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Getting Ready for Your First Sporting Breed Puppy

Featuring Todd and Benita Otterness

Bringing home a sporting breed puppy is exciting but may also feel overwhelming. Here are some tips to help prepare owners for their first sporting breed.

Gordon setter puppy resting in grass

Raising a puppy is not always easy. You’ll have stressful moments, sleep deprived nights, and until pups are house broken you’ll clean up a lot of accidents. The upside far outweighs stress and sleep deprivation for pups learn quickly. With the right training, the bond with your bird dog or retriever can grow stronger throughout the puppy stage.

Training begins the moment you bring him home. A few pieces of essential gear will help the process go smoothly.

Crate Training

As natural den animals, dogs look at crates or kennels as their safe space to call home. Before bringing home your new puppy, Benita Otterness, co-owner of Thunderstruck Kennels located in Alexandria, Minnesota, recommends purchasing a crate for your pup.

“You don’t want a kennel that is too small, but also not too big,” says Otterness. “The bigger the area, the more likely he is to use the bathroom in his crate. You want something he can move in and one that will fit him as he grows.”

Crates come in all shapes and sizes. Wire versions often come with a moveable divider that you can adjust as your puppy grows. This adjustability allows for the purchase of one kennel that will last your pup throughout his entire life.

Introduce your puppy to his crate by encouraging him to enter it. When he does, reward him with kind words and a treat. Positive reinforcement helps puppies easily take to their crates. Reward quiet pups and reassure nervous pups. “It’s not a good idea to let a whining pup out of the crate,” says Otterness. “That rewards the dog for whining. Instead, let him out once he’s settled down.”

Puppy’s Schedule

Otterness encourages new puppy owners to get pups on their schedule, rather than allowing the puppy to set the timetable. Instead of waking up in the early hours of the morning to let the puppy relieve himself, Otterness recommends leaving them in the crate overnight. “Feed your pup around 5:30 in the evening and limit his water consumption during the last couple of hours before bedtime,” explains Otterness. “That way he has ample time to use the bathroom and not have to go during the night.”

Feeding and Watering

Check your dog food bag for feeding guidelines based on the formula purchased and feed accordingly. Have the entire household trade off feeding the pup so he becomes socialized to different people. It’s important that your pup isn’t protective of his food as that possessive behavior can lead to problems later on that are hard to fix.”

Feeding time can also be used as a means to teach the sit and release command. “We encourage new puppy owners to use feeding to teach a puppy to sit away from his dish,” says Otterness. “Then you can release your pup by name, setting you up for retrieving drills down the road.”

Water is vital to your young pup, so be sure to regularly offer him fresh water. Of course, it is easier to house train your puppy if you control his water intake. Otterness advises not leaving a water dish out at all times, but rather offer it to your puppy numerous times a day.

Other Training Essentials

A long, corded lead should be on your gear list. Long leads enable owners to maintain control of a puppy when airing him out. The long lead lets the puppy explore away from you, but ensures you have control for safety reasons.

Make sure to have a variety of size appropriate toys at home to keep your pup busy. Otterness recommends toys of varying textures, sounds, and floppiness. “The variety will help your pup get used to new noises and other things in their brand-new world,” says Otterness. “We use a lot of squeak and flailing toys, and even small paint rollers from the hardware store. The paint rollers serve as introductory bumpers that are easy for them to pick up.”

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