Caring For A Puppy – the complete guide

To get your puppy off to a good start, schedule a veterinary check-up within the first 48 hours of bringing it home. You can then get a clean bill of health, a schedule for future vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries and advice on food, training, parasite preventatives and trainer recommendations.

What to consider before getting a puppy?

* Investigate the breeds and mixes.
* Ensure you are familiar with the breed’s adult size & personality traits.
* Estimate costs of regular veterinary care, flea/tick and heartworm prevention.
* Estimate costs of grooming, food and how it fits into your lifestyle or family life.

How to keep your puppy safe?

* Create a safe environment at your home. A puppy, just like a human baby, finds the tiniest nooks and crannies to get into and they often get into trouble playing with computer cables, electric cords, cleaning products, pantyhose, etc. Hide or contain wires and cables, put baby locks on low cabinets (little paws and noses can pry doors open), pick up stray strings, needles, paperclips, shoelaces, and move valuables, books and breakables to new heights.

* Crate – search for one with enough room for your puppy to turn around, lie down and sleep but not too spacious as this leaves room for it to eliminate in areas where it doesn’t sleep.

* Until your puppy has finished all rounds of immunisation, he should not mix with a lot of strange dogs or be where there is a high volume of other dogs walking, as he needs to be fully protected before venturing in public places.

What are the handy things you need to have to care for a puppy?

* Use non-tipping metal food and water dishes – this helps keep the dishes from sliding.

* Buy some stain and odour neutralizer – your puppy will always be drawn to areas where “accidents” took place, a good neutralizer will eliminate odours from its urine or stool.

* Buy a brush, nail clipper and a comb if your puppy will eventually grow into a dog with a medium to long coat.

* Get an adjustable collar, identification tag and a six-foot nylon or leather leash with a small clip. Try to avoid chain collars or leashes.

How to house-train (potty-train) your puppy?

* House-training a puppy is not difficult if you’re consistent and stick to a schedule. You will probably be feeding three times a day. First thing in the morning, take the puppy out of its crate and quickly take it outside to where you’d like it to eliminate. Be patient, and as soon as your puppy starts to eliminate, CALMLY praise it with “Good dog” (or whatever term you’d like to use). When your puppy has finished all its business, take a few minutes to play or cuddle it. What you want to teach your puppy is the sooner it eliminates, the sooner it gets to play with you.

When playtime is over, bring it inside, feed your puppy breakfast and let it have water. In about 15-20 minutes, take it outside again and repeat the routine. Once back inside, if you have time to monitor your puppy, you may let it explore its surroundings. After that, put it back in its crate.

* Never leave your puppy in the crate for more than its limit in controlling its bladder. Usually a puppy can hold it for as many hours as its age in months. For example, a 2-month old puppy can stay in the crate for no more than 2 hours, as long as it has eliminated before being crated.

Repeat the feeding, elimination, play routine at lunch and dinner, then no more water or food 2 hours before bedtime. If the weather is very warm, a few ice cubes in your puppy’s water bowl will quench its thirst but not stimulate its bladder like water will. Generally, at 8 weeks to 3 months, your puppy will have developed better bladder and bowel control and is capable of sleeping through the night. But remember to take your puppy out first thing in the morning!

* When your puppy pees on one spot, he tends to go back to exactly the same place over and over because your puppy recognises the smell. Therefore take your puppy to the same spot every time. If your puppy does it in the right spot, lavish him with lots of praises! Use your happy voice, your puppy will soon know he did it right and will want to do it right the next time.

* If your puppy had an accident somewhere inside the house, make sure you clean the floor or the carpet thoroughly to neutralise the smell. A good quality pet odour remover should do the trick.

* Each time you want your puppy to defecate or urinate, teach you puppy a specific word by repeating the same word many times, for example “go poop”, “go potty”. By repeating the same words each time, it will become another command for your puppy and he will be able to do it when you mention the command.

* Ideally you will have a dog door installed so that your puppy can be trained to go outside when it needs to eliminate. If this is not practical, keep an eye on your puppy, try to observe how your puppy normally acts before he pees, and take him outside as soon as you see the signs. You can also teach your puppy to ask for the door, but that might take some time.

* Establish a routine – for example, after a nap or before play time, take your puppy outside to eliminate.

What are the development stages and behaviours you can expect from a puppy to a dog?

* The Juvenile Stage: 3 to 4 Months

The Juvenile stage typically lasts from 3 to 4 months of age, and it’s during this time your puppy behaves a little more independent – he might start ignoring the commands he’s only recently learned and tries to exert his new-found independence with its “I don’t have to listen to you” attitude!

You will need to apply firm and gentle reinforcement of commands and training at this stage. Your puppy might even start biting you, play biting or even a real attempt to challenge your authority. A sharp “No!” or “No biting!” command, followed by several minutes of ignoring him should take care of this problem.

When you bond with your puppy, avoid games like tug of war or wrestling with him. He may perceive tug of war as a game of dominance – especially if he wins and wrestling is another game that can rapidly get out of control. As your puppy’s strength grows, he will want to play-fight to see who is stronger – even if you win, the message your puppy receives is that it’s alright to fight with you but this is NOT the message you want to send out!

* The Brat Stage: 4 to 6 Months

Your puppy will demonstrate even more independence and wilfulness during the Brat Stage which begins at about 4 months and runs until about 6 months. You may observe a decline in his urge to please you – expect to see more “testing the limits” type behaviours. During this time he’ll be going through a teething cycle and will also be looking for things to chew on to relieve the pain and pressure. Frozen doggie bones can help sooth him during this period.

Your puppy may try to assert his new “dominance” over other family members, especially children. It is common for puppies at this age to ignore commands to return or come to their owners, which can be a dangerous, even fatal, breakdown in your dog’s response to you. If you turn him loose in a public place, and he bolts, the chances of injury or even death can result – so don’t take the chance. Continue his obedience and basic commands training, but make sure to never let him off his leash during this time unless you’re in a confined area.

Your puppy will now begin to go through the hormonal changes brought on by his growing sexual maturity and you may see signs of rebelliousness. (Think adolescent teen-age boy!) If you haven’t already, you should have your puppy neutered (or spayed if you have a female) during this time.

* The Young Adult Stage: 6 to 18 Months

From 6 months to approximately 18 months, the Young Adulthood stage takes place and is usually a stabilising time in your puppy’s life. He’s young, he’s exuberant, he’s bursting with energy and yet he’s learning all the things he needs to become a full-fledged adult dog. Be realistic in your expectations of your dog at this time, just because he’s approaching his full growth and may look like an adult dog, he’s not as seasoned and experienced as you might expect.

Slowly increase the scope of activities and training for your dog. You can start more advanced training during this period, such as herding or agility training. Otherwise, extend his activities to include more people and other animals – allow him to interact with non-threatening or non-aggressive dogs.

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