Bringing a new puppy into the house is an exciting time for you and your family, but your puppy may be a little confused by all the changes in his life. Here is a step-by-step guide to make sure that the transition is as smooth for you as it is for the new addition to your home.
In this section you will find:
Preparing for the puppy’s arrival
When your puppy arrives
Feeding your puppy
Training your puppy
Your puppy’s health
Your veterinary surgeon
Becoming a responsible dog owner
Preparing for the puppy’s arrival
Get everything ready for your puppy before you bring him home.
You need to provide him with a suitable bed. An old box or basket raised off the floor away from drafts makes an adequate bed while your puppy is growing up. Do not spend too much at this stage on an expensive bed that he is likely to chew. The inside of the bed should be lined with an old blanket so that he can snuggle into something soft and warm.
The bed should be somewhere that is relatively quiet so that he can sleep undisturbed whenever he is tired. Many people find that a quiet corner of the kitchen or family room is ideal. You may want to partition off an area around his bed for a few days to create a little "den" where he can feel secure and be out of harm's way.
He should have his own food and water bowls. They should be of a design that allows him to eat and drink comfortably but without submerging his nose or ears. Have a supply of food ready for his arrival. Find out from the breeder what he is used to eating. It is best to maintain the same diet for a few days.
All puppies like to chew. This is normal behaviour, and it helps with the teething process. Give your puppy some toys of his own to chew to deter him from selecting other contents of your home. Toys do not need to be elaborate, but make sure they are nontoxic, large enough that they cannot be swallowed and relatively indestructible. Objects that are swallowed may become stuck in the throat, stomach or intestines and can be a serious threat to your puppy's life.
Although you will not be able to take your new puppy for walks with other dogs until he has completed his course of vaccinations, you will need a suitable collar and lead for him. The collar should be soft and well fitting. For the first few days, he need only wear it for short periods when you are there to supervise. It must not be too tight, since this is uncomfortable for the puppy, but neither should it be too loose, as it may catch on a protruding object. You may want to consider a collar with a quick-release feature. Check his collar daily and loosen it as his neck increases in size. Do not buy a choke chain for a young puppy. If used incorrectly, it could cause irreparable damage to his neck.
You also need to buy a brush and comb - the type depends on the hair type of the breed. Ask the breeder to show you how to groom your puppy properly and to recommend some suitable grooming equipment.
Finally, make sure that you have the name and address of your veterinary surgeon. If you do not have a veterinary surgeon, your breeder or friends will be able to recommend a local hospital or veterinary practice.
While he is small, keep everything in your home that might be dangerous to your puppy out of reach. He may tug or chew anything he finds including plants and electrical cords.
Check your garden to see that the fencing is secure and that there are no small holes through which your puppy could disappear. Make sure that your gate shuts securely and that your puppy will not be able to squeeze through or under it. Pools and ponds must be covered.
When your puppy arrives
It is best to acquire your new puppy at a time when you can offer him your company and undivided attention for a few days as he settles in. If you bring him home in the morning, he will have had time to settle in, feed, play and tire himself out before bedtime.
When your puppy first arrives, let him sniff around and make himself familiar with his surroundings; then introduce him to his bed.
Introducing the puppy into the household must be done with care. This is a difficult and confusing time for your puppy. Your home is a profusion of strange sights, sounds and smells that he may find exciting, but a little overwhelming. He will be missing his mother, brothers and sisters and will look to you and your family to replace the company, comfort and security that he has left behind. Ask the breeder for a piece of bedding that has been in contact with the mother and puppies so the puppy has a smell of home. Do not wash the piece of bedding for at least one week.
Choose a name for him as soon as possible. Be consistent and use it repeatedly as you talk to him - he will soon learn to respond. Young children in the family need to be taught that puppies are not toys. You will find that your puppy plays vigorously for short spells and then may retire to his bed for an hour or so. Sleep is as important for your puppy as it is for a baby, so do not disturb him when he is resting.
Do not deprive established pets of your attention or they may become jealous of the new arrival. Make the introductions gradually, on neutral territory and under constant supervision. Never leave a new puppy alone with an older cat or dog. Feed them separately until they have become friends.
For the first few nights, your puppy will probably be restless and whimper when he is left alone. Wrapping a water bottle and a ticking clock in a blanket and placing it in his bed can be very reassuring for a new pup. However, these items shouldn’t be made of rubber or plastic, or the puppy may chew them.
