What Every Puppy Parent Should Know
Puppies are adorable little creatures that make us swoon, but let's face it — raising a puppy is not without its challenges. If you're a first-time puppy parent, the road ahead can seem quite daunting. However, once those puppy-dog eyes get you, we all know there's no turning back. Read on to discover some helpful tips to get through the puppy development stage and ensure your new four-legged fur baby grows up into a happy, healthy, well-adjusted dog.
Things to Consider
Puppies are little bundles of energy that can’t help but be intensely curious about every detail of their surroundings. Truthfully, life with a pup is not that different to life with a toddler – you'll need a lot of patience as you watch over your pup to keep it out of trouble, guide it into behaving appropriately and teach it about the world.
Fortunately, puppies sleep a lot. Admittedly, they don't always sleep through the night, and this might mean interrupted sleep for you too as your pup may whine and bark to express its displeasure at being left alone. Puppies also have an insatiable desire to chew as their adult teeth come in. The couch, your favourite pair of shoes and even your hand. If you become frustrated with your fur baby, it's important to remember that this is a temporary phase that will pass. By its first birthday, it will be all grown up and will leave most puppy tendencies behind as your dog steps into adulthood.
If you just got a puppy or are soon to pick up your little bundle of barking joy, you need to be ready for the responsibility that is taking care of another life. This means ensuring that you devote time, in your busy schedule, to tend to his needs. So, if you are planning on getting a puppy, it is probably best to do so when you can take time off work, or work from home, to spend quality time with your puppy. Not only will this allow you to build a bond with your pup, but it will allow you to let it out to do its business as well as monitor behaviours that it might engage in while you're away.
Puppy-proofing Your Home
Try as you might, it's impossible to constantly supervise your energetic, curious pup, so it's important to puppy-proof your home before letting it run free. Secure electrical cords and move potentially toxic plants or substances, such as cleaning supplies and insecticides, out of sight and reach. Funny as it might sound, it's a good idea to crawl through your home to get a pup’s POV of his surroundings. Remove anything it might be tempted to chew or swallow, and close off vents, pet doors or any other openings that might allow it to disappear or get stuck. Not only will this help keep your pup safe, but it will also give you peace of mind.
You'll need to be ready to house train your pup from the moment you bring it home. If crate training is part of your plan, make sure you have the crate ready. Line it with blankets or a dog bed to make it comfortable, but make sure to allow for enough space for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Slowly introduce your pup to the crate. Leave the door open and give your pup room to explore it freely on its own. You can lure your pup into the crate by throwing in a toy or even a few pieces of food. The more comfortable going into the crate, the easier it will eventually be for you both during training.
If you're forgoing a crate, prepare a small area, such as a powder room or the corner of your kitchen or washroom, where your pup can be kept away from other pets and small children. Make sure to provide some puppy training pads to catch any accidents. A dog bed, its food and water dishes as well as a toy or two should also be included. This little area will serve as a home base, and safe space, from which your pup can slowly be introduced to the rest of your household. It will also double as a retreat for the moments it feels overwhelmed or needs a time out.
Pup Supplies You’ll Need
You'll need to stock up on numerous supplies to keep your pup happy and healthy.
Puppy Food & Nutrition
Puppies' nutrient and energy requirements differ from those of adult dogs. Look for high-quality puppy food that is specially formulated to encourage puppy development and growth. Factors like age, size, and breed need to be taken into consideration when determining the proper quantity of food. It's always recommended to consult your vet about the nutritional and feeding needs of your pup.
For some small breeds, it can be best to free feed young pups to ensure they receive adequate nutrition. Toy and small breed dogs reach physical maturity faster than larger breeds. Hence, they can then start eating adult dog food and adult-sized portions between the ages of nine and twelve months.
Larger breeds can take up to two years to reach full physical maturity. Within this time, you should stick with puppy formula. They should also be fed multiple meals each day with controlled portions. Controlled portions will help prevent complications, such as stomach bloat and buildup of excess protein or calcium, which could lead to conditions like hip dysplasia. A feeding schedule designed for your larger breed pup could look something like this:
Training and Socialising with Your Pup
You'll want to begin house training from the moment you bring your pup home. Dogs instinctively try to avoid soiling their beds and the area around them. This is why keeping your puppy confined to a small area or crate as it gets used to going outside will be key, says Dog Star Daily. Establish a potty routine but keep in mind that young pups often need to relieve themselves once every couple of hours. Until your pup has had all its vaccinations, be wary of any other animals and take it to a secluded section of the yard. When your pup successfully relieves itself outdoors, be sure to shower it with praise and reward it with its favourite treat.
