didn’t mean to ruin my new shoes or embarrass me by eating your garbage whenever I had my parents over for dinner. He chewed to ease teething pain and as a natural habit to keep his teeth strong. Unfortunately, you can’t give a pup cheap Canadian drugs like baby Tylenol as you can a baby. I was told by my vet to try freezing one of Ruddy’s chew toys or massaging his gums to relieve teething pain. Instead of leaving my shoes and clothes out for pup to chew, I investes in some chew toys and garbage cans with air tight lids to keep items I didn’t want puppy to chew at paw’s length.

2. Protect pup from electrical cords:

You bet that if you have excessive television or speaker wires and cords loose around your home, puppy is going to chew them. I was so afraid that Ruddy would cause a fire or hurt himself, so I invested in some plastic zip ties and tucked wires away underneath trim. This will keep puppy from electric shock and you from replacing your expensive audio-visual system.

3. Put prescriptions and other household drugs out of reach:

Medicines should be kept in cabinets. Never doubt the power of puppy’s chew against one of those little plastic prescription bottles. At puppy age, Ruddy could chew through a screen door so a plastic lid would have been no problem at all.

4. Tuck up cords to blinds and curtains:

Those tempting dangling cords to window blinds and curtains can be fatal to your pup if they become entangled or strangled. I was told to tuck up all cords to window coverings by tying knots to keep the cords high up and out of jump range.

5. Lock away hazardous chemicals:

Windshield washer fluid, cleaning products, gasoline, bleach—all can be fatal to your pet if ingested. Your best bet is to lock them away in your garage, shed or basement, far away from nosy puppy. Ruddy has never gotten a whiff of any of these because I keep them in my locked shed.

6. Keep dog food in plastic containers:

Puppies are gluttonous beasts! If left with a full bag of Puppy Chow, Ruddy would eat until he got sick. However, if you store the dog food in large plastic, airtight containers, you will save money on carpet cleaner and dog food.

7. Ban toxic plants from your home:

Certain plants, such as aloe vera, lilies, baby’s breath, poinsettias, and daffodils are toxic if pets ingest them. Your puppy’s immune system is still developing, so keeping them away from toxic substances is essential. I used to just tell friends and family not to buy me plants or flowers because Ruddy will try to eat them. He doesn’t bother with them now that he’s a trained, responsible adult pooch.

8. Pass on the dark chocolate:

Chocolate, especially the rich dark variety, is toxic for dogs. Not only that, but a curious puppy will eat the chocolate and wrapper together, which can get caught in their digestive tract and cause a whole slew of health concerns. I did my pup a favor and didn’t dare tempt fate by keeping candy dishes tucked away in cupboards and off counters. This way, Ruddy couldn’t get to them even if he tried.


Bernice Spradlin is an avid hiker and runner. She works at a gym in Brooklyn, New York, where she gets great inspiration for her freelance health-related articles and blogs. In her off time, you can often find Bernice jogging the East River path along the waterfront and enjoying the cool breeze. Bernice is currently looking for freelance writing work, and can be contacted at BerniceG.Spradlin@gmail.com

Holiday slumber

We hope everybody is having a peaceful, quiet week full of Hannukah miracles, Christmas  angels, and peace on earth.

Dora will be spending this week inventing new ways to eat her santa hat, and wishes you days full of joy, too.

We’ll be taking it slow this week — giving our shutter finger and our typing fingers a little rest. See you in the new year!

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.

Chix-a-Lot Friday: Pitte Posse Secret Santa

Mama did a little Christmas Jingle when Our Waldo Bungie invited us to participate in a bit of secret santa fun with some of our other cool dog friends and their blogger people — Twenty-Six To Life, Two Pitties in the City, Pittieful Love, That Touch of Pit, and Two Grad Students and a Pittie.

So we thought and thought and thought, and mama designed and designed, and then send off our special little gift to Nemo, Melanie, and Heidi at Twenty-Six To Life. We hope they like our creation! Pee-S, Dora the Explorer insisted that we use her colors, Raspberry Pink and Dora Gray, on your present.

And then like magic, we got the most delicious smelling package on the front step after we got back from our evening walk yesterday. It smelled like pure, pumpkiny heaven!

