After you select the puppy of your dreams, you’ll be bringing her home to an exciting new life with her new family. Unfortunately, dogs don’t come with a manual to tell you how to succeed at raising them. Here are some pointers to help smooth the way as you integrate this new member into the household.
The first night and subsequent next few weeks are always difficult because the puppy will start to miss her dam (mother) and other siblings. She may cry or whine throughout the night. Veterinarians say this is combination of separation anxiety and being homesick for their birth environment. You can take steps to reassure your puppy that they are in a safe and nurturing environment.
Naturally, your pup will need a soft, dry, and comfortable place to sleep. This should be a doggy bed or a basket large enough to provide room for movement but confined enough to create a sense of security. A laundry hamper will suffice during the first several months but consider buying a bed (choose a durable, washable one) large enough that it becomes its own personal space for sleeping and when you’re not home.
If you were given an object such as a blanket, pillow or toy which has the scent of her litter mates or mother scent on it, this can assist greatly in helping ease the sting of the sudden separation its experiencing. If possible, let the night pass with the pup left alone as much as possible. By reacting to the whining or yelping, you will be reinforcing the habit. Placing a sheet over the box or crate will get the pup used to going to sleep at that time. Leave newspapers on the floor beside the bed but don’t expect this will avoid a cleanup in the morning.
Puppies are mischievous and curious by nature. While your pup explores her new environment, she will be tempted by virtually everything within reach. Prior to bringing your pup home, scour the household for anything which could pose a danger. Ensure that hazardous items such as marbles, wires, rocks, small objects, and any type of harmful plants are far out of the puppy's way. The leading causes of poisoning in dogs are chocolate, prescription drugs, antifreeze, rodent and snail poison, and other common items you might not think would be of interest to your pet. Similarly to humans, dogs are attracted to sweet tasting liquids and edibles, which is why the coatings of pills and antifreeze pose a grave danger.
Until you embark (no pun intended) on a formal training regimen for your growing dog, it’s up to you to start your relationship off on the right foot. Unlike cats, which usually take to using a litter box with little prompting and seek to integrate into their surroundings intuitively, dogs require guidance and positive reinforcement. They must be taught to learn behaviors which reduce the likelihood of soiling their environment and disrupting the household. As with infants, the task of “housebreaking” your pup and eliminating unwanted behaviors is a multi-step and ongoing process.
If you haven’t already, read up on proper training techniques. In the meantime, you should use common sense correction techniques. For example, while its useful to scold your pup to indicate unacceptable behavior, its crucial it be done within the context of a learning experience. When you catch her chewing on a shoe or tearing up the newspaper, take it away and replace it with one of her toys. Then praise her for chewing on the object you provided and which belongs exclusively to her. Your reprimands should be sharp and short. Most canine behavior experts advise against ever striking a dog for obvious reasons. Your dog regards you as its parent and guardian; making it fearful of you, even temporarily can be confusing and frightening. Even mild corporal punishment runs the risk of making the dog fearful, shy, or aggressive.
Always reward for proper behaviors and praise your young dog at every opportunity. Treats are an ideal tool to reinforce good behavior. As is true in all mammals and most animals, dogs love touch and being the focus of affection and attention. A rub behind the ears, along the belly or across the throat can send your dog into fits of ecstasy which greatly further the bond between you both.
Dog lovers and those who train them professionally agree that, as in humans, the formative years are crucial to preparing your dog for a happy and fulfilling life. Seek out training advice from books and videos on the subject and consider the value of enrolling your pup in a training program. In addition to making the relationship between your family and new pet more enjoyable, thorough training will establish boundaries, ensure obedience, and provide your dog with a correct understanding of her role within the family. Dogs are pack animals and thrive best within a social structure which mimics living in a canine pecking order. As the dog’s master, you must be viewed as the Alpha male. As the years pass your dog should always look to you for much more than affection; you are its leader, provider, and protector.
The task of providing the family dog with a healthy and interesting diet has evolved radically over the past several years. Many veterinarians now focus much more on the role diet plays in supporting wellness and avoiding common ailments. Don’t simply go to the supermarket or pet store and buy food products because of attractive packaging or price. Make the effort to research the appropriate foods for your dog’s breed and strive to provide your best friend with a varied and nutritious menu. Many pet owners now prepare home cooked meals for their dogs and share recipes online. If you decide this approach is too time-consuming, consider providing your dog with a combination of homemade food and premium commercial dog food to achieve optimal results.
As your dog matures, its nutritional needs will change so be aware of the nutrients she needs during the phases of growth and adjust caloric intake as needed. The digestive systems of puppies are different than an adult dog so watch out you don’t feed it a high protein diet with ingredients which may overwhelm its ability to process food. Feed her three or four times a day with a modest volume of food at first. Usually within fifteen minutes or so the pup will have eaten all she wants, so you can remove the dish. After ten to twelve weeks of age, reduce feedings to once in the morning and at night.
The first several months of your puppy’s life are the equivalent to your infancy and the next two years represent your entire childhood. Making them as joyful and rewarding as possible for both you and your new best friend will help ensure a lifetime of companionship and adventure together.