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Puppy Talk

Important things to know when bringing a new puppy into your family

There is no doubt about it puppies are totally adorable and fun to watch. They give hours of entertainment and a lifetime of companionship and unselfish love. They also require work and commitment to make them an enjoyable part of the family. The time that you spend in the first six months of having a new dog will pay off for years to come. Puppies and all dogs do best with clear and consistent rules from the second they arrive in your house. Your puppy will love and respect you more if you let his know the rules right up front rather than be very lenient because “we just got him” and then his world is rocked a few days later when it’s no longer okay to chew up shoes or urinate on the floor that he was allowed to do yesterday.

Your new puppy needs a safe place to be at all times. The best place for this is a crate where he can be put when you can’t be directly supervising him. The crate keeps him out of harmful mischief like chewing electric cords, wooden cabinets, or bottles with chemicals and it also helps him learn to control elimination. The crate is not a punishment and most dogs love their crate if rewarded when they go in there. Toys in the crate should be hard rubber like a KONG toy stuffed with something special that is only given when in the crate. This gives them a special reward for being in the crate.

Puppies need to have the opportunity to eliminate every time they eat, every time they wake up, every time they drink, every time they play hard, and every 1-2 hours if they haven’t had the opportunity. Every time a puppy has a chance to eliminate in the house it just reinforces this behavior for the future. There will be accidents, and how you handle these accidents makes all the difference in a well house-training dog. The puppy must be caught in the act or a reprimand is meaningless. They cannot be brought back to the scene or be walking away after the fact or the reprimand is too late! The reprimand should be something startling but not physical. A can of coins that you shake, aluminum pie pans banged together or very loud clapping of your hands will work well. The puppy should then be immediately taken outside to finish. Every time your puppy eliminates in the correct spot it needs positive reinforcement. Verbal praise during, then a treat at the end will help them quickly understand. Playtime outside after they eliminate also encourages them to get to business quickly.

All puppies need time to play and learn social skills. Puppy kindergarten is strongly recommended because it teaches them social skills with other animals and people. Puppies have a time frame until about 6 months of age when they are curious and open to new things. If puppies are isolated from other people and animals during this time they will not learn how to interact properly and can lead to future aggression issues. Positive interactions are a must at this time as well. The puppy should not be socialized with dogs that are not well socialized themselves or the puppy will learn bad behavior or think other dogs will only hurt them. Puppies socialized with other puppies works best since they are all in the curious learning phase and it would be very rare to have extreme behavior issues at that time. Interactions with small children should be supervised as well since small children may not have good social skills when it comes to animals either. Puppies do need exposure to all shapes and sizes of people during this social time though. It is much better to take the time to socialize them early than to try to fix a behavior problem in the future. Basic obedience commands like “sit”, “come”, “down”, and “leave it” can be started as soon as you get home. At first start with very short 1-2 minute session 5-10 times per day then gradually make the sessions longer. Yummy treats can help training be fun but just using a portion of their food works well too. The treat is used as a lure to make the puppy do what is asked then rewarded as soon as the behavior is accomplished.

Meal feeding is helpful for most puppies to monitor for illness and to also help with housetraining. Feeding 3 times per day is recommended until about 12 weeks of age then go to twice per day feedings forever. Some larger breed dogs require 3 times per day feedings for a little longer and some smaller breeds can go to twice per day meals sooner. The food should be left down for about 20 minutes then removed. The same food they were using at the breeder should be used when they first come home to avoid GI upset. If necessary the food can be changed later.

It is recommended that puppies receive distemper combination vaccines every 3-4 weeks starting at 8 weeks and the last puppy vaccine be given at 16-18 weeks. Depending on when the puppy starts in the series this can be anywhere from 2-5 vaccines total. Sometimes breeders start the vaccines at 6 weeks of age. Some puppies come with no vaccines. One rabies vaccine is given as a puppy at 14-18 weeks of age. Kennel cough vaccine is given in 2 vaccines 3-4 weeks apart. The first one is given as a nasal spray, the second one is an injection. The first one is usually given at 8 weeks of age or will already be given by the breeder. All of the vaccines will be reviewed at the first puppy visit and a plan will be formed at that time. If at any time your puppy has liquid diarrhea, vomits, doesn’t eat for a day, has a fever, has trouble breathing or is lethargic you should call the office. If the office is closed you should call the emergency veterinary clinic.