A new puppy is a large responsibility, especially if it is your first. There are a few things you need to know if you want a happy and healthy puppy.
Puppies are born with a very weak immune system. They gain immune protection via antibodies ingested in their mother’s milk. However, this protection begins to wane around 6 to 8 weeks, and vaccinations are required to protect your puppy from life-threatening diseases like distemper and parvovirus. Your veterinarian will recommend the correct vaccination program for your puppy. Until this program is completed, keep your puppy away from uninoculated animals and dog parks.
Worming should begin from about two weeks of age to protect against Toxocara, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. A typical program calls for worming every two weeks until 12 weeks, then monthly until 6 months. Your veterinarian will recommend the best course for your puppy.
It is important to control the flea infestations on your new puppy. Not only are the fleas a source of irritation, but they can also cause anemia and transfer tapeworms. Ask your vet about the right flea treatment for your puppy, as adult treatments are not appropriate for younger animals.
By the time your puppy is ~ 8 weeks of age, it should be eating solid food. When choosing a brand of food for your new puppy, it is important to look for a “complete puppy diet”. Puppies should not be eating the same food as an adult dog. If your puppy is already on a complete puppy diet, try to avoid any changes, as this can lead to stomach upsets. Initially meals should be spaced out to 2-3 times per day. As the puppy ages (6 months to 1 year), this can be decreased to 1-2 meals per day. Make sure to offer water at regular intervals as well.
Housetraining can begin as soon as you bring your new puppy home. Puppies need to eliminate after feeding, drinking, exercise or play, and after waking. Try to put the animal out into the garden or on a grassy area immediately following any of these events. Be sure to praise him when he is done. Never reprimand your puppy for “accidents”.
The best time to socialize is from 4 to 12 weeks of age. During this window of time, the puppy is very impressionable to new experiences, thus it is important to avoid any negative experiences that may have unfortunate consequences later on in life. Aim to provide the puppy with positive exposure to men, women, children, other dogs, cats, and especially vets. Keep in mind, though, that during this period of socialization your puppy may not have completed its course of vaccination, and should not be exposed to any potential sources of disease.
Puppy school is a great way to get your animal socialized and to learn basic training techniques.
Training requires time, a great deal of patience, and consistency. Training sessions should never be very long, as your puppy will tire easily. Keep tasks simple and achievable, and avoid distractions. While praise is beneficial, punishment is rarely constructive.
If you do not plan to breed from your puppy, you should discuss spaying or neutering with your vet. Desexing is a routine operation that can significantly prolong your pet’s life. Castration reduces behavioural problems such as aggression and wandering, health problems like prostate disease, and eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer. Spaying will prevent female dogs from going into heat every 6-12 months, producing unwanted offspring, and reduce or eliminate diseases such as mammary tumours, ovarian and uterine cancer, and pyometra (uterine infection).
Microchipping is a quick, easy and relatively painless procedure that can be done at the same time as vaccinations. The microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, is injected by a veterinarian beneath the skin between the shoulder blades. When a scanner is run over the site of implantation, a unique identification number will be shown on the scanner. This number is kept in a database along with owner contact information.
Pet insurance is highly recommended as veterinary expenses can really add up. It provides the owner with more options if their pet requires an expensive operation or life-saving treatment. Ask your vet for advice, as there is a huge range of insurance policies out there.