It’s a very exciting time!
You have your crate, bedding, toys, and food ready.
But you keep reading about puppies and baby gates, and ‘restricting access’.
What’s that all about? Your children are teenagers, and you were glad to see the back of ‘baby gates’ some years ago.
Do you really need a baby gate for your puppy?
Well, it isn’t essential, but let’s look at why a baby gate can be useful with a new puppy in the house
Restricting access for puppies
You need eyes in the back of your head with a new puppy in the home.
He can devour the TV remote and disassemble your favourite shoes in the blink of an eye, slip through a crack in the front door whilst you sign for a parcel.
And puppies much prefer to pee on carpets because they are squishy.
“Well that is what his crate is for!” you say.
“To keep him safe, and keep our stuff safe”
What about crating puppies
Crates are great, don’t get me wrong. Crates are very useful, especially for toilet training. But puppies are not caged animals, and cannot be left in a crate for hours on end during the day.
They need space to move around and explore. And they need to interact with members of their new family.
So a crate isn’t going to cut it I’m afraid. Your puppy is going to be ‘loose’ in your house for much of the day and evening.
The kids will watch him
Your kids might full intend to watch the puppy, but in reality the extreme likelihood is that they won’t. They really won’t.
They want to, and they think they will, but they won’t.
We’ll shut the doors
Unless you live alone, or with a very organised partner, the whole ‘door’ thing just won’t work. With teenagers in the house, expecting them to shut doors is a bit like expecting them to get up at six am every day and walk the dog.
It isn’t going to happen.
And if they are anything like my kids, children under fifteen are really, really bad at slipping through a door without letting the puppy through.
But isn’t restricting access mean?
This puppy is a member of your family. Isn’t it mean to keep a small puppy shut out of parts of your home?
No it isn’t.
Happy puppies are puppies that are not constantly in trouble. Not being scolded, not eating dubious household items, electrocuting themselves, or getting their tails accidentally slammed in doors.
Happy puppies have a nice place to sleep, a safe place to play not far from a door to their toilet area, enough to eat and approving humans to tell them how great they are.
New puppies may be family members, but your puppy is a family member with very poor bladder control, no knowledge of the English language, and a terrible memory. Keeping him off your carpets for a few weeks is just common sense.
New puppies have quite enough to take on board when they move in. They have a new den which does not smell right at all, new people to meet, a new garden to explore, and all manner of new rules to learn.
They do not need acres of beige carpet to pee on, stairs to climb (damaging to their joints) or to be chased around the dining room table by angry family members because they have picked up a shoe (well no-one was using it!)
Don’t baby gates look horrible?
In general baby gates are not beautiful things. But the situation is temporary, and if it really bothers you there are some nicer though more expensive options available. Including black metal gates, dark wooden gates and even bamboo gates.
Once your puppy can control his bladder to some extent, and is beginning to understand some family rules, you can gradually extend the parts of the house he has access to.
What type of gate should I buy?
A standard baby gate will suffice for a Labrador puppy. I use plain white metal baby gates. These are fairly cheap and very practical.
If you want to fit one into a space wider than a doorway you can also buy extender panels or a wider baby gate to fit the gap.
If you are adopting an older dog, or if you want to permanently restrict your dog from part of the house (and there is no reason why you should not do so if it suits you) then you may want to buy a taller baby gate.
An adult Labrador is perfectly capable of jumping a standard baby gate.
Though many will not attempt to if it has always been there.
You will probably not need your gate once your puppy is big enough and confident enough to jump it.
Bear in mind that if left unsupervised, some puppies will chew this type of gate.
There are fabric and mesh gates available too, though I don’t know how robust these are.
You can even buy a gate with it’s own little cat door like this one.
How cute is that!
Although do make sure you can lock the cat door whilst your puppy is small enough to fit through it himself!
Once you have decided on a style of gate, you need to think about how many you need, and where to put them.
Setting up the baby gates
The best location for your gates depends on the layout of your house.
I use them to keep puppies confined to an area that includes part of the hall (access to stairs is blocked) the kitchen and utility room. With access to the back garden.
At the very least, you should gate your stairs so that the puppy cannot run up and down them, or have unsupervised access to bedrooms.
When can I take them my puppy gates down?
Once your puppy has grasped the concept of toileting outdoors without you constantly having to watch him. Once he can last a couple of hours between bathroom breaks, you can start to introduce him to carpeted rooms.
Let him in there for twenty minutes or so, immediately after a successful bathroom break, and before his mealtime. This is the time he is least likely to have an accident.
Don’t rush it. Build up the amount of time he is allowed access to the new room little by little. Remember that success breeds success when it comes to house training.
Accidents are likely to be repeated because puppies like to pee where there is already the smell of pee. And it is nearly impossible to remove urine from carpets so thoroughly that a dog cannot smell it.
So take it steady. Slow and sure wins this race. And by the time he is twelve month’s old, baby gates will be a distant memory.
More information on puppies
The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.
The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.
The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.