In the first weeks while getting used to its new home, your puppy will need more than just toys and treats. Stephanie Hollebrandse discovers the other things new puppy owners need to remember at this special time.
Congratulations on welcoming your puppy home – I’m sure you’ve been showering the newest member of your family with plenty of love and attention. But there’s more that your puppy needs you to think of at this stage in its life.
We’re talking about teething, learning to socialise with other dogs and people, and that daunting trip to the vet for vaccinations.
So, here are a few tips to get you through these early days.
The most crucial time for socialising is between the ages of eight and 16 weeks, so packing your pup off to preschool is a great way to introduce it to the big wide world. It’s important for puppies to get used to other dogs, as well as other people.
Puppy preschool was created to offer puppies a controlled environment to socialise in. Since all dogs are at the same stage of immunisation, the risk of them catching a disease is small.
Ara Goh, a Veterinary Nurse from Balmain Veterinary Hospital, runs puppy preschool classes weekly. She says the lessons taught really are a learning curve for the puppies as well as the new owners. “Our aim is to make sure all the owners are on the right path with their puppy. We teach them basic dog training techniques, providing the pup with the stepping stones to becoming a good dog,” says Ara.
“We practise a lot of exercises that encourage calm, settled behaviour. It’s called doggie etiquette – teaching the pups not to jump up on people and how to play well with each other.”
Ara says the top three issues that most new owners will go through are house training, biting and jumping. Should any other behavioural problems arise during these early days, such as digging and excessive barking, it’s a great chance to talk it through with the class.
If your puppy takes to chewing on the table leg or your running shoes one day, it probably means teething has begun. This time can be just as painful for your puppy as it is for a human. So to prevent any further damage to your possessions, it’s a good idea to provide your dog with a range of chew toys.
When the sharp, adult teeth start breaking through the gums, the quickest way for your puppy to ease the pain is by chewing. Chew toys, rawhide chews and hard plastic bones with nubs will help push the teeth through quickly.
Another tip to make the chew toys tempting is to spread a little natural peanut butter on them. There aren’t many dogs that can resist the taste of peanut butter. Investing in a fingertip toothbrush and taking the time to massage your puppy’s gums will help to soothe the pain. This technique also means the pup will be used to the feeling of your hand in its mouth when you start brushing its teeth regularly.
Trips to the vet are going to be a regular part of your puppy’s life, so it’s a good idea to establish the visits as a positive experience early on.
Scheduling the trip for either early in the morning or late in the day is a good start. The fewer the people present, the less anxious your puppy will be in the new environment. Dr Neil Hannan, Director of Small Animal Services at the University of Sydney, also recommends avoiding other pets in the waiting room.
“It’s always a good idea to keep your puppy away from dogs at the vet clinic. If possible, carry your puppy or keep it secure in a crate – but never put it down on the floor,” he says.
“Since your puppy is still part way through its vaccinations, it will not have full protection from canine diseases.”
During the examination, be sure to keep your puppy calm and relaxed. Use a pleasant, upbeat voice and continue to praise the pup throughout the process. If your pup does become stressed, being overly attentive will only reinforce the fear behaviour. Instead, keep your puppy distracted by waving your hand in front of its eyes.
When it comes to diet, your vet will help you determine what best suits your puppy’s needs. Depending on the breed, a pup should have three to four meals a day until it’s 12 weeks old. Then it can move to two meals a day.
Your puppy’s growth rate will depend on the breed. Small dogs will usually be fully grown by nine months, while larger breeds can take up to two years. At this early stage, it will be tempting to shower your puppy with treats and large dinner portions, but try to resist. This is especially important given puppy food is particularly high in proteins and fats.
Giving in to those puppy-dog eyes could lead to an array of serious health problems, affecting every major part of your dog’s body.
“Overfeeding your puppy may result in bone problems in the future,” Dr Hannan explains. “And remember overweight puppies grow into overweight adult dogs, with all the problems that may cause.”
Such problems include added stress on the dog’s joints, bones and muscles, and can cause muscle tears, joint deterioration and potentially the development of arthritis. Being overweight can also lead to high blood pressure, decreased liver function and diabetes.
Your vet should also weigh your puppy each time you visit, keeping you up to date with the recommended weight range. So keep an eye on those puppy-sized portions and your new best friend will grow up happy and healthy. After all, that’s the most important thing.
Learning all about doggie etiquette and having time to socialise with other dogs is an important stepping stone for every new pup. Puppy preschool can provide both you and your pup with the tools to start life together on the right track.
Puppy preschool classes provide:
A typical Puppy Preschool timetable
Puppy preschool teacher Ara Goh hosts five, one hour classes each week. Lessons teach a variety of different training methods with a strong focus on socialisation.
WEEK 1: Theory night only, pups are left at home this week. Course notes are handed out to new pup owners and explained thoroughly, with any questions answered.
WEEKS 2, 3 and 4: Puppies to attend on-lead with owners. Training and obedience, dog psychology and body language, behaviour, diet, exercise, toilet training, environmental enrichment, settling exercises, grooming, hospital familiarisation, positive reinforcement methods, socialisation, ‘servant versus leader’ coaching, tricks and games.
WEEK 5: Puppies to attend on-lead with owners. Pups graduate! Similar to previous classes, plus owners celebrate and receive a graduation pack containing product samples and a certificate.