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Bringing Home a Puppy

Puppies add fun, warmth and lots of love to a home and some even feel that no family is complete without a dog.  Kids learn the skill of responsibility with a puppy and the companionship and happiness that is obvious as they grow up together warms the heart.  Puppies develop a personality of their own which somehow always compliments that of his family.  Who can resist owning a furry little bundle of joy?

Before choosing to purchase a puppy, consider everything that will be involved and the responsibility associated with owning a dog for 12 to 15 years.  The monetary cost in owning a dog is sizeable, especially in the first year with vet bills, dog food, bedding and toys.  If you have long working hours or holiday often, who will spend time with your new family member and look after him whilst you are away?   Only after you have fully considered this great commitment should you go out in search of a puppy as there are very few people who can walk away once they fall in love with those big brown eyes.

PUPPY PROOFING THE HOME
There are lots of potential hazards lying around the home that could cause problems for your puppy.  Puppies are lively and curious creatures that like to chew with their new teeth and because they are small, they are able to get into spaces that you haven’t even thought of.

Make sure that all chemicals and detergents are safely locked away and that the cakes of soap are not in a place that your puppy can get his teeth on to it.  Don’t leave plastic bags lying around that he can get twisted up in and ensure that small objects such as sewing equipment and toys are not left on low level tables or cupboards.  Keep the toilet lid down to stop the puppy from playing and drinking in the water.  The lid may fall down and hurt or trap him and the bowl cleaners and blocks are poisonous for animals.

Houseplants can be both irresistible and poisonous to puppies.  Remove all houseplants or place them in hanging baskets outside of your puppy’s reach.

The garage has many hazards as many chemicals are left on the ground or placed at a low level.  In particular, rat poison, anti-freeze, mothballs, fertilisers and insecticides are all attractive for puppies but all can prove fatal.  Don’t assume that just because the garage is locked that the puppy will be safe.  Spend some time tidying it up and storing all of these hazardous chemicals out of the puppy’s reach.

Before bringing a curious kitten home, it is essential to “kitten-proof” the house to ensure that it will be safe.  Keep small items such as rubber bands, buttons and beads out of reach and be aware that some indoor cleaners and plants may be poisonous to kittens.

Get down low and look for any nooks and crannies behind cabinets or under sofas that the kitten might want to explore.  Block these off with cardboard or attach double-sided tape as kittens won’t like the sticky surface.  Remove dangling cords and precious ornaments from shelves and always close drawers and cupboard doors.

PUPPY’S FIRST NIGHT
When your puppy first gets to his new home, show him to his toilet area and allow him to have a bit of a walk around.  Then, put him inside his crate for some quiet time.  There he will feel safe and will be able to look around his new surroundings without feeling overwhelmed with new people or other pets.

At night, keep the puppy in his crate next to your bed for the first week or two.  He will feel secure in his own area and you can sleep with the knowledge that he isn’t getting up to mischief.  Give him a chew toy and a familiar smelling towel or blanket and every now and then, hang your arm over the bed so he can smell and lick your fingers until he falls asleep.

If your puppy will sleep in another room, give him a night light and a ticking clock or soft music. On the first night, he will be likely to cry as he misses his mates.

Most puppies will need to be taken outside during the night and again early in the morning.  If possible, set your alarm so that you wake up at the same time allowing the puppy to learn his night time toilet routine and reduce the incidence of soiling the bedding.

SOCIALISING
Socialising is the time during which a puppy develops relationships with other people and animals in its environment and allows it to get used to household noises and activities such as vacuum cleaners, music and car travel.  Once you puppy has been vaccinated and is used to being on a lead, put him in lots of different situations and introduce him to other animals (including cats, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs) making sure that all the animals are safe.  Visit parks, lakes and festivals and even bring him in to a Better Pets and Gardens store where he will be spoilt rotten and learn to be in a different environment without being shy or fearful.