Well wouldn’t you know, it was an adorable, thoughtful, wonderful, delicious secret santa gift in the mail last night — a package from our mama’s home state of Maryland, from my good guy pal handsome Knox at Pittieful Love!

The humans got a tin of sweet, savory, spicy candied pecans (they say it taste great with that fizzy stuff that comes out of a bottle), and me and my Dora got a great big tin full of pumpkin spice dog treats, made by handsome Mister Knox himself. Knox was even nice enough to throw in some dog bone cookie cutters and his very own recipe for the pumpkin treats, so we can make them ourselves. Between you and me I’m not sure how Knox can bake without any supposable thumbs. And mama put the recipes and cookie cutters away in a high cabinet right away so that I didn’t get any baking ideas. But still — that was pretty thoughtful of Knox, huh?

Mama’s  favorite part was the sweet card with a photo of Knox and his people, and my favorite part was the doggie santa hat! Obviously Knox remembered how much Dora and I love getting dressed up and having our photo taken. We are the hammiest of hams, after all!

Jess and Knox, we want you to know that the pumpkin treats are to die for — we slobbered all over in anticipation, and then loved them ever-so-much. But next time you send treats, please include specific instructions to mama that they are for snacking ONLY, and not for practicing our “leave it” command. Sheesh!

Thanks for the fun gift exchange, everybuddy!

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.

In from the cold

While we’ve been busy wrapping ourselves in holiday cheer, Dora has been busy too — collecting admirers. Her toothy grin and her wiggly butt have made many an Austinite’s day, but when we got an email from a (then) complete stranger in Canada, asking for permission to send Dora a gift, our jaws hit the ground. A gift for our little foster dog from clear across the continent? You don’t say!

A week later, we felt like old friends with Dora’s Canadian angel Karen, and Dora was looking fly in two beautiful new outfits — both hooded and in raspberry pink, of course. We love the idea of somebody who truly understands what a chilling winter feels like sending posh winter gear to a foster dog who has just come in from the cold.

Last winter, Dora the Explorer was huddled up with her doggie brothers and sisters outside in a yard. This year, her winter is soft, warm, and raspberry pink. Thanks to Love-A-Bull, Dora’s winters will never be cold again. And thanks to Karen, Dora’s winters will look fabulous from here on out.

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.


Celebrating the holidays with 200 Bully Sticks

Ever wondered what 200 dehydrated cow penises looks like? Wonder no further.

Ever wondered how much joy they can bring to a shelter full of dogs, on a dark December night? Here’s a picture worth a thousand words:

When three boxes of bully sticks arrived in the mail from our friend Handsome Dan‘s holiday bully stick drive, adoptable Dora the Explorer and I couldn’t wait to get our hands on them. We opened the packages, counted the sticks, and sniffed them with enthusiasm. Well, Dora sniffed them while I wrinkled my nose.

215 bully sticks! We couldn’t believe it. Handsome Dan and his mama, being the generous beauties that they are, organized a bully stick drive for the Providence, RI shelter where they do most of their work, on Handsome Dan’s facebook page. They had hoped to receive enough to offer one to each dog at two Providence shelters — about 100 sticks. Instead, they received about 600 — a Christmas miracle! In the end, they were able to supply bully sticks to the homeless dogs of Rhode Island, but also the dogs of Animal Farm Foundation in New York, the shelter dogs of Portland, Maine, all the dogs at the Philly SPCA, and the 200+ dogs at Austin’s new state-of-the-art facility, the Austin Animal Center.

So on my birthday, I set off with a pal from Love-a-Bull to deliver yummy snacks to Austin’s homeless dogs. After all, nothing says “happy birthday” to a vegetarian like handling 200 dehydrated cow parts, right?

The new facility is beautiful, sparkling, and meticulously planned. Although it houses more than 200 dogs — the largest shelter I’ve been to — there is no chaos, no excessive noise, and no mess. Dogs all have climate-controlled indoor-outdoor runs, and cats have cozy, private indoor nests. When we were there last night — a random Tuesday just before Christmas — there were dozens of volunteers walking around, socializing the dogs.

Still, the dogs were thrilled to receive a special holiday treat from Handsome Dan, and most of them took to their chewy task with great seriousness and enthusiasm. Here are a few photos of the delivery.

