Getting a puppy is a very exciting time, but it can also be quite stressful!
Having a pet is a huge ~15 year+ commitment so it’s important that you’re as prepared as possible before bringing your new furry family member home. Below are a few things you need to keep in mind for your pup first hours, days, weeks and months.
Getting puppy home
It’s very exciting getting a new puppy but for the puppy it can be very stressful. Ensure you can spend at least a few whole days with the puppy.
Puppies chew, it’s how they investigate their world! Ensure you have appropriate chew toys ready for them. Put away items that you don’t want chewed and ensure that items such as household chemicals and electricity cables are safely stored away.
Equipment & management
Allocate a specific area for the puppy and block it off with a puppy gate. This area needs to be calm and quiet so the puppy can settle in when it arrives home. Set up a crate with some soft bedding, water and food bowls and toys ready for your new arrival.
Be prepared for toilet training as accidents will happen. You can purchase puppy pads or use newspaper whilst your pup is learning to toilet appropriately.
Pups are most likely to need to toilet:
- When waking up
- After playing or any excitement
- After eating
- When they are young, they may need to go in the middle of the night.
Signs that your pup may want to toilet include sniffing, whining or turning in circles. If toileting accidents happen, don’t punish your pup instead give lots of praise when they do toilet in the right place. Be patient and don’t rush the pup. Setting a toilet routine and introducing a word or phrase such as ‘go there!’ or ‘wee-wee time!’ will help your pup know when and where they should go.
Introducing to family
Whilst everyone wants to meet and play with the puppy, it’s very important that the pup is not overwhelmed by lots of new people and excitement. Keep introductions to members of the household for the first few days and then slowly and calmly introduce a couple of new people every day.
Safety around children
It is very important that children are supervised at all times around puppies and dogs. Children need to be encouraged to be calm and gentle around your pup and not be too rough during playtime or tease the pup. Children should never disturb your pup or any dog when it is eating, drinking or sleeping.
Puppies can become easily scared which may affect their behaviour so involve children in how to correctly handle and train your pup.
Setting a daily routine
Dogs thrive on routine so setting up a daily routine for your pup that works for you and your family will help settle your pup into its new life.
Exercise & playtime
Puppies need to use their energy to grow so giving them structured exercise and play-time allows them to burn off their puppy excitement and investigate the world
Your pup will need sufficient rest time and frequent naps throughout the day; this is the time for growing! If your pup gets over tired it is more likely to behave inappropriately, so just like a toddler, they need their naps too. Take them to their bed and ignore all their attempts to continue playing and they will soon settle down.
Food & feeding
Your pup has been started on a complete and balanced premium dry kibble food so it is best to continue with this diet when you get them home. If you want to change their diet, speak to your vet for advice on ensuring your pup receives the nutrition it needs to continue to grow into a healthy adult dog.
If you decide to change your pup’s diet then this should be done over a period of 7-10 days by gradually introducing the new food whilst decreasing the current food as this will help prevent your pup getting an upset tummy as their system adjusts to the new food.
- Days 1-3: ¾ current food & ¼ new food
- Days 4-6: ½ current food & ½ new food
- Days 7-10: ¼ current food & ¾ new food
- Day 10 onwards: new food only
It’s tempting to give your pup treats especially if they are being good however these can cause an upset tummy and prolonged use could lead to your pup becoming over-weight. If using treats, measure out your pup’s daily food amount and take out some of this food for treats throughout the day.
Whether your pup has a short or long coat they will need to be regularly groomed. Getting your pup used to being brushed and bathed at a young age makes the experience more pleasurable as they grow.
Puppy socialisation classes will help your pup learn to be polite and calm around other, unknown pups. This will help them develop into a social dog as they grow.
Puppy training classes helps you and your pup learn the skills and manners needed to become a lovely family pet.
As your pup’s new owners it’ll be beneficial to learn positive reinforcement training methods which includes knowing what you want your pup to do and rewarding it whenever they do what you want. It also includes replacing unwanted behaviour with more positive activities such as:
- If you don’t want them sitting on the bed, praise & reward them for sitting somewhere else (eg their bed or mat)
- If you don’t want them to jump up at guests, praise and reward them every time they sit calmly when meeting anyone.
As pups grow they go through a few ‘fear’ stages where their behaviour will change. This normally happens around 9 months and again at 18 months. It is important continue with their training so the pup receives consistency during these periods which will help them and you through these stages.
Dogs use their body to communicate with each other and with us. However, humans are not always very good at understanding a dog’s body language and this can lead to unwanted behaviours. As a general rule, if the dog’s body is loose and relaxed then the dog is calm and willing to interact. However, if you notice the dog’s body becoming tense, if they freeze or move away then they are not comfortable with the situation so it’s best to not interact with the dog at this time instead give the dog space.
If your pup starts to feel uncomfortable or stressed you are likely to see some of the signs below:
- Yawning when not tired
- Half-moon eye (this means you can see the whites of the outer edges of your dog’s eyes)
- Lip licking when not eating food
If these signs are ignored, your pup may start growling as a further warning that it is not comfortable and wants to be left alone. ALWAYS remove children from these situations and ensure the dog has space and time to become more relaxed and comfortable.
If you have concerns about any of your pup’s behaviour, always contact a qualified dog training professional or your vet.
To ensure your pup stays healthy it’s very important to provide regularly vaccinations and parasite control treatments for your pup and continue these throughout their life. Your vet will be able to advise you about ongoing health care routines.
Sterlisation / Desexing
Desexing your pup can prevent unwanted behaviours when they reach sexual maturity, prevents unwanted litters and will help stop your dog trying to escape into the neighbourhood to find a mate. It may also prevent the onset of disease later in life. Desexing your pup can be done around 6 months of age.
Puppies receive their first vaccinations at 6 weeks of age. Your pup may be able to go for a walk 2 weeks after their second vaccination. Some vets recommend a third vaccination at 12 weeks before the pup can go out into the world.
Puppies need worming:
- Every 2 weeks until 3 months old
- Monthly until 6 months old
- Then every 3 months for life
Flea and Tick treatments
Your pup can pick up fleas and ticks from the outside environment at any time of the year so it’s important to provide regular flea and tick treatments.
Heart worms are contracted by certain types of mosquitoes and can be potentially fatal so regular preventative treatment is highly recommended and is available in different forms including monthly tablets and spot-ons as well as annual injections.
Responsible dog ownership
As a new dog owner, you have some legal responsibilities under the Dog Act 1976. Your local council’s website will have more details about being a responsible dog owner. These include:
- Keeping your dog under control
- Preventing excessive barking
- Clearing up dog droppings in public areas
- At 3 months of age, your pup needs to be microchipped and registered with your local council. Once registered, the registration tag should be attached to your pup’s collar.
Your council may have dedicated areas that you can take your pup whereas other areas may be off limits to dogs. Check your local council’s website for more information.
If you’ve read all of the above and are ready to take on the challenge of a new pup, complete our adoption questionnaire HERE