By Dr. Laura Carpenter, Veterinarian
It’s always exciting to adopt a new puppy. It can also be overwhelming. There are so many recommendations on what to do, what not to do, and some puppies can be a real challenge even if you do everything right. Here are some basic recommendations to get off on the right paw!
Your new puppy should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible – definitely within the first week. This is especially important if you have older pets (the new puppy may bring illness home) or if you are worried your new puppy is sick. Bring any records you have with you to the appointment. Your veterinarian will perform an examination and will give you a plan for vaccines, deworming, microchipping, and spaying/neutering. This is essential to maintain your pet’s health and to avoid costly problems down the road.
For the first several weeks, a new puppy should be under direct supervision. This means someone must have an eye on the puppy at all times. Puppies are sneaky – give them 2 minutes to slip around the corner and you will find a potty accident or a chewed table leg! If you find it hard to keep your puppy in your line of sight, you may find it useful to tether him to your waist using a leash. Many people who are having trouble with destruction in the house or potty training find this method is just the trick they needed.
Initially, reward every behavior your puppy does that you like. If your puppy sits, give a treat. If your puppy comes to a whistle, give a treat. Start pairing these behaviors with words and soon you have a puppy that knows several commands! Constant reinforcement of desirable behaviors will leave less room for naughty behaviors to develop. Treats should be small so that you can reward a lot of good behaviors over a day without over feeding your puppy. You can even use the puppy’s daily portion of food as treats instead of offering it in the food bowl.
Your puppy’s impressionable period is before 12-16 weeks. This means she is more likely to accept a new or unusual stimulus without fear or fuss before 3-4 months of age. Use this to your advantage! When your puppy is sleepy, trim the toenails and clean the ears (ask your veterinarian for help if you are unsure how). If the puppy will need grooming as an adult, introduce him to the buzz of clippers when he’s calm and quiet. Introduce your puppy to as many new people as you can: short people, tall people, people wearing hats, mail carriers in uniform, people with strollers, people with wheelchairs, people on bikes and skateboards…. Make each experience pleasant. If each new person will offer a treat to the puppy, she will soon learn that all people are friends and nothing to fear! Take your puppy on car rides and elevator rides. Drop by your veterinarian’s office just to say hi!! I bet the receptionists would be willing to give a few treats so the puppy learns it’s not so scary to go to the vet. If it is not too busy, ask to put the puppy on the scale and on an exam table. Give treats to reinforce that it is no big deal to be up on the exam table. Anything you want your puppy to accept as an adult, start now as long as it is safe to do so. The only exception is the dog park, or any other areas where a lot of dogs of unknown health/temperament frequent – avoid these areas until the vaccinations are complete. A well socialized puppy makes a well-adjusted, happy companion. If your puppy shows fear in a new situation, take a few steps back, wait for the puppy to be calm, and try again using lots of food rewards.
While your puppy is young and learning the rules of the house, make sure everyone in the house is on the same page. Sit down with the family and decided what the rules for the puppy will be on day one (for example, will you allow the puppy on the bed and the couch? Will you allow the puppy to jump up on people?). Puppies learn a lot faster if the rules are consistent person to person. Keep in mind how big your puppy is going to be as an adult; a great dane puppy that jumps up to greet you is cute, but a 150lb great dane adult that jumps up to greet you can be a health hazard!
Lastly, everyone loves a new puppy, but remember, there are a lot of adult dogs at your local shelter or rescue that would love to go home with you! These dogs may already be housebroken and partly trained, and you may find that these dogs are exceptionally grateful companions.
I hope these tips help you get started the next time you have a new puppy. If you have any questions on caring for your new furry friend don’t hesitate to contact us, and be sure to book an appointment for your new pet today.