Top 10 Tips About Your New Puppy
Simple Advice for New Dog Owners
Your children did everything possible to convince you to get them a dog, and you’ve finally broken down. Or perhaps you've just moved to a new city and have been looking for a pet companion to join you on explorations. Whatever the reason, there’s a new adorable, fuzzy addition to your family, complete with wet nose, sharp teeth and a penchant to chew. Now what?
- Spay or neuter your dog. This reduces the chances of cancer of the reproductive organs and is recommended by veterinarians to pet owners who do not plan on breeding their pets.
- Provide your dog a collar with ID tags and discuss microchipping with your veterinarian or shelter. You can’t guarantee that your dog won’t ever get out of your house or yard, whether by accident, during a natural disaster, or by theft. His ID tags and microchip could be his only chance of returning home to you.
- Take him to your veterinarian for a complete physical. Puppies need vaccinations every 3-4 weeks until they’re 16 weeks of age. Your veterinarian is your No. 1 source for questions regarding your puppy’s health and behavior issues.
- Discuss your puppy’s diet with your veterinarian, as it can vary by size and breed. Studies show between 25-40 percent of household pets are overweight, and pet obesity can lead to serious health issues. Table scraps are a no-no and could be dangerous for your puppy, so stick to your veterinarian’s recommendation.
- Housebreaking can be a time-consuming process. A puppy should be taken outside every two hours, up to six times a day, particularly after meals. Crate training or limited roaming access in a small, gated area works well, as puppies usually don’t soil where they sleep. Look for signs, such as circling, that your puppy has to go. Don’t punish him for soiling after the fact. If you don’t catch him in the act then he won’t understand why you are correcting him five minutes or more after an incident. Consistency is key in whatever housebreaking method you choose.
- Crate training provides your puppy with a secure, safe area where he can retreat when he’s tired. Put in some soft bedding and even a treat to help coax him in at first so he learns it is a good place to be. A crate is not to be used for discipline or punishment.
- Start with short stints: Puppies 8-16 weeks old should not be kenneled for more than an hour, except for up to six hours at night. Puppies under six months should not be kenneled for longer than two to three hours during the day. An adult dog can be kenneled for up to eight hours, but he needs to be exercised at least 30 minutes to an hour beforehand.
- Training is one of the most important things you can do for your pet—and your family. Puppies need to learn boundaries and need to know you’re in charge. A group class gives him the socialization he needs to build relationships with people and other dogs. He’ll gain self-confidence knowing what’s expected of him, and you will learn how to get the best out of your dog.
- Puppy proofing is very similar to baby proofing—keep your puppy away from anything that could potentially hurt him. Purchase electrical cord protectors from your local hardware store. Remove poisonous plants and toxins. Puppies love to chew, so it’s important to redirect them to their safe chew toys, such as Nylabones or Kongs, that won’t fragment and possibly lead to choking. Never leave young children unattended with your puppy, and teach them to touch him gently.
- Dogs are social animals and enjoy being part of the pack—which is now you and your family. The more people he comes in contact with, whether it’s in your home or out and about, the more comfortable and well behaved he will become. It is also important to get an early start socializing your puppy with other dogs so he learns how to get along with them. This will help prevent territorial, aggressive behavior.
- Taking your puppy new places is a great experience for both of you, as is car safety. Puppies like to explore, which is distracting while you are driving. Put your pet in a crate or secure him with a dog seat belt harness. Also available are car seats and boosters that are used in conjunction with a dog seat belt. These products will also keep your dog from being ejected in case of an accident or from jumping out of your vehicle.
Mostly, enjoy! You have a loyal new friend who aims to please. Take care of him, play with him, exercise him and he will reward you with his love. The puppy phase is short, so take lots of pictures!