Bringing home a new puppy
In my last two columns I discussed breeding and whelping so I thought I would round off the topic by chatting about bringing home your new puppy.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have had a phone call from a weary new puppy owner, who has had no sleep for three nights and cleaned up puppy pee and poop for the hundredth time, asking me what they were thinking bringing this adorable terror into their lives.
So here are a few pointers to help settle in your new bundle of “joy”.
Firstly, be sure you have the time in your life to devote to the daily needs of a new pup. If you spend eight hours a day at the office and cannot get back during the day, get a cat. (You will thank me for that later.)
Understand the exercise requirements of the breed of dog you have chosen and make sure you can meet them.
If you walk your Labrador twice a week and you can’t understand why he keeps digging up the garden, you have clearly not done your homework.
Ask the breeder what diet your puppy has been eating so you can transition him into your home on the same diet. Make sure any other animals in your home are up to date on vaccination, deworming and flea control before you bring home the new pup.
Fleas love the tender new skin of a puppy and will bite him rather than older animals. He is likely to have had only one round of puppy vaccinations before he comes to you, and he will be vulnerable to disease. He will need two more before he is fully protected.
You will need a bed and blanket, food and water bowls, a suitable collar or harness with a lead, a crate (if you intend to crate-train him) and some enzymatic cleaner. Have a stack of newspapers also for the initial puppy training.
Register him with a vet before he comes home. Accidents and injury can easily happen, and you need to have an emergency number to call.
It’s also a good time to chat to your vet about diets. Growing pups need specific nutrition to support their rapid growth and I see a lot of clinical issues with inappropriate diets.
When you first bring him home, try to not fuss him too much but give him plenty of space to explore.
Avoid the temptation to invite the entire neighbourhood over to meet him. He will be overwhelmed enough coming into a new home and family.
I remember an emergency call I had from one new puppy owner saying their pup had collapsed and couldn’t move.
I asked what he had done that day, and they said that they had taken him out on the boat (in August) and he had been swimming nonstop for four hours.
The poor little mite was absolutely exhausted and looked it, but after a good night’s sleep he was back to his old self the next day. I explained the importance of good nap times, reminding them that young puppies need around 18 to 20 hours’ sleep in every 24-hour period, which is really a lot of sleep.
Speaking of sleep, expect some interruptions to your sleep for a few nights. He won’t be able to make it through the whole night without a toilet break initially, but this will soon change as he grows.
Provide him with teething toys to avoid him chewing your furniture, (a coconut is a fantastic chew toy and we have plenty of them in Bermuda) and get right on with his training. It’s amazing how fast these little guys can learn.
The more work you put in during the first year of life (and it is a lot of work) the more adjusted your dog will be for the rest of his life. Puppies like to know the rules and the routine so establish them early and stick to them.
My final piece of advice to all new puppy owners is this, take lots of photos. They will be all grown up in the blink of an eye.
You will forget the sleepless nights and constant clean up, and relish the unconditional love that a dog gives. Enjoy.
• Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband, Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda
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