Above all, be kind, gentle and patient with your puppy during his introduction to your home. Do not scold or speak harshly to him in the first few days, even if he is destructive or makes a mess - in his confused state, he may only learn to fear you. This initiation period should be an enjoyable time in which you and your puppy can get to know each other and he learns to trust you, thus forming the basis for a happy life together.
Feeding your puppy
The breeder should give you a written diet sheet telling you what foods, how much and how often the puppy needs to feed. You should keep to this diet for a few days before gradually weaning him onto the food with which you have decided to continue.
Your new puppy must receive the correct diet to give him the best possible start in life. Any mistakes at this stage of his life can have serious and long-lasting effects. His diet must provide all the nutrients he needs for healthy growth and development - not only in the correct amounts but also in the correct proportions to each other.
Do not feed your puppy uncooked meat or food that may have gone bad. Commercially prepared pet food is the safest diet, delivering optimal nutritional balance for the best value.
Young puppies need relatively large amounts of food in order to meet the demands of their rapidly growing bodies and their hectic lifestyle. However, at this age, they are still small and their stomachs cannot hold much food at one time. In order that they eat enough to fulfil their needs, they must be fed several small meals each day, and their diet must provide all the right nutrients in a comparatively small volume.
Fortunately, feeding your puppy need not be as complicated as it sounds. Diets that are specially formulated for growth take all the guesswork out of rearing healthy puppies while providing a balanced and highly digestible diet that he enjoys and thrives on.
The feeding regimen for your puppy depends greatly on his age, breed and individual characteristics. Your puppy's condition is the best indicator of whether you are feeding the correct amount.
Generally, a puppy needs 15 to 20 minutes to eat at each mealtime. After 15 minutes remove any uneaten food and serve fresh food at the next meal.
Although milk is a useful source of nutrients for young dogs, it is not an essential part of the puppy's diet once he has been weaned. Many puppies and dogs cannot efficiently digest lactose, the sugar present in milk. This may cause digestive upsets when milk is given to puppies.
While bones provide chewing exercise, calcium and phosphorous, they can also be dangerous if they splinter. Rather than bones, you should feed your puppy specially designed chewing treats from reputable pet stores.
Make sure that your puppy has his own feeding and water bowls and that they are kept clean. Fresh water should always be available.
Training your puppy
Both you and your puppy will be much happier if he is well trained. His natural instinct is to submit to the discipline imposed by his pack leader - this is your role. Through training, he will learn to understand what is required of him and how to please you. Take a little time and trouble over this and you will find the companionship of an obedient dog more than repays your efforts.
House training rarely presents a problem with puppies that have been reared under proper conditions - puppies instinctively want to be clean and they are eager to please their owners. You should begin training as soon as you bring your puppy home. Any delay in establishing a proper routine can make training more difficult later on. Patience and perseverance are required.
A young puppy will want to urinate and defecate frequently because he has a small bladder and bowel. If you have an enclosed garden, try to take him out and place him on a suitable spot, whenever he indicates that he wants to relieve himself. In addition, take him to the same spot first thing in the morning, last thing at night, after every meal and whenever he has been inside for long periods. Make sure that you go with him and stay with him until he performs; then praise him lavishly.
Do not punish him when mishaps occur. This will only lead to confusion and fear. Never "rub his nose in it" if he makes a mess.
You will need to teach your puppy a few basic commands. For training to be of any benefit, he must first respond to his name and understand the meaning of the word "no."
Once your puppy has completed his vaccinations, you will be able to take him for short walks. You must keep him under control at all times when he is in a public place, and for this a lead is essential. Introduce him to his collar and lead and let him get used to wearing them before you first take him out.
Once he is used to the lead, you can begin his basic training. All members of the household should be involved in the training program. Use short words for commands, with vowels that sound clearly different. The first four essentials are heel, sit, come and down. Be clear in your commands and, above all, be consistent.
Reward him with a show of affection and by stroking him when he does well. Remember, you do not necessarily need to provide a food reward while training. Do not punish him for not obeying a command - simply withhold the positive reinforcement. Otherwise, he will associate the command with punishment.
