8 min read
Puppies are wonderful, aren't they? They're cute, adorable, fluffy little balls of energy (when they're awake) that never fail to bring joy to your life. We've all experienced that massive case of the feels whenever we have a close encounter with a puppy.
Regardless of how excited you know you are going to be when you finally get to pick up your new little furball, it's critical to know what you are getting yourself into. You also need to prepare so your first few days being a puppy parent are not spent in frustration and spent slippers.
Read on to learn what puppy parenting is all about, how to get ready, and what to do once your puppy makes it home.
Are You Ready for a Puppy?
In a lot of ways, getting a puppy is a lot like bringing home a newborn baby. Some might even say it's a lot more challenging. After all, newborns don't do much except poop and sleep.
Your furniture and shoes are perfectly safe from a newborn, at least for the first few months. A puppy is a different story. Your new puppy will be anxious to explore their surroundings whenever they are awake.
Puppies sleep for around 18 hours a day, which is a blessing, but the other 6 hours of awake time will call for diligence.
While they have perfectly good pairs of eyes and ears, what puppies like to use most when exploring the world around them are their teeth; tiny, pointy, razor-sharp teeth.
If they're not trying to chew your fingers to the bone, they will be thrilled to go to town on your chair legs, door frames, shoes, and socks.
They may sleep a lot, but puppies grow fast and need lots of fuel to sustain them. Expect to feed your puppy at least three or four meals a day.
When they're done eating, you will need to take the pup outside, so they start learning how to eliminate like civilised dogs. You will have to deal with the occasional accident inside, so be prepared.
Just like a newborn babe, your pup will need attending to during the night. Taking time off work when a new puppy enters the house is highly recommended because you will need the occasional daytime nap to catch up.
In short, puppies take up your time, energy and resources, so make sure you are committed and in the right mindset before bringing one home. Remember, you will be sharing the next decade or so of your life with your new furry friend.
Home Preparation When Getting a Puppy
There's a lot to do to make your home safe from a curious puppy who will chew anything and everything it can fit in its mouth.
Before you bring your new family member home, channel your inner puppy. Get down on your hands and knees and check out your home from a puppy's point of view. If you see anything that might be dangerous or valuable and in reach, remove it or put it up out of the way. Here are a few more ideas on puppy-proofing your home:
Week 1 - Introducing Puppy
It will take the puppy some time to get used to her new surroundings and the occupants. They will likely fret a little if they have just come from a litter with mum and siblings, so lots of patience is warranted.
Give Your Puppy the 50c Tour
Take your puppy to different areas of the house and introduce them to their new home. Show them where the water bowl and food bowl are and let them have a supervised explore and snuffle around on their own for a bit.
Introducing Other Pets
If your puppy is coming into a home with pets, you will need to supervise the introductions closely. Don't let the puppy annoy the resident dog, and make sure cats can quickly get away from an overly rambunctious and curious puppy. The first few interactions should be kept brief so as not to get anyone overexcited.
Puppies are cute and adorable, so everyone is going to want to cuddle and play. A new environment can be stressful, as can too many cuddles. Introduce the new puppy to as many people as possible but keep these first meetings short but pleasant. You don't want to create any negative associations at this early stage.
New Puppy Supplies
The time to shop for puppy supplies is before you bring them home. That way, you are less likely to forget something important. Here's a list of items you will need in your home from day one.
Choosing a Puppy Crate
A puppy crate is essential when it comes to caring for your new pet. Dogs are naturally den animals, and a crate provides an area that helps them feel safe and secure.
A puppy will feel lonely on their first few nights away from mum and the litter. You can use the crate to keep the puppy by your bedside safely so they can take comfort in your presence.
It's impossible to keep both eyes on a puppy at all times, but you can't let her have the run of the house. She could annoy the other pets and do untold damage to furniture. A crate keeps the puppy out of trouble, and you can keep her in an area that's occupied by others, so she won't get lonely.
Choose the right size puppy crate. It should be just big enough for them to stand and turn around in, but no bigger. If you don't want to purchase another larger crate later, get one with a divider that allows you to adjust the amount of room they have as they grow.
