It’s very difficult to put together a complete guide to raising a puppy. It’s a bit like saying there is a complete guide to raising children. It’s often not that simple, you encounter problems along the way and the questions you really need answers to aren’t always in the ‘how to’ guides. However, there are some basic things you need to know if you are thinking of getting a puppy. We have put together a guide that includes all the main things to be aware of when raising a puppy.
It’s important to be aware that getting a puppy is a huge commitment. Bringing up a puppy certainly isn’t easy. You will be tested and challenged and will need to put a lot of time into their training. Only get a puppy if you can give them the time and attention they need and you are ready for a ten to 15 year commitment (depending on what breed you get).
Preparation for bringing a puppy home
Before you even think about bringing a puppy home you need to make sure your house is ready. It’s important to puppy proof your home so that you know your puppy (and your belongings) will be safe. You need to get rid of any potentially dangerous objects that your new puppy might be able to get to. You also need to have a fully enclosed garden so that you know your puppy will not be able to escape. Here is a more in depth guide to puppy proofing your home.
This is the task that lots of people fear when they bring a new puppy home. In most cases toilet training is a straightforward process that your puppy will adapt to. The first thing you need to do is get your puppy into a routine and always let them out at the same times. When they wake up, after they have eaten or had a drink, before they go to bed and whenever you arrive home are the most important times. These are the times when your puppy will most likely need to go. Young puppies will also struggle to make it through the night (eight or nine hours is a long time for them) so bare this in mind.
Get into a habit of letting them out on a regular basis, taking them to a specific spot and praising them when they go. Pick a word that means they should go to the toilet such as ‘go busy’ or ‘toilet’. When you take them out to the toilet keep saying this word so that they associate it with relieving themselves. Make sure you reward them with verbal praise or a treat when they eventually go to the toilet.
Remember puppy training does take time, and there will be a few setbacks on the way. If your dog does go inside (unless you actually catch them in the act) do not reprimand them. They might not know what they have done wrong and shouting at them might only make them anxious about going to the toilet. Instead, when you see they have had an accident take them outside and give them the opportunity to relieve themselves in the correct place. The key is to praise them when they do go in the right place and eventually they will get the message. For more information on toilet training read our guide here.
Getting your new puppy into a routine is very important. It helps them to settle more quickly and makes them feel reassured. Wake them up at the same time, try and feed them at similar times and take them for their walk at roughly the same time every day. Puppies thrive on consistent routines and feel much more at ease if they know what to expect.
Whether you crate train your puppy is a personal choice. Crate training can be handy when your puppy is young and can be destructive and have a few accidents. Their crate is also a place where they can feel safe and have some quiet time.
Puppies can develop quite a few bad habits and it’s important to nip them in the bud. If they are allowed to carry on these behaviours they will most likely carry them into adulthood which makes them even harder to change. For example, most pups go through a teething stage where they may nip you. It may not hurt that much when they are young but it can cause big problems if they are still nipping when they grow up.
Socialisation for young puppies is a crucial part of their development. In order to grow into happy, confident, well-balanced adult dogs they need to be exposed to lots of people, dogs and different situations. Make sure they have positive experiences with humans and meet lots of different people.
Take your pup out and about so that they can get used to a wide variety of environments, sights and noises. It’s also important to ensure they are socialised with other dogs. Take them to your local dog park, out on walks where they will meet other dogs and introduce them to calm, well behaved dogs that you know they will have a positive experience with.
Essential puppy products
Here is a list of just some of the essential products you will need for your new puppy.
- Dogs bowls
- Collars and leads
- Dog beds
- Dog training products
- Dog coats
- Dog crates
- Dog food
- Dog health products
- Dog grooming products
- Poo bags
- Dog travel products
Health and vaccinations
Take your puppy to your vet within a few days of bringing them home so that they can get a health check. You can also get them booked in for their vaccinations and get any medication they might require.
Feeding your puppy
When you get a new puppy the breeder should give you some information about diet. Whatever puppy food brand you choose, make sure you read the manufacturer’s guidelines and give them the correct amount of food for their age and weight. Try not to change your their diet and keep it consistent unless they are having problems with their food. If you do need to change brands then do it very gradually.
To begin with, feed your puppy little and often. Four small meals a day usually work best until they are about four months when you can reduce to three. At around six months of age you can consider changing to two meals a day. There are lots of different types of dog food to choose from, including wet dog food, dry dog food and a huge range of different flavours. There are advantages and disadvantages to both wet and dry dog food. Choose a dog food that suits you and your dog best.
Puppies just love toys, playing with toys is important for developing certain behaviours and burning off some energy. Try out different toys to see which ones your puppy enjoys the most. Make sure they give you their toy back when asked and they always play under supervision.