Well, now you’ve done it! You have a brand new puppy and your life will never be the same! Are you losing sleep because you’re not quite sure what you are doing, what you need, and what you’ve gotten yourself into? Fear not, here are some helpful tips for the first time puppy owner:
If you haven’t already purchased it, invest in good quality equipment for your pup. It will pay off in the end by lasting a lifetime. Ceramic or stainless steel food and water bowls, a good leather leash, and a nice soft leather collar are all worth the little extra expense. Extendable leashes can be hazardous and offer little control when safety is paramount, so it’s best to avoid them.
Invest in a good book on positive reinforcement training. Here is a great website with tons of choices. Your puppy is ready to start learning NOW! Keep it fun and happy, and most of all positive, and you will see great results.
Invest in a crate or kennel. It’s not cruel. It can serve many functions within your household such as assisting with potty training or serving as a quiet getaway from overactive small children. It is never used as a punishment, but more of a haven that satisfies your dog’s natural denning instinct. Tuck in a nice cuddly blanket and your pup will think he’s in heaven. Start with very short sessions in his crate and give him a treat to entice him in. He will probably whine, howl or scream at first. Do NOT react. To a puppy, ANY attention, even a stern ‘No!’ is good attention. After a minute or so of resting quietly, let him out and tell him how wonderful he is and treat him again. Continue to lengthen the amount of time you leave him in his crate and pretty soon he will be running to get into it, and as often happens with dogs who are properly crate trained, he will start crawling in there when the door is left open, if he wants some peace and quiet. Crates also offer better protection and safety when travelling in the car.
Buy a baby gate or two so you can block off rooms where you don’t want your puppy initially. (At least until he is housetrained!) You can’t supervise your pup 24 hours a day, so having a ‘puppy-safe’ room for him to be in is a good idea. Put some toys in the room, as well as his crate or a bed, plus water.
Routine, Routine, Routine
Be consistent and establish a routine for your pup. Other household members should be on board with both. Puppies are much like children and establishing consistency in expected behaviour and a routine for feeding, playtime, training and potty time will help your puppy feel secure and happy.
Speaking of potty time, this can be the most frustrating exercise for novice puppy owners. Puppies don’t really have full control of their bladders until about 12 weeks of age, so expect to encounter some accidents. However, if you are diligent about taking your puppy out to eliminate frequently, and praise profusely when he does, the process will be much easier on both of you. A good rule of thumb is to take him out when he first wakes up in the morning or after a nap, after eating, after playtime, and before bed. This is the time when your crate becomes your best friend. If you have to leave your puppy at home alone, put him in his crate while you are gone. This will encourage him not only to control his bladder, since puppies don’t like to soil their beds, but will also curb his instinct to chew everything he can get his teeth on. Young puppies should not be left for more than two to three hours, however.
Choosing a Food
Feed your puppy the very best quality food that you can afford. Feeding great food is a great investment in his health and longevity. Better quality food will usually equate to fewer vet visits overall throughout his life. The same goes for his treats. Give him either natural treats like carrots or broccoli, or good quality commercial treats with healthy ingredients. Take the extra treat calories into account when dishing out his meals so he doesn’t get too pudgy, and limit his treat intake to 10% or less of his daily calorie intake.
Enroll in puppy ‘kindergarten’ where basic obedience exercises such as ‘sit’, ‘down’ and ‘come’ are taught and most of all, your puppy will have the opportunity to socialize with other puppies. Socializing is vital in the first few months. Expose your puppy to lots and lots of new experiences and people. Do it gently. He’s still tender. Make new experiences fun and rewarding. Dog parks are not the best option for socialization as some dogs who frequent these parks may not be properly socialized themselves or don’t display proper doggy etiquette. Supervision of their dogs by other pet parents at the dog park is also sometimes lacking. Remember that a behaviour that seems ‘cute’ when puppies are young, may be downright annoying or even dangerous when he is full grown. Things like jumping up or crawling into your lap uninvited can be problematic later in life. Teach your puppy to enjoy being handled from the very start. Look in his mouth and run your fingers over his gums to prepare him for tooth brushing. Run a soft brush over his body to get him used to grooming, and handle his feet often to prepare for nail trimming. Your vet will thank you later.
These are just a few of the things you need to know about raising your new family member. When all else fails and you don’t know the answers, let common sense and love rule your actions and you can’t go wrong. Enjoy puppy time. It’s over all too quickly!
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