Caring for your puppy: Everything you need to know

While the idea of getting a puppy is exciting, caring for a puppy is no easy task. Caring for a puppy is a fun, stressful, and rewarding experience. It requires a lot of work, preparation, love, and patience. Below are some tips that will help you care for your new puppy.  

Ensure that your house is safe for a puppy

If you are planning to get a puppy, you first need to ensure that your puppy will be raised in a safe environment. Puppies are very curious and tend to explore with their mouths. To keep your puppy safe, you need to ensure that you can meet the following needs before bringing him home. 

A clean home

Newborn puppies are very vulnerable and need to be nurtured in a clean environment. A newborn puppy will spend the first few weeks in the pen in which they were born. As such, it is important to ensure you have made proper preparations before the puppy arrives. 

The box or pen should provide sufficient space for the mother to lie down comfortably and enough room to stretch out without crushing her puppies. She should also be able to enter and leave the pen freely while the puppies stay put. You should also be able to access the pen with ease since you’ll have to change out the bedding on a daily basis.  

During the first few days, the mother will clean up her pups’ waste. However, if she’s had a large litter, some help may be needed. During the third week, the pups will open their eyes and become more active. At this point, you should move the puppies to a larger pen where they’ll have enough room to play.  

Warmth

In addition to a clean environment, the puppies also need warmth. Newborn puppies cannot regulate their body temperature. As such, they must be protected from temperature variations. 

If you live in a cold region, the pups will snuggle up with their mother or with each other for warmth. That said, you should also have a heat lamp close to the pen to provide the pups with additional heat, especially during their first month. The lamp should be placed at a safe distance to minimize the risk of the lamp burning the pups. 

If you live in a hot region, you should also try to keep the pen cool. Ideally, the temperature inside the pen should be maintained at about 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first five days. For the next five days, reduce the heat to 80 degrees. You should then continue to gradually dial back the heat until it reaches 75 degrees by the end of the fourth week.

Good nutrition

For the first few weeks, newborn puppies rely exclusively on their mother’s milk for their nutritional needs. Nursing drains a lot of the mother’s energy resulting in a higher daily caloric requirement for the mother. It is therefore very important to ensure that the mother is well fed throughout the nursing stage. This will ensure the nutritional needs of both the mother and her puppies are met.  You could do so by including several servings of quality puppy food to the mother’s diet throughout the day. Your veterinarian will recommend the type and the right amount of food to feed your nursing dog. 

It is also very important to monitor the weight of your puppies during this time. This will help you to determine whether or not any of the puppies is being underfed. If this is the case, you need to make sure that the smallest puppies latch onto the fullest nipples during feeding. Puppies who whimper frequently may also need more attention during feeding since they may be hungry. 

If the above steps are taken and still some of the puppies fail to gain weight or show signs of healthy growth, consult your veterinarian. They may suggest bottle-feeding. You should also be on the lookout for any signs of mastitis on the mother. This is an infection of the mammary glands which can interfere with milk production. Some of the signs and symptoms of mastitis are reluctance to nurse and red, swollen nipples. Sometimes, the mother may even snap at the pups as they try to feed. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

The pups will start getting their teeth by the fifth week. At this point, the mother’s milk production slows and the pups will be ready to start the weaning process. You should start giving your puppies puppy food when you notice them trying to sample their mother’s food. 

Good health

It is also very important to ensure that your puppies are healthy. Newborn puppies are very susceptible to infection and disease. Therefore, you need to keep an eye on them. You should perform regular inspections and be on the lookout for any signs of infection or poor health. If you notice symptoms such as fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, and lack of appetite, you should contact your vet immediately. 

Puppies are also vulnerable to parasites such as fleas. The antibodies provided during nursing usually wear off at around six to eight weeks. This leaves the puppies very vulnerable. As such you should contact your vet to give the puppies their first round of vaccinations. 

Socialization

By the fourth week, the puppies are ready to begin socializing with other dogs and humans. Socializing is important since it helps them learn and adjust to the world they’ll inhabit. Poorly socialized dogs aren’t well-adjusted and tend to have behavioral problems. They also tend to grow into anxious dogs. It is therefore important to play with your puppies and introduce them to other dogs to expose them to new experiences.

Where can I get my puppy?

There are several options available when it comes to getting a puppy. The best way is to adopt from a pound, shelter, or rescue group. This is because there are many homeless pets. That said, you can also use a breede who meets the requirements of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The breeder should be small, such that you’ll be able to meet your puppy’s mother as well as his relatives. 

