They call it "Puppy Love" for a reason! Who can resist their charm?! However, it happened-a rescue find, a gift or purchasing a purebred, now that you own a baby canine, your life will never be the same. Most dog owners get immense pleasure from their animals, but that is not to say the process does not take some time, work and patience to do the job right. For both the puppy and the new parent establishing a good start will set the tone for a long happy life for both the future adult dog and his owner.
1. Secure the Home Front and Don't Get Chewed Out
Two words-Puppy Proof! Puppies (8 weeks and older) and toddlers share some similarities in their ability to get into things they should not. Before the new puppy comes home, put yourself in his paws for a bit. Go low and think like a mini canine. What can the puppy see, reach, chew, climb on or over, knock off, scratch or attack? Then move it high or lock it away. Cover cords. Move unnecessary things out of sight.
As the Boy Scouts say, "Be Prepared", which will cut down on the anguish of finding chewed and destroyed family possessions and heirlooms. Puppies are chewing, shredding, munching machines. Puppies chew because they are teething. Make sure these fur babies have access to a large quantity of acceptable chewing toys, sticks, rings and doodads to occupy their energy level and desire to gnaw. With patience, puppies can be steered away from chomping on people stuff and directed to bite their own belongings.
Basic puppy supplies should include a proper-sized collar and leash with an ID tag, food and water containers, and, of course, toys. Find a good crate/carrier now for travel and as a secure zone for him. Puppies will also need a good, nutritious diet. On an emotional level, this new four-footed friend will need a lot of love and affection in his new home. He may feel insecure and crave attention since he is not familiar with this different environment. Make time to supply these needs just as you did for buying dog items and prepping your home.
2. It's Chow Time!
Puppies require food designed especially for their growing bodies. Today, pet parents can find just about anything they want from homemade and natural products to high-end premium brands. Confused? Solutions are available. Talk to people who know like your veterinarian (find one if you don't have one yet), breeder and other dog owners. Discover what worked for them and why they make the recommendations they do. The bottom line is whatever food you choose for your new fur baby, it should be healthy, loaded with nutrition and tasty. If your puppy won't eat it, it won't matter. However, the wonderful thing is with so many options, a pet parent should be able to find a workable choice.
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3. Happy, Healthy and Hearty
Get your new puppy to the veterinarian for a check-up as soon as possible once you get him. Work with the vet to ensure the experience is friendly and not fearful. A good, general exam should give the vet an idea what the puppy's health status is and reveal potential concerns. The vet can provide deworming treatments and offer guidance in starting heartworm preventative, flea elimination and other issues. Vaccinations will also begin for the mini canine at around eight weeks with distemper, measles and parainfluenza followed by boosters for these diseases and new ones like adenovirus (hepatitis) and parvovirus in the next few weeks. Sometime between 12-24 weeks a rabies shot should be administered with a booster vaccination following a few weeks later. Boosters for specific diseases and rabies are recommended in the future. Your vet will work with you to set up a schedule for your puppy. Depending on the geographical location your fur baby resides in, a veterinarian may discuss adding more vaccinations, including, and not limited to, Bordatella, Lyme disease and others. Listen carefully to your vet's discussion to give the puppy the best early start.
4. Carry On with House Training
A good carrier gives puppies a secure and safe environment in his future home. Generally, the carrier space should not be too big or too small. If you buy a larger size for the animal to grow into, find ways to make it fit his size as a baby and not be too large. Carriers make great spaces for night sleeping and naps and can also be used in the housetraining process. It is important to not use them as punishment or leave a young dog in a carrier for hours unsupervised.
Potty training needs to follow a routine with set feeding times and outside potty breaks almost immediately after eating or drinking. A declared "spot" for elimination outside is a good idea. Canines are pack animals and want to please their leader so most will figure out the job they are to do when outside. The key is to follow a schedule. Patience is critical to the process. It is not until 12 weeks or older that puppies start to gain control of their urination and bowel movements. Be prepared. Accidents will happen in the house and the carrier as the puppy learns what to do. Never punish a puppy for these mistakes since he really can't help it. Instead praise and reward his successful efforts at potty training. Find a good online source or training book if you need more help or are anxious about how to proceed in housetraining.
5. Be Head of the Puppy Training Class
A new puppy owner needs to establish who is the boss in a loving and acceptable way. Puppies need to master several key activities to live a good life. First, young canines need lots of socialization and interactions with people, places, noises, experiences and events. Next, start early when teaching basic commands like sit, come and stay. Puppy brains will be sponges ready to accept all the new knowledge you can give them. This will make for calmer and more well-behaved adult dogs and happier pet parents. Third, make sure your young charges are leash trained and will heel, follow commands and walk and run comfortably while outside. Dogs with behavior problems due to a lack of proper early instruction frustrate the animal and its owner. Worried you don't know how to do all this properly? Enlist the help of a dog training class or a trainer to work with you and the puppy. Your veterinarian can offer some pointers, cite reading recommendations or may offer classes or know the right person to help you raise the mini canine.
None of this happens overnight, but should be an on-going process for pets and owners. The great thing is this will also provide many opportunities to bond together.
6. No No to Yes Yes
Face it. Puppies thrive on activity and can best be described as cute, mini hurricanes on a sugar high! They love to explore, chew, romp and play. Baby canines chew on everything, including you, because they are teething. It is important to establish boundaries from the start about appropriate behavior and nip the bite issue in the bud. Much like a human baby and toddler, misbehaving puppies will need to be redirected from naughty and destructive moments and enticed to be involved in a productive activity like a walk or game. This training requires patience and diligence by pet parents, but it is possible to survive puppyhood and have a well-mannered adult dog emerge from it. Pet owners succeed with lots of love, attention and positive reinforcement of desired good behavior.
So take advantage of all the puppy love you can because all too soon baby canines grow up to be adult dogs. Remember the importance of starting your puppy down the right road to adulthood with the proper training, attention and love.