What to Expect When You're Expecting... a Puppy!
Is your home expecting a new addition? Does it have four legs and bark? Congratulations! This is a very special time for you! Puppies are a special experience, and you should cherish the time you get to spend with them at this age. After all, they’re only young once. If you’re looking for a new puppy guide, you’ve come to the right place! This article is full of new puppy advice that will help you be prepared for whatever is coming your way! We’ve tackled some of the biggest questions you’ll have and divided them by topic so you can find exactly what you need when you need it.
Picking Your Puppy Up
Before you head out to pick up your new friend, there is some prep work to do to ensure the process goes nice and smooth.
First, if possible, send a blanket of yours ahead to the breeder or the shelter. It will get the puppy used to your scent before you even get there. By the time you arrive, they will greet you as a familiar long lost friend instead of a stranger. Plus, when you get home, your pet will have a comforting security blanket!
Secondly, be smart about planning your pick up time! Try to secure a few days for you to be home, with as little interruption as possible, like a weekend. Having this consecutive time allows you to dedicate as much of your time as possible to bonding with your new puppy. It is a lot easier to trust a new person if they are consistently available while adapting.
Third, make sure you bring the right materials. Depending on how long the journey, you will need to be prepared. If the ride is long, have a nice soft collar and leash ready for potty breaks. Water is essential, of course, and it wouldn’t hurt to have puppy treats. After all, everyone likes car snacks!
Lastly, when you are driving home, be prepared to either hold your puppy securely or have a crate available during the drive. As tempting as it will be to show off your new pet to all your friends and family, it will be less disorienting to your puppy if you take them straight home. Remember, they have had a big day! You can always invite your friends and family to see them when your pup is all settled in. (And of course, send pics!)
How you handle arriving home is just as relevant as the ride over. Try to bring most of your human household members when you pick your new pup up. If that’s not possible, make sure to have them all home on arrival. The puppy will bond more closely with those that it meets in these first hours, so make sure the whole crew is there!
We know it’s very hard not to be excited. Puppies are bundles of love and energy, and it is so tempting to match them, but you’ll want to restrain yourself. Loud noises, even happy noises like excitement, can be intimidating to a puppy in their new surroundings.
On a related note, we know you’re excited to introduce your new puppy to your other pet, but you should wait. Too many new things at once may lead to a sour introduction, and if you think first impressions with people are hard to redo, try convincing your pets to give them another chance. Save yourself and your pets all that drama and wait until your puppy has settled in.
Ah, your puppy’s favorite time of day: FOOD TIME! To reduce the stress on your puppy, make sure you feed them the same food they have been eating. Ask the breeder or the rescue what kind of food they were eating before you pick them up. (It’s also okay to ask for some of it to help with the transition!) If, for some reason, you have to change your pet’s food, make the transition gradual. Mix the new food into the old food, increasing the amount of current food a little more each day, until it’s one hundred percent of the brand new food. If you rush it, your puppy could get an upset stomach, and nobody likes that!
When selecting your food dishes, stainless steel and ceramic are better choices for your puppy. Not only will the heftier bowls be harder to tip over, but they can be safer too. Puppies are notorious for chewing anything and everything. A puppy chewing on their dish could make scratches on the surface. That doesn’t sound so bad, except that bacteria can lurk in those scratches, and then your puppy eats those gross bacteria and could get sick! So, it’s best to avoid that potential risk factor.
If you’re going to have a larger breed, consider getting an elevated stand. Dogs can develop back and neck issues from having to bend over to eat all the time. They won’t complain, of course, but it’ll wear them down over time. It is better to start on the right paw!
Vaccinating your puppy is critical for their future health. These vaccines will protect your puppy from a wide range of harmful illnesses and diseases. You don’t want to skip these! Until your puppy has all their vaccines, they could very possibly catch any one of those illnesses, and some of them can be fatal. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, you should limit their exposure to public places and other dogs.
Luckily, vets have got this down to a regular schedule. There are three parts to the vaccine series for your puppy. The first is at eight weeks, another round at twelve weeks, and one final round at sixteen weeks. Oh, and if your vet recommends waiting a little while longer on the rabies vaccine, that’s normal! For your pup to get licensed, the rabies vaccine is required, but it can be after the three-part series if it needs to be. Remember that they'll need their vaccinations to be updated annually.
Your puppy has its whole life ahead of it, so give it a great start. While you’re at the vet, you should consider getting a microchip. It can be a lifesaver if your dog gets out. Microchips increase the chances of your puppy coming home safely if they run away.
