Welcoming a new puppy into the home can be both an exciting and daunting experience, especially for first time dog owners. You need to spend time getting to know your addition to the family, and the first year will be full of trial and error as you work out what suits you all best. Each puppy introduction will be different depending on the breed, age at which you collect him and whether he’s from a breeder or a rescue centre. However, there are a few basics that you need to think about and prepare for so Unique Pets has compiled this handy fact sheet, but don’t forget you can always call us for any advice or help!
At whatever age you welcome your new puppy into your home, you need to make sure that her bed is the most warm and welcoming environment possible so that she wants to go there for valuable rest. It will be her area of safety and security in a scary new world, so it’s worth spending time getting this right from the start. Choose somewhere that is quiet, so she can have some peace when the whole family or guests are around, but close enough to where you spend most of your time, so that she does not feel isolated. Find a dark corner away from direct heat, sunlight or drafts for the optimum spot.
A crate with soft bedding and a cover is usually recommended for puppies, to create a safe haven and help with a number of training issues. If the idea of a “cage” puts you off, don’t imagine how you would feel being locked in there, but instead picture your dog feeling secure in her warm cosy den. That said, not all puppies take to crate training and you will have to decide for yourself whether it suits you and your pup. To start with, many trainers advise having the puppy sleep in your bedroom while she is very young and settling in, gradually moving her out towards the landing and eventually downstairs over the course of a few weeks, while others say you should start as you mean to go on and get the puppy used to where she will sleep from the beginning, but it’s entirely personal depending on what suits your circumstances.
For many puppies, crate training can be a positive experience which sets boundaries in a safe environment: dogs don’t like to eliminate where they eat or sleep, so it can aid toilet training, and successful crate training will help your puppy cope with separation. However, you can’t just put your puppy in a crate and expect him to be happy there, you will need to spend some time making it an appealing place for him to hide away and there are many ways of doing this through positive reward association, such as toys, treats and Kongs.
You may well have been given some food by the breeder or rescue centre when you collected your puppy, but there is no need to keep him on the same brand if it’s not nutritional. We strongly recommend raw diets or very high quality wet or dry food – you can read all about your options on our raw feeding guide.
To give your puppy the best start in life we would suggest starting him on a complete puppy raw formula as it has all the right nutrients to ensure healthy growth. Then, after 16 weeks he can move on to adult raw menus where he can enjoy many new flavours – however it is best to only introduce one new variety per week to start with to allow your puppy’s digestion to adjust. The best option is to bring your puppy into one of our stores so that we can help you decide which option suits you both best.
Puppies need to start on three or four meals a day, depending on their age, in order to get enough food into their rapidly-growing bodies. Puppy diets are usually a bit higher in fat and have all the nutrients required to promote strong bones during this crucial time. Once their growth rate slows and they start to mature, you can transfer over to adult food and drop to two meals a day.
Always make sure your puppy has access to fresh water, particularly if he is eating dry food as he will need more liquid than if he was on a wet or raw diet. Choose good quality treats for training and split them up into small quantities so that you can really reward good behaviour without piling on calories.
The sooner your puppy is house-trained, the more relaxed all occupants of the household will be, so spend valuable time teaching your puppy this important lesson. Take him out after every sleep, feed or play, or every one to two hours if none of the above has happened. Puppies’ bladders strengthen quickly and he should be able to hold it for a couple of hours from about three months. Make sure that you go out with your puppy so he doesn’t think he’s being punished, and don’t come straight back in once he’s done his business or else he might start to hold it in to guarantee extended play time. If you assign a word to the function, “wee wees” or “toilet”, and praise him for every correct action, you can soon train him to go before you enter the house. Never scold your puppy for an accident – it is far more likely that you did not take him out in time, than he did it on purpose.
Between three and four months, you can expect your puppy’s baby teeth to fall out and for her to start chewing everything and anything in a bid to relieve the pain of her big teeth cutting through her gums. First and foremost, provide lots of different chews (pizzles are a favourite) and toys for her to focus her attentions on and then remove anything of any value to you (shoes, remote controls, hairbrushes, photo albums…). If you chill the toys in the freezer first, the cool rubber will soothe the gums as well as providing a focus for her attention. Equally, simple ice cubes with a treat frozen in the middle will give your puppy a combination of pain relief and fun, and if you raw feed you might like to try giving her dinner slightly frozen. Fortunately the teething period is relatively short-lived, so bear with her while she goes through this tough time.
Much like children, puppies benefit from rules and routine, and manners should be taught from an early age to prevent problem behaviour settling in during adolescence. Many puppies are ready to start learning basic commands – such as “sit”, “stay” and “come” – from around six weeks and certainly an older puppy should be taught these crucial commands as early as possible. In order to raise a sociable, obedient and good-natured dog, it is best to attend puppy classes so that you can master the fundamentals as well as socialise with other dogs. Puppy classes will give you the confidence to train your dog well, and one-off workshops enable you to work on the harder commands such as loose lead walking and recall.
