Getting Ready for Your APBT

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Bringing home your new APBT is very exciting. Just think of the companionship this dog will provide you and the adventures you'll have together! When you bring home your new APBT, you are bringing home a new best friend. There are a few things you need to do, however, before you bring him home so that his adjustment will be easy and you'll be prepared for anything that happens.

First you will want to make sure your house and yard are safe for him. APBTs, both puppies and adults, are insatiably curious and will get into things you may not expect. So it's important that you create a safe environment for your new dog. When you first introduce your APBT into your household, and while he's growing up and learning the rules of the house, keep the house, yard, and garage as safe as possible. The box on pages 58—59 explains how.

A Secure Yard

APBTs are not happy spending all their time outside away from people; they are family-oriented dogs. However, they can reasonably spend some time outside each day. For an APBT to do that safely, it's vital that he have adequate shelter from heat, rain, and cold, and that he be securely confined to your property. The following are several possibilities for safe outdoor confinement.

A high, well-installed chain-link fence, a solid wooden fence, or a concrete block wall are sufficient for most (but not all) APBTs. Keep a careful eye on the condition of your fence, especially around the bottom where your APBT may try to dig his way out, and watch to see if your APBT develops exceptional jumping ability.

Back Yard Fencing For Pit Bulls
Your yard may not be as secure as you think. Examine the fence carefully for gaps that a dog may wiggle through or dig under.

If your yard is not secure, or if you would like to keep your APBT away from certain areas of the yard, you may want to build a dog run. A dog run is also a good idea if your APBT is an escape artist. A high chain-link kennel run, with six inches of fence buried underground and anchored in cement, a wire roof, and a doghouse at one end, should keep your APBT where he belongs even if he grows into an Olympic-caliber jumper. Shade screen over the wire roof and down one or two sides of the run will help cool the area. Patio blocks or cement finished to a rough surface make good, easily cleaned flooring for the pen.

Outside, even a big stainless steel water bowl could easily turn into a play toy. And once the water is spilled, your dog could then get thirsty, especially if you aren't home. A big galvanized tub (five-gallon size) makes a great outside dog water bowl that even the most enthusiastic APBT would have a hard time tipping over.

Chances are that more Pit Bulls have been raised on chains than any other way, but this method of confinement should never be used as a substitute for safe fencing. If your APBT is an escape artist, confine him in a dog run; do not chain him. Dogs on chains feel vulnerable and will often bite out of frustration, especially if someone teases them and then walks within their reach.

Many pet supply stores have excellent doghouses for sale, or you can make one yourself. There are only a few requirements for building a good doghouse.

Puppy-Proofing Your Home

You can prevent much of the destruction puppies can cause and keep your new dog safe by looking at your home and yard from a dog's point of view. Get down on all fours and look around. Do you see loose electrical wires, cords dangling from the blinds, or chewy shoes on the floor? Your pup will see them too!

In the kitchen:

• Put all knives and other utensils away in drawers.

• Get a trash can with a tight-fitting lid.

• Put all household cleaners in cupboards that close securely; consider using childproof latches on the cabinet doors.

In the bathroom:

• Keep all household cleaners, medicines, vitamins, shampoos, bath products, perfumes, makeup, nail polish remover, and other personal products in cupboards that close securely; consider using childproof latches on the cabinet doors.

• Get a trash can with a tight-fitting lid.

• Don't use toilet bowl cleaners that release chemicals into the bowl every time you flush.

• Keep the toilet bowl lid down.

• Throw away potpourri and any solid air fresheners.

In the bedroom:

• Securely put away all potentially dangerous items, including medicines and medicine containers, vitamins and supplements, perfumes, and makeup.

• Put all your jewelry, barrettes, and hairpins in secure boxes.

• Pick up all socks, shoes, and other chewables.

In the rest of the house:

• Tape up or cover electrical cords; consider childproof covers for unused outlets.

• Knot or tie up any dangling cords from curtains, blinds, and the telephone.

• Securely put away all potentially dangerous items, including medicines and medicine containers, vitamins and supplements, cigarettes, cigars, pipes and pipe tobacco, pens, pencils, felt-tip markers, craft and sewing supplies, and laundry products.

• Put all houseplants out of reach.

• Move breakable items off low tables and shelves.

• Pick up all chewable items, including television and electronics remote controls, cellphones, shoes, socks, slippers and sandals, food, dishes, cups and utensils, toys, books and magazines, and anything else that can be chewed on.

In the garage:

• Store all gardening supplies and pool chemicals out of reach of the dog.

• Store all antifreeze, oil, and other car fluids securely, and clean up any spills by hosing them down for at least ten minutes.

• Put all dangerous substances on high shelves or in cupboards that close securely; consider using childproof latches on the cabinet doors.

• Sweep the floor for nails and other small, sharp items.

In the yard:

• Put the gardening tools away after each use.

• Make sure the kids put away their toys when they're finished playing.

• Keep the pool covered or otherwise restrict your pup's access to it when you're not there to supervise.

• Secure the cords on backyard lights and other appliances.

• Inspect your fence thoroughly. If there are any gaps or holes in the fence, fix them.

