Giving your puppy the best start
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of bringing home a new puppy.
But to make sure that you are giving your brand new pup the best start to its new life, it’s best to be prepared.
Here are 10 tips to help make you and the latest addition to the family settle in with ease:
Before your puppy comes home:
1. Bringing a puppy home is a serious commitment and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Make sure to investigate the breeder or shelter before committing to taking on one of their animals – the developmental environment in which dogs spend their first weeks of life is extremely important to their development.
Questions you might want to consider include: Are they with their mother and littermates? Are they stimulated and being introduced to elements that they will encounter in their adult life? They really should be, up until the age of at least 8 or 9 weeks.
Ask about the food they’ve been weaned onto – puppies have very specific nutritional needs and should, therefore, be fed a puppy-specific commercially prepared pet food from a Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) member brand.
Also, make sure that the entire family is on board to share the duties of a new puppy and that you’re all in agreement about the approach to training – consistency will go a long way to getting unwanted behaviours under control quickly.
2. Be ready for your puppy’s homecoming – a bed, collar and lead, water and food bowls, food, appropriate puppy treats and toys are essential from the moment the puppy enters your home. You want the pup to feel right at home.
3. Get your home puppy-ready by blocking off any areas that they should not have access to and safeguard items from sharp teeth that are looking for something to gnaw on. Scrutinise your home to puppy-proof all areas, making sure they are safe for this inquisitive life. Making a safe space for your puppy, with comfortable bed, toys, water and food will aid them in their transition.
4. If at all possible, it’s best to have a few days with the puppy to help them through the challenges of the changes and allows for bonding to begin. See if you can arrange a couple of days off from work or arrange a pet sitter to help.
5. Enrol your puppy in a reputable puppy school that uses positive methods of reinforcement to allow socialisation to continue even after leaving the litter.
When your puppy arrives:
6. Have treats and toys handy to make the experience as pleasant as possible. Read your puppy’s body language – if the introduction is proving to be overwhelming, allow them to retreat to their safe space and try again later.
7. Avoid an upset tummy by continuing to feed the same food that the puppy has been eating (unless it is truly not acceptable to you). The huge adjustment of moving into a new home is stressful enough, so it’s imperative that the gut is supported during the transition by maintaining a consistent diet. Once the puppy is settled, you can switch to another brand. Whenever doing a swap, do so slowly and gradually over 1 – 2 weeks, allowing the puppy’s digestive system to become accustomed to the new food formula.
8. Start training as early as possible. And this doesn’t mean through the puppy school – every interaction at home is an opportunity to train your puppy, so have treats ready to reward the behaviours you want to encourage.
9. Get into a routine as quickly as possible as this will provide reassurance and stability for your puppy.
10. Find a vet that is close by and one that you are comfortable with, then keep up their vet visits to ensure the best start to life (there are many in the early stages). It’s also advisable to sign up for pet medical insurance, to give you the peace of mind that most medical expenses will be covered throughout your pet’s life.