When it comes to house training and establishing the rules of appropriate conduct, it's important to be patient and rely on positive reinforcement. This will help to build happy associations with good behaviour. The best response to unwanted behaviour is to ignore or to reprimand your pup with a simple but firm "no." Never hit or yell at your pup—this will only confuse it, raise its anxiety and instil fear. When your pup behaves badly try and encourage it to participate in good behaviour or something positive. For instance, if it is chewing on something it shouldn't be, guide it back to one of its toys. As time passes and when your pup comes of age, consider enrolling your puppy in an obedience class. This will not only teach your pup how to behave properly but will also help promote socialisation and in turn, equip you with the skills to properly train your dog going forward.
Proper socialisation is a crucial element when it comes to successfully raising a puppy that matures into a well-adjusted dog. Your puppy needs to be exposed to as many new people, places, experiences and situations as possible. While you should wait until it has had all its vaccinations before introducing it to the outside world, you can begin the socialising process with your pup simply by playing with our pup and allowing it to engage with new people, sights, sounds, smells, and textures.
After getting your new puppy, one of the first things to do is schedule a wellness visit to the veterinarian. If you don't already have an established vet, ask around. Your family, friends and coworkers are a good place to start for plenty of recommendations.
During its first appointment, your vet will check your puppy for any health problems or parasites. Afterwards, your vet will likely recommend a program for controlling parasites, such as fleas, ticks and heartworms. They’ll also establish a vaccination schedule and advise you on when you should bring your pup in to be neutered, which can help reduce the risk of health and behavioural problems as your pup matures.
Your vet can also answer any questions or address any concerns you have about looking after your pup, such as what type of food to feed your pup and how much it should be given. Either your vet or the veterinary assistant can also give you guidance on other aspects of puppy care such as grooming. They can even give you a quick demonstration to show you how it's done properly. While you're at the vet, it might be a good idea to schedule your puppy’s 6-month vet visit. The vet will use this visit to check on the growth and progress of your pup, while also ensuring that your pup is happy and healthy. They can even start giving you hints and tips to prepare you for adolescence, which can be a challenging time for pet parents as pups grow into sexual maturity. This is also a great time to have a candid talk about what to expect as your pup grows into adulthood.
Playtime with Your Pup
Outside of training and general health, puppies need both attention and exercise. Fortunately, this doesn't always mean walks around the block, jogging throughout the neighbourhood, or trips to the dog park. Often, playing with your pup is enough exercise to keep it healthy. It’ll also help foster a relationship and build a bond between the both of you. Games like fetch, tug-of-war and hide-and-seek are perfect when it comes to helping release the pent up energy your pup might have from being home alone all day. Make sure to take 15-30 minutes every day to play with your puppy in addition to walking it or letting it run around in your backyard.
Even dogs that don't require a trim every few weeks need to get groomed. As with most things puppy-related, the sooner you start the grooming process the easier it will be on you. Grooming includes trimmings, brushing your puppy's coat, teeth, trimming its nails and bathing. Of course, you can hire a professional groomer to wash and brush your pup’s coat or take it to the vet nail trimming, but you'll want to get your dog used to sitting still while you primp and preen. Get your pup used to the feeling of getting its fur brushed, especially dog breeds that shed a lot or are prone to matting. Bathing your puppy can be a chore in itself, so come armed with both patience and plenty of towels (and clothes you're not afraid to get wet in), and slowly introduce your puppy to shampoo and water. Over time, your pup will become more comfortable with this process and it will be easier. Finally, brushing your puppy's teeth may seem like a bit of an odd experience, but in the long run, it is necessary to protect your dog's mouth. Our routine care section has some great tips to get your puppy used to you brushing its teeth.
Raising a puppy is not an easy task, but it's a rewarding adventure that helps you develop a deep bond with your pup that will last throughout its life. A lot of patience, a fair amount of TLC and a little extra effort will transform your mischievous little pup into a fun-loving mature dog.