Adding a puppy to the family can often be like one of those Pinterest fails. Your head is filled with all the adorable scenes of puppy kisses and playing fetch at the park, but the reality is consumed by countless hours of house training your dog and teaching them how to walk on a lead.
While puppies may be a lot of work, your commitment to developing a good routine will give you a loyal companion for years. When preparing to bring a puppy home, be sure to set up a good support team that includes a knowledgeable vet, as life so often goes off course from our best laid plans. This guide will help you get your home and family ready for your new puppy.
Meeting the family
Bringing a puppy home is an exciting time, especially for a family with children. As new owners, we must remember that this is a big life change for all participants — animal and human. This puppy will be in a new environment with new sounds, smells, and a brand new family to meet.
When first introduced to its new home, place your new puppy on a lead and allow it to roam its new environment under your control. You want it to feel comfortable, but a free-roaming puppy will often have accidents if left on its own for too long. While most new owners may feel a dog crate is isolating and cold, crate training is actually the easiest way to establish good sleep habits and bathroom routines. It also prevents them from getting into trouble while you’re sleeping, which keeps both them and your belongings safe. Puppies don’t view their crate as a place of isolation but rather as a safe place, as we often feel in our own bedrooms.
When providing exercise, be sure to keep your puppy on a short lead by your side. Do not allow the puppy to pull and lead you. Owners want to establish dominance, so the puppy knows to follow your command. When your puppy’s about 4 to 6 months old, look into obedience school and ways to socialize it. Teaching your dog to follow commands will ensure you can keep it safe.
Teaching a puppy to socialize around 12 weeks will make for an easier lifestyle. When expecting visitors, keep your puppy on a lead to greet the visitor at the door, do not allow them to jump, and provide positive reinforcement by allowing your visitor to give a treat for a proper greeting. Like children, puppies love and respond well to frequent positive reinforcement.
Like a newborn baby, a puppy will give you countless hours of joy while zapping all your free time and some hours of sleep in the first few weeks home. House training takes a lot of commitment, but once a good routine is established, you can resume normal living.
House training a puppy begins with a good routine, patience, and positive reinforcement. Plan to take your puppy outside to the same spot around the same time each day, being mindful to plan for times right when you wake up, before bed, immediately after eating, a nap, or physical exercise. The general rule of thumb is to take a puppy outside as many hours as their age plus one hour, so a 2-month-old puppy needs to go out every three hours.
Puppies love to explore new places, so do your new furry friend and yourself a favour and spend the time on some preventative puppy proofing to keep all your favourite things intact.
Keep electrical cords covered.
Tie up window cords and curtains.
Put toxic cleaning supplies/chemicals in higher cabinets.
Invest in a tall, heavy duty rubbish bin with a lid that is difficult to knock over.
Purchase a crate for crate training or a baby gate to keep the puppy in a small place, such as the kitchen, with easily washable floors.
Don’t give your puppy old shoes and stuffed animals. Invest in appropriate toys that belong solely to them so your puppy knows the difference between his toys versus your daughter’s favourite stuffed animal and your brand new shoes.
Don’t let them get away with things because they’re small. If you don’t want to a 60-pound snoring dog in your bed, then don’t allow it to sleep there as a puppy. Establish your routines early, because breaking bad habits is infinitely harder.
Develop a proper feeding schedule
While we can often be swayed to buy the less expensive item on the shelf, feeding your puppy high quality food is a key competent to keeping your dog healthy. If you are unsure of which brand to pick, speak to your vet to see what they recommend. Choose a brand and stick with it, as oftentimes switching brands can upset your little one’s tummy. While you want to control the amount of food they receive, be sure to always keep a bowl full of water available. Be mindful that puppies need more food than an adult dog to keep up with their rapid growth spurts.
