Bringing a new doggie member into your family is a wonderful thing, but also a great responsibility. It is up to you to provide your puppy with the proper care, environment and training before you can expect your little one to grow into a well-behaved doggie. These 10 guidelines are not an exhaustive list, but they are the most important things you can do to ensure that you raise a happy, healthy, and balanced puppy.
Choose the Right Dog
As tempting as it is to take home the adorable puppy from the pet store window or rescue the shelter dog who looked into your soul, bringing a new pet into your home should never be an impulsive decision. The dog should be appropriate for the environment you are going to provide it with, and it’s temperament should be compatible with yours. Important considerations when choosing the right breed of dog for you are: whether there are children in the household; exercise requirements of dog and owner; special purposes the dog may serve; human allergies; and health problems associated with specific breeds.
Socializing your puppy and exposing her to new situations is the most effective way of ensuring that she will get along well with other dogs and people. Proper socialization, however, presents a predicament for many owners: a puppy is not fully vaccinated until she is 4-5 months old, but it is imperative that socialization start at around 7 weeks of age. The next 8 weeks are the most important time in a puppy’s socialization process, so begin by taking your little one on walks and organizing play dates with her healthy doggie friends. As soon as she is fully vaccinated, take her to the dog run and on walks with other dogs. Your puppy should also socialize with humans, getting to know and feel comfortable with children, friends, family, and new people. Finally, your puppy should regularly be introduced to new situations, sights, sounds, smells and tastes in a positive environment.
Exercise is not merely a way of keeping your dog physically fit and healthy, but is also tremendously important for a balanced temperament and generally happy dog. Breed, age, and health are factors that affect the amount of exercise a dog requires, but even the most indolent of doggies enjoys – and needs – daily physical activity. Exercise is fun for your puppy and gives you an opportunity to bond with the newest member of your family!
Teaching your puppy to obey specific commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “come” is an integral part of his adolescent education. Obedience training is important not only for safety and practicality, but for strengthening the relationship between owner and puppy; providing your puppy with mental stimulation; and giving your puppy the opportunity to earn praise. New dog owners may want to seek the assistance of a dog training professional.
From a young age puppies must be shown by positive reinforcement and correction what acceptable behavior is – how your puppy is encouraged to behave as a youngster she will continue to behave as a full-grown doggie. This type of training addresses unhealthy or problematic behaviors such as separation anxiety, aggression, fear aggression, shyness, and going to the bathroom in the house. An important part of training your puppy properly is making sure that you understand and interpret her behaviors correctly. Being consistent with behavioral training will also help improve your puppy’s obedience skills.
When your kid visits grandma and she spoils him with an ice cream sundae before dinner, you explain that grandmas are allowed to make exceptions to the rules. Not so with your puppy. Everybody in your dog’s life – such as your family and dog walker – must be on board, know the rules and be consistent, consistent, consistent. You will be tempted to throw the ball (just this once!) to stop your puppy from barking, but don’t give in!
One of the most difficult parts of raising a well-behaved puppy is setting boundaries. This is in large part because owners must fight their instincts to smother their new puppy with affection and dismiss bad or overly-excited behavior as “cute”. Positive reinforcement is an indispensable part of training your puppy, but keep in mind that it is effective because it is reserved for rewarding good behavior. It may pull at your heart strings to wait until your puppy is calm before rewarding him with affection, but remember that this will help him to be a balanced, happy and well-trained dog.
Energy and nutrient requirements change throughout the stages of a dog’s life, and can also vary according to the dog’s gender, activity level, and breed. Puppies grow quickly and in general require more calories and more frequent meals than older dogs. In addition, your puppy should have access to fresh, clean water. There are many options to choose from when deciding what to feed your puppy: kibble, canned food, raw meat based diet, and other homemade meals. Kibble and canned food products usually contain the appropriate balance of nutritional supplements such as vitamins, minerals, and essential fats, but they are also are highly processed and tend to have more grains as filler, which have virtually no nutritional value for your puppy. If you choose to feed your puppy kibble or canned food, be selective and spend a bit more for a brand that is more balanced. Raw meat based diets are a better choice for many dogs and can be optimally nutritious for your puppy. If you are making the meals yourself, however, you must pay careful attention to the specific nutrient requirements of your dog.
It is a good idea to find a veterinarian whom you trust before getting your new puppy. You will need a veterinarian for vaccinations and general check-ups, but you should also be prepared because puppies tend to get sick much more frequently than older dogs. In addition, it is a good idea to buy pet insurance and to learn about 24 hour emergency veterinary clinics in your area.
Despite what people may tell you, when and whether to fix your puppy is not an easy decision. Unless you are planning to breed your puppy, and are knowledgeable about the process, having your dog fixed is a good idea for most people. The appropriate time to spay or neuter your puppy is something you should discuss with your veterinarian.