If you have the pre-holiday blues and are looking for a little pick-me-up, consider bringing some treats to the homeless dogs at your own municipal shelter. Be brave — handing out a yummy snack to dogs waiting for homes will be so much more fun than you think.

Happy holidays, little ones of the Austin Animal Center!

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.

Concentration before training

We’ve been spoiled with our last few foster dogs, who were very mellow in temperament and had no trouble at all focusing. Dora the Explorer also has a great temperament, but she has a bit more confidence and determined curiosity about the world. This makes her an absolute joy to be around, but also makes her rather excitable in the fascinating great outdoors.

We normally work on loose leash walking as one of our first tasks as foster dog parents. Dora isn’t a terrible leash walker, but when she sees something exciting — be it a cat, a squirrel, or a leaf, rock, stump, or paper bag that looks like a cat or a squirrel, she’s at the end of her leash. Getting her attention back sometimes takes a minute.

Anybody who has worked with a distractable dog knows that if you don’t have a dog’s attention, you’re not going to have much luck teaching it a new skill. So after a few futile attempts at leash walking lessons, we realized we had to bring it all the way back to basics: eye contact, basic attention, and impulse control.

Before we had any hope of getting Dora to pay attention to us outside, we had to teach her how to pay attention inside. Making eye contact when your name is called may seem intuitive to humans, but it is not at all intuitive to dogs. They have to learn it. Once they have mastered eye contact in a distraction-free setting, distractions can be introduced, one after another. These distractions can be as simple as background noise from an open window, another family member walking around, or a ball rolling across the room. As the dog learns to focus among these, the distractions can get more challenging: treats thrown on the floor, a bird walking around in the yard outside, etc. Gradually the lessons can move onto the driveway, then onto the sidewalk, and finally, you may find yourself with a dog who will make eye contact when called even amidst the holy grail of all distractions: a chicken bone in the street or a cat darting under a car.

Here’s a very basic video of the most primary of these steps. We are feeling pretty good about moving our own dog and hotdog show out into the front yard in another few days. Check out this girl’s eye contact. Pretty rockin’, right?

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.

Dora in the Explorer: a weekend getaway

Anybody wondering if adoptable Dora the Explorer is a “take me anywhere” kind of gal can now sleep well at night: she sure is. When an opportunity for a quick weekend visit to Galveston arose, everybody piled in the Explorer and headed off on a 3 1/2 hour drive.

Dora is a fantastic car dog. She hopped eagerly into her bed as soon as we opened the hatchback, and didn’t move or make a peep until we arrived in Galveston. The only way we knew for sure she was still back there was by climbing over the back seat and peering among the suitcases — or listening for soft snores now and again, rising from our sweet foster girl’s little nest.

Galveston weekends are always full of adventures. Upon rising to greet a beautiful sunny coastal day, the whole family went out for a nice long walk around town, and took the dogs along.

Chick already considers his grandparents’ home in Galveston to be his own vacation home, but Dora had never been to Galveston before. She loved soaking up the sun, sniffing the interesting marine air, digging enthusiastically in the sand, and generally checking everything out.

On one of our long neighborhood walks, Dora and Chick made a friend — a sweet little six-year-old boy who took a serious interest in petting and hugging both dogs. Since Dora is totally awesome with kids whereas Sir Chick does not like hugs from strangers, we encouraged their new friend to focus most of his attention and affection on Dora.

He took us on a guided tour of the park across from his house, carefully pointing out all of the botanical hazards such as thorny bushes and poisonous berries. Then he proudly posed for some photos with the dogs, insisting on holding the leashes himself. However, Dora and Chick were less interested in the photos than they were in the curious-smelling bush just off to their right.

The weekendful of long walks in an exciting new place left Dora very happy:

And very snoozy:

She napped like a champ with the rest of the family in the afternoons between activities.

Dora and Chick even conspired to audition as seeing-eye dogs during their Galveston escapades, and insisted that foster dad wear some giant sunglasses to help with the seeing-eye dog simulation. They enjoyed the exercise, but later agreed that they were not destined to be working dogs.

After all, don’t they look so much better as dogs of leisure, drinking pina coladas and sunning themselves on the porch all afternoon with their grand fosterparents?

For more info on adopting Dora the Explorer, click here or contact us at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com.

%d bloggers like this: