Welcome to parenthood. As a you are getting a puppy joining your family, you will be aware of the responsibilities that come with dog owning and caring for your dog. In time, with the correct training and care, your puppy will hopefully become a well-adjusted adult who is a pleasure to own and a credit to you and the dog society at large.
At TLC Dog Walking, we get a lot of puppies joining our family, and it is very important to us that these puppies are well cared for in a knowledgeable way, however, do remember, we are dog walkers, not vets, this information is purely to help your puppy settle well into your family, if you have any health issues, please immediately contact your vet. Do be aware of the local laws regarding keeping a dog and dog fouling. There are certain breeds that need a licence to keep, ensure your puppy is not a restricted breed. Dogs must be kept on leads in certain areas and most areas are covered by the dog fouling laws and you can be given an on the spot fine if you do not pick up. As of 2016 all dogs must be microchipped and the Control of Dogs Order 1992 states that any dog in a public place must wear a collar with the name and address (including postcode) of the owner engraved or written on it, or engraved on a tag. Your telephone number is optional (but we would recommend this as if someone finds your dog and they cannot easily contact you, they may just call the warden and then you will get charged to get your dog back)
1. Collecting your new puppy from the breeder
Ensure your puppy is:
Remember to take:
Comfortable dog carrier or cat box.
A couple of cosy blankets (one for use and at least one spare depending on the journey)
Water and puppy food for longer journeys.
When you collect your new puppy it will probably be nervous being taken away from its family and environment for the first time. You are their new family and it is up to you to make your new puppy as relaxed as possible:
Settle your puppy in a comfy, compact carrier
Try to minimise exposure to loud noises.
Don't let anyone handle the puppy too much if it's nervous.
Ensure your puppy is well ventilated.
If your puppy shows signs of distress sit quietly and comfort it using a soft, soothing voice.
Make sure you give your puppy comfort breaks and take spare bedding - puppies are inclined to wee when nervous or excited!
Often, breeders will send you with a puppy pack which will contain things such as a blanket that smells of their family, food that has been fed so far so that you can mix it with the food you are going to feed so its tummy can adapt, a collar etc. Remember, you are bringing a baby into your life. When the time comes to finally bring your new puppy home for the first time, you can pretty much count on three things: unbridled joy, cleaning up your puppy’s accidents, and a major lifestyle adjustment. As you’ll soon learn, a growing puppy needs much more than a food bowl and a doghouse to thrive. And while it may be a lot of work initially, it’s well worth the effort. Establishing good and healthy habits in those first few sleep-deprived weeks will lay the foundation for many dog-years of happiness for you and your puppy.
2. Ensure you are prepared
Puppies, like babies, have needs. Before you bring your puppy home, ensure you have lots of essentials to ensure a smooth transition from their old home to their new family.
Small collar with a name tag and lead
A suitable crate with a blanket over it
Comfy bed or blankets
Food and water bowls
Suitable food and treats
A good variety of toys
Covered hot water bottle or a heat pad to simulate the feeling of company
A ticking clock to sound like a heartbeat
A radio so the silence is not overwhelming
Puppy pads if you are going to use them
I cannot stress how important many toys are to a puppy. There should be a selection of different textures as they all prefer different things and like a variety. Puppies need to learn early what they can and cannot chew. If you do not give them a good selection of toys, they will find toys of their own and these habits are hard to break.
3. Find a Good Vet
The first place you and your new puppy should go together is to the vet for a check-up. This visit will not only help ensure that your puppy is healthy and free of serious health issues, birth defects, etc., but it will help you take the first steps toward a good preventive health routine. If you don’t have a vet already, ask friends for recommendations. If you got your dog from a shelter, ask their advice as they may have veterinarians they swear by. TLC Dog Walking can also help you with this.
4. Make the Most of Your First Vet Visit
Ask your vet which puppy foods he or she recommends, how often to feed, and what portion size to give your puppy, remembering that babies have very small tummies and need feeding little and often. At least four meals a day for an 8 week old puppy.
Set up a vaccination plan with your vet
Ask what illnesses you should look out for with your particular breed
Plan safe controlling of parasites (Fleas, ticks, worms etc.)
Ask when they advise you to spay or neuter. Small dogs mature earlier than larger dogs
5. Shop for Quality Food
Your puppy’s body is growing, which is why you need a good quality food, but do remember that bigger is not always better. Some puppies can be forcibly grown too fast and end up with health issues as a result. They will all get there in the end; the nutritional requirements are to ensure they can grow well, not fast! Protein should be high for all dogs and as dogs get older, they need less fat, but other than this, do be aware the major difference puppies need is the size of the kibble. Puppy kibble is smaller, do not be paying a lot more for a puppy food, this is not always necessary, but a good quality food is important throughout their life. Good quality foods will generally end in fewer vets bills for illnesses caused by lacking in nutrients and obesity even though you may be paying more for the food.
Small breeds can make the leap to lower fat and fewer meals between 9 and 12 months of age. Large breed dogs need more fat and more meals until they reach 2-years-old. Make sure your puppy has fresh and abundant water available at all times, studies have shown that dogs that have constant access to very fresh water do live longer and have less health issues.
