Adopting a puppy is exciting, but also a big responsibility. A puppy’s first year is important, and as their owner, you must take steps to establish a foundation to help them become a happy, healthy, and well-behaved adult dog. Read our Woodinville Animal Hospital and Mobile Services team’s tips to ensure your puppy’s first year is a success.
#1: Puppy-proof your home
Puppies are mischievous and tend to get into everything. Before your puppy’s arrival, puppy-proof your home to help prevent accidents such as toxin or foreign body ingestion. Puppy-proofing recommendations include:
- Place your garbage in sealed containers — Your puppy won’t be able to resist investigating the interesting odors coming from the trash. Place your garbage in sealed containers to prevent dumpster diving.
- Tidy your floor — Puppies investigate their world mouth first, and they may accidentally swallow small objects such as socks and children’s toys. Do not leave miscellaneous items on the floor.
- Remove toxins — Research toxic plants to ensure your houseplants will not make your puppy ill. In addition, learn which foods are toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, grapes, and onions.
- Cover cords — Cover electrical cords to prevent your puppy from chewing them. In addition, ensure your puppy can’t get tangled in the window blind cords.
#2: Socialize your puppy
Between 3 and 14 weeks of age, your puppy should be gently exposed to as many sights, sounds, and experiences as possible to help them process and accept new situations. Properly socialized puppies are typically less fearful as adults, and tend to be better adjusted and better behaved dogs. Puppy socialization recommendations include:
- Make the experience positive — When introducing your puppy to something new, provide plenty of treats and praise to make the experience positive for them.
- Go slow — Keep socialization lessons short, and don’t overwhelm your puppy. For example, when meeting new people, start with one new person as opposed to a crowd.
- Read your puppy — Read your puppy’s body language cues so you can remove your little pooch from a situation that is causing them fear, anxiety, or tiredness.
- Don’t force interactions — If your puppy seems fearful, remove them from the situation and try again another time in a less intense manner.
#3: Crate train your puppy
Crate training your puppy gives them a safe place where they can feel secure, which can also help prevent them from developing anxiety issues. The process can also help encourage house training, because most puppies won’t go to the bathroom where they sleep. Crate training recommendations include:
- Choose the right crate — Your puppy’s crate should be large enough to allow them to stand up, lie down, and turn around comfortably, but not large enough that they can sleep at one end and potty in the other end. Purchase a crate large enough for your puppy’s anticipated adult size, and use dividers to adjust the crate size as they grow.
- Choose the right location — Place your puppy’s crate in a quiet area that isn’t too isolated from your household.
- Make the crate comfortable — Place blankets, toys, treats, and your recently worn clothing inside the crate, so the enclosure appeals to your puppy. You can also feed your puppy in their crate to help them make positive associations.
- Introduce the crate — Let your puppy explore the crate with the door open, and once they seem comfortable inside the enclosure, close the door. If this goes well, try stepping away for a few minutes to see how your puppy copes.
- Don’t crate your puppy for too long — Start with crating your puppy for short periods, gradually increasing their crate time, but never leave your puppy crated for longer than four hours.
#4: Potty train your puppy
Cleaning up accidents is part of owning a puppy, but patience and consistency can help you potty train your puppy quickly. Potty training recommendations include:
- Provide frequent opportunities — Take your puppy outside at least every two hours, and after they wake up, after playtime, and after eating or drinking.
- Be consistent — Take your puppy to the same spot to relieve themself. Only take them for a longer walk after they have finished their business.
- Reward your puppy — Once your puppy finishes relieving themselves, immediately offer praise and treats to reward them for their appropriate behavior.
- Feed your puppy regularly — Put your puppy on a regular feeding schedule to encourage elimination at consistent times.
#5: Provide appropriate veterinary care for your puppy
To ensure they are healthy, your puppy should be evaluated by a veterinary professional shortly after adoption. Puppies need vaccines at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, and these visits are a good time for your veterinarian to demonstrate at-home care such as nail trimming, ear cleaning, and daily toothbrushing. Additional veterinary considerations include:
- Parasite prevention — Your puppy should receive year-round protection against fleas, ticks, and heartworms, and our veterinary team can help you determine the best products.
- Spaying or neutering — Spayed or neutered pets typically live longer than intact pets. Our veterinary team will help you determine the best age at which to have your puppy spayed or neutered.
- Microchipping — Microchipping your puppy is the best way to provide permanent identification, and improve their chances of reuniting with you if they go missing.
- Nutrition — Feed your puppy a diet appropriate to their life stage and breed. Our veterinary team can help you choose the most nutritious food.
Following these tips should help ensure that your puppy’s first year is successful. Contact our Woodinville Animal Hospital and Mobile Services team, so we can meet your new puppy and devise a health care plan that meets their needs.
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