• Make sure you have no toxic plants in the garden.

The floor should be raised off the ground two or three inches to protect it from rain, snow, dampness, and morning dew. A removable roof, or one on hinges, will make it easier to clean the inside. The door should be to one side of the house and partitioned off, with the sleeping space on the other side away from the drafty door. To conserve body heat, the sleeping space should be cozy—just the right size for your APBT to curl up comfortably.

The very best bedding is cedar chips. They smell wonderful, stay clean and dry for a long time, and help your APBT keep cool in summer and warm in winter. If you can't find cedar bedding, wood shavings are a dependable second choice. Make the bedding deep, especially in winter.

Basic Supplies

The box on page 62 outlines most of the basics you will need for your dog. The breeder may also give you a list of supplies you'll need.

We'll discuss dog food in more detail in chapter 6, but plan on having on hand some of the food your APBT has been eating. Ask the breeder or rescue volunteer what food your APBT is used to, and then plan on feeding that for several weeks. If you want to change the food, you can do so gradually later.

You'll need to do some shopping to get your dog everything he needs—including toys.

You will want to put some identification on your APBT right away, so have a tag made up at your local pet store with your name and phone number. If you know your new dog's name, put that on it too, but don't worry if you haven't figured out his name yet. You can always have another tag made up later. Put the identification tag on a buckle collar (nylon or leather) that will remain on your dog all the time. If you're bringing home a puppy, he will need a couple of collars in gradually increased sizes as he grows up.

A leash is necessary for taking your APBT out for a walk and when he's outside of the house and yard. Do not take your APBT outside the house and yard without a leash. Not only is it illegal, but it sets him up to get in trouble and learn bad habits. It only takes one dash away for him to learn he can run away, so keep him leashed and safe.

A crate will make everythingfrom housetraining to travel easier.

The Great Crate

Dogs are descended from denning animals who spent a great deal of their time in the relative security of their lair. That's why it will take only a brief period of adjustment before your APBT feels comfortable and protected in a dog crate. Rather than being cruel, as some new dog owners imagine, dog crates have saved dogs' lives and owners' tempers.

Buy your APBT a crate that is large enough for a grown American Pit Bull Terrier to stand up and turn around in comfortably. The crate will be a tremendous help with housebreaking, because your APBT will soon learn not to soil his bed (see chapter 9 for details). It can also serve as a safe playpen, so your APBT can't damage furniture or swallow something dangerous when you are away or asleep.

Your APBT's crate should be snug, soft, and comfortable inside. A crate will serve as your puppy's new bed. The bedding should be easy to change and not dangerous if chewed or swallowed. You can put some old towels in the crate;

Puppy Essentials

You'll need to go shopping before you bring your puppy home. There are many, many adorable and tempting items at pet supply stores, but these are the basics.

• Food and water dishes. Look for bowls that are wide and low or weighted in the bottom so they will be harder to tip over. Stainless steel bowls are a good choice because they are easy to clean (plastic never gets completely clean) and almost impossible to break. Avoid bowls that place the food and water side by side in one unit—it's too easy for your dog to get his water dirty that way.

• Leash. A six-foot leather leash will be easy on your hands and very strong.

• Collar. Start with a nylon or leather buckle collar. For a perfect fit, you should be able to insert two fingers between the collar and your pup's neck. Your dog will need larger collars as he grows up.

• Crate. Choose a sturdy crate that is easy to clean and large enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lie down in.

• Nail cutters. Get a good, sharp pair that are the appropriate size for the nails you will be cutting. Your dog's breeder or veterinarian can give you some guidance here.

Grooming tools. Since your dog has a short, slick coat, grooming is easy. He will need a soft-bristled brush, a grooming glove, shampoo, and conditioner. We'll discuss how to use all this equipment in chapter 7.

• Chew toys. Dogs must chew, especially puppies. Make sure you get things that won't break or crumble off in little bits, which the dog can choke on. Very hard plastic bones are a good choice. Dogs love rawhide bones, too, but pieces of the rawhide can get caught in your dog's throat, so they should only be allowed when you are there to supervise.

• Toys. Since even baby APBTs are rough and tough, these toys need to be sturdy. Watch for sharp edges and unsafe items such as plastic eyes that can be swallowed. The best toys are heavy-duty squeaker toys (APBTs love squeakers!), the heavyweight rubber toys (like the Kong toys), and rope tug toys. All dogs will eventually destroy their toys; as each toy is torn apart, replace it with a new one.

Do not give your dog toys that could lead to bad habits. No old shoes or socks, please!

don't buy an expensive dog bed or pad for the crate, because your APBT will only chew it up. Some towels that are easy to wash are fine. Later, when your APBT is all grown up, you can buy him a nice bed and then he'll appreciate it.

Every time you put your APBT in his crate, toss a favorite toy or a special treat in the crate ahead of him. Say "crate" and, as gently as possible, put your APBT in and shut the door. Your APBT may cry the first few times he is introduced to his crate, but if you walk away and don't take him out of the crate until he settles down, he'll soon become accustomed to it.

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