Feed your puppy multiple times a day according to its age:
8-12 weeks: 4 meals per day
3-6 months: 3 meals per day
6-12 months: 2 meals per da
What not to feed a puppy
Have you ever heard the phrase “puppy dog eyes” — those sweet little eyes that beg you to give into their every desire? While they are hard to resist, owners should avoid feeding scraps from the table to encourage proper eating habits and for the dog’s own safety. When it comes to table scraps, the following food items are an absolute no for dogs, as they present a risk to your dog’s health:
Grapes and raisins
Raw fish and raw meat
High-fat foods, such as macadamia nuts and avocados
High-fat meats, such as bacon
Onions and garlic
Caffeine and alcohol
What products does my puppy need
The aisles of your nearest pet store are filled to the brim with products you may or may not need. Just because a dog food company made it doesn’t mean it’s good for your dog. Sadly, some companies put the idea of making money before the wellness of their consumers. Do your research, talk to your vet, and invest in these helpful products:
Metal food and water bowls
A sturdy lead and nylon collar
Identification tags for the collar
A crate pillow or snuggle nest
Small puppy treats
Good quality dog food designed for puppies (know your dog’s weight before shopping)
A bristle comb
Non-toxic dog shampoo
The growing pains of raising a puppy
Owning a puppy requires a great deal of patience, flexibility, and more often than not, the loss of at least one pair of your favourite footwear. While most negative behaviours can be eliminated by proper training, the job of pet owner is not without pitfalls.
First and foremost, a puppy requires a lot of training. They must be house trained, crate trained, and even trained to play with others. For the first few months, their every need comes before your own. Between the hours of training, they must be fed frequently, walked often to burn off that puppy energy, and constantly praised for positive behaviour.
If you live alone, this kind of dependency may be just what you’re looking for, but if you’re busy with kids or work or other life obligations, you may want to push pause on the purchasing of a puppy.
The bills and expense that come along with your newfound love could be surprising. In addition to basic necessities, vet bills quickly pile up in a dog’s first year of life. If all this information is taking you by surprise, there’s an easy solution. Don’t panic. Slowly walk away from that adorable puppy and run to the nearest pet shelter. There are plenty of older dogs looking to be adopted. Rescue one and give them a forever home!
Why vaccinate my dog?
Vaccinations can help protect your dog against some potentially fatal diseases, such as parvovirus, canine distemper, leptospirosis and infectious canine hepatitis.
Vaccinating your dog also stops them from catching and spreading deadly diseases to other dogs. Vaccinated dogs are less likely to catch diseases and won’t spread them around – meaning the whole of the dog population is also a little safer!
What vaccinations are available?
Your dog should be vaccinated as a puppy and then get regular boosters throughout their life.
Vaccinations for puppies
Puppies are vulnerable to serious diseases like parvovirus and canine distemper. Your puppy can start their vaccinations from around 8-weeks-old and will need a second set of injections, usually 2-4 weeks after their first set. For some high-risk puppies, a third injection may also be recommended by your vet.
Some breeders and rehoming centres may have started your pup’s vaccinations before you adopt them. You’ll need to check what they have already had and get your puppy booked in for their remaining jabs. If you’re not sure, bring your ‘puppy paperwork’ to your local vet practice who’ll be able to help you make sure your puppy is fully protected.
It’s important to keep your puppy away from unvaccinated dogs until they’ve had their full course of vaccinations and are fully protected. This is usually two weeks after their second injections.
Booster vaccinations for dogs
After having their initial vaccinations as a puppy, your dog will need regular booster injections throughout their life. This is to help keep them protected as over time their immunity could otherwise go away. If you do not keep on top of your dog’s vaccinations they will be more at risk of catching infectious diseases.
Booster jabs for distemper, parvovirus and canine hepatitis are usually needed every three years. Booster jabs for leptospirosis are needed every year.
What do vaccinations protect my dog from?
There are four main diseases that your dog can be vaccinated against. These are:
Parvovirus – or parvo – is a highly contagious disease that causes severe vomiting and bloody diarrhoea in dogs. It’s a very serious illness that can be deadly without treatment.
How can I stop my dog getting parvovirus?
It’s really important to have your dog regularly vaccinated to protect them against parvovirus.
If you think your dog has parvo, call your vet immediately.
What is canine distemper?
Canine distemper is a contagious virus that attacks a dog’s lymph nodes before attacking their respiratory, urinary, digestive and nervous systems. It is passed easily between dogs through saliva, blood and urine.
The success of vaccinations in the UK mean it’s rare to see outbreaks, but is more common in Europe and can easily be brought over. It can also infect other animals, such as ferrets and foxes.
Symptoms of canine distemper
Early symptoms include:
Watery discharge from nose and eyes
A high fever.
As the virus progresses, later symptoms include:
Distemper can also cause hardening of the footpads and nose, so is sometimes known as ‘hardpad’.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for distemper and usually vets will try to manage the symptoms. Dogs with distemper need intensive care and are usually kept in isolation so they don’t spread the virus. Sadly, even with the right treatment, distemper can be fatal to many of the dogs that catch it.