How to get ready for your puppy

Before welcoming your puppy to his new home, you’ll need to stock up on a number of supplies to ensure that he grows up happy and healthy. Some of the essentials include:

  • Food bowls and water dishes
  • High quality puppy food
  • Fresh clean water
  • Dog treats
  • A crate or dog bed
  • A dog harness and leash for walking him
  • A collar with tags that include your phone number and that of your vet
  • Chewy toys
  • Grooming brushes
  • A folding gate to keep your puppy in one area
  • Puppy-safe shampoo
  • Dog toothbrush and puppy-safe toothpaste

How to feed your puppy

As mentioned earlier, newborn puppies rely exclusively on their mother’s milk for their nutritional needs for the first few weeks. After that, they begin the weaning process and are gradually introduced to dog food. 

However, it is important to note that puppy food isn’t the same as adult dog food. Puppy food is specially designed for a puppy’s smaller body. The food is softer and is gentle on a puppy’s small mouth and weak jaw. The food also contains more protein and calories than adult dog food, to meet the nutritional requirements of a growing puppy. 

How much food does a puppy need?

Monitoring what food your puppy eats allows you to keep track of his health. Dogs eat a wide range of foods. For this reason, it is important to watch what your puppy eats to ensure what he eats meets his nutritional needs. Your puppy’s diet should contain a lot of protein, especially from meat, as well as plenty of water. 

The amount of food your puppy should eat depends on a variety of factors such as his breed, size, age, and health. You should consult your vet to determine the right amount of food to give your puppy. 

The nutritional and energy requirements of puppies differ from that of adult dogs. For this reason, it is important to feed your pup high quality puppy food that is specially formulated to help with your pup’s growth and development. 

Small dog breeds tend to reach maturity faster than larger dog breeds. As such, their diet can be switched to adult dog food and adult-sized proportions when they reach nine to twelve months. 

Large dog breeds take longer to mature. Some larger breeds can take about two years to reach physical maturity. During this time, you should stick to the puppy formula to help with their growth and development. 

You should feed your pup several times a day with the right proportions. This will help prevent complications associated with overfeeding such as bloating. Having a structured feeding schedule with the right proportions also prevents the buildup of excess protein or calcium, minimizing the risk of conditions such as hip dysplasia. 

An example of a structured feeding schedule is: 

  • Six to twelve weeks old: Four meals per day
  • Three to six months old: Three meals per day
  • Six months and up: Two meals per day

Get a dog bed or crate

Puppies spend an average of 14 to 20 hours a day sleeping. Therefore, providing them with a comfortable place to sleep is important. The puppy should sleep in your bedroom at first, in their own bed. This will help your dog bond with you. If you have a crate, you should only use it for sleeping, travel, or housebreaking. You shouldn’t have your pup inside the crate all the time since dogs aren’t meant to live in crates. Allowing your puppy to move in and out of the crate voluntarily will let him see the crate as a safe space and find comfort in it. 

Should I raise my puppy inside or outside?

Dogs are happiest when they are with you. Raising your puppy inside prepares him for a better life with a family. If you intend on raising your dog outside, you should always make time to play with him outdoors and take him for daily walks. You should also ensure that he is safe outside with a fenced yard. You should always ensure that he is covered in a warm spot during cold days and provide him with shade during hot days. You should also ensure that he has plenty of fresh water which is refilled on a daily basis.

Housebreaking your puppy

Bringing your puppy to his new home is a huge change of environment and needs a lot of adjustment. As such, you should shower him with lots of love and attention to make it easier for him to get used to the new environment. You should play with him often and have him sleep close to you so they feel safe. Soon after, you should schedule a visit to the vet to ensure that your pet has no health complications. 

How to potty train your puppy

Puppies usually have two tell-tale signs that they need to relieve themselves. They usually sniff the ground to find a good spot or will wildly race around. When your puppy exhibits any of these signs, pick him up and take him outside. When your puppy pees in the right place, be sure to praise him and reward him with a treat, to encourage him to pick up the habit. 

Dogs instinctively avoid relieving themselves on their bedding and the area around it. Puppies usually relieve themselves after every few hours. You should therefore brace yourself for a few accidents. You should establish a potty routine with your puppy to make it easier. To avoid messes in the house, train them to use potty pads inside. If you decide to go this route, you should ensure that the potty pad is kept in the same spot to avoid confusing your puppy. 

Take training classes

It is also important to take your puppy to obedience classes. Not only will they learn to listen but also get used to being around other dogs. In addition, taking your puppy to these classes will give you the motivation to keep working with them. You’ll also get to learn how to get the best behavior out of your dog. With time and patience, your energetic puppy will have better behavior.  

