Essential Tips For Your New Puppy
Bringing a new puppy home is such an exciting time. Our veterinarians want to share some tips to make the transition as easy as possible for both you and your new addition. Also take a look at our new puppy checklist post for more helpful information.
When it comes to potty training, patience and consistency are key. Establish a command requesting your pet to potty and carry some treats in your pocket with you when you go outside. When she performs the act, try to reward her immediately. If you wait until you return inside to reward your pet, some puppies associate the reward with coming inside rather than with the act of going to the bathroom. This can create confusion and may slow the training process.
If possible, try to exit out of the same door every time you are taking your puppy out to potty. If you are going for a car ride or a longer walk, use a different door. Your puppy will learn where to go to indicate she may need to go to the bathroom and wont be confused by the use of multiple doors. The most likely times for puppies to need to use the bathroom are right after eating, right after waking up and immediately following play. For this reason, it is best to promptly take your puppy out right after these activities so she does not have an accident in the house. Consistent routines can be highly effective. Trying to feed, walk and sleep at predictable times will help your puppy learn quickly and with confidence.
Deciding which vaccines to get for your new puppy can feel overwhelming. The safest thing to do is consult with your veterinarian about which vaccines are right for your puppy based on their age and lifestyle. Most puppies receive a series of vaccines starting around 8 weeks of age and ending at 16 weeks or older. Puppies are often adopted between 8 and 12 weeks of age. This means that it is likely that they will not have completed their full series of vaccines prior to joining your home. Always ask the breeder or rescue for any records they may have about vaccines or treatments your pet has already received. If you are purchasing your puppy from a breeder, they should come with a document called a health certificate, which will contain all of this pertinent information.
The core vaccines, which are recommended for all dogs, are the rabies vaccine and the distemper/parvo vaccine (which also contains adenovirus and parainfluenza virus). Optional or lifestyle vaccines are the leptospirosis, Bordetella, flu, and lyme vaccines. You should ask your veterinarian whether these may be appropriate for your pet based on factors like exposure to other dogs, travel destinations and time spent outdoors. In addition to vaccines, your veterinarian can help guide you on appropriate parasite testing and prevention to keep your pet happy and healthy.
Until your puppy has completed her vaccine series, it is safest to avoid high traffic places like dog parks, pet stores, boarding facilities and other events where she may meet unvaccinated dogs. However, critical social skills and mental development occur during the 8-16 week age range. For this reason, it is recommended that you find opportunities for your new puppy to spend time with dogs of family or friends who you know are healthy and up to date on vaccines and parasite prevention. Play dates at least once per week will help your puppy learn important manners and also provide fun outlets for all that crazy puppy energy.
When it comes to training, positive reinforcement, timing and consistency are everything. It is never too early to start the training process. If you will have several people caring for your puppy, coordinate with them ahead of time about the training techniques that you would like to use so that your puppy does not become confused by different reactions to the same behavior. In general, it is best to focus on reinforcing good behaviors with treats or praise rather than punishing undesirable behaviors. When an undesirable behavior such as chewing on inappropriate items does occur, immediate redirection is most effective. Remove the object your puppy has been chewing and quickly replace it with a toy that she is allowed to chew on. If your puppy does something good, offer a speedy reward so she is able to directly corelate the behavior with the reward. Keep your training sessions short and fun. Try not to ask too much of your new four-legged family member all at once.
Spay and Neuter:
“When should I spay or neuter my pet?” is one of the most common questions we are asked as veterinarians. The truth is there are many factors that weigh into this decision. We must consider the breed/size of your puppy as well as male vs female and the development of behavioral changes such as marking. Overall, it is still widely considered beneficial to spay or neuter your puppy if you do not intend on breeding her. In general, most puppies are spayed or neutered around 6 months of age, and in females, it is important to spay before her first heat. One important thing to remember about the procedure itself is that while these are considered routine procedures great care should still be taken. Take plenty of time to discuss with your veterinarian all aspects of the procedure including pre-surgery health screening, monitoring during the procedure and pain management.
Receiving good nutrition is important for any pet, but is especially important for your new puppy. She will be growing quickly and will need a specific balance of nutrients and minerals to ensure this occurs. It is important to keep in mind that the pet food industry is not strictly regulated. This means that the quality, type, and balance of ingredients are left entirely up to the manufacturer of the food. Rather than focusing on how the food is marketed, try to find companies that have a team of veterinary nutritionists working for them to ensure the diets are well-balanced and appropriate for your pet. On that same note, it is not recommended that you home cook for your pet (for any length of time) unless under the direction of a veterinary nutritionist.
Depending on the breed and size of your puppy, she may be growing for the first 1-2 years of her life. During the growth phase, it is recommended that she be on a diet specifically designed for puppies. If you would like to feed a different diet than the one she was receiving when you adopted her, make this transition gradually. Transitioning over about a 1 week period of time will help avoid stomach upset. It may be helpful to request a bag of her previous food from the breeder or rescue where you adopted her.
While these behaviors may be adorable in a tiny, playful puppy, they can result in harm if left unchecked as your puppy grows. Keep a plethora of chew toys around so you can easily substitute if she starts to get too mouthy with your hands or feet. Likewise, be cautious in how you handle games that encourage possessive or guarding behavior such as tug-of-war. While your puppy may love this game, it is important to play it on your terms and you should always be the one to initiate the game. It is also imperative that you train your puppy to drop the toy on command and remember to reward her promptly when she does this.
Establish Safe Spaces:
Even if your puppy has free reign of the house it is still best to create a space or multiple places that are hers and hers alone. A crate provides a quiet spot for your puppy to rest and also a secure location for her to stay when you are out of the house or cannot keep a close eye on her. If there are kids in the family, establish the crate as a zone just for your puppy. If she chooses to go in there or is set in the crate while she is sleeping, teach the kids to let her be until she chooses to come out again. A comfortable bed is another space to institute as only for your puppy. With both the crate and the bed, use treats and toys to make the space as enjoyable as possible. We also recommend assigning commands to each location so your puppy knows when it is time to retreat there. These commands often come in handy when you have company over or if there are activities going on in the house where it is safest for your puppy not to be underfoot.
There are a few critical commands that will benefit your puppy. These commands will be useful for many years after you start using them.
-To drop items she is playing with or has picked up in her mouth
-Requesting her to stay put or wait in a designated spot until instructed otherwise
-Command to go into her crate, to her bed or both
-Calling your pet to come to you
-Command for potty
-Asking puppy to not bite
Puppies are notoriously curious, which may get them into a little trouble from time to time. For their own protection and to assist with house breaking, it is best to keep them under constant supervision during the first few months of their life. You can help them safely discover the world around them and be more observant of signs your puppy may need to go outside. If you have some work you have to accomplish or are concerned you might get a bit distracted, a portable wire play pen keeps your puppy close, but gives you a few seconds of free time where you know your puppy is safe and entertained.
This is also a good place to mention that dogs should never be left alone in a car, even for short periods of time. In warmer weather this can turn into a life-threatening situation quickly.
Enjoy These Moments:
The first few weeks you welcome a new dog into your house can be stressful. They are also precious, and as your pup ages, you’ll look back on these days fondly. Don’t forget to pause and appreciate how lovely these moments can be. If you have any questions about caring for you new addition, don’t hesitate to call us. Our veterinarians and veterinary team are dedicated to helping you give your pets the longest, healthiest, and happiest lives possible. To book an appointment with our veterinarians, call us at (813) 749-6863. You can also book on website.
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