Thinking of getting a little furry friend to add to your family? Or have you already added this cutie to your family and now you’re finding that you really don’t know much about puppies? Adding a puppy to your family is an amazing experience. But it’s not without some frustrations. However, with a little patience, a lot of love, and the tips below, you’ll be a prepared puppy parent!
Perfecting Potty Training
One of the first questions people have when getting a puppy is about potty training. This can be extremely stressful. The keys to success are consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. You’ll want to choose one word that everyone in the family will use as the command for the puppy to go to the bathroom. Most people use “potty.” Use this command every time your puppy relieves themselves outside. This is so the puppy can associate the action with the word. Over time, they begin to learn that when you say potty, it means when they relieve themselves outside.
Positive reinforcement training is usually the best route to go when training a puppy. This means when your puppy goes potty where you want them to, you give them a treat and tell them good dog. They will again associate the treat with going potty outside. This will encourage them to continue to use the bathroom outside.
Remember that your puppy is not going to learn this overnight. It is going to take a lot of time and practice, and accidents will happen. Yelling or punishing a puppy for this is not helpful. Instead, if you catch them in the act, say no sternly, place them outside, say potty, and let them finish.
You will want to take your puppy outside to potty about a dozen or more times a day. Coming up with a schedule is usually a good idea. A good potty-training schedule is to take them out first thing in the morning, after playing indoors, after spending time in a crate, when waking up from a nap, after chewing on a bone or playing with a toy, after eating, after drinking, and at night before bed. You will be taking them outside quite frequently so you want to make sure that someone will be able to be home with your new puppy often.
Visiting the Vet the First Year
People are sometimes surprised by how often their puppy will visit the veterinarian in their first year of life. This is extremely important to get them the proper protection they need from diseases and parasites.
Puppies start getting vaccines at 6-8 weeks of age. They need to revisit the vet for their booster shots every three to four weeks until they are 16-18 weeks old. This is when they will be considered fully vaccinated and able to interact with other puppies or dogs. Most vets will offer you the core vaccines such as distemper, parvovirus, and rabies. There are other vaccines that may be suggested based on your location. These may include vaccines for leptospirosis, Bordetella, and Lyme. Vaccinations are an important way to protect your puppy from getting extremely ill. Many general practice veterinarians have vaccine packages that they offer to make it easier.
Heartworm, Flea, and Tick Prevention
Your veterinarian will also suggest heartworm and flea/tick prevention depending on your location once your puppy is old enough. Heartworm disease is the one of the most preventable life-threatening diseases in dogs. There are many options available for these flea and tick preventions. You’ll just need to find what will work best for you and your puppy, whether it’s a topical, oral, or collar. It is much less costly to protect your pet from these parasites than it is to treat them for disease later.
Encouraging Activity and Play
Exercise is also important for puppies, and some breeds will require more activity than others. It’s a good idea to research the breed you are interested in to ensure it’s a good fit for your family and lifestyle. You’ll want to start walking your puppy at an early age to get them used to being on a leash with a collar or harness. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, you may consider walking your puppy around your back yard on their collar or harness and leash.
Have appropriate size toys for your pet to play with and chew especially during the teething stage. If a toy is too small or too big, it can cause injury to your pet. Always check the recommended weights and ages on the toys and pick the ones best fit for your puppy.
You’ll want to keep a watchful eye on your puppy to ensure they stay safe. Puppies like to explore their new world and they don’t know what is dangerous yet. They may get into a lot of mischief, especially when it comes to chewing things. We often see puppies in our emergency rooms that have eaten something dangerous or ingested a harmful item that needs to be surgically removed.
Feeding the Right Foods
It’s important to support your puppy’s healthy growth by choosing a high-quality food, and your veterinarian can help recommend options that are best for your puppy. You’ll want to make sure that you are using a food formulated just for puppies. These have more calories and nutrients that your puppy will need to help grow big and strong. And of course, always ensure your puppy has access to clean water throughout the day.
At first, your puppy will be eating more frequently. Feeding on a schedule allows you to incorporate potty training as well. Puppies will typically eat three times a day until they are 4-6 months old. As they age, that will go down to two times a day.
Get Started on Grooming
Getting your puppy used to grooming and baths at a young age is important so that when they are fully grown, they will be well behaved for baths, nail trims and haircuts if needed. One helpful suggestion is to play with your puppy’s feet. This will help your puppy get used to having them touched as nail trims will be extremely important throughout their life. If they are used to having their feet touched, it will make it a more pleasurable experience for both the pet and the groomer or vet tech that is performing the nail trim.
Welcoming Your Puppy to the Family
Having a puppy is a lot of work and responsibility. It’s also a long-term commitment. The average lifespan for dogs is 10-13 years, so you’re adding a family member who will be with you for a while. It is also very rewarding, and you will always have a friend and companion. The most important advice for new puppy parents is to make sure to show your puppy love and affection. Taking the time to bond with your puppy will help them feel safe and loved!