Taking on a puppy is a huge responsibility both for you, and your family. After all, the dog may be with you for 15 years or more. Before taking on a puppy, think about the long-term commitment you are making. The following new puppy advice should help.
Is there time for a dog in your home and your life?
Good puppy care takes a lot of time and love. A puppy needs regular and adequate meals, puppy house training, regular exercise in a safe place, to be clean and comfortable, veterinary care whenever needed, training and socialisation.
Looking for your puppy
Before starting, consider these points:
- Time. Puppies need lots of time, and this continues throughout the dog’s life. Exercise, trips to the vet, grooming, training and play.
- Cost. Not just to acquire your puppy, but for vet’s bills, kennelling costs, puppy food costs and so on throughout the dog’s life.
- Breed. What sort of dog would suit your lifestyle? This is the most important (and most difficult) question to answer.
- Responsibility. Learn about dog ownership and get to know different breeds before getting one of your own
Choosing the best breed of dog for your family
Before you get a puppy, ask yourself: Do I want a crossbreed or pedigree?
If you would like a particular breed, then research carefully. You may have special considerations, such as: what is the best breed of dog for children? There are many breeds and many breeders. There are also many books and magazines devoted to providing information to prospective owners, so do your homework. Never buy a puppy from a pet shop, and avoid breeders who offer many different breeds. Reputable breeders specialise. Pedigree puppies can be expensive, usually several hundred pounds for most breeds.
See the puppy with the mother and litter-mates, and preferably in a home environment. A puppy’s early experiences are important, so look for a puppy brought up around people rather than in a kennel.
Crossbred puppies present different challenges to pedigrees. Obviously the pup’s parentage is important, so do try to see the mother.
A healthy puppy has bright eyes and a shiny coat. Avoid listless or potbellied puppies. Many pedigrees suffer from inherited conditions such as canine hip dysplasia, so make sure the parents have been tested. A reputable breeder will volunteer this information; less scrupulous ones might not.
When you have your puppy, make an appointment for a check-up with the vet as soon as possible. If there are health problems, immediately get in touch with the breeder or charity you got the puppy from.
A friendly puppy?
Puppies, as with most children, should be interested and playful. Although they sleep for long periods, do watch out for those that are sleepy all the time, or those that are overly nervous.
Feeding your puppy
Puppies should leave their mothers when around eight weeks old. Feed the diet they are used to at first, and introduce any new food gradually, but always use a food suitable for the puppy’s breed and size. Several small meals are better than fewer large ones. Always make sure fresh water is available.
Never give milk. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when feeding, and do not allow your puppy to become fat.
Obesity is a problem for dogs just as much as for humans.
Ask at your local veterinary practice for more advice on a good puppy diet.
Unless properly vaccinated, your puppy runs the risk of contracting one of several possibly fatal infectious diseases. Canine parvovirus (parvo) and distemper probably represent the most widespread threat, but it is also necessary to protect against hepatitis and leptospirosis. Some Hepatitis vaccines can also protect against a virus implicated in the “Kennel Cough” syndrome. In addition, vaccines are also available to protect against Parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica, also involved in “Kennel Cough”.
Modern vaccines are products of extensive research. These vaccines are manufactured to standards which are no less exacting than those demanded for the production of vaccines for human use. With such safe and effective vaccines readily available, it makes sense to protect your dog at the earliest opportunity.
Worming is recommended at two, five and eight weeks of age, and monthly thereafter until your puppy is six months old. The vet or nurse will be able to advise you on the best product to use. Find out more about preventing worms and fleas.
Learning to be a good dog
Socialisation is vital if your puppy is to grow up as a well-adjusted member of your family, so try to expose your puppy to as many new experiences as possible, travel by car and by bus, for example.
Your puppy needs to mix with other pets as soon as possible. Although it is unsafe to mix with strange dogs until fully vaccinated, your puppy can meet dogs you know are healthy. Friends’ and relations’ dogs are useful. Do not allow them to play rough games, and allow the older dog to be left in peace if it does not wish to play. Do not leave your puppy unattended with a strange dog or child.
White Cross Vets hosts regular Puppy Parties. These parties are fun and an excellent way of learning how to do it right. Your pup also needs to meet children, but make sure the children understand the ground rules first. Your puppy is not a toy. The children must learn not to tease or bully the pup, and the puppy must learn not to jump up or nip during play.
Taking your puppy home and house training a puppy
A day or two before collection, take a blanket to place in the puppy’s bed, then, when you take the pup home, transfer the blanket to the puppy’s new bed. Your puppy will feel at home. Also make sure you have food and water bowls, grooming equipment and plenty of toys; as play is an essential part of growing up.
How can I stop my puppy biting?
Chewing is a natural pastime for puppies, so do not discourage your pet, just ensure you let the puppy chew things you have chosen, rather than your shoes. Good quality toys such as puppy Kongs, and large hard biscuits are ideal. If the puppy does chew something inappropriate, distract your pet by arranging for something interesting to happen elsewhere and then give something else to chew. Your puppy might need to be taught to chew so, to do this, play with the chew in an enticing way until the puppy begins to chew.
Getting your new puppy to sleep
The best place for your puppy’s bed is a draught-free corner of the kitchen. Kitchens tend to be warm and to have washable floors. Remember the bed is your puppy’s refuge, so keep young children away from it, and never allow a tired puppy to be dragged out of bed to play as your pet is not a toy!
On the first few nights in your home, expect your puppy to whimper. Before you go to bed, play with your puppy to induce sleep. After the first few nights, the pup should settle quite happily. Also take your pet out to the garden to spend a penny (with plenty of praise when it happens).
If you do have problems with your puppy making noise, you should not go to them. It is difficult, but if you ignore them they will learn to settle themselves much more quickly. Giving any attention will be seen by the puppy as a reward and they will continue to make noise. It may be best to speak to your neighbours before bringing the puppy home, make them aware that for the first few nights the puppy may howl, but this should resolve quickly.
How do I toilet train my puppy?
Puppy toilet training can begin immediately. In the morning, take your puppy straight out to go to the toilet. When the pup performs, choose a word such as “busy busy”, and give lots of praise. In time, your puppy will learn to go to the toilet when you say “busy busy”. Do not be angry if your pup has toileted overnight, but do praise when there is no mess.
Always give lots of praise when your puppy goes in the right place and make sure you take your pup back there regularly throughout the day.
A collar and tag are essential and dog microchipping will be required by law in England by April 2016.
Remember to check the fit of the collar regularly as puppies grow quickly and the collar can become too tight!
Regular grooming is essential to keep your dog in good condition, and is also a good way of showing affection. A good dog dental care routine including regular tooth brushing is also important, as dental disease is common in dogs.
Do not use toothpaste for humans on your dog. Vets have canine products available.
Grooming and tooth brushing, if started young enough, will be fun for both you and your puppy.
Male dogs can be neutered at six months of age, and bitches also at six months of age. Neutering your dog prevents unwanted litters and avoids other health problems. Your vet can give you advice on this.
With correct planning and care, your puppy will give you and your family many years of pleasure and enjoyment, and will help you teach your children to be responsible.
Pet dog insurance
Just knowing that your puppy is insured can be a great comfort to owners and ensure you don’t find yourself facing a hefty bill if your puppy is injured or needs treatment.
Our Complete Wellness Plan takes care of everything you need to give your puppy the best start in life including vaccinations, a microchip, flea and wormer, and a significant discount off the cost of neutering and a quality Hills Diet.
Contact us for more information on how to look after a puppy or to book in a puppy party, health check and vaccinations.