We have always been careful about the health of our puppies. With some of our first litters, we brought them outside to a private and fenced area, where our adult dogs were not permitted. It seemed like a great idea to facilitate early potty training, to help the puppies learn to preferentially eliminate on a grass surface and to try to facilitate some sort of potty schedule. We knew from researching common puppy GI parasites like giardia and coccidia that these things are pretty much always in the environment, but we hoped that if the puppies were not sharing an outdoor area with the big dogs, they would be safe from exposure. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way that this wasn’t true. Our puppies in those couple of litters ended up having to endure treatment for giardia, some taking longer than others to clear up. And while antibiotics and other medications have their place in a puppy wellness program, we’ve never liked to needlessly expose our puppies to them, since they not only wipe out the “bad guys,” but the “good guys,” too, destroying healthy gut flora in a developing puppy’s GI system. And since a puppy’s immune system is already not fully developed, we were concerned about this treatment and wanted to keep our puppies as healthy as possible.
We decided then and there that, since our puppies may not be able to ward off giardia and coccidia like an adult dog can, we would keep our puppies inside for the entire 8 weeks that they would be with us. And while Mama might still track something in on her paws, the chances of infection would be much, much less than if the puppies were going outside regularly. Our puppies have huge, gated puppy play areas in our dedicated puppy room, with steps and climbing boxes and tons of toys–and each other!–so there isn’t any worry of them not being physically well-developed and healthy. And we get them used to using an astro-turf potty system, which approximates grass closely enough that most people say our puppies go home “90% potty trained.” All in all, we’ve been pleased with how our puppy program has evolved and how we are able to send our puppies home that much healthier. However, there’s just something about “the great outdoors,” and a small sense that our puppies are missing something in being entirely “home-raised.”
So you can imagine our excitement in converting a small outdoor area of our home into a brand new “puppy playground!” It is conveniently accessible from our puppy room and has had almost no exposure to our adult dogs. Our adult dogs now will not be permitted in the outdoor puppy area. We put down a landscape barrier and brought in some washed, rounded stone that we can easily hose off or bleach as needed. The puppies have an adorable climber, a play tunnel, and some hanging toys, plus a sleeping area and a large astroturf mat (which is what they get used to going potty on indoors). Our first group to use it is still only 4 weeks old, but by next week they’ll lose their puppy “wobble” and will really be able to enjoy the new space. Hope you enjoy watching the video as much as we enjoy seeing our puppies in their new playground!