HOUSETRAINING
To teach your puppy the right way to relieve himself, establish a place outside where he can go to the toilet.  Clip his leash on to his collar and take him to the spot and use a command like “go potty” or “go toilet”.  Repeat this often until the puppy relieves himself and then praise him for doing what you asked.  This might take a little patience so don’t get frustrated or angry.

Take the puppy back inside for food and water and about 15 minutes after he’s finished eating, take him outside again and repeat the procedure.  Always take the puppy to his toilet place after a meal until he begins to go there himself.

Even well-trained puppies have accidents.  Clean the area with a pet odour neutraliser so the puppy won’t be tempted to go there again.

If housetraining is proving difficult, a possible reason is that the puppy was given too much freedom too soon and so you will need to go back to the training steps.  If the puppy is soiling his crate at night, remove the food and water as he may be filling up on it and be forced to relieve himself even if he doesn’t want to.  A change in diet, late-night snacks and not enough exercise can also lead to accidents.

PUPPY TRAINING
Dogs were once pack animals where everyone in the pack knew their place and there was just one alpha dog, or leader.  For your puppy, your family is the pack and you need to be the leader.  Your puppy will be perfectly happy with this arrangement, especially if it starts within the first few days of him arriving at his new home.

Training can start as early as seven weeks of age so there’s no time to waste.  Before you can do anything else, he needs to know his name so that you can get his attention.  This is simply a process of saying his name and giving him a food reward when he looks up or moves towards you.  If he is not responding, put a piece of food in front of his nose and move it around until you get his attention.  Say his name again and give him the treat as soon as he shows some sort of recognition.

Be consistent with housetraining and discipline and don’t allow him to do things such as get up on the couch or chew on something just because he is little and cute that you won’t want him to do when he is an adult.  Remember the proverb that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Set a schedule for your puppy and be consistent.  Feed him and ensure that he goes to bed at the same time and in the same place every day.  Have a routine for taking him to the toilet (see Housetraining), training sessions and grooming time.  Ensure that the whole family understands and keeps the puppy on the routine

There is almost nothing cuter than a puppy barking but this can form a bad habit for when he gets older.  His bark might have an important message but if there is no good reason for it, lower your voice and say “quiet”.  Praise him when he quiets down.  If he ignores you, clip a lead to his collar and repeat “quiet” and when he looks at you, praise and tell him to sit (help him if you need to).  If this doesn’t work, use a “clicker” near and say “quiet” in a firm voice.  This will startle him and is sure to get his attention.  If he continues, repeat the clicking and the command.  Always offer a treat and praise to reinforce the good behaviour.

It is not surprising for a puppy to cry when you leave the home but he will learn to be comfortable with his own company and will realize that even when you leave, you always come home.  Establish a routine such as giving him a pat and a treat before you leave the home but don’t make it into a big production where he gets excited just before you leave.  At first, make your absences very short, starting with just a few minutes and then building up to a couple of hours.  When you return to the home, wait until he is quiet and relaxed and then casually walk in and praise him for being calm.

Exercise is important for puppies.  It keeps them mentally stimulated and will make them less likely to be destructive when left on their own.  Plenty of play with toys is a great way to provide exercise as well as a little run around the backyard and later a walk down the street.  Training sessions will also help the puppy to burn off some energy and he will love the time together.

To decide which harness or collar to choose for your puppy and how to teach him to walk on a lead, collect our “Who’s Walking Who?” brochure from any Better Pets and Gardens store or download it from our website.

Puppy classes provide your puppy with an opportunity to meet friends and learn the skills of socialising but more importantly, will give you the skills to train him to have good manners, to walk on a lead and to understand important commands such as “sit” and “stay”.  Puppy classes provide the foundations for a well behaved dog that will give you many years of pleasure and happy experiences.

FEEDING
Puppies are very active and grow fast so they use up lots of energy.  It is important to serve them specially formulated foods that provide a balanced and complete diet that suits their stage in life.  When first picking up your puppy from the breeder, it is best to ask what the puppy is being fed and continue with that food and meal regime.  If the puppy seems too thin or too heavy or is not thriving, visit the vet immediately and ask his advice on the best diet for your puppy.