You will need some bedding to line the crate and make it more comfortable. Washable veterinary bedding is perfect for puppies. You don't want anything that's stuffed or has a padded interior because of little puppy teeth.
Puppy Kongs are the go-to toy for puppies around eight weeks of age. Freeze them with a treat inside for extra soothing potential.
Rope toys are an excellent dental accessory a puppy will enjoy chewing, and you can engage in a bit of tug of war with them for bonding time
Puppy Feeding Schedules
A newborn puppy won't be ready for solid food for some months. In ideal circumstances, they won't leave the litter until they are at least 8 weeks old.
Newborns will get everything they need from their mother's milk for at least the first 4 weeks.
4 to 6 Week Old Puppy Nutrition
Puppies are starting to transition to solid food, but they still get most of their nutrition from mum. They've got sharp little teeth by the time they are 5 weeks old. You can be sure mum will be quick to teach them about bite inhibition.
6 to 8 Week Old Puppy Nutrition
Most pups will have weaned themselves off mum and will be getting all their nutrition from solids.
8 to 12 Week Old Puppy Nutrition
Puppy is now old enough to come home with you. Make sure puppies diet stays the same as they are used to and slowly transition to your preferred brand.
Puppies will need 4 small meals a day. Divide their daily requirements up into four equal portions.
3 to 6 Months
Your puppy is now one of the family and is much more settled. It's time to reduce mealtimes down to 3 times a day. If your puppy gets an upset stomach or visibly stressed about missing a meal, you can switch back to 4 meals for a small while.
6 to 12 months
It's time to cut one more meal out of the schedule, which takes it down to 2 a day. Again, if the puppy struggles, switch back to three and try again later.
Unless your pup is a large breed, she should be ready for adult food. Most species will only require one meal a day with the occasional healthy snack like bones or pigs’ ears for chewing.
Large and giant dog breeds can take much longer to reach maturity and full size. Check with your vet if you are unsure about when you should transition them to adult food.
Puppies need to be vaccinated at various stages of their early life to protect them from canine diseases like parvovirus.
Use the schedule below to keep track of your puppy's vaccinations:
6 - 8 weeks
10 - 12 weeks
14 - 16 weeks
Final puppy vaccination
Every 12 months for life
Training a new puppy starts from day one by showing them where their food and water bowls are. You will also start teaching them new habits, including:
Dogs thrive on predictable routines, so the key to good puppy training is to be consistent. Try to do the same things with your puppy at the same time every day.
You can condition your pup to know what to expect next by the phrases you use.
Just before feeding time, use a phrase like "Want your food?" Emphasise the keywords. At feeding time, make sure you are in full view of the puppy when you are getting their bowl, reaching for their food, and serving them. You want your pup to have no doubt that you are the provider of food.
Don't feed an overly excited puppy. Wait until they calm down before placing the food on the floor. This is the perfect time to train your puppy to sit and wait politely. When he's behaving, put the bowl on the food and say a command like "Okay," or "Eat!"
Housetraining a Puppy
Your puppy should be taken outside the first thing every morning, after every meal, after waking from a nap, and after a long play session.
A puppy that is four months old should be able to hold its bladder for four hours plus one (age in months + 1). Unfortunately, this means you will be in for a few sleepless nights if you brought your puppy home when they are quite young. You may need to use an alarm.
When you catch your puppy in the act in an inappropriate location, distract them with a touch and immediately take them outside.
Always have cleaning tools on hand because there will be accidents. If you are prepared, you are less likely to get angry or frustrated. Puppies are very sensitive to negative energy, so you want to make sure you only use positive reinforcement.
On average, and with consistency, a pup should be confidently going on their own once they are 10 months to a year old. However, every puppy is different. Using pee pads might also help speed the process up because they can be more accessible than going outside.
Dogs can be incredibly rewarding companions that will enrich your life. However, they are a commitment and require resources, time, and patience, especially during the puppy stages. If you have decided to bring a puppy into your home, understanding what they need and preparing yourself beforehand will make your transition into dog ownership much more satisfying and enjoyable.
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