When it comes to house training, you should establish rules of appropriate conduct. As you do this, it is important to be patient with your pup. You should also use positive reinforcement. This helps your dog to associate being happy with correct behavior. 

You should avoid hitting or yelling at your pup when he engages in negative behavior. Instead, correct him with a simple but firm “no.” Yelling at your pup will confuse him and cause him to feel fearful and anxious. 

When your puppy engages in unwanted behavior, redirect him to something positive. If he is being naughty, direct him back to one of his toys. 

When your puppy is old enough, you can take him to obedience classes. This will teach him to behave as well as equip you with the skills needed to properly train him. He will also get to socialize with other dogs. 

Socialization involves exposing your dog to new people, places, experiences, and situations. This is important since it helps your puppy grow into a well-adjusted dog that knows how to act appropriately around new people, sounds, sights, textures, and smells.  

When is the best time to vaccinate my puppy?

Vaccinating your puppy is very important as it helps your puppy stay healthy. You should start vaccinating your puppy at 6-9 weeks. They should be vaccinated against distemper, canine hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. At 12-16 weeks, you should give them the rabies shot. There are other vaccines which are administered depending on your puppy’s risks. These are administered at your vet’s recommendation. 

You should also schedule a visit at your vet for a general check up after getting your new puppy. During the first visit, your vet will check your puppy for any parasites or health problems. They’ll also recommend a program for controlling parasites such as ticks, fleas, and heartworms. They’ll also give you a vaccination schedule. 

Your vet will also answer any question you may have about caring for your puppy. They will also help you come up with a meal schedule for your puppy. 

You should also schedule a visit to the vet every six months. This will allow the vet to have a clear view of your pup’s growth and progress. They can also advise you on how you can prepare for your pet’s adolescent period, and the challenges you may face as your puppy grows into sexual maturity. 

When can I spay or neuter my puppy?16-24 Weeks old: Spay or neuter

Spaying or neutering your puppy helps to reduce certain health risks as well as help with behavioral problems as he gets older. Spaying can be done as early as eight weeks old. However, most vets recommend waiting until your dog is 16-24 weeks old (4 to 6 months).

How to tell when your puppy is sick

Knowing when your dog is sick can be challenging since they usually try their best to be social when their owners are around. However, you may notice some common signs of illness in dogs and puppies. These include a lack of appetite, sneezing, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, or sleeping more. If you notice any of these signs, call your vet. 

How to groom your puppy

Dogs need grooming every few weeks to keep them clean. It is important to start the grooming process while your pup is still young to get him used to it. Grooming includes brushing your puppy’s coat, trimmings, trimming his nails, brushing his teeth, and bathing him. 

You can hire a professional groomer to trim his coat or the vet to trim his nails. The nails should be kept short since long nails can stress your dog’s wrist joints, damage furniture, and hurt people. Start trimming your puppy’s nails weekly to get them used to the clipping while they are young. 

You should also start brushing your puppy’s coat daily. This will get him used to the feeling of brush in his fur early. Remember to talk to your vet about the right brush for your dog’s breed. 

Giving your pup a bath is another challenge. You should prepare yourself with clothes you are not afraid to get wet in and plenty of towels. You should then slowly introduce your pup to water and later shampoo. Your pup will slowly get used to it and the process becomes easier. Brushing your dog’s teeth may seem strange but it actually goes a long way to protect your puppy’s mouth.  

Play with your puppy

Playing with your puppy is not only fun but also helps him in many ways. Playing helps your pup get rid of energy, bond with you, and work on his coordination. Spend time everyday with him playing. Use toys instead of your hands or his leash, lest he gets the wrong idea.

Puppies need exercise and attention. Playing with your puppy does both. Games like tug-of-war, fetch, and hide-and-seek are simple and can be played at home and will help your puppy release all the pent up energy he may have. You should play for at least 20-30 minutes every day. 

Take your puppy for a walk

Taking your puppy for a walk gives him physical and mental exercise. It also allows him to get used to playing and interacting with other dogs. You should try to get at least 60 minutes a day broken into two walks. You should also make sure that your puppy is properly vaccinated before taking him for a walk to avoid picking up an illness while outside.  

Enjoy the journey!

Raising a puppy is a special experience. While puppies may grow up fast, the experience of caring for your puppy is special and you will treasure it long after your puppy matures. You should therefore make every day memorable for you and your pup. Good luck!

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