You may later want to join an obedience class for puppies or dogs in order to extend your puppy's training. A skilled instructor can also help you to overcome any problems that have arisen. Puppy kindergarten can start as soon as your puppy is fully vaccinated. These classes are fun for you and your puppy, and they allow him to socialise with other dogs.
All dogs need daily exercise. The amount your puppy needs depends not only upon his size but also upon his breed. While he is very young, he will get enough exercise naturally, but as he grows up, he must be taken for regular walks and runs. Do not take him out with other dogs until he has completed his course of vaccinations.
Regular and varied walks are not just essential to keep your puppy fit - they also provide the opportunity for him to explore and to experience new stimuli, including meeting other dogs. This helps him to develop into a contented and well-adjusted individual and helps to prevent the development of problem behaviour.
All exercise should be supervised. Do not allow your puppy to stray, and never let him out during the day to fend for himself.
Regular grooming is essential in order to keep your dog looking and feeling his best. It is best to get your puppy used to the grooming routine at an early age in order to avoid difficulties when he is older.
Naturally, longhaired breeds require brushing much more frequently than shorthaired dogs. Always pay attention to areas that mat easily, for example, behind the ears. It is much easier to prevent these mats from forming than it is to remove them once they are there. Ask the breeder to show you the best way to groom your own puppy and which type of brush and comb is recommended for the breed.
Dogs need bathing only when they are dirty or on the advice of your veterinary surgeon. Make sure that you do this only in fine weather or you keep him indoors to avoid chills. Young puppies need extra special care. Never use a household detergent or disinfectant on your puppy. Use only products designed for use on dogs. Whenever you bathe your puppy, air and wash his bedding at the same time. This, of course, should also be done at regular intervals between baths.
While you are grooming him, you can take the opportunity to check the condition of his coat and skin to look for any abnormalities such as swellings, wounds or evidence of parasites.
You should also check that his eyes and ears are clean, clear and free from excessive discharge.
Although you are unlikely to have problems while he is still young, you should open your puppy's mouth regularly so that he becomes used to the procedure from an early age. This practice will prove useful in the future when you may need to brush his teeth or administer medication by mouth. You can familiarise yourself with the normal appearance of your puppy's mouth at the same time. The teeth should be clean and free from deposits. The gums should be a healthy pink colour. This is also a good time to teach your dog to let you brush his teeth. This can reduce plaque and bad breath.
As he ages, deposits may develop around the base of the teeth near the gums. These can be removed by your veterinary surgeon.
Your puppy's nails might also require trimming on a regular basis. Dogs that are regularly exercised on hard surfaces are less likely to need any attention because the nails wear down to about the correct length. Regularly handle your puppy's paws from an early age. That makes him better behaved later for groomers or veterinary surgeons.
Your puppy’s health
Once they have been weaned, most puppies can expect to live long, happy lives. Some breeds have a longer average life span than others do. Most dogs live between 8 and 15 years with some individuals living well beyond that. Generally speaking, small and toy breeds tend to have a longer life expectancy than large and giant dogs. The main threats to their longevity are infectious diseases and accidents. No one can avoid either entirely, but the chances of being seriously affected by illness or accident can be reduced to a very low level by taking care and a few simple precautions. A full vaccination program, with annual booster injections is the most important step in helping to prevent disease. Proper training and controlled exercise go a long way towards avoiding accidents.
Your veterinary surgeon
Your greatest ally in the prevention of health problems is your veterinary surgeon. Make sure you register with a veterinary practice as soon as you get your puppy rather than wait until an emergency arises.
Within a few days, have your puppy checked by your veterinary surgeon, who will also advise you on vaccinations, de-worming, feeding and general health care.
When you visit the veterinary surgeon with your puppy, keep him on a lead by your side or in your arms if he is small enough. Do not allow him to wander around the reception. Remember that other animals in the waiting room may be sick. If your puppy is sick, the veterinary surgeon needs to know all the details about his illness. Do not send him with a young child or a friend who cannot provide this information.
Do keep a careful watch on your puppy and if you note any sign of illness, have him treated promptly.
Be a responsible dog owner
Like all worthwhile things in life, owning a dog involves responsibilities as well as pleasures. The pleasures are obvious and the responsibilities need to be considered. Your responsibilities are not just to the dog but also to other people and the environment.
A well-trained and disciplined dog is an asset to his owner, so make sure he receives at least some basic obedience training.