8 Tips for Raising a Puppy
Posted by Casey Nicole on June 25, 2012 at 4:18 PM
We’ve all been there. Every time the Sarah McLachlan commercial comes on, or when everyone is out walking their dog during your run, or after you exclaimed “Awww,” after looking at your "cuddles" pin board one last time, you start to think maybe you should get one of your own. Getting a dog is a huge commitment. The benefits are endless; owning a pet can boost your immunity, lower your blood pressure, and reduce anxiety and depression. And did we mention limitless puppy snuggles and unconditional love? So before you pick up a pup to call your own, remember they will love you with everything they’ve got and you need to return the favor. Here’s our advice for bringing home Fido.
First, Know Your Limits
Since you’re making a life commitment, you need to make the most sensible choice of dog. Think about why you want a dog. Do you have the necessary space, time, and money to care for the dog? Which breed will work best for your lifestyle? Answer these questions before you start looking, otherwise you’ll return home with the first puppy that kisses your face. If you realize you’re not able to make the commitment a pet requires, offer your time to a nearby pet shelter. You’ll be able to make a difference in many dogs’ lives and when the time comes you’ll know more about what dog will be best for you.
There are millions of homeless pets, so before going to a breeder, visit a local shelter or breed rescue group. Believe me; you’ll be able to find a pup perfect for you without visiting a pet shop. Also, it’s a great idea to consider adopting an older dog. They are often already obedience and potty-trained by rescues, so they’ll make an easier transition into your life.
Preparing for Puppy
Before bringing home your new family member, you’ll want to have these essentials ready:
- Puppy food
- A leash and collar with ID tags
- Water and food bowls
- Brushes for grooming
- Folding gate or Kennel
- Chew toys galore
You’ll also want to puppy-proof the house. Follow these precautions:
- Remove breakable items from their reach
- Keep low windows closed
- Lock away cleaning supplies and any dangerous chemicals
- Use a tall garbage can that puppy can’t reach into
Yes, puppies really do need puppy food. It’s specially designed for their smaller bodies, and easier for their smaller mouths to chew. Plus, it has more calories and protein that a growing pup needs. The rule of thumb is to feed your dog puppy food for the entire first year. Each breed has different recommendations for how much puppies should be fed. Use the suggestions on the pet food as a starting point, but your veterinarian can give you a more specific answer.
A healthy, happy puppy needs daily exercise and an easy routine to follow. Here’s a breakdown of the bare minimum.
- Walks: Your furry friend needs at least 60 minutes of walking a day, which can be spent in 2 or more shorter increments.
- Playtime: Pups need playtime to burn off that extra energy and to bond with their owner. Just remember not to play with anything you don’t want them to think is theirs, like your hands or shoes.
- Sleeping: Since puppies sleep from 14 to 20 hours a day they need a safe, comfortable place to snooze. This can be a bed of his or her own, or a crate. For a deeper bond, keep their bed in your room at night, just at first.
- Housebreaking: The two most common signs your pup needs to potty are sniffing the ground and/or racing around frantically. When this happens, pick your puppy up and place them outside or on a potty pad. Once they go in the right place, praise them. Since puppies need to go every few hours, expect and accept that accidents will happen.
- Obedience: Even if you can train puppy on your own, obedience classes are great for social interaction and will teach your dog how to listen even if they’re surrounded by distractions.
Keeping Puppy Safe
It goes without saying that even though puppies are sweet and cuddly, they shouldn’t be alone with young children. My dog loves to give kisses so I always have to watch her around little ones, just to make sure she doesn’t knock them down with affection. Plus, a puppy is still learning how to play nicely, and might just take the rough-housing with a little one too far. And vice versa, children need to be taught appropriate behavior with animals as well.
You’ll also want to learn what foods and yard and house plants can be harmful to your puppy. Here are a few.
- Foods: chocolate, grapes, raisins, tea, garlic, onions, avocado and salt
- Plants: oleander, azalea, rhododendron, rhubarb leaves, and lily of the valley
If you ever suspect your puppy has eaten any of these harmful plants or foods, call your veterinarian right away or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435
Just one measly flea can start the flea cycle in your home. So, remember to treat all pets in your house for fleas, not just the new ones. Your vet will be able to recommend a flea control made specifically for puppies. Some signs your puppy already has fleas include: mild redness, severe scratching, skin infections, and flea “dirt.”
- 6-9 weeks old:It’s time for vaccinations against distemper, parainfluenza, canine hepatitis, and the potentially deadly parvovirus. This is also the time to discuss deworming medication with your vet.
- 12-16 weeks old: It’s time for rabies immunizations. In addition, there are other vaccine options; however, they depend on your puppy’s exposure risks, so you should talk to your vet about the appropriate vaccinations for your furry friend.
- 16-20 weeks old: Listen to Bob Barker and spay or neuter your pup. Yes, your puppy’s puppies would be adorable, but it’s not worth it to contribute to the more than 6 million dogs and cats in shelters. If cost is a problem, call your local humane society or shelter, or call toll-free (800) 248-SPAY to find a low-cost spay program near you.
Now that you’ve learned more about basic pet care, are you still ready to get your own? What advice do you have about raising a puppy? Have any funny mishaps to share? Leave a comment below and let us know!
For even more information on adopting and raising your first dog, visit the ASPCA website.