March 23 is National Puppy Day! Puppy love is a wonderful thing, however, as well all know, plenty of stress comes along with the responsibility of a new four-legged friend in the house. Puppies require a lot of attention, training, and socialization to become confident, balanced dogs. Here are some puppy tips to help you navigate the first few months of pet parenthood.
- Bring your puppy to the vet as soon as possible for an exam. Regardless of where you acquired the puppy, you should make immediate arrangements for a vet exam. If you can, bring a stool sample to go ahead and test for internal parasites. It’s important to research the type of veterinary practice you would like your dog to visit. Ideally, your dog will have a lifelong relationship with the vet that you choose, so be sure that your vet’s perspective aligns accordingly. Ask your vet for their protocol on vaccinations, diets, and training. Find a vet that is inviting, friendly, and respects your concerns regarding your dog’s health.
- Crate/kennel train your puppy from the start. To new dog owners, crate training can seem cruel and lonely for your dog. However, when used properly, crates can be seen as a safe haven for dogs, and is a great place to retreat when situations are overwhelming or when your pup needs to relax and reenergize. Prior to bringing your puppy home, set up a size-appropriate crate with a soft pad and a few cozy toys. You and your dog both will be grateful to have this space available.
- Co-sleep with your puppy for the first few nights. Even if you don’t plan on having your dog sleep in your bedroom, consider making the first few nights an exception. The transition to a new home can be stressful, especially if your pup was just separated from his litter mates. Putting the crate next to your bed for the first few nights allows you to comfort him if he’s whimpering and will give a sense of security having you nearby. Once you have established trust, transition your puppy to the new designated space.
- Establish a routine. Just like humans, dogs tend to thrive on a schedule. Dogs build trust and understanding by learning to expect what is happening next. It’s a good idea to establish a little consistency as far as feeding schedules, potty schedules, walks, and bed time. Soon you will notice your puppy develop his own routine and fall into more predictable patterns, which is mutually beneficial.
- Create a puppy perimeter. A new space can be overwhelming for a small puppy. Before bringing him home, decide where you’d like him to spend his time so that he has the freedom to explore without the risk of getting hurt or getting into something he shouldn’t. Set up his kennel (unless you plan on sharing a bedroom with him long term), a soft bed, food and water, and toys in this space. Ensure you block off any potential escape points with baby gates or doors.
- Be a hands-on owner. Getting your puppy used to being handled is one of the best things you can do for him. A puppy that is used to being touched is much more likely to be comfortable being handled by the vet, groomer, children and adults once he grows up. Make it a habit of touching his paws, mouth, and tail gently so that he’s not caught off guard. It is also helpful to touch him while he eats to avoid food aggression.
- Nip bad habits in the butt. It’s undeniably sweet to cuddle on the couch with your 12 pound puppy, but will you feel the same when he’s tipping the scales at 100 pounds? If you don’t anticipate your dog carrying puppy behavior through adulthood, don’t let the behavior become a habit in the first place. Establishing guidelines and being consistent is much more difficult for the pet owner, but it is completely worth it down the road. Decide in the beginning what your plan is concerning dogs on the furniture, where the puppy sits in the car, how food is handled, and which areas are off limits.
- Socialize your puppy. Introduce your puppy to everything. You want your dog to feel comfortable around different looking people, other dogs, other animals, places, and noises. It is best to have yummy treats on hand for rewarding your puppy for remaining calm and comfortable in various situations. If your dog hesitates in a particular situation, let him make a step of sniff forward, and reward that by tossing a treat in front of him. Socialization goes a long way in making your dog fee confident and well balanced all around.
- Most importantly, feed your puppy a healthy diet. Educate yourself on the type of diet you want to feed your puppy before you make the decision to bring him home. Raw diets are undeniably the most natural and biologically appropriate diet for your pup, but may not be the most realistic depending on the dog owner’s lifestyle and income. Feeding a whole, balanced, nutritional diet will save you money and stress down the road. It’s important to remember that your dog’s diet should be rotated consistently to maintain good gut health. Different life stages will also affect the appropriateness of your dog’s diet.