Love your pet...love your vet
Getting a new puppy!
Taking on a new puppy is a huge responsibility, for you and the whole family after all the dog could be with you for 13-15 years or more. Therefore, before taking on a puppy you should think about the long-term commitment you are making.
- Is there time for a dog in your home and life?
- A puppy needs regular and adequate meals, regular exercise in a safe place, to be clean and comfortable, veterinary care whenever needed, training and socialisation.
- Looking for your puppy? Before starting, consider these points:
- Time puppies need lots of time, and this continues throughout the dog’s life exercise, trips to the vet, grooming, training and play
- Cost not just to acquire your puppy, but for vet’s bills and insurance, kennelling costs, food costs and so on throughout the dog’s life
- What sort of dog would suit your lifestyle? This is the most important and most difficult question to answer
Acquiring your puppy
Consider carefully what type of dog will suit you and your lifestyle best. Research the breeds thoroughly; if you are considering a pedigree dog, then remember that there are some hereditary diseases which can be passed from parents to pups, further information can be gained from the Kennel Club or your vet.
It’s well worth considering getting a puppy (or adult dog) from one of the charities, even if you are looking for a purebred. Many of the animals available from most of the larger charities will have been examined by a vet, undergone behavioural assessment, been vaccinated, neutered, treated for parasites and microchipped before they are even made available for adoption. Profiles are drawn up to match potential new owners and dogs to avoid personality clashes and support is available if problems occur after re-homing. Many dogs from other sources don’t have the benefit of this extensive screening and on-going support.
If you do get a dog from a breeder, meeting the mother is important, as the mother’s temperament contributes to that of the puppies. A fearful or aggressive mother may pass on this trait to a puppy. Puppies reared in a home environment make the most suitable pets; those kept away from human contact may be nervous around people.
Finally, consider whether you really want a puppy. Consider that an adult dog may suit your lifestyle better.
A healthy puppy should not be thin and should have a shiny coat. There should not be any discharge from the eyes or nose, the ears should be free from black wax and the puppy should not have a cough. The area under the tail should be clean. If the puppy is a purebred or pedigree, research potential health problems and ask to see proof that the parents have been screened.
When you have brought your puppy home you should make an appointment for a check-up with your vet as soon as possible. If any health problems are found you should immediately get in touch with the breeder or charity you got the puppy from.
It’s always a good idea to take out pet insurance, but pay careful attention to the small print. It is essential to get insurance whilst your pet is healthy, as pre-existing conditions will be excluded from the policy. Lifetime insurance may be worthwhile, as some 12-month policies will exclude conditions for which a claim has been made when the policy comes up for renewal. Don’t forget to look at the excess payable, ie the amount of each claim which you as the client have to pay and you should certainly shop around before buying. Many puppies come with insurance and you should check the terms and conditions and find out who would cover the costs for any health problems within the next day or two.
A friendly puppy?
Puppies should be interested and playful. Although they sleep for long periods, watch out for pups that are sleepy all the time, or those that appear overly nervous.
Feeding your puppy
Puppies should leave their mothers between six - eight weeks old. You should continue to feed the diet they are used to at first and introduce new food gradually. You should always use a food suitable for the puppy’s breed and size and your vet will advise on this. Several small meals are better than fewer large ones, particularly for puppies and you should always ensure there is fresh water available. Do not give puppies milk! Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when feeding and do not allow your puppy to become fat; obesity is a problem for dogs just as much as for humans.
Vaccinations and worming
If any vaccinations have been done (by the breeder or person you have bought your puppy from) you should be given the vaccination record or certificate showing the brand and batch numbers. You must ask for this if it is not forthcoming. You will need to continue vaccinations and these details will be required if your pup has to go into kennels later on in life. Regular vaccination boosters will be needed throughout your dog’s life, as well as regular worming and flea treatments. Your vet will be able to explain fully when these should be given and even send you reminders.
A day or two before your collect your puppy if you are able to visit, it is worth taking a blanket to place in the puppy’s bed. When you take your pup home transfer the blanket to the puppy’s new bed straight away and your puppy will feel at home more quickly due to the familiar scent.
Make sure you have food and water bowls ready, grooming equipment and plenty of toys; play is an essential part of growing up for puppies and is also a great way to bond with all the family.
