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Caring for Your New Puppy

Adding a puppy to your household is an exciting endeavor. Puppies add a spark to a home, but they can also be difficult to manage. Be prepared for your puppy, and things will go a lot more smoothly.

It is never a good idea to leave a puppy unattended in your home. This is simply asking for trouble. Buy a kennel box or crate that is of an appropriate size for your puppy (he should be able to stand up and turn around comfortably) and everyone’s lives will be much easier. Crate training a puppy is not cruel. It is the safest place for your puppy to be when everyone is out of the house. Puppies cannot chew on electrical cords, eat poisonous substances, eat the trash, tear up your shoes, or go to the bathroom on your rugs if they are confined to a crate or kennel box. Your puppy will grow to love the kennel box, and will choose to go there to sleep or rest. Putting the kennel in the room where you spend most of your time and leaving the door ajar, will help your puppy adjust to spending time there. Do not use the kennel as a punishment. If your puppy is not adjusting very quickly to the crate, try putting favorite toys or blankets in the crate, setting a ticking clock next to the kennel, or even playing a radio softly nearby. Allow your puppy to go in and out of the kennel, closing the door for increasingly longer periods of time until he is comfortable with the experience. Do not allow small children to shake the kennel box, tip it over, bang the door, or bang on the tops or sides. Your puppy will not feel safe, and will choose not to go there.

Crate training can also help with housetraining. If your puppy will be living indoors, he needs to know to go to the bathroom outside. Most puppies, unless they are left alone too long, will not go to the bathroom in their crate. Very young puppies need to go out every 2-3 hours. After every meal or snack, you should take your puppy out immediately. Praise your puppy for every time he urinates or has a bowel movement outside. You can simply praise and pet him, give him a toy, or give him a piece of his puppy food. Many dogs are food motivated, so food rewards can speed along the training process. Most puppies have a small break in their training that lasts for a few days. This seems to happen at about 12-14 weeks of age. Your puppy may have an accident or two and then go back to normal. If your puppy is not getting housebroken, or was housebroken but no longer seems to be, see your veterinarian. Puppies are susceptible to bladder infections and if they develop one of these, housetraining can become nearly impossible. Your veterinarian can diagnose and treat the problem.

As far as small children go, no child should be left unattended with a puppy. Puppies have sharp teeth that they use in play and children don’t know how to make appropriate corrections to this behavior. Also, small children don’t understand that puppies can’t be carried by the head or ridden like a horse. Serious injuries to young puppies can be the result of rough play by kids.

When there are multiple members of the household, everyone should know the rules when it comes to training the puppy. Everyone should use the same training method, same rewards for good behavior, and the same command words. Puppies can only learn through consistent, positive training. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation for a trainer. Puppies should go to socialization classes when they are very young and beginner obedience classes when they are a little older. It is best for one family member to attend the class with the puppy and to be responsible for teaching the rest of the family. If your puppy is having behavioral issues, private training sessions in your home may be the best option to stop a problem from getting out of hand. There are many resources available to help you teach your puppy proper behavior.

Puppies need to chew things. They are born with a set of baby (or deciduous) teeth that fall out usually starting at 12 weeks of age. They gradually get all of their adult teeth in and usually have a full set at 7 months of age. Teething pain is the same for puppies as it is for human babies. Puppies need to have appropriate toys to chew on to relieve the discomfort. If you leave your shoes on the floor, your puppy will think it is ok to chew on them, especially if you have given your puppy old shoes or socks to play with. There are several companies that make hard rubber chew toys that have holes in them to fill with kibble or biscuits. These make great distraction agents and help keep a puppy (or adult) occupied if he is alone for part of the day. Sometimes your puppy’s baby teeth don’t fall out like they should. If this occurs, your veterinarian may need to remove them under sedation or general anesthesia. Retained deciduous teeth can cause dental problems later in life.

It is important for your puppy to eat a specially formulated puppy diet. Puppies grow very rapidly and require more fat and calories than adult dogs. There are special formulas for large breed puppies. The reason behind this is that a link between rapid growth and developmental orthopedic disease has been discovered. Excess energy causes excess or rapid growth and fat is the part of the diet that supplies the energy. Large breed puppy formulas have less fat than regular puppy formulas. Also, large breed puppy diets have restricted calcium. This is because high calcium levels have also been linked to an increased incidence of developmental orthopedic disease. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation about diet. Whatever you do, don’t change your puppy’s diet frequently. If your puppy is doing well on a particular formula, continue to buy and feed that formula. Puppies are susceptible to gastrointestinal problems after sudden diet change. This is also the case when they get table scraps.

Puppies need regular veterinary care including check-ups and vaccinations. Vaccines are discussed in-depth in the vaccine article. Starting at 6-9 weeks of age, your puppy needs to start visiting a veterinarian. Most veterinarians vaccinate and deworm puppies starting at this age, and continuing every 2-4 weeks until they reach 16 weeks of age. Your veterinarian can help you solve behavioral issues and address any health concerns. This regular veterinary care can be costly, and this doesn’t even include care for illness or injury. Make sure you figure this cost into your plans so that you are not caught unaware.

All in all, puppies can make a great addition to most families. They do, however, require a lot of care and attention. Preparing for the addition makes the transition much better for everyone involved.

Please note that this information does not replace professional veterinary care. It is solely for educational purposes. Your pet's medical condition should be evaluated by a veterinarian before any medical decisions are implemented. If there is a potentially life-threatening emergency involving your pet, take your pet to a veterinarian or veterinary facility immediately.

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