Prepare for the Vet
A vet trip is overwhelming for a puppy! They’re so little, and there are so many unfamiliar smells, people, and noises. You can’t blame them for being nervous about it. There are some ways you can help prepare your puppy for the experience. Play with their feet, toes, and ears to get them familiar to touch. They will associate those sensations with love, not fear. Make a point to practice a few of the weirder things too. Try checking your dog’s teeth and gums at home, and it will become more natural to them the more you do it. When practicing with the leash, make sure that some of that practice includes a short lead close to you. That way, when you keep them close at the vet office, they will already be familiar with being on a shorter leash. Drive around with your puppy, and that will help them not associate all car trips with the vet’s office.
With a little effort, you can replace the fear of the vet with positive feelings! When it’s time for their appointment, make sure to bring treats along and reward their good behavior. Do not treat or dote on them when they are showing anxiety. That teaches them that if they act scared, they get treats and love and they will keep doing it for your attention instead of learning better behavior.
Were you considering crate training? You should be! It teaches your puppy structure and that their crate is a safe place. It will also aid in potty training, reduce anxiety, and protect both your puppy and your house from misbehavior when you’re sleeping or otherwise away from them.
When you are crate training, make sure that you choose a crate that is just big enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around in. Don’t worry if the kennel you’ve purchased is too large- your pup will grow into it. Just use a divider to keep it the right size for your puppy. Oh, and remember, puppies can’t hold their bladder for longer than three hours. They’ll need to be let out of their crate at least that often, or they may have an accident.
You want your puppy to associate the crate with a sense of safety and security. Never use the kennel as a punishment, or it becomes a place of fear, not their personal space. If your puppy thinks that their kennel is for when they are in trouble, they won’t use it properly! Rather than run that risk, reward your puppy when they are doing it correctly!
When we talked about the crate needing to be just the right size, potty training is the main reason for that. If there’s too much extra space, your puppy may feel like dedicating some of that space to going potty. That’s not what you want!
Crate training works hand in hand with potty training because dogs don’t like to go to the bathroom in an enclosed space. We don’t blame them either! There will be accidents, of course, but as long as you make sure to keep to a good schedule and let them out at LEAST every three hours or so, they should catch on pretty quickly. You’ll find that as soon as you let them out of the crate, they’ll go straight outside. You’ll be teaching them to hold it because they’d preferably go potty in the yard than in their bed.
Before you bring your puppy home, you should puppy proof your home. Good news, it’s easier than cat proofing. They don’t jump nearly as high! It’s much closer to baby proofing. Baby gates are one of the most useful tools available to dog owners. If you don’t want your puppy in a specific room, you’ll need to block them from going in. If anything is going on that is potentially a risk for your puppy, it’s safer for everyone to leave them in the crate until you’re through.
You’ll also want to be aware of their surroundings too. Puppies are furry Roombas that don’t follow instructions. If anything is on the ground, it’s probably going in their mouth. Never count on being able to stop them either. They’re a lot closer to the ground, and they are faster than you think they are. Any small item can become a choking hazard, and even food can be a problem. It may give them an upset stomach or worse, depending on what they pick up. Since your puppy is pretty unpredictable, keep any irreplaceable, hazardous, easily broken objects up high or in closed-off areas in the house.
Is your puppy finally comfortable with you and your home? Excellent, time for the next stage- socializing. Remember, you should limit your puppy’s contact with other dogs and public spaces until after they are fully vaccinated. Once it’s safe to do so, don’t wait to get started. Everyone wants a friendly puppy, and this is how you help make that happen. The sooner you get this started, the less stress your puppy will have around meeting new people and animals. Just like you had to learn that meeting new people is fun, so does your puppy! It’s like the first day of kindergarten every day for them until they get comfortable with it.
One of the best ways to start this is by introducing your puppy to new people in a familiar environment first. Invite friends over, and let them meet them on your puppy's home turf. It makes it a little less scary because they are in a comfortable place.
Good socializing will take a variety of forms. It should be with adults, children, and with other dogs at the very least. Just the people in your household won’t be enough. Your family is still part of their usual environment, and socializing has to do with adapting to new elements in their surroundings. Now you can show off your cute new puppy to your friends and family. Just be careful how many new faces you introduce at once. Too many can be overwhelming. Watch your puppy's body language and make sure you don’t push them too far, too fast. If they give signs of being done, let them retreat. Forcing them to stay when they’re stressed out can lead to them being scared or aggressive towards new things instead. That is not what you want!
We hope you feel better prepared for your new puppy, and remember, if you need any help taking care of them, Happy Tails is here for you!