Feed multiple times a day:
Age 6-12 weeks – 4 meals a day
Age 3-8 months – 3 meals a day
Age 8 – 12 months – 2 meals a day
6. Establish a Toilet Routine
House-training is a high priority on most puppy owners’ list. Remember, puppies have very small bladders and cannot hold themselves for long, so do not set them up to fail by inadvertently training then to go in unsuitable places. The best things to house-train your puppy are patience, planning, and plenty of positive reinforcement. Decide where you want them to relieve themselves and always use this toilet spot. Ensure you give them plenty of opportunities to relieve themselves in a suitable place and praise them if they go (but do wait until they have finished or you can stop them in their tracks) In addition; it’s probably not a bad idea to put a carpet-cleaning battle plan in place, because accidents will happen.
Here’s a list of the best times to take your puppy out to the toilet.
Immediately when you wake up
Straight after they eat or drink
When they wake up from a nap
During or after physical activity
Immediately when you return from being away
Just before bedtime
How frequently you should let them relieve themselves to set them up well
Until your puppy has had all of their vaccinations, you’ll want to find a place outdoors that’s inaccessible to other animals. This helps reduce the spread of viruses and disease. Make sure to give lots of positive reinforcement whenever your puppy manages to toilet outside and never, ever punishing them for having accidents, they do not understand why you are punishing them, they just become frightened of you. Do be aware that all though a dog can hold its bladder for 7-8 hours does not mean they should be made to do this, if you frequently make them do this, they can get infections, bladder issues and exhibit destructive behaviour, imagine trying to go 8 hours awake without being allowed to go to the toilet.
7. Watch for Early Signs of Illness
For the first few months, puppies are more susceptible to sudden bouts of illnesses that can be serious if not caught in the early stages. If you observe any of the following symptoms in your puppy, it’s time to contact the vet.
Unusual Lethargy (puppies do usually sleep a lot)
Loss of appetite
Poor weight gain
Struggling to wee or poo
Difficulty breathing, wheezing or coughing
Unusual discharge from eyes or nose
Pale gums or swollen, red eyes
Excessive licking or itching
At TLC Dog Walking, we specialise in dog walking and socialisation, but there are things that you do need to be aware of with puppies. Exercise is brilliant for helping to build their bodies and their minds, but do ensure it is age appropriate. Exercise that is not suitable for their age and development can cause substantial and irreparable damage.
Things to remember:
Be consistent (No weekend marathons and rest days)
Be aware of their limits (1 minute per week of their life twice a day maximum BUT this can be split into many walks if you wish)
Soft ground only, try keep away from pavements and drives, keep on grass
Big dogs can do less than small dogs as larger breeds fully develop much later
A major consideration with puppy exercise is their “growth plates.” These are soft areas that sit at the ends of the long bones in puppies. They contain rapidly dividing cells that allow bones to become longer until the end of puberty. Growth plates gradually thin as hormonal changes approaching puberty signal the growth plates to close. As dogs grow at different rates, there is no exact answer to when the closure is done, in toy breeds, this can be 10 months, and giant breeds can be nearly two years old. Until the growth plates close, they’re soft and vulnerable to injury. The most common area for a problem with the growth plates to develop is between the ulna and radial bones, in the forearm area of the leg. If the growth plate in this area is damaged and stops growing, the opposite bone will continue to develop normally, making problems that the puppy will retain for life. This can then, over time, lead to uneven pressure on the other legs, and cause a range of secondary problems later in life. One of the biggest cause of growth plate and soft tissue injury is repetitive exercise with a young puppy. So, until they are mature, long hikes and walks are out and lots of free-play sessions are the way to go.
Another consideration is that puppies do not have the cardiovascular system for endurance. Until they mature, they are probably not able to build much endurance no matter how much they exercise.
If you are a walker, you should take your puppy along on hikes, it is great socialisation for puppies under 12 week’s old and great enrichment for older puppies. But just like when you take a small child on a walk, be prepared to carry your puppy a large portion of the way, which I always find difficult with my German shepherds J
A study on large breed puppies found that puppies that climbed flights of stairs daily before they were 3 months of age had an increased risk of developing hip dysplasia. Although the breeds chosen were selected for the study because of their relatively high incidence of hip dysplasia, it does indicate that stairs represent a strain on any puppy’s joints, so avoid stairs, if this is not possible, carrying your puppy down stairs. The same also study found that off-leash self-directed exercise on gently rolling, varied, and moderately soft ground for puppies under 3 months old decreased the risk of developing hip dysplasia, so this is worth remembering.
9. Be Sociable
Proper socialisation during puppyhood helps avoid many behavioural problems as they grow up. At approximately 2 to 4 months of age, most puppies begin to accept other animals, people, places, and experiences. Socialisation classes are an excellent way to build up positive social experiences with your puppy. Do ensure they have are suitably vaccinated and do not overdo their exercise. If you do not have time for socialisation classes, ensure you get a dog walker who is willing to socialise them with suitable dogs.
10. Teach Obedience
Good manners are very important. By teaching them, you will set your puppy up for a life of positive social interaction. Obedience training will help forge a stronger bond between you and your puppy and help them to trust you as their pack leader.
Teaching your puppy to obey the basic commands such as sit, stay, down, and come will not only impress your friends, but these commands will help keep your dog safe and under control in any potentially hazardous situations. Many puppy owners find that obedience classes are a great way to train both owner and dog. Classes usually begin accepting puppies as soon as they have had all their inoculations, but they are never too young to learn. Keep lessons short and sweet and above all positive. Teach through play is a great way and small treats from their daily allowance usually go down well.