The best place for your puppy’s bed is a draught-free corner of the kitchen. Kitchens tend to be warm and have washable floors. Remember the bed is your puppy’s refuge and it is important to keep young children away from it. Never allow a tired puppy to be dragged out of bed to play; your pet is not a toy!
On the first few nights in your home, you should expect your puppy to whimper. Before you go to bed, play with your puppy to induce sleep. After the first few nights your puppy should settle quite happily. Last thing at night you should take your puppy out into the garden to spend a penny (don’t forget plenty of praise when it happens!). Put paper on the kitchen floor for your puppy to use as a toilet should the need arise during the night.
If you do have problems with your puppy making noise, there is an alternative approach. For the first few nights, keep your puppy in your bedroom, in a high-sided box so there is no chance to get out. Any noise can be quietened by a few kind words or a reassuring pat. After a few nights the puppy will be used to being away from litter-mates and can be moved into the kitchen. This method may also help the house training process as the puppy can be taken out if the need arises during the night.
In the morning take your puppy straight out to the garden to go to the toilet and praise when your pup ‘performs’. Do not be angry if your pup has toileted overnight, but always praise when there is no mess the following morning. Always give lots of praise when your puppy goes in the right place and make sure you take your pup straight back there whenever he/she looks likely to go.
Chewing is a natural pastime for puppies, so do not discourage your pet, just ensure you let your puppy chew things that you have chosen, rather than other items like your shoes. Rawhide chews, nylon bones and large hard biscuits are ideal. If your puppy does chew something inappropriate, distract your pet by arranging for something interesting to happen elsewhere and then give something else to chew. Your puppy may need to be taught and encouraged to chew and you should play with them in such a way as to do this.
Learning to be a good dog
Socialisation is vital if your puppy is to grow up as a well-adjusted member of your family, so try to expose your puppy to as many new experiences as possible, eg travel by car and bus, expose them to the sounds and sights of vacuum cleaners, noisy road traffic, the radio and television. It is, however, possible to overwhelm your new puppy, so do be careful not to expose them to t
oo many different stimulae too quickly.
Your puppy needs to learn how to get on with other puppies and older dogs as soon as possible, although until your puppy is fully protected by vaccination (usually at least a week after the course is completed) he or she should not be allowed to mix with dogs of unknown vaccination status, ie you are unsure whether or not they have been fully vaccinated. Some of the viruses which cause disease can persist in the environment, so puppies should not be taken to parks or walked in other areas that other dogs have fouled. They can be taken out as much as possible in non-doggy areas, and can be carried if necessary to avoid unwanted contact from other dogs or soiled areas.
Your pup also needs to meet children, but ensure the children fully understand that this gorgeous new bundle of fluff is not a toy. The children must learn not to tease or bully the pup, and your puppy must learn not to jump up or nip during play.
A collar and tag are essential for your pup and *microchipping is also highly recommended. Remember to check the fit o
f the collar regularly as puppies grow quickly and the collar can become too tight! *Microchip identification is permanent and if your pet is lost or stolen a microchip gives you the best chance of being reunited. A microchip is hardly bigger than a grain of rice and having it implanted by your vet is quick and simple. Like a normal injection, it is inserted under the skin at the back of the neck and once there lasts a lifetime. The chip contains a unique code that identifies the pet and the owner. The details including your name, address and contact telephone numbers are held on a central database.
Most vets, animal charities and local authorities have pet microchip readers. If your puppy/dog does unfortunately go missing, once found and handed in to the relevant authority, they will be scanned to ‘read’ the unique ID code which will identify them. Your contact details will then be found on the database and then it’s simply a case of contacting you to return your dog to you.
Regular grooming is essential to keep your dog in good condition and is also a good way of showing affection and bonding. Teeth brushing is also important, as dental disease is common in dogs. You shouldn’t use toothpaste for humans, but vets or pet stores sell suitable canine products for this purpose. Grooming and teeth brushing, if started young enough, will be fun for both you and your puppy and can be continued throughout your dog’s life.
Male and female dogs should ideally be neutered at less than a year of age; thus preventing adding to the pet population and unwanted pregnancies, as well as a number of health related benefits. Females can often be neutered before their first season and your vet will advise you on this.
With correct planning and care, your puppy will give you and your family many years of pleasure and enjoyment, as well as helping you to teach your children responsiblity and how to care for a pet.