Puppies need play time as much as they need their rest and not only is it the perfect opportunity for you to bond with your new addition, but you can also use play as a way of training or conditioning her to a variety of experiences, see socialisation below. Play time should also incorporate some mental as well as physical stimulation to make sure your puppy is exhausted and content.
Different toys, such as tuggies to pull, balls to fetch, rope rings to chew and fluffy animals to cuddle, will introduce your puppy to a number of ways to play. Equally, as your pup starts to mouth and play rough, you can put a stop to it quickly using toys as distraction and rewarding good behaviour. The more toys your puppy has, the fewer of your prized possessions that will be destroyed, however don’t leave all the toys out for him all the time, otherwise they will lose their value – instead rotate a couple at a time so that returning toys retain their excitement.
You shouldn’t take your puppy outside the home until all his vaccinations are complete, but as soon as your vet has given him the all clear this is your number one priority – socialise, socialise, socialise!
The idea is to expose your puppy to anything and everything while he is still learning about the world so that he can accept it as normal if he comes across it later in life; it is not impossible to help your dog accept things later in life, but it is harder. It is said that a puppy should meet 20 people and 200 dogs of all ages, shape and size by the time he is 16 weeks. This is a tall ask, but really can make all the difference to how a dog reacts to new situations as he grows up. Puppy parties and classes are an excellent way to meet lots of different puppies in a safe and controlled environment. However, he should also meet bigger dogs too, so find a local dog park or arrange doggy play dates with friends. Likewise he should meet children as well as adults, people in wheelchairs or using walking sticks, men and women wearing hats or glasses, folk large and small – anything that might look unusual or different to a dog.
Socialisation also includes normalising a variety of settings such as walking on the pavement, cobbles, grass and sand, being around traffic, crossing car parks, walking down busy high streets, being around noisy playgrounds, seeing cattle, going in the water… and so the list goes on! One of the easiest ways to socialise your puppy is simply to take him wherever you go – he is always welcome into our shops, but while he is still small enough to be carried you might be able to take him into other premises for a quick visit. Taking him on errands in the car will help prevent him associating your vehicle with vet visits only, but if you have to leave him in the car, please make sure the windows are left open and DO NOT leave him in hot, or even warm weather.
During the formative weeks of socialisation, gradually introduce your puppy to a range of everyday sounds e.g. the washing machine, vacuum cleaner, television, hairdryer, waste disposal etc so that they are able to cope with unexpected noises from human contraptions. Start by letting them hear new noises at a distance (e.g. in a different room) or at a low volume, then gradually move them closer or make the noise louder over a few days. Stop if they seem anxious or nervous and start again, further away, the following day. You can also buy downloads with sounds such as fireworks, emergency sirens and thunder to help your puppy acclimatise to our world.
When to walk
If you get into a routine of walking your puppy at set times, you will find that she quickly sets her body clock to your schedule. That’s fine if it always suits you to do an early walk, but don’t blame us if you don’t get a lie in at the weekend! It’s a good idea therefore to mix up the walk times, if at all possible, so that your puppy doesn’t expect, and therefore “need”, a walk at a set time. Equally, you should get into the habit of walking your puppy whatever the weather, particularly if you have an active breed, so that she doesn’t get frustrated by the great British summer – while you may like not having to go out for walks in the pouring rain, a puppy cooped up in the house all day because she’s afraid of the water can quickly become hyper and destructive.
Teach your dog to heel walk rather than pull you along, because although it’s cute while she’s small, it can be dangerous when she is yanking your arm out of its socket as she gets bigger! And while you may like to cover a lot of ground on your walk, make sure that your puppy has plenty of time to stop and sniff her surroundings as that is her main source of learning about the outside world. Make sure you spend a lot of time training recall before you let her off the lead for the first time and be as exciting as you can be to ensure she returns to you every time.
Don’t exercise your puppy too much while she’s young or you could be in for joint trouble as she ages, particularly with larger breeds. The recommendation is not to walk for more than 5 mins per month of your puppy’s age, up to one year old – so a six-month-old puppy should be restricted to 5 x 6 = 30 minutes of activity at a time. The occasional longer session is ok, but don’t overdo it on a regular basis as it will put too much strain on her growing bones.
It depends what breed you have as to whether or not you will be a regular at one of our grooming salons, but as with the socialisation of different scenarios, it is worth getting your puppy used to being handled so that the inevitable visits to the vet are not too traumatic. Get him used to having his teeth checked, his ears and tail manipulated, his paws lifted and claws clipped so that he doesn’t find it too intrusive when he’s older.
Above all, take time to enjoy these precious early months as puppies don’t stay small and cute for long! If you invest in your puppy’s formative years, you will reap the rewards with a well-behaved, loyal and loving companion for years to come.
Written by: Lucy Ellis