When choosing the best food for your puppy, you will need a food that is complete and balanced, is easy to digest and of course tastes great.  There are many options and making a decision can be daunting but it can be made easier by taking your puppy into any Better Pets and Gardens store.  Our team have completed nutritional training on all of the premium dog foods and will be able to assist you in making the best choice for your puppy.

To weigh your puppy, take him into any Better Pets and Gardens and use the special “doggy scales” available in every store.

Dry foods are very popular for puppy owners as they are easy to store, easy to serve and their crunchiness helps keep the puppy’s teeth clean.  Some like to mix in wet, canned food which isn’t necessary for a balanced diet but can add a little variety.  Puppy biscuits can also be softened slightly with warm water which can make them tastier and easier to chew for baby teeth.

How much to serve depends entirely on the age, breed and activity level of your puppy.  Refer to the charts that are on the dog food packaging as these will give guidelines for the amounts to feed.  Where a range is given such as “feed between 1 and 1½ cups”, start with the lower amount first (1 cup) and gradually increase the quantity as necessary.  This will avoid feeding too much and ending up with a “tubby puppy”.

Young puppies have smaller stomachs and can’t consume a full day’s requirements in a single feed so start with three small meals a day.  Gradually reduce feeds to one in the morning and one in the evening and be sure to keep the schedule consistent.  As a puppy gets closer to adulthood the calories that he need reduces and he may start leaving some food in the bowl.  This does not mean that he dislikes the food or is unwell, it is simply a sign that he is full and you can start reducing his meals just a little.

A puppy’s metabolism is different from yours so what might be fine for you might pose hazards for him.  Avoid small bones, chocolate, dairy products, fat trimmings and sugary treats.

Avoid making drastic changes to your puppy’s diet unless suggested by a veterinarian.  At between 12 and 18 months a puppy would have finished growing and this is the time to change to adult food.  Some large breed puppies may need to remain on a puppy diet for up to two years.  Introduce the new food gradually over 7 to 10 days by increasing the ratio of new food to old food each day.  Loose stools or upset tummies are a sign to slow down the transition.

Puppies occasionally eat their own stool.  This is not diet related but is a habit that develops from boredom, lack of exercise or perhaps watching this behaviour in other dogs.  Stopping this is difficult but a vet may be able to offer some advice.  At the very least, clean up any droppings as soon as possible to remove the opportunity.

Like all animals, dogs need water to help regulate their body temperature, digest food, eliminate waste and allow salts to pass through the body.  Fresh drinking water should be available to dogs at all the times and it is wise to have several bowls both in and out of the house.  Ensure that they can’t be knocked over as it would be terrible for your puppy to be without water on a hot day.

PUPPY PLAY
Puppies love to play and this is the perfect way for him to bond with you, get a little exercise and develop his strength.  A huge range of toys are available that allow a puppy to run, chase, chew and cuddle so the opportunities for fun are endless.

Avoid playing with your puppy just before bed time or when you are leaving the home as just like a child, they will be full of energy and not want to settle down.

Puppies should be comfortable spending some time and playing on their own.  When on their own, place them in a safe area and give them a selection of puppy-safe toys, including chew toys that will keep them occupied.  There are plenty of interactive toys available such as treat balls which keep a puppy busy as they try to roll the ball around for the treats to fall out of.  Change the toys every few weeks so that the puppy doesn’t get bored and check the toys regularly to make sure that they are safe and not becoming too small for the puppy’s growing mouth.

Children’s stuffed toys are not suitable for puppies as their chewing might loosen and choke on the stuffing, buttons or loose pieces.

Resist the urge to wrestle with puppies, play “tug of war” or games that require biting or aggression.  These might be cute when he is young but his teeth will become very sharp and as he grows up, you won’t want him to be continuing with these rough games.  If he does bite, say “No” at the same time as giving a loud clap and then walk away.

SLEEPING
The temptation might be there to let your puppy sleep on your own bed but it is important to realise that this is forming a habit that will last a life time.  If you are happy for him to sleep there when he is an adult then this is not a problem but it may be best to consider other options whilst he is still young.  These might be sleeping next to your bed, in another room or perhaps even under a sheltered patio as he gets older.

Before going shopping for a bed, decide where your puppy will be sleeping.  Dog bedding is available with many different features to suit the size, breed and living arrangements of your puppy.

There are very beautiful yet practical beds available that will suit the décor of most homes and provide a comfy place for your puppy to sleep.  Those with washable covers are particularly useful and choose one that has plenty of padding to provide good insulation from the floor.  Some beds are raised up off the floor which is perfect if puppies sleep on concrete or cold tiles.  Always make sure that your puppy has a familiar blanket or one of your old jumpers in his bed and perhaps his favourite toy to cuddle up with.

GROOMING
Getting puppies accustomed to grooming early in life makes it much easier to handle them as they grow older.  Start with short sessions, touching their ears and their paws gently and giving them a “massage” with your hands. They will soon learn to enjoy the attention and this time together is a great opportunity to check for fleas, injuries and cuts.

Introduce brushes gradually although initially they may think this is a toy. If this is the case, stay calm and use positive reinforcement to reward them for even just a few seconds of success.  Avoid raising your voice or getting angry with your pet so that they learn to enjoy the experience and will not become anxious the next time they are due to be groomed.

Puppies should only be bathed when they are really dirty as over-bathing removes the natural oils from the coat.  Choose a specific puppy shampoo.  These are far safer than a human shampoo which doesn’t have the right pH for a puppy.  Have everything ready before collecting the puppy for the bath – several towels, a sponge, luke warm water and a brush.  Place a rubber mat in the tub or sink so that he doesn’t slip.  Brush through any knots before applying water to his coat.  Rub in the shampoo paying special attention to around the tail, paws and underbelly keeping the suds away from his eyes and ear canal and then rinse well.  Depending on the puppy’s fur, a second shampoo might be necessary.  Finally, use a chamois towel to take off excess moisture and then dry with a nice fluffy towel.

To find out more about bathing, clipping nails, cleaning teeth, ears and eyes as well as which grooming tools to use, get a copy of our “Grooming Cats and Dogs” fact sheet from any Better Pets and Gardens store or by visiting our website.

FLEA AND WORM CONTROL
Fleas on puppies are inevitable but can be controlled.  Adult fleas live on animals and reproduce there but their eggs fall all over the backyard, park or your home to hatch and develop later.  About 95% of the flea life cycle does not occur on the pet, but in the environment where the pet lives and sleeps.  That’s why the environment has to be treated as well as the pet.

To treat very young puppies for fleas it is best to talk to a vet but generally the key is to treat the mother as this will provide ongoing protection to the kitten.  Easy-to-apply flea control products are available for puppies from 8 weeks and should be applied every month.

Puppies can become infected with worms from a very young age and should be wormed every two weeks until 16 weeks of age and then every three months for life.  Spot-on applicators, tablets and pastes are available at any Better Pets and Gardens store.

VACCINATIONS & HEALTH
Puppies can’t tell you when they are feeling unwell but there are some signs that you can look out for that will indicate that a visit to the vet might be necessary:

Initial vaccinations start at about six weeks and are repeated every two or three weeks until the puppy reaches 14 weeks of age.  After six months visits to the vet will reduce and all that will be needed are regular boosters and annual check-ups.

A PUPPY’S VIEW
Puppies (like adult dogs) can see blue, yellow and grey but can’t see red or green.  To a dog, a lush green lawn would appear as whitish with subtle shades of grey.  If you were to throw a red or green ball across the lawn, a puppy may run right past it.

I.D. AND TAGS
It would be terribly sad for your puppy to wander off without his finders knowing where he lives.  Ensure he is always wearing an I.D. tag that shows his name and your contact details.

Microchips inserted by a vet without the need for surgery are tiny capsules that contain a unique registration number.  This is linked to a database that all vets, shelters and council rangers have access to.  It is very important to remember to update your contact details if you move home.

All Better Pets and Gardens stores have tag machines so that you can get your puppy a tag within minutes.