How to "Quaran-train" Your Puppy
Amid all of the COVID chaos and as more folks “WFH,” perhaps a small silver lining to this complicated time is more puppies! Well, it’s been one year since we got our “loaf of integrity,” Porkchop (or ‘Pork’ for short)—and what a year it has been.
Last April, as we warmly welcomed our 9-week old to a 700-ish sq. ft. DC apartment, we knew the challenges ahead. In addition to being on the sixth floor of a building under construction, our schedules were radically different. With one of us extensively traveling or working remotely, Pork had to be trained contingent upon us being home 24/7…or not at all…
Whether you live in a suburban neighborhood or in the heart of a city, here’s hoping some of these 5 puppy training tricks help in this weird era of social distancing.
- “Crate” Expectations: We were, and still are, proponents of crate training. Our very first training goal was to establish a safe space. The crate, or “Pork’s Palace” as we often call it like lunatics, was set up in the living room and mostly covered with a blanket to create darkness and alleviate anxiety. Crating Pork helped in forming a sleep regimen around our work schedules and brought consistency to training. We also have a shark bed and a tee-pee, nice crate alternatives for Pork’s afternoon lounging or chewing on his Nylabone.
- ‘Oui Oui’ to ‘Wee Wee’: Yes, “wee-wee pads” were absolutely critical in our city-life training. Of course, if you have easy access to outdoor space, this method isn’t entirely necessary—but we attribute 100% of our quick potty training success to wee-wee pads. Both indoors and out, on the pad or off, we cheered for every successful potty break and, before we knew it, Pork quickly understood to go directly to the wee-wee pad for his business. After two months, they were no longer needed. Pro-tips: Cut the pads in half to stock up, and if you don’t look like a fool cheering for your puppy in public, you’re doing it wrong.
- It’s a Dog-Meet-Dog World: (This one might spark controversy.) We know there’s a bunch of literature that suggests keeping your puppy far away from other dogs until they’re fully vaccinated. While that rule is absolutely true for dog parks, our vet gave us the go-ahead to expose Pork to as many other dogs and humans as soon as possible. We stumbled upon this 50/100 rule—introducing puppies to at least 50 people/100 dogs within 6 months—and it really helped. Other tricks of the trade? Establish numerous walking routes, so they’re not complacent and double-down on walks (...we’re not speaking from experience or anything…), and slowly build up to those routes in your schedule. In no time at all, Pork found regular potty spots, passed familiar faces, and was dubbed “the mayor” of our apartment complex for being so social.
- Building your Puppy Portfolio: It’s important to budget appropriately for the newest member of your family. While we luckily saved on formal puppy training, we still actively sought puppy plans—bundling the first year of vet visits and vaccinations, among other discounts, at an affordable rate—and the right pet insurance. Not all puppies need insurance, sure, but ours (through Nationwide) provided a good deductible and came in handy for two random incidents this year. Other expenses worth noting in advance: Neutering, licensing, doggy daycare, dog walkers, and grooming (if applicable).
- Connections Count: Our last little nugget of advice, and perhaps our most important, is to find a dog community that’s right for you. It’s 2020, so you can bet your bottom dollar there are private social groups, pet blogs, and cyber-communities for your dog’s particular breed. Ours, for French Bulldogs in the Greater-DMV region, is featured on Facebook and Instagram, and they plan local dog meet-ups and host online forums to address questions for new owners. It’s great camaraderie, especially if, say, creating an Instagram page entirely for your pet isn’t your thing…
*Okay, last tip: Yes, believe it or not, creating a separate email account for your pup was actually quite helpful in organizing all of the vet follow-ups, digital coupons, and back-and-forths with sitters and walkers.
—Doug Umberger '13 and Dan Werbeck '10, parents of Porkchop
About the authors: Doug Umberger, graduated as senior class president from the Communication and the Arts department in 2013. Now, he’s the Associate Director of Admissions for Loyola University New Orleans and based in Washington, DC. Dan Werbeck, ’10, is a 7th Grade Science Teacher and Content Specialist for North Bethesda Middle School and serves as the Vice President for the York College Alumni Board of Directors. They live in Washington, D.C., with their French Bulldog and Spartan-in-Training, Porkchop.