How can I stop my dog getting distemper?
The best way to prevent your dog getting distemper is to keep their vaccinations up-to-date. Remember to keep newly vaccinated puppies indoors until at least two weeks after their full course of vaccinations and don’t let unvaccinated pets near them during this time.
What is leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis – also known as lepto – is a bacterial infection. It attacks your dog’s nervous system and organs. It can also be passed on from dogs to us – in humans it’s known as Weil’s disease.
Lepto is mainly carried by dogs and rats and spread through infected pee and contaminated water, which means your dog is at risk if they swim or drink from stagnant water or canals. Outbreaks of lepto increase after flooding, when there’s a lot of contaminated water around.
Symptoms of leptospirosis
Symptoms of leptospirosis include:
In severe cases, dogs can develop kidney damage and liver failure. For dogs, the disease can be fatal even with the best treatment. Weil’s disease can also be fatal to humans.
Dogs with mild symptoms may recover. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection and offer other treatments to help manage their symptoms.
How can I stop my dog getting leptospirosis?
It’s best to keep your dog’s vaccinations up-to-date. Keep puppies indoors until two weeks after their primary course of vaccinations and keep them away from unvaccinated pets.
The vaccination covers the most common types of lepto but your dog can still get other strains, so it’s good to take other measures to prevent lepto as well. Try to avoid letting your dog drink or swim in stagnant water or flooded areas. Though rats can get almost anywhere, it’s best to keep your dog away from places that you know rats have been present to try and reduce their risk.
Dogs recovering from leptospirosis should be kept away from vulnerable animals and humans for several months until your vet is happy they are no longer carrying the infection. You need to be careful where they go to the toilet during this time as they can spread the virus in their wee.
Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH)
What is ICH?
ICH is a viral disease that attacks a dog’s liver, kidneys, eyes and blood vessel linings. It is spread through the bodily fluids – pee, saliva, blood, poo or snot – of infected dogs. The virus can survive in the environment for up to a year, is very dangerous and can spread quickly.
Although humans get infectious hepatitis, it is a completely different virus, so infectious hepatitis can’t be passed from dogs to humans, or vice versa.
Symptoms of ICH
Symptoms can range from being quite mild to sudden and unexpected death.
Symptoms of ICH include:
Fever or high temperature
Unfortunately, there is no cure for ICH but vets will treat your dog’s symptoms. In mild cases the chances of recovery can be good but your dog may need a special diet to help their liver once they have recovered.
In severe cases the disease can go on to cause jaundice and liver failure and result in seizures and coma. Sadly, even with the best treatment, severe ICH can be fatal.
How can I stop my dog getting ICH?
The best way to protect your dog against ICH is by getting them vaccinated regularly. Your dog will need boosters every three years to stay protected from ICH – ask your vet if you’re not sure when their next vaccination is due.
If your dog gets ICH and recovers, they can continue to spread the virus in their wee for up to a year. To prevent the disease spreading, keep them away from unvaccinated dogs (like young puppies) and try to have them toilet away from public areas where other dogs could pick up the disease.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Europe in both humans and pets, caused by bacteria of the Borrelia species. Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks on hosts such as deer, sheep and hedgehogs. Habitats where ticks are likely to be found include heathland, mooreland, rough pasture and urban parks, such as local Bushy Park and Richmond Park.
Lyme disease in dogs
Clinical signs include pyrexia (fever), lethargy, lameness and lymphadenopathy (disease of the lymph nodes). Occasionally a more serious clinical syndrome associated with Borrelia infection may present:
Progressive and fatal protein losing nephropathy (Lyme nephritis)
In more severe cases, Lyme disease can also affect humans. A bite from an infected tick can take between two days and four weeks to show and anyone who has been bitten should look for a “bulls eye” type red rash appearing around the bite.You may also experience flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, headaches and muscle or joint pain.
Untreated in humans, Lyme disease can spread to the brain, heart, and joints and in extreme can cause nerve damage, paralysis and blindness.
Definitive diagnosis can be challenging, and is based on a combination of history of tick exposure, clinical signs, appropriate testing and response to treatment.
Treatment is based on managing symptoms and antibiotics.
Lyme disease can be prevent by:
Avoiding areas where tick exposure is likely, particularly during periods of peak tick activity
The use of acaricides – products with an anti-feeding effect and rapid speed of kill are preferred
Removing ticks promptly if they are found on your dog
Brush off clothes and pet